Friday, 17 February 2012

Clubland X-Treme Hardcore 8 Review

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We Came, We Saw, We Killed the Melody?

Though what it lacks in tune, Clubland X-Treme Hardcore 8 more than makes up for in energy

Welcome to my first ever review! Rather than talk about myself in any detail, I think I'll just crack on with the review and write a short post about myself some other time (if people want to hear it). 

So, where to start? Clubland X-Treme Hardcore 8 is, of course, the eighth instalment of the biggest selling UK Hardcore dance compilation, and it built up a big reputation pre-release, what with the biggest advertising campaign seen on a Hardcore album for some time and a host of DJs involved with the project actively plugging the album at every opportunity (nothing wrong with that by the way). As with previous versions, CXH8 features 3 CDs; Darren Styles on board for CD1, Breeze on CD2 and a "bonus" CD featuring Hixxy and, this year, Re-Con. I suppose it makes sense to tackle this CD by CD, so that is what I shall do.

About half way through Styles' CD, you begin to realise that this new style of UK Hardcore, which some have dubbed "Dub-Core" because of its dubstep-like bass influence, is definitely flavour of the month for DJs and producers at the moment. Prominent on all three CDs are new names like Modulate, Prospect, Klubfiller and Petruccio and their sound seems to be rubbing off on the classic names like Styles, Breeze, Gammer and others. It's not that I don't like this new sound, indeed, the first time I heard "Screwface" I was blown away by the detail that has been added to the bassline. But there are some songs, such as "Get Your Hands Up", where this sound ends up actually detracting from the music and comes across as lazy. The build up in "Get Your Hands Up" is such that, when the bass kicks in, rather than feeling excited, I feel slightly let down by yet another song that opts for a fluctuating rhythm rather than an all-out melody. Yes, I suppose this would be more predictable in terms of the history of Hardcore, but I flipped out massively during the last thirty seconds where we got what I believed should have been going throughout the song, that being a thumping bass with the choral tune alongside it. The word I think I'm looking for is Overkill. 

Having said that, CD1 does throw up a couple of absolute gems. "3" by Modulate feat. Jay Jacob and Styles' own "Bonfire" massively revved my engine (so to speak), and I was belting out the lyrics of "Mercy" as soon as I learned them (which, to be fair, was reasonably quickly). The best track over the entire 3 CDs sits on disc 1 too. When Gammer & Whizzkid sat down to write "Killed the Rave", I doubt they realised just how good it is. Understated in the grand scheme of things, this seems to be the song everyone is talking about. It does everything right; the build up and execution of the sumptuous piano riff leading into the bass rising up, all the time having an animated Whizzkid spitting some of the better words he has done for a while (though totally ripping the main line off Example's "Hooligans") is fantastic. The thing that separates this song from most though is the true attention to the details and making effort to produce the best song possible. Gammer adds high notes to the second piano section which make it sound fresher than the first time, and as the bass kicks in for the second round, the melody has been replaced by one of the best riffs I have ever heard. An electric-guitar-sounding measure takes over and electrifies anything around it: even my dog was bobbing her head frantically. 

Moving on to CD2, and another complaint I have about the album rises to the fore. There are far too many covers in all forms of dance music as it is, but CXH8 shows that, a lot of the time, they are completely unnecessary. CD2's starter "You Got the Love", which is remixed by Breeze & Modulate (there he is again), is totally pointless because it means I have to wait three minutes until I can hear something interesting, such as Bang 2 Me Nasty (also by Breeze & Modulate; theme emerging) or "2 Lift Me Up". But as you listen to more of CD2, you begin to lose interest. There's some decent songs on here, such as "Tsunami" or "Crack It Smack It", but the disc as a whole comes across a bit samey. My thinking behind the reason has already been made quite apparent; Modulate is a cracking DJ and produces some crisp music, but I don't need 11 out of 20 songs on one disc alone to be written at least in part by one DJ. Especially when said DJ did not even mix or create the disc! Petruccio, Breeze & the aforementioned Modulate account for about 90% of the content on this disc, and it all gets a little bit repetitive, much like this review, because some of the sounds become overkill.

Disc 3 is the classic Hixxy disc with a twist, in that Re-Con joins the mixing party. Of the three, this is the most melody driven and classic sounding CD, and the best song on here, "Calling" by Re-Con, is pretty much as basic as it gets. But this goes to show that sometimes producers should stick to what they know. "WTF", later in the album and also by Re-Con starts with a pounding bassline that leads into a whimpering main "Dub-Core" section, whereas "Calling" builds like a track from 2005, claps and snares clacking as the tune rises in notoriety until the crescendo of noise, accompanied by a simple vocal, in this case Martin Luther-King's 'I have a dream', which adds together for a  phenomenal effect. Don't underestimate the return of the previously semi-retired Hixxy either, who pops up with "Sora Blue" which could be described as the most beautiful track on the album, and "Touch Myself", a cheeky number which I'd imagine is self-explanatory. There are two versions of the same song, however, in the cover of Avicii's "Levels" through a lyric-less track of the same name and "Somethings Gotta Hold on Me" which uses the vocals from both "Levels" and "Good Feeling" by Flo-Rida. Both of these tracks feel like filler for some of the better stuff that there is on the disc. 

How to summarise CXH8 then? Well, I'd certainly recommend it for a listen, but perhaps not totally for love and admiration of the album, but more to see how people's opinions differ. I am aware that many old timers in the UK Hardcore scene (anyone 22 years old and up) are not great fans of this new sound and worry that UK Hardcore is going to be swallowed up and remodelled into some Drum & Bass / Dubstep variety. I doubt in truth whether that will ever happen, and my suspicion is the only reason this style is feeling its way into UK Hardcore is so that the genre can appeal to a wider market. But its hard not to feel like the producers and and DJs are starting to lose their way a little bit and the long term worry for ravers would be the exclusivity of their genre. But, when done properly, UK Hardcore in 2012 sounds fantastic, so I will consider myself on board, for now.

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