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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Erik Augustsson and Hannah Westin
Label: BEC Recordings (2002)
Length: 11 Tracks (47:52 minutes)
If the dance music movement reached its peak in the US during the disco movement of the mid-1970s, the story on the other side of the Atlantic was a much different one, where a host of artists from Abba to Aqua have helped sustain the relatively constant popularity of the Euro-Dance and Euro-pop genres from the time of their inception two and a half decades ago right on up to the present day. A moonlighting gig of sorts for the artists involved, the E-Praise project links the talents of Ultrabeat instrumentalist Erik Augustsson and New Born Soul singer Hannah Westin for the eleven-song dance-oriented worship effort.
Points of reference do exist. The Swedish duo's wonderfully syncopated reimagining of Matt Redman's "Heart of Worship" evokes memories of a late '80s Bobby Brown, Gumby haircut in tow, dancing earnestly to energetic New Jack Swing artifacts like "Every Little Step" and "Don't Be Cruel." Augustsson's nicely retooled "What A Friend," on the other hand, could probably pass, in instrumental form, as a lost track from Ace of Base's relentlessly infectious debut, The Sign. And Westin's impressive vocalizing on "God of Wonders" falls somewhere between the self-assured declarations of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and Martha Wash's rousing and impassioned near-shrieks on C + C Music Factory's post-disco anthem "Everybody Dance Now."
Needless to say, the idea of merging praise compositions and dance grooves is hardly novel, and, in all fairness, the E-Praise release stands indebted to an extended list of predecessors ranging from the Disco Saints to N-Soul's seven-volumes-and-counting Nitro Praise series. But, while the greater number of releases of this ilk suffer from mild to often severe cases of inconsistency and repetition, Augustsson's intricate and heavily-layered musical backdrops work as a the ideal foil for Westin's effervescent and enthusiastic singing, the sum of the two making for a collection of songs that manages to remain both engaging and fresh across virtually its entire length.
Those who care to can point to the fact that E-Praise contains no new material, while others not completely sold on the dance-pop genre might reckon the project, at best, a guilty pleasure. Be that as it may, the effort still stands far out front of the lion's share of what has come before it. And, guilty or not, it is a pleasure nonetheless. Perhaps, in an ideal world, every household would own multiple copies. The college-aged brother would appreciate E-Praise's hip European flavor. The pre-teen crowd would dance to little sis' copy during their sleepover. And mom and dad could stash their CD discreetly away between vinyl copies of Super Trouper and Voulez-Vous. Admittedly, such a utopian familial unit isn't likely to exist anytime soon, but listeners who are keen on dance-pop or any of its now-numerous subgenres would certainly do well to pick up a copy of Augustsson and Westin's most luminous release. Thank you for the music, Hannah and Erik.
Bert Gangl, 5/12/2002
While BEC's praise and worship series has been spotty at best, with E-praise they've unleashed a winner. With music from Ultrabeat's Erik Augustsson and vocals from Augustsson and Hannah Westin of New Born Soul, this project takes modern worship classics from the catalogs of Matt Redman, Hillsongs, and others putting a new spin on them.
While the concept of electronic praise is not a completely new one, this is a strong entry, guaranteed to move your feet. The most important thing, though, is the undeniable sense of worship that permeates the disc, something that's been missing from some of the recent "worship" albums I've heard. Highlights include "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" with its pulsating bass beat and analog lead, and "God of Wonders," in which the wonder and awe of the original is kept, but with an added element of praise and rejoicing for God's mighty works.
Let this album turn the dance
floor into a worship service where God's children praise Him in dance.
Josh Marihugh 5/12/2002
Ultrabeatís Erik Augustsson has teamed up with BEC Recordings to create a techno worship album titled E-Praise, in which he does the music work and some vocals but for lead vocals they got New Born Soulís Hannah Westin in to do the job.
Musically, this album is done fairly well; Augustsson does a great job creating the techno feel. However the good music gets drowned out with vocals that are quite annoying. Which, unfortunately, makes it a pretty poor experience overall.
The only track I enjoyed on this album was "Heart of Worship," because of the fact Augustsson took lead vocals on it. If only his voice was on E-Praise, then I know I would have enjoyed all of the tracks much more.
If you ever get a chance to pick up this album, donít take it (unless you are a huge techno fan, and donít mind the vocals). This album could have had a lot of potential, but again, lost it all with the vocal work. I didnít enjoy my time with it, except every time I hit the ďEjectĒ button. I will, however, give it a tiny bit higher score, only because of the fact that the one song where Augustsson did lead vocals was a very good track.
Josh McConnell 05/31/02