ANANDA PROJECT—Release (Nite Grooves)
by Simon Reynolds
In rock, you get local heroes, bands that are big in their town or
region. In dance, you get the opposite. Take Ananda Project's Chris
Brann: a god for house hipsters across the globe for his mid-Nineties
releases as Wamdue Kids, but I bet he can walk round his hometown
Atlanta, Georgia, without a nod.
A slightly pat reference point for
Release: Everything But the Girl's Temperamental. "Breaking Down", with
its jazzy-guitar flecks and forlorn vocals (courtesy of Heather Johnson,
one of five guest singers) even sounds a bit like EBTG. But Brann's
coming from the other direction: he's a trackmaster getting songful,
rather than singer/songwriters getting their groove on. Release has the
pump of club-oriented house, the kind of voluptuously thick kick drums
that become a cocooning environmental pulse when heard through a massive
sound system. But it also has the intimacy of music for home and
headphones. And there can't be many house artists who put a quote from
Edith Sitwell in the CD booklet.
"Cascades of Colour" is the stand-out.
The plangent gravity of the melody, redolent of Harold Budd & Brian
Eno's ambient albums, conjures deliciously mixed emotions---blue joy,
sweet sorrow. Gaelle Adisson's multitracked vocals form a counterpoint
lattice that sets your nape-hairs tingling. Close behind "Cascades" is
the title track, with its "let your spirit free" invocations and pensive
piano chords that suddenly roll backwards on themselves, psychedelic
guitar-style, to form a seamless, timewarping Moebius Strip.
the album, there's a blurry, miasmic quality to Brann's production, the
aural equivalent of Vaseline-on-the-lens. The way Brann arranges his
drums spatially is like landscape gardening, making you gaze into the
distance. On the vocoderized ballad "Expand Your Mind", snares crack
like thunder on the mix's horizon, while hi-hats bustle right in your
face. The wispy drum'n'bass excursion "Bahia" suggests an affinity with
softcore junglists like LTJ Bukem and PFM, a common quest for aquaboogie
As with the Good Looking
guys, New Age alarm bells occasionally ring: lots of liquidly chirruping
birdsong, a Stevie Nicks-esque lyric about a "daughter of the moon" on
the otherwise gorgeous "Falling For You". Mind you, in these
despiritualized, money-mad times, maybe we need some of that. The
opulence of Brann's sound doesn't connote aspirational "audio couture"
(a slogan coined by Moving Shadow just at the point the label, and the
drum'n'bass scene, started to undergo gentrification) but what New Agers
call "abundance consciousness"--in plain, old-timer's English, counting
your blessings. Release is the kind of record that reminds you to feel
grateful to be alive.