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12 March, 2014@9:56 pm

English trio Above & Beyond have been putting it down for over a decade now, as frontrunners in the trance scene with three previous studio albums to their catalog. Widely respected, its clear that A&B got into this movement, not because it was the cool thing to do, but because they had a true passion for the art itself. But as the dreaded needle looms closer and closer to the “EDM bubble”, more and more groups are thinking outside the box with their album releases. So while Avicii made a sensible pop album with dance undertones, and Daft Punk paid homage to the 70′s, Above and Beyond took their music in a direction nobody saw coming: Acoustic.

Preceded by a series of live events, Above and Beyond performed the material found on Acoustic before a studio audience. Showing off their chops as musicians, the members performed on actual instruments, as a part of a 15 piece orchestra. Could the average “kid with a laptop” do that?

Beautifully performed, Acoustic re-envisions classic cuts from their catalog, which, for many, will be the first introduction to the music of Above & Beyond. Whether you are a longtime fan or a new listener, Acoustic sounds like an album of new, original material, expertly realized by the trio.

Stripped of its ethereal, thumping rhythms, the Acoustic sound is super laid back, and at times mirrors the lost sound of 90′s acid jazz/trip-hop (which is a good thing). New renditions of tracks like “Can’t Sleep” and “You Got To Go” would have fit nicely on your chilled out mixtape, next to Mono and Portishead.

But its even a step up from those sample-heavy works, as again, this album is quite literally Acoustic. The sound is fuller than what came before, and almost takes on a cinematic quality with its layers of strings and horns. Their most recent hit, “Sun and Moon”, is knocked out of the park here, while the breathtaking new rendition of “Alone Tonight” could double as a James Bond theme. Quite an honor for a couple of boys from London town.

The only downside to Acoustic is that a lot of their tracks are downers, with many songs about breaking up or being alone. With the heavy instrumental edge added, it can weigh a bit heavily during the hour plus listen.

But as the stateside hype of the EDM explosion begins to wane, mainstays like Above & Beyond have nothing to fear. Acoustic speaks very loudly, proclaiming one thing: they were here before dance music’s newfound popularity, and they’ll be here long after.

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