Impressive Dance Compilation From British DJ/ Producer

As a re-mixer, Oakenfold's classic reinterpretations for the Happy Mondays, Massive Attack and U2 (with whom he has toured) helped bridge rock, hip-hop and house.

The god-like esteem in which DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold is held

creates almost-impossible expectations for a mix CD: one envisions

previously unfathomable mix skills, the greatest songs ever heard yet

somehow never heard, transcendence via some audio-initiated,

three-dimensional psychedelic experience. It's important to remember

that Tranceport, Oakenfold's reintroduction to the U.S. market

(he had a mix CD out on Moonshine in 1994) is ultimately just another

compilation of dance tunes. But it's a damn good one at that.

And though it rankles to read official hype about how "this founding

father of the U.K. scene" is now ready to give it up "to the uneducated

Yanks," the man deserves props. Oakenfold is a Londoner in his late '30s

who was involved in the British DJ scene back in club world's dark ages.

In 1987, he took a holiday in Ibiza along with fellow club aficionados

Danny Rampling and Nicky Holloway, in which the trio were introduced to

the elucidating powers of Ecstasy and house music. Back home, they vowed

to recreate this positive Mediterranean experience in depressed British

inner cities. With a combination of good timing, hard work and

like-minded friends, they founded the rave scene and changed the

perception of dance music from its association with MOR discos to a

modern equivalent of rock 'n' roll catharsis and community, the

repercussions of which are currently being felt in America a decade

later. (Rampling is now a national British radio DJ; Holloway has

slipped from sight.)

As a re-mixer, Oakenfold's classic reinterpretations for the Happy

Mondays, Massive Attack and U2 (with whom he has toured) helped bridge

rock, hip-hop and house. Still, no one is perfect. Years ago, Oakenfold

pioneered a stillborn 95BPM movement and went all hippie for awhile as he

championed the DAT tape-only format of Goa trance, named after the

now-to-be-avoided Indian hippy holiday spot. But as the title of the new

mix album indicates, he has never given up his love for the uplifting,

epic, house/progressive trance sound itself.

Usually in the slightly frenetic 135-150 beats-per-minute range, with

relentless high-hats and the ubiquitous 909 kick, it's a sound built

around simplistic and cheerful, melodic keyboard and synth motifs that

repeat and build while continually adding more textures. The textures often appear in the shape of blissful synthesizer pads -- or even better, plucked violin

strings -- with crescendoing snare rolls signifying a progression to

another, more intense level of instrumentation, or else to a sudden

drop-out in which maybe just one motif or rhythm part will keep going,

as if the doors of heaven have now been opened, the battle won. It's a

music that echoes the speed rush and positive vibes of the drug Ecstasy,

and while it's a music that obviously makes most sense in a club

environment, I have no problems playing it at home -- especially when

looking to feel good.

And over the last couple of years, it's become increasingly popular in

the States, thanks largely to hard work by DJs such as Sasha and Digweed

and Paul van Dyk, who have toured regularly to expand the vibe beyond

its cult following. Sasha and Digweed's Northern Exposure 2

compilation from earlier this year set a standard by which most mix CDs

must now compete, and it's no coincidence that Oakenfold, the latest

star European DJ to devote his attention to the expanding American

marketplace, features a mix by Sasha of Gus Gus' "Purple" that, along

with Transa's "Enervate," also appeared on Northern Exposure.

Meanwhile, East German Paul van Dyk is featured twice on

Tranceport with the classic "Rendezvous" -- his tag-team

collaboration with Britain's Tilt -- and on "Words (For Love)." Those

looking to discover the artists behind this sound are advised to check

out Van Dyk's new double CD, Seven Ways.

A useful combination of new and old, Tranceport includes

fresh-out-of-the-box gems like Binary Finary's "1998" and Agnelli +

Nelson's "El Nino," along with near-standards such as Energy 52's "Cafe

Del Mar," named after a legendary Ibitha venue. Meticulously mixed in

simple segues, Tranceport is a wonderfully uplifting and

energizing experience, but all involved would be well-advised to

remember that it is a mix CD far less about the DJ than it is about the

music.