Above & Beyond ‘Common Ground’ Album Review
February 15, 2018
February 15, 2018
Most DJ/producers don’t crack into the DJMag Top 100 before the age of 30. Most of them don’t shun major label attention. Most of them don’t have them don’t have the balls to call out the scene that they belong to when it’s failing to deliver the goods. And some don’t even produce ‘their’ own tracks. Gareth Emery, with his potent blend of trance, house, electro and techno, however, is not your average major league artist.
He was a prodigious talent in his childhood, teaching himself to play the piano from the age of 4, and continuing his invaluable classical education until he began playing guitar in an indie band at 15. Neither of these were false starts for his eventual electronic conversion; instead, both paths giving him essential experience and understanding of music and songwriting and how to convey emotion through his sounds. His baptism of fire came on a chance trance trip to Ibiza in 1998, which was followed by three years of learning the machinations of electronic music making. At the age of 22, he created a track on a laptop while on holiday in France. That track was the instant classic Mistral; a stunning debut which soon had unsuspecting pundits and clubbers alike eating out of his hands. From here onwards his career ascent was impressively – and deservedly – rapid.
“I guess it’s just good, melodic dance music,” he says of his musical style. “One of the most positive things about the scene over the past few years has been the gradual breaking down of genre barriers and the cross-pollination of sounds. I just look for records that I enjoy musically and also work well in a club. The genre is unimportant”. He’s not afraid to meld his bold, scintillating electronic motifs with more organic flavours, with his crisp, sharp leads and basslines frequently married to soaring vocals, traditional songwriting prowess and what some might call ‘proper’ instruments.
While he’s spent record-breaking stints at the top of Beatport’s Trance sales chart, and while trance will always be a part of what he does, he won’t let the sound ultimately define him. “I’ve realised that my strength is in music and melodies that touch people. I’m a music guy. It just happens to be that the music I make is electronic. That realisation has allowed me a lot more creative freedom, then when I felt I had to write music for a certain ‘scene’.” It’s this very decision which has helped him to garner such widespread acclaim and which has ensured that he’s never boxed as simply a trance DJ/producer. His ambitions are bigger than any one sound or scene, and his eclectically flavoured output is testament to that fact. “The longer I’ve been producing, the less I see myself as a dance music producer and more as an artist and musician” he explains of this approach to production. “I always start a track with the music, rather than the beats, and I found the dance scene after classical piano training and years of playing guitar in bands, so I guess in a way I’ve come full circle.”
His ground-breaking podcast started back in 2006, marking him out as one of the key early adopters of the now ubiquitous format. Nominated several times for the Miami IMDA Best Podcast award, it’s been a seriously important calling card for his career. “I got lucky basically. But I also never had any musical rules about the show; it was always whatever tracks I liked that week, regardless of whether they fitted my sets. Down the line that allowed me to be more innovative and varied with my DJ sets.” He’s consistently voted inside the DJMag Top 100 DJs Poll – peaking at Number 7 – with his burgeoning Garuda party selling out Manchester’s legendary Sankeys four times in a row and spawning a critically acclaimed compilation, The Sound Of Garuda. Building a musical brand around his name in record shops, download stores, radio and clubland has given him an all-encompassing reputation in dance music which is rivalled by few.
His 2012 is off to a huge start, with latest single Concrete Angel premiered on Judge Jules’ Radio 1 show , and its video added to the prestigious MTV Dance playlist as well as racking up 1 million YouTube plays in its first three weeks online. He’s been chosen as a resident for Las Vegas’s Marquee – one of the most outstanding club venues in the world in the city that everyone’s calling the new Ibiza – while he’s also playing the enormous Ultra Music Festival and taking Garuda to Space Miami. Clocking up air miles like nobody’s business, he’s massively in demand across the globe, his continually evolving sound gaining him bookings at an impressive variety of clubs and festivals the world over.
As you can probably tell, Gareth Emery is a man of hard-graft and sizeable ambition. His ambitions are impressive, with a view to produce bands and other artists in the future. His focus for the foreseeable future is on building further on the huge platform that Garuda sits on, taking his club nights and new show across the globe, while continuing to create more slices of ‘anti-genre’ dancefloor gold.