Following their attempt to take trance music upmarket with last year’s Acoustic (an unplugged collaboration with a 24-piece orchestra recorded at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre), trance legends Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamaki, aka Above and Beyond, return to more familiar territory for their fourth studio effort, We Are All We Need.
Packed with skyscraping choruses, uplifting synth hooks and Balearic beats, the follow-up to Acoustic is unlikely to be in the running for most unpredictable album of the year, but there are still a couple of moments which appear to have been designed with concert halls rather than superclubs in mind.
Opener “Quieter Is Louder” is a gorgeous Sigur Rós-esque wave of cinematic strings and choral cooing melodies; “Making Plans” is the kind of empowering power ballad you’d expect from a talent show winner than from one of the trance world’s most celebrated acts, while closer “Treasure” brings proceedings to a beautifully elegant close.
The list of guest vocalists on We Are All We Need also throws up the odd surprise, namely the omission of Above & Beyond regular Richard Bedford, and the recruitment of Gemma Hayes, the Irish singer-songwriter best-known for the My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze of her 2002 debut, Night On My Side, who provides a touch of class to the bubbling trance-pop of “Counting Down The Days.”
First previewed at their recent sell-out show at Madison Square Garden, the album’s clubbier efforts are something of a mixed bag. The title track sees Zoe Johnston showcase her gorgeously ethereal tones over a warped synth hook which recalls Olive’s 90s classic “You’re Not Alone,” while the pulsing “All Over The World” and “Out Of Time” are worthy of gracing any trance DJ’s set.
However, “Hello” is a misguided venture into dirty big room house, while the title of “Blue Sky Action” may indicate that the group are thinking outside the box, but in reality, it’s just another generic attempt to replicate the soaring EDM-pop of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.”
Those who prefer Above & Beyond in trancier mode will no doubt be glad that the trio have gone back to their roots. But overall, We Are All We Need delivers little you haven’t heard before.