Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: "Decade" by Paradoxx

Decade is a compilation album by the Australian Christian electronic alternative music band Paradoxx, including tracks from their two studio albums, their remix album, and a couple songs not found on any other Paradoxx albums. The new Paradoxx song on Decade is “Rocketship,” of which there are two versions appearing here, and the other song never before appearing on a Paradoxx album is Miss Angie’s song “Not Enough,” which Paradoxx remixed.

My experience with Paradoxx goes back to 1998 when their song “Romantic” was released on the Electrapop various artists compilation album. It was one of my favorite songs on the album, and it made it on to one of my favorite mix tapes of the era. (Yes, it was still the cassette era for mix tapes!) Despite how much I liked “Romantic,” due to various circumstances, I didn’t end up getting Paradoxx’s debut album New Devotion, which came out in 1999, until 2005, and it became my #1 album of 2005. In 2006, I got their sophomore album Atomika, released in 2004, and it made my top 10 of 2006. I also have their remix album Contamination, which didn’t resonate with me as much as remix albums generally do, but it still makes its way into my CD player on a fairly regular basis.

Electrapop, the compilation where I first heard Paradoxx, and their three albums from which Decade’s material was derived.

Since I have all 3 Paradoxx albums that were released before Decade, I already had all the songs on this CD, except for “Rocketship.” (I already had Miss Angie’s album Time And Space, which includes the original version and the Paradoxx remix of “Not Enough,” so for me, “Rocketship” was the only song I’d never heard.) Thus, the only way I can review this CD is, what do I think of their song choice and sequencing? I cannot review it as one who has never heard them, or hasn’t heard all their songs, so I can’t give an angle for people not familiar with Paradoxx.

The album starts with the new song, “Rocketship,” featuring Andy Labb of Syrian. This song is straight out dance music, in the camp of European melodic vocal trance. I loved this song immediately -- this is right down my line musically, and as soon as it began playing, I was like, “Yeah! More of this!” It’s been quite awhile since the last Paradoxx album of new songs, and sometimes when a band is not recording for a long time, their sound can go in surprising new directions. While I wouldn’t call this quite a surprising new direction -- their album Atomika went more for an electronic dance beat than the predominantly electrogoth sound of their debut New Devotion -- yet there is nothing on Atomika quite in this vein.

Following “Rocketship” is a killer dance track, “Catwalk,” from Atomika. In my last car, I had a fabulous stereo system, and “Catwalk” was the song I used to show off my system. This is Paradoxx at their musical and recording quality best. The song begins with reverbed electronics, then the clear and powerful bass kicks in, along with a crisp, thumping drum beat. This song begs to be played at high volume on a high fidelity sound system.

“Romantic,” a dance track with a pulsating bass line and steady beat, appropriately follows. This one has a bit of 80s Depeche Mode sound. “Submission,” also from New Devotion, comes up next. These two songs are my favorite full-length songs from their debut. “Submission” is reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant” both musically and lyrically. I find these lyrics fascinating, putting the God-and-human relationship in S&M terms.

The next song is pulled from Atomika, “Alien,” a fast-tempo dance song about not belonging to this Earth. The beat gets slower and a bit heavier with “Radium Lover,” from Atomika. Following that is “Vampyr.” The original version of this song was on Atomika, but the version included here is one of the remixes from Contamination, though strangely it is not identified as such in the CD insert. This is Anita Blake’s Nightmare Mix, which is my favorite of the three versions I’ve heard of this song. The Creta Mix of “Vampyr,” also found on Contamination, is also on Decade, finishing out the album. That one is properly identified as a remix.

After “Vampyr,” the Miss Angie song appears. The original version of this song is a slow piano piece. A major line in this song is, “Nothing’s too hard, no pain’s too deep for You to heal me.” Paradoxx has done an absolutely beautiful job of remixing it, turning it into a flowing electronic dance number, without ruining the mood of the song. When I first heard this on Miss Angie’s album, I was like, “Paradoxx should do a whole remix album of Miss Angie songs!” The added electronic riff dominant at the end of the song is gorgeous.

I am a big fan of both Miss Angie and Paradoxx, so I was delighted to see them collaborating. The acknowledgements on the two albums of this song are a little perplexing, though. On Miss Angie’s album, it says, “Remix by Paradoxx.” On Paradoxx’s album, it only says, “Featuring Miss Angie,” and it lists Paradoxx band members as songwriters along with Miss Angie, whereas Miss Angie’s album does not mention any additional songwriters. (For ancient CCM people like me: This reminds me of the “Christmas Time” attribution differences on Randy Stonehill and Larry Norman albums....)

(While I’m on the subject of mysterious attributions, I found it odd that in the liner notes the songs from New Devotion are dated 2001, and the songs from Atomika are dated 2005, because on the CDs of those original albums, New Devotion is dated 1999 and Atomika is dated 2004. And as I noted above, “Romantic” first appeared on a 1998 compilation album, so it’s even older. Why were different dates listed for these songs on Decade’s liner notes?)

All right, back to the music... After the beautiful “Not Enough,” the album lurches into intensity with the churning industrial guitars of “Teknologi,” from Atomika. Next is the Solar Mix of “Rocketship.” This version is slightly longer and has a stronger dance beat, which I like, but the electronics in it are more subdued, a negative for me, so all in all the two versions even out and I like both about equally.

The remaining songs on the album are remixes found on Contamination: The Philadelphia Mix of “Atomika,” the Curie Mix of “Radium Lover” (a very strange mix, in my opinion), the Bound & Gagged Mix of “Submission,” and the Creta Mix of “Vampyr.” “Atomika” is an extended version of the original without a lot of changes (which is fine with me). I really like the Bound & Gagged Mix of “Submission,” particularly as a supplement to the original, not as a replacement. I made a mix CD that had the original version of “Submission” near the beginning, and a reprise with the Bound & Gagged Mix near the end--so perfect!

A photo collage of the band found on the CD insert

The issues regarding a compilation album for a purchaser are: 1) Did they choose the songs I like best? and 2) Did they sequence the songs in a way that makes the album good even though it’s a hodgepodge of songs from different albums? I have had plenty of albums that don’t pass the test in #1, but Decade passes the test. I would have left out “Technologi” and included “In My Dream” from New Devotion instead, but I’m sure band members also disagreed among themselves on some of the final choices to include or reject. As for point #2, I think the sequencing was done well, for the most part. “Technologi” right after “Not Enough” is a bit shocking, and “Vampyr” seems like a strange song to end the album with--“Submission” would have been much better, in my view. Anyway, other than those two little quibbles, I think the sequencing was excellent, giving the album a coherent flow. One little thing I found annoying was that they cut off the last half minute of “Radium Lover” (the original version). Perhaps there was not enough room on the disc, and perhaps they figured since there was a remix of the song also on the album, it would be one to cut.

In summary, if you are Paradoxx fan and do not have all their albums, but would like to have something from all of them, this is a good collection. For someone who does not have any albums from Paradoxx, I think Decade is a good representation of their music. And as should be evident from my enthusiasm for their music, I consider Paradoxx to be a group that turns out quality music.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this CD in exchange for a review. But being the big Paradoxx fan that I am, the review wouldn’t have been any different if I had not received a free copy in this manner.

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