Album Review: Paul Oakenfold – Perfecto Vegas

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For a while there, DJ legend Paul Oakenfold was engaged in a long –- and some fans believed, unnecessary –- flirtation with pop music. This was most evident on his 2002 artist album Bunkka, which featured numerous guest stars and strayed far from his seminal late-90’s DJ work. While this made Oakenfold even more of a household name, some fans longed for him to return to his techno roots. They got their wish on a string of DJ mix releases, starting with 2004’s Creamfields. Now, Oakenfold returns with a two-disc set that celebrates his residence at the Rain Nightclub in the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.

DJ albums are a unique breed. Songs lack traditional structures and run together, often becoming indistinguishable from each other. On any other kind of album, this would be a barrier to enjoying the music on offer; on a DJ album, it’s the point. You’re supposed to envision yourself in a darkened club, throwing your body around a glowing dance floor while a DJ provides a never-ending stream of music.

Over the last two decades, Oakenfold perfected this style of music, drawing together strands of house and progressive trance to create his own brand of anthemic, melodic techno. This 19-track collection gives a good flavor for what’s made Oakenfold one of the best known DJs in the world: excellent track selection and mixes calibrated to make you move.

Steady beats and seamless segues punctuate the collection. Disc one opens with Hibernate’s “Left Alone”, which begins with warm snyths before transitioning into a straightforward thump-thump beat. This song also features one of the genre’s traditional tropes: the vocal-tinged breakdown that builds anticipation for the climax. Next is Torin Schmitt’s dance floor-ready “Awaken”, an even more straight-ahead techno song:  four-on-the-floor beats with some trance influences thrown in to make things extra heady.

“Funktion Won” by Shawn Michaels and Kenneth Thomas is three minutes of bass and not much else, but on a record like this, that’s a good thing. Oakenfold seamlessly flows this track into Joe Echo’s “On All My Sundays”. A plaintive male voice sings, “How come it always rains on all my Sundays,” while riding a thick beat that evokes a late night that’s just beginning. The first disc ends with the potent one-two punch of “Carousel” by Elucidate, and Adam White’s remix of “Feel My Magic”. The beat of “Carousel” romps up and down, briskly changing mood from joyous to somber and back again. “Feel My Magic” is the kind of sing-along anthem for which techno is famous. It’s hard not to raise your arms to this one as the chorus repeats over a hard driving beat.

Overall, though, disc one is somewhat hit and miss. For every sold track, there are pedestrian entries like the too-slight “Let the Music Play” or the generic-sounding “Invasion.”

However, the track selection on disc two is more consistent, and as a result it feels more cohesive. “Fallen Angel’s Symphony” features a melancholy piano break at the 2:09 mark. It’s also the most epic song on the second disc, with its complete snyth breakdowns that reach for the rafters. “King of the Berry” follows, and while more of the same, it still has enough energy to keep the party going. Robert Vadney’s remix of “Sleeping Satellite” is another standout, emphasizing just the right elements of the song –- in this case, the bass -– for maximum danceability.

Elsewhere on disc two, Ehren Stower’s “Wish You Were Here” boasts an eerie spoken word intro (“I saw your face/appearing and disappearing and reappearing in my mind”) before the anthemic chorus takes over. On Trenix’s “Becoming You” a resonant piano figure glides over the beat throughout the song’s six-plus minutes.

Despite ending with the lackluster “Club Perfecto”, Perfecto Vegas finds Oakenfold offering fans another effortless mix and a chance to hear a consummate pro at work.

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Perfecto Vegas Album Review: Paul Oakenfold – Perfecto Vegas