Paul Oakenfold

With the music he composed for last year's John Travolta techno-clunker Swordfish, trance titan Paul Oakenfold confused the idea of composing a soundtrack with actually replicating the crashes and explosions crucial to any big-budget action flick. The resultant album was music-as-extreme sport, the bloodless electronic rush of trance married to big beat's quest for the most block-rocking beat. Luckily, the raft of guest stars Oakenfold corralled to appear on Bunkka, his new album of original material, seems to have convinced the DJ/producer of the appeal of dynamics and texture, and of song structures that people besides Evel Knievel can appreciate: The brooding "Hold Your Hand" beefs up a Portishead-like groove, giving Icelandic chanteuse Emiliana Torrini space to work her mojo, and Nelly Furtado and Tricky make "Harder They Come" throb with an urgency DJ Shadow could admire. Even Ice Cube, a guy with his own weakness for action-flick corniness, makes the twinkly synths in "Get Em Up" signify something besides glowstick hedonism. If Oakenfold decamps too often to the New Age faux-profundity of his past (spiritual flunky Perry Farrell virtually holds a seminar on the subject in the silly "Time of Your Life"), Bunkka, like Timo Maas' recent Loud, suggests that trance might not be the done deal it so closely resembles.
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Mikael Wood

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