Artist: Alex Braxe And Friends
Title: The Upper Cuts
Label: Vulture Music/Play It Again Sam/Different
Cat. #: VULT010, 451.1041.028, DIFB1041CD
Release Date: June 2005
Format: CD (1 x Unmixed),
01. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Most Wanted
02. The Paradise (Alan Braxe & Romuald) - In Love With You
03. Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You
04. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Intro
05. Shakedown - At Night (Fred Falke Remix)
06. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Love Lost
07. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Palladium
08. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Arena
09. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Rubicon
10. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Penthouse Serenade
11. Rec (produced by Alan Braxe) - Link 'n' Rings
12. Alan Braxe - Vertigo
I must say that I'm already familiar with Alain Quême due to his various remixes for Jamiroquai's songs. I also know that he's well known in the House scene, specially for his "French" House style, his friendship with Thomas Bangalter and Manuel Guy de Homen-Cristo (a.k.a. Daft Punk) and the fact that he has remixed several pop artist's songs. So yes, if you're into Electronic & Dance music, you must know about Alain Quême, a.k.a. Alan Braxe.
Now, some people call this an "album", but in fact is a compilation, featuring tracks released throughout the previous years of this release. But don't let this fact fool you: This is going to be a hell of a ride. Indeed, before listening to this release, my expectations were nice, but after the listen, I fell in love with it. This doesn't even feel like a compilation of tracks, it feels more like an album than anything else (so yes, I don't care if this is technically a compilation, I'll also call it an album).
Anyway, is time to go for the ride...
Things start smoothly with the beautiful "Most Wanted", which was created in collaboration with Fred Falke (who appears in six other tracks). Let me tell you, this one is a great House track, and arguably my favorite track of the album. The lead is very melodic, the strings are beautiful, the bassline is really awesome (it even becomes more uplifting after the middle break) and the drums are tight but not hard. This is a winner in every sense.
"In Love With You" comes next. This track was made by The Paradise, a project by Alan Braxe and Romuald. It starts slowly and builds a nice, romantic atmosphere with its pads, toms, piano and a guy who repeats "In love with you" several times. The only bad thing about this track is its repetitive nature. After a while there's a break and the pad is looped, the drums are filtered and everything slowly comes back. I'd like to have a little bit more variation here, but at least this track doesn't feel like a filler.
Now, I know what I said about the first track, but let me tell you, the next one is THE DEFINITIVE HOUSE TRACK FROM THE 90's. "Music Sounds Better With You" is the only track made by Stardust, a group that could have become even more famous if it wasn't for the fact that Thomas Bangalter, one of his members, decided to just "leave it like that" (by rejecting an album contract with TWO MILLIONS DOLLARS IN ADVANCE, before even making another song for it). Most people say that this is practically Daft Punk, due to Bangalter being part of the group, but people forget that both Benjamin Diamond (vocals) and Alan Braxe were also part of Stardust. The only reason this track is not my favorite from the album is because it feels like a cheapshot to put it here. Yes, the track is awesome and is one of the best works ever made by Braxe, but it feels like a bonus track in a sea of good works. It won't affect negatively the overall score, but I'll just treat it like a bonus (not a filler track, just an AWESOME bonus).
We go back to Braxe & Falke with their "Intro". What are they introducing? I really have no idea, but with a bubbling, groovy and funky bassline, WHO CARES?! This one's another banger for the dancefloor. It might be a little bit polarised (too many filtered elements going out and then coming back), but due to the bassline, it shines.
As I told you before, Braxe have remixed some great tracks, and this next remix by him is no exception. Shakedown's "At Night" is one of the most iconic House tracks ever made, and the Alan Braxe remix is definitely something worth listening. It might not be better than the original mix (OH, CELESTIA! I LOVE THAT ORIGINAL MIX!), but it is definitely next to it. The only issue I have with this is the fact that it doesn't feel as energetic as "Intro", but is just that.
"Love Lost" comes afterwards, with some cowbell, a looped pad, a nice bassline and some really well made EQ. Now, this is the weakest track of the album. Is just so simple that it feels like Braxe could have done so much more with it. It takes a while to add a new element (a trumpet sounds with some keys) and, again, doesn't keep up with the pacing. This is not a bad track though, just the weakest one. But that won't affect my score that much.
Now, I've been listening to this album and seen some of the inspiration for what we call Nu-Disco this days, but this track has definitely inspired some of the guys who make tracks for this Genre. "Palladium" haves some nice things going on: a nice bassline (which, I swear, Daft Punk sampled for one of the tracks on their Discovery album), lovely keys, beautiful strings and great chords. The drums are the only part that are simple, but this is a track to get relaxed, just like the previous one, so I understand its goal and approve it.
"Arena" is the shortest track of this album, and we can finally see the deliberate decision of moving from club beats to one-two drums in the previous tracks. This one uses some ambient recordings from a stadium to create a magical build-up, afterwards using both drums and percussions to maintain the interest and finally adding the bassline and chords to make this track really lovely. It is not clubbier, but is clever. Well made Braxe & Falke, well made *clap clap clap*.
We now explore some 80's-ish Pop drums and keys with "Rubicon". I swear to Celestia, you can add some cheesy vocals on top of this track at this would be the perfect 80's Pop track. This one just rocks (Pop music that rocks?! Oh, the irony...). By the way, those lovely guitars that appear at 3:40 aprox. are so awesome! Makes it even more awesome than ever. Seriously, let's create lyrics for this one, shall we?
The last track made by both Braxe & Falke is here, and this one is to uplift the energy. Nice chords, lovely strings and yet another bubbling, groovy and funky bassline! What's the name of this song, you say? "Penthouse Serenade", it is. But is not serene, Dear Luna, is not. You can definitely relax with this one, but come on! You really need to get up and move those hooves! Love this one.
Now we move on to another exploration, this time with a Hip-Hop track made by Rec and produced by Alan braxe. This one is definitely the most interesting track of this album, due to its different approach to Electronic & Dance music. Even if it is different, it fits so well with this compilation concept that becomes one of the highlights. Just listen to it and love it.
This is the end, beautiful readers. This is the end, our only friend, the end... And is time to end it with House muziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiik!!!!!!!.. Ok, won't write like that ever again (WORD!). "Vertigo" is the only track that was made by Braxe without any kind of collaboration. I enjoy this ending, but somehow it feels anti-climatic, compared to the beautiful selections we previously had. I think that Braxe just played safe with this one as the closer track.... JUST KIDDING! You just have to wait a little bit before the track becomes even more clubbier. The middle section is just awesome! You'll definitely dance (and also pump your hooves in the air) with this one.
I know what you're thinking right now. You're thinking "Well, he liked it. But it doesn't seem like he loved it... Does it?". Well, I did love this one! This is one of the best compilations I've ever listened to. It doesn't feel perfect, but it is really great and coherent. Some tracks are great, while others feel like unfinished products. I do understand the context of those ones (they were made when things were more simple and therefore you couldn't create complex structures in your tracks), but they still feel a little bit simple. Anyway, this is a tight, cohesive compilation and deserves to be treated as a great House album.
Overall, this was one hell of a ride and I enjoyed this album so much that I'm going to buy a CD copy when I have the money for it. WORD!
Thanks to @@ReGen for the review request. I'll definitely listen to Alan Braxe more often and if you have any other review request, feel free to ask for it!