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Various Artists: Friends Around The World – Refresh (Agara Music)

Agara Music closes out 2014 with the Refresh Edition of the labels much loved ‘Friends Around The World’ compilation series.


Agara Music’s ‘Friends Around The World’ collection was released over a year ago now. It still stands as one of the Canadian imprints finest moments. Compiled by Agara label boss Travis MacDonald the 12 track compilation featured a masterfully programmed blend of electronica, techno and laid back progressive house. Now 14 months later we see Agara revisiting the branded collection with a second or ‘Refresh’ edition. Included on the release are new studio productions from Cardiowave, PHM, Nadia Struiwigh, Max Cue, Roberto Traista and Andreas Brunner.

The collection begins with Cardiowave who are making their first appearance on Agara Music. Vladimir Zlobin and Maxim Lebedev make up the Russian production team. They’ve been quiet since April of this year when they remixed ‘Circovirus’ by Xzaltacia on Blendwerk. Cardiowave’s contribution to ‘Refresh’ in entitled ‘Underground River’ and it gets the collection off to a very strong start. It’s delicate beginnings are rather unassuming but the detailed production work really carries it well. A foreboding rhythm section along with a sultry set of bass tones builds an anticipatory atmosphere throughout the first half. The main break is where the immense beauty of the track really hits you. A few subtle chord changes and soft hooks are all it takes and the radically revamped second half provides a very worthy dance floor finish. Excellent stuff from Cardiowave.

The second selection comes from Nadia Struiwigh who is also making her first appearance on Agara Music. In October the Dutch producer unveiled one of this year’s most beastly remixes when her rework of Estroe’s ‘I Wish’ was released on Rosedale Records. It’s been well over a year since Nadia has released an original production so ‘Ant Hill’ is certainly a welcome one. If you love alluring, hypnotic grooves with a unique musical twist then this is bound to find a home in your sets. The ethereal qualities and unconventional rhythms that carry the track have a profound emotional effect, and one which gets compounded as the piece grows. It might be a bit camouflaged for some but for my money the end of the night potential on this one is pretty large.

One of Agara Music’s primary artists over the course of it’s now two plus year existence has been Roberto Traista. The Hungarian producer has contributed a jaw dropping fourteen original productions for the label in that time and remains on the cutting edge of techno. Roberto’s ‘Do It Again’ included here is perhaps one of his most dance floor worthy creations. A tough kick along with rippling waves of bass sit at the foundation while a cool complement of vocal stabs and classic electronics dazzle your senses throughout. Most clubby techno can be quite tracky sounding but there is a nice progressive build happening on this record with rising atmospherics and a stark melodic theme, the latter of which gradually reveals itself throughout. A powerful production from Roberto and definitely one that could be at home in a variety of sets.

The collection’s fourth offering is provided by PHM who is another European producer famed in the melodic electronica community. I first discovered the Bulgarian producer with his releases on Wide Angle Recordings which date back to 2011. PHM has always been great at diversifying his sound and you never know quite what to expect to come out of his studio next. His recent remixes for Cinematique and Grrreat Recordings were not only well crafted and beautifully detailed but they received support from a variety of electronic music camps. ‘Sentiment’ included here is perhaps one of his most unique and melancholic sounding creation to date. It’s stark techno framework is quite linear in construction but the swirling granular textures and striking melodies add immense depth. After a tension filled five minutes the grandiose theme goes through a wonderful sonic mulch during the main break which for me is the highlight; it adds just enough variance to the piercing lead that the second half finale seems that much more impactful.

Another producer who has been an integral part of the Agara Music family is Max Cue. The Belgian artist has appeared six times on the Canadian imprint and has even collaborated with label owner Travis MacDonald on a few occasions with quite spectacular results. It’s been a great year for Max; the release of his ‘Mindfulness’ LP though Paul Hazendonk’s Manual Music was a huge success and his more recent ‘Painted Dream’ for 3rd Avenue was equally enthralling. His contribution to ‘Refresh’ is entitled ‘Grey Matter’ and it showcases Max’s broad production scope with a broken beat, cinematic adventure. The shuffling beats seem to come at precisely the right time; still adamantly tailored for the dance floor it’s rhythmic shifts, growling underbelly and vivid scope are incredibly pleasing. Wonderful work from Max once again.

The sixth and final selection is provided Andreas Brunner who I’m quite pleased to see here. The Austrian producer first came to my attention when he remixed Dibby Dougherty & David Young’s ‘Why Do You Find It So Hard To Believe’ on Igor Cold’s Somebody’s Story imprint. He’s also had some great outings in 2014 for Blendwerk and Wide Angle Recordings. When you’re looking for a track to close out a collection which is already filled with melodic beauties you’ve got to step things up a notch and ‘Brings A Raw Beautiful Awareness Right Away’ certainly does that. Led by a male vocal that pulls at your heart strings along with some playfully intertwined melodies and a buoyant groove you’ve got the rainbow at the end of the theatrical storm so to speak. Max’s ‘Grey Matter’ which preceded this was the most dramatic, gripping and heavy piece on the collection and it didn’t just come out of nowhere; there was a well told story which brought you to that point. ‘Brings A Raw Beautiful Awareness Right Away’ lifts you up from those dramatic clutches and onwards to a celestial finale. A gorgeous piece of music to close out another well constructed collection of tunes from Agara Music. Highly Recommended.

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