October 31, 2003

Shortcuts: Paul Oakenfold

If pop/rap artist Eminem claims that "nobody listens to techno," he must not have heard of Paul Oakenfold. The British DJ is arguably the most renowned trance DJ since electronic music hit mainstream audiences. His newest release, Great Wall, acts almost as a response to such popularity, providing the listener with a two-CD set that also comes with an interactive component.

Part of what contributed to Oakenfold's global fame were his collaborations with well known artists such as U2 and Madonna. Realizing the effectiveness of this method, Oakenfold continues this trend, working with Björk, Madonna, Nugen, and Ian Brown on his latest release. Although some of the best songs on the album are indeed a result of such collaborations, Great Wall has no need for 130 minutes of music. The highlights of the album mostly appear on the first CD, and by the second CD, the listener is bored. In a time when the world of electronic music seems to be losing its fanbase to mainstream rock and hip hop, quality should be more important than quantity.

The first track on the first CD exhibits mind-blowing quality that gives the listener great hope. A great deal of both male and female vocals enhance the album and give it flavor very rarely found in trance music. Most notable is the third track, a remix of a piece from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack. Oakenfold takes a wonderful song and embellishes it with hypnotic guitar riffs and powerful dynamics. This is what being a DJ is all about: enticing the listener with subtle, intense technique. He is truly at the peak of his talent when remixing tracks from various backgrounds and styles. Oakenfold has an ear for dynamics and harmony that few current artists have.

Some tracks, such as "Deep South" and "Dirty Sticky Floors," fail to impress the listener with anything interesting or diverse in the realm of electronic music. Possibly the best track is Oakenfold's remix of "Another Day," a calm but powerful song filled with enticing lyrics.

While some may question the purpose of such a release, Oakenfold does provide an interesting blend of music, with wonderful collaborations. If not worth a purchase, it's at least entitled to a listen by any fans who have been recently converted to electronic music.