The Inconsistency Principle
My Own Hymn
Is It Love (1001)
Bittersweet & Blue
With a much heavier emphasis on vocals and fusing elements of new wave, pop and melodic house into the distinct Above & Beyond sound, the trance trio return for their fourth studio album, Common Ground. The long awaited album features some great tracks too, with some beautifully written reflective lyrics contrasting with more euphoric, upbeat numbers throughout the 62 minute run time.
The album opens and closes with an instrumental burst of chords before moving straight into one of the biggest trance hits last year, My Own Hymn. The catchy melody and euphoric lyrics combine in harmonious fashion making it easy to see why it was voted as one of the stand-out trance tracks last year. Following this is another heavy hitter, Northern Soul, which replaces the female vocals with an equally impressive male vocal. It’s certainly an impressive start and what follows from here are a number of vocal trance tracks with sure-fire future hits Naked and Cold Feet standing out during this middle batch of songs.
As the album draws to a close, there’s a slight shift in focus beginning with Tightrope and ending with the beautiful vocals of Zoë Johnston in Always. The hopeful, euphoric melodies are replaced with a much more sombre tone, emanating some really deep, emotionally charged tracks about acceptance, loss and grief.
Common Ground is the sort of album that benefits from repeat listens as some of the structural integrity and smart track placement won’t be initially clear from the off. Upon hearing it originally, a lot of the middle tunes tend to blend into one another, especially tracks like Happiness Amplified and Is It Love where the vocals feel tight but also quite similar through each. Repeat listens really helps mature this album and there’s sure to be some tracks that will resonate with you, such is the beauty of the simplistic lyrical approach to many of the songs.
Whether Common Ground is as impressively produced as the trio’s previous album Tri-State is up for debate and with much more emphasis on vocals this time around than synth-driven euphoria. Still, tracks like Cold Feet and My Own Hymn tease echoes of Above & Beyond’s more euphoric style of old and with the trio admitting they have a whole host of other tracks that didn’t make the album, perhaps it won’t be so long before we get another collection of feel-good trance from the group.
If you’ve never been a fan of trance music or Above & Beyond, Common Ground is unlikely to change your opinion on either nor is it likely to be the sort of album that stands out as the pinnacle of trance music. Common Ground is simply an ode to their fans and trance lovers; a collection of simple, catchy vocal trance hits with hidden themes and euphoric beats sure to please even the most casual trance music fan.
Verdict - 9/10