[6 December 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Phillip Babin’s debut full-length under the Preach nom de plume reeks of mere adequacy through and through. Surprisingly, his reputation precedes him in most electronic circles as the diminutive French-Canadian had made all the mainstream trance rounds. He hit up all the fitting Montreal and Quebec City club nights, all manner of relevant festivals, and started releasing singles on a variety of labels before moving to the Czech Republic in 2005 to continue his ascent. In the process, he caught the ears of such industry bigwigs as Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyk, Marco V, and the Greece Olympics opening Tiësto. The latter Nettwerk pop techno notable signed him to his personal F.B.I. imprint for the release of the “Broken Inside” and “Transatlantic” singles, both of which would become part of Phillip’s debut full-length.
On the whole, the Transatlantic album is a patchwork of tremendously tired sounds and techniques, albeit constructed half decently and half expectedly. The problem isn’t all the half-assed production, as all the tracks are put together almost as well as anything made in 1998. But, as the throwback minus it is, there aren’t much in the way of surprises. It’s been done before many times over in a million different ways by far more talented and insightful people since the late ‘80s. It plainly toes the line without even accidentally nudging it forward.
“Flying Blue” steps out of the Preach mold a bit with a guitar led beat complimenting an elevating bassline and subsequently bouncy four-four beat, while Saskia Lie-Atjam rambles some floating away, E soaked raver disco-soul. And whatever it does, “Love Like Water” does better, just at half speed. In that instance, Tracy Saxby delivers a sullen Madonna downtempo sex talk over a more prominent country trance guitar and reverberated drums, which give the slowed beat a more organic feel left unexplored by the rest of the album. That’s the only track on the LP that I actually, honestly enjoyed.
Following their lead, the Ray Elmington assisted “Needin’ You Around” has something going on too with a raunchy guitar lead that stays at the center throughout the rock based breakbeat cut. Aside from that, Transatlantic is a painfully by the numbers affair that’s not likely to win many admirers outside of Babin’s established fan base and the kind of face-chewing meth freak that crowd draws in. Your average grocery store trance buying, drugged up, goomba clubber loves this music intensely but only momentarily, not deeply. The reason for that is they love it not because it stimulates their hearts and minds, exemplifying the truly open and endlessly creative possibilities within electronic music and its many hybrids, but because it’s totally unchallenging in every way, simply justifying their way of life instead of questioning it.
“Broken Inside” has the same progression and synth lead that was all the rage in the mid-1990s, care of people like Pete Tong and Judge Jules, the same shit they refused to let die in Ibiza. Check the fade-out to that cut. He switches up the bassline in the last minute, which causes the stupid metallic click loop (an annoying noise that endures throughout the track) to go off time. Then Preach immediately dumps the thing to a stutter and fade, but the damage had already been done. Call me spoiled, but I tend to expect my music to have a beginning, middle, and end. Moments like that speak volumes as to the lazy nature of the programming.
It’s all present sounds in cut-and-paste patterns lumped together with no due care paid to, say, pacing, mixing, narrative structure, or anything that would make Transatlantic an album instead of the mere collection of singles it is. Basically, unless you’ve worn out all your Clubber’s Guide to Summer and you desperately need something to fill the time between waking up and comparing designer clothing at the local trance factory, pass!