i strongly believe that only penury knocks sense into consumers. when you work a shitty job for shitty pay just so you can barely cover your expenses, the amount of money you have left over--what our economists call 'disposable income,' a pretty satirical appellation--is used to reward yourself. however, an excess of disposable income turns the meretricious extremes of consumer culture into viable, reputable means of enjoyment; your judgment is clouded because of the little cost to you if the product isn't very enjoyable. ergo, you buy shit like expensive coffee drinks, imported beer, and Goa-Trance cds because of a 30-second sample you heard on Amazon.com. my appreciation for Juno Reactor's music and my relative affluence are not just correlatives, one was necessary in order to achieve the other. now sobered by a litany of bank statements that would make the Salvation Army feel sorry, i can say that Juno Reactor was representative of better and less lucid times. what was once the wonderful Goa imbibition that got me tipsy is now too expensive for my blood and too tacky for my discman.
yes, Ben Watkins produced Traci Lords' 1995 Hi-Nrg Trance cd 1000 Fires; yes, Juno Reactor were featured on iconic compilations such as Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: More Kombat; and yes, i will admit that Goa is the the blunted cousin of Euro, but Juno Reactor have put forth some pretty decent showings in their catalogue. the progressive abilities displayed were impressive, especially when you consider the fact that 'progression' in Trance is usually dropping the beat so that some dude hopped up on E can push a couple keys on the synth, and when Watkins and co. were especially concentrated their compositions could truly be called groundbreaking--though i doubt many outside the raver community truly gasp at such a declaration. but let's be honest: Bible of Dreams was Shango's more humbled predecessor and it was still tacky as fuck. his employment in both of a 'tribal' sound was campy and quite ridiculous; the grotesque mystification done to Indian tabla by hip-hop musicians is done to the African drum by Watkins. such influences are depressed on Labyrinth, but the gloss still appears.
'Zwara' includes a female vocalist who repeats the title, and i have yet to make out whether she's doing so in coitus or after running the Boston Marathon. the song is surprisingly straightforward given Juno Reactor's more epic predilections (remember now, 'epic' in terms of Trance), and 'Conquistadors 2' follows in exactly the same path. frankly, 'Conquistadors 1' is probably Watkins at his best and almost stands as a separate artistic tract broken because of the manner it was brusquely fed into 'Conquistadors 2.' the former builds with subtlety and wind, undergoing slight mutations while the latter and, indeed, most songs on the album are just electronic jock jams waiting to be picked up as a score for an Xbox game. this brings me to another important part: two songs on the album are entirely unoriginal. 'Mona Lisa Drive' was taken from the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack and 'Navras'--a Natacha Atlas Frankenstein--was taken from Matrix Revolutions. besides breaking what little narrative flow the music ever had, 'Mona Lisa Overdrive' was truncated from a sweeping 10-minute overture to a lilliputian 4:45. Don Davis's fingerprints on the song are still too obvious as it sounds far more organized than just about everything else on the record.
the three pieces that are done competently--'Giant,' 'War Dogs,' and 'Mutant Message'--are sad blips. 'Giant' fantastically uses a drum n' bass beat pattern and funnels it through Goa instrumentals, strangely resulting in a very fluid concoction that i hope shall be attempted in the near future. 'War Dogs' has the animus of a battle anthem, equipped with a punctuating orchestral sample and reverberating drums; the use of an electric guitar melds very smoothly into the artificial effects. 'Mutant Message' is perhaps the most aberrant because its progressive personality is more reminiscent of Fluke than Juno Reactor. the bass is allowed to roam and control the rhythm, dictating more profoundly where the peaks and valleys are, and deadens or at least makes concomitant the flares of cheesy FX. there is little labyrinthine about the work, the least of which being the music itself. when i look back at my purchasing trends--buying Shango and Bible of Dreams instead of Leftfield's Rhythm and Stealth or Royksopp's Melody A.M.--i don't do so through a dour lens. on balance, i bought music that i mostly felt necessary. of course, however, a deluge of disposable income still begot some disposable music.
Release date: October 26, 2004
Rating: 4.0 / 10
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