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VA – Friends Around The World (Agara Music)

Travis MacDonald’s Agara Music returns this week for their first ever compilation release. We’ve been thoroughly impressed with the Canadian labels output over the course of their now almost one year run. When we heard they were putting together a compilation we expected a lot and they’ve certainly delivered and then some. One quick look at the tracklist and you know there is going to be a wealth of interesting electronica here. ‘Friends Around The World’ comes with twelve exclusive new productions from the likes of Madloch, Alberto Blanco & Marcelo Paladini, Alessandro Diga, Mauro Norti, Booiamrudolf, D-Mand, Aparde, Max Farlane, Beat Syndrome, Erreome and Roberto Traista.

The collection begins with Sound Avenue’s Madloch and his ‘Organic Life’ piece. It seems like the ideal track to open the release off with as the down tempo broken beats and unique sound design are immediately captivating. Alberto Blanco & Marcelo Paladini’s ‘California Sunday’ is next and it’s warm and enchanting vibe immediately heightens the senses for what’s to come. Dutch producer Alessandro Diga is next and his very contemporary ‘Betelgeuze’ is a welcome surprise. We’ve generally only heard progressive house and melodic techno in the past from Alessandro but ‘Betelgeuze’ is a spacey electronica cut of the highest order. Big atmospheric swells and abstract beats build tension over the first four minutes or so before a gargantuan kick drops in and really takes the roof off. That’s certainly a tough act to follow but the intricate production techniques of Mauro Norti are more than up to the task. ‘FMML’ means serious business with a dangerously subterranean bass line at the outset. It’s sets such a menacing tone that once the grainy electronics and sheets of harmonic noise take over it’s just all encompassing.

The half way point of the collection sees Belgian producer Max Cue with an enchanting techno construction. The sporadic mallets are what really grab us here, such a lovely harmonic texture and the piece really lays things down for the more dance floor oriented material that is still to come. Columbian producer Booiamrudolf has been very high on our radar of late and his ‘To Shy To Kiss You’ included here is one of the standout tracks on the collection. The wobbly, mesmerizing nature of the groove is quite intoxicating and once the barrage of drums and additional beats drop in it’s pretty massive sounding. A calming angelic tone enters around the 3 minute mark and this is where the track becomes truly special. The slightly warped tone is full of wonderful modulation and emotional harmonic shifts which are goose bump inducing to say the least. Exceptional stuff from Booiamrudolf. This leads nicely into the quirky ‘Within A Minute’ from D-Mand. The Portuguese producer has delivered another exceptional uptempo electronica piece with these feel good rhythms that undulate throughout the track. It flows nicely into Aparde’s ‘Raslos’ in fact which is another big standout here. The Berlin based producer has been red hot this year with very strong outings on Blendwerk and Agara. ‘Raslos’ has an atmospheric end of the night vibe that slowly morphs into something entirely more beautiful. The subtle melodic themes that get presented during the drop set the stage for the hook heavy rhythms to re-enter and all the hands to go up in the air as a result. Aparde continues to impress and this is one of his best.

The final four tracks on the collection get set into motion with Max Farlane’s ‘Naton’. Those of you that remember Max’s rework of Max Cue & Travis MacDonald’s ‘Still Waters’ should absolutely love this. The grainy electronics combined with the uplifting lines are the ultimate contrast and should sound fabulous on a club system. Beat Syndrome’s ‘Centrifuge’ is next and shows once again why Hamed Safi is one of Canada’s top progressive house talents. The bubbly textures and warm bass tones give just a hint of epicness which is ideal to pick things up for the final stretch of the collection. Spanish producer Erreome makes his Agara debut next and provides the ethereal sounding ‘Rare’. The eerie vocal accents, spooky tones and grinding underbelly are tension inducing to say the least. It seems like the ideal selection to precede the closer which you would expect to be a relatively big affair. And with that Roberto Traista has certainly delivered the ultimate closing track. ‘Searching’ is without a doubt Roberto’s crowning achievement to date. His ‘Escape’ EP earlier this year on Agara was good but he’s taken things up a few notches here. ‘The wobbly, character drenched bass line is really fabulous and gives the piece some unsettling energy. What somehow balances everything out though are the swirling hooks and deliberate sounding drums. It’s like the ultimate collision of ruggedness that ends up sounding quite beautiful. Great stuff from Roberto and a perfect conclusion to a great first compilation from Agara.

The music here is exceptional but after a few listens we can also say that the collection has been programmed masterfully. It’s a truly enjoyable listening experience and one that should be in every electronic music fans collection.

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