Dave Seaman is one of the few veteran DJs who has successfully managed to straddle the line between the worlds of pop and underground dance music. Since coming on the scene more than 15 years ago, Seaman has served as inaugural editor of the seminal Mixmag; and, as half of production crew Brothers in Rhythm, produced records for big names like Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue, and Take That. Yet his well-received vinyl releases and mix CDs have allowed him to keep one foot below the surface. As an introduction to and showcase for his latest project, Group Therapy; and label, Audio Therapy, This is Audio Therapy is a tight, well-conceived package.
Seaman’s hour-long, 11-track mix illustrates an intense, stripped-down style that might be called “Helicopter House”. Thanks to the pulsing synthesizers and brooding atmosphere of every track, you get the impression of a Huey hovering overhead, compressing the air and sucking your breath. Play this stuff along with a muted Apocalypse Now and the two might complement each other nicely. As strange as it may sound, both rely on an atmospheric, highly-stylized emotional numbness to get their message across. Seaman’s message seems to be, “Dance or you’ll find yourself in grave danger.”
From the beginning the 4/4 thump is surrounded by cavernous reverb, classic electro zaps and effects, and bursts of white noise in place of snare drums. A combination of Nick & John Dalagelis’ “Quiet” with vocals from Infusion’s “Legacy” starts the mix off sounding like a 2005 update of moody British post-punk. From there Seaman steadily builds the tempo, volume, and energy. “Monster Puppy”, one of three Kosmas Epsilon tracks, repeats an annoying, gurgled “dooo dooo” sound; otherwise, everything’s slick, clean, and efficient. Epsilon’s “There Can Only Be One” adds some pretty, digital-sounding synths that point in the direction of trance. It’s as close to euphoric as This is Audio Therapy gets.
By design, the highlights don’t come until the middle of the mix, beginning with Group Therapy’s own “My Own Worst Enemy”. With its saucy vocals and sitar-like melody, this song could almost fit in on Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor album. Memo to Madge: Keep Seaman in mind for the follow-up. Penultimate track, Tonedepth’s “To The Moon” comes on like a megamix of early New Order with its arpeggio sequencers and electro-pulse. All the while, Seaman breaks things down and then blows them up at all the right moments, keeping the tension high. In this case, drawing from a single label is a benefit, allowing Seaman to create and then modulate a uniform atmosphere.
As a concession to the growing number of DJs who are replacing their turntables with CD players, Seaman has included a second, unmixed disc containing original versions of some of the first disc’s tracks as well as several additional cuts. What it loses in dynamics, it makes up for in overall quality, making it the disc that’ll likely stay in your player longer. Panopticon’s “Revealing the Door” (not included on the UK release), propelled by deep synth bass and sharp breakbeats, is the best track of the entire set.
It’s clear that Seaman likes his electronic dance music lean and mean. This is Audio Therapy doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but it does trim a lot of the fat.