Aborigination
Artist: Hydro
Label: Alliance (UK), N-Soul (US)

At the start of 1997, I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to what I describe as 'dance music.' Last year changed all that, though, and this album was one of the reasons. My problem with dance music was that most of what I'd heard was cheesy chart-techno, with pathetic lyrics and absolutely no melody. This album is far from that.

Known to me previously as "that band that remixed Iona," this album sees Hydro taking their eclectic influences one step further with samples from Maori chants and Russian orthodox prayers, to their own synthesized jig and various kicking dance tracks. The group is really a side project from Robbie Bronnimann (dba) and Ray Goudie (formerly Heartbeat), and they have collected around them a group of collaborators who have each added to the album with their own special talents.
 
The night before sitting down to write this review, I saw a guy called Rob Lacey do a one-man play based on his own life, which culminated in an amazing stream-of-consciousness, babble-of-nonsense ending with "would you mind if I have a break . . . down?" That monologue is used here in the track, "The Beginning Of The End," and it is an excellent piece to use, working very well with the drum machine-dominated sounds surrounding it.

Some tracks have elements reminiscent of Dead Can Dance (particularly "Celtech") and Iona (parts of "Crystal Throneroom"). The dancier side borrows mainly from the housey-techno and ambient sounds that were prominent a couple of years back, but the combination of influences keeps this from sounding dated (other sub-genres have obviously influenced the producers also).

As something of a Celtic music purist I was a little skeptical about the track "Jiggle," which is a jig produced by the Hydro team. Unfortunately, while the track may be popular with some clubbers, it sounds far too artificial to work for me. Another track which doesn't fit very well for me is "Birth" - particularly the beginning. The sounds used (the groans of a woman during labour) grated on my ears after a while.

The vocalists used on the album are excellent. Shaz Sparks (dba) is especially prominent, and the vocals provide both sound effects and some lyrics. The lyrics in English are mainly explicitly Christian, and are fairly simple but not cliched. The album has a worshipful feel in many places, since the Hydro project was begun as an attempt to birth some top-class dance music in a worshipful environment.

One track that has excited a lot of people in dance clubs is the anthemic "Rawar," which closes the album. This borrows from a rock guitar lead riff and builds a strong beat alongside it. Presumably excellent live, I'm not sure quite how long a lifespan this will have as a recorded track.  Being at the end of the disc, that isn't too big a problem.

Many attempts at dance music coming from Christian circles have been accused of being dated, and not very creative, but this is an album which can't really be criticized in those ways. While there are aspects that could be developed, and perhaps a couple of ideas dropped, this is an excellent release for anyone looking for creative dance music.

By James Stewart 

NSoul Records has finally done it again!  Aside from Virus's brilliant work on Analogue, I have enjoyed most of the label's releases, but found them lacking. As a result, I have usually been reluctant to hand them to friends.  That's definitely not the case here.

From the opening title track to the closing, a remix of Rawar (originally on their debut Spiritualization),  this album is an electronic music masterpiece.  Imaginative ethnic samples, breakbeats, and the occasional haunting vocals combine to make Aborigination a wonder to hear. Special mention goes to the first two tracks on side two of the tape, "Crystal Throneroom" and "Liquid Prayers."  The former is a beautifully worshipful piece with Everything but the Girl influences.  The latter, again poignantly beautiful, features Nigel Fair singing prayers in Russian.

In another example of the album's musical diversity, this track feels like something from the Pet Shop Boys's Very:Relentless period.

Despite the individual stylistic differences between various songs, Aborigination is extremely cohesive, and is best enjoyed played start to finish. Aborigination is an enjoyable album that definately has me waiting for more material from Robbie Bonnimann et al.

By John Vanden Heuvel