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LABEL: Kontor Records RELEASE DATE: January 28, 2002 GENRE: Trance, Ambient
// review by SoyBomb

Dedicated to making average music.

Having already discussed ATB's first and second albums, it only makes sense to keep going through his impressive discography. ATB's third album arrived mere months after the tragic events of 9/11; he named his new work "Dedicated", as it is dedicated to the victims, the survivors, and everyone affected by the terrorist attacks. As a result, Dedicated is a more mournful-sounding selection of songs overall. How does it hold up in comparison to his previous works?

The album starts out with the title track, Dedicated, beginning with some heavenly chords before moving into standard trance fare of plucky bass and hi-hat-heavy beats. A mildly interesting melody moves in before ATB halts the party to inject a cheap-sounding piano hook midway through to try and tickle the ears. The song would be very much at home on his debut album, as it possesses a similar island vibe. In all honesty, however, the production is nothing special, though it is a pleasant enough way to enter into ATB's third full offering.

Next is one of the singles from the album, Hold You, featuring not only the vocals of Roberta Carter-Harrison (of Canada's alt-rock group Wild Strawberries) but also the writing injections of her husband, Ken. Personally, this is a song I tend to skip over as the vocals don't pop and the background instrumentation is generally devoid of anything beyond a generic drum beat and alternating bass thump. ATB tries to bring the energy up in the chorus with a more powerful synth, but it fails to save the song overall. Hold You is one of ATB's most forgettable singles.

Contrary to what it may sound like, Get High is not a song about drug use. Instead, it's an ambient and downtempo track set to the sounds of the rainforest as trance pads do their best to consume us. But it's only that haunting girl's voice as she faintly and with desperation repeats "Get high..." that you'll remember. ATB follows up with another single, this time the song You're Not Alone, a cover of the 1996 Olive song of the same name, except with much more power. Again with Roberta Carter-Harrison on the vocals, this one sticks out a little more than Hold You, but I wasn't particularly impressed by this mix when I first reviewed it ages ago. It's certainly listenable, though, and it gels well with the overall theme of remembering 9/11.

Halcyon has always been a strange track for me, and I'm still not certain exactly why. Thrown directly into club beats, the track quickly escalates with a strong and glorious tension before breaking down and revealing the trancy main melody. Despite the more melodic second half of the song, it's the simple apprehension-filled intro that keeps me coming back. ATB follows this with Let U Go, the first single from Dedicated. This song was first featured on his previous album, Two Worlds, with a more ambient, beach-style sound; it was significantly retooled here and now has a harder driving sound, coupled with a grittier bassline and a gruff instrumental refrain. Let U Go still stands as one of ATB's most emblematic songs of his career, and it's still a pretty good listen, even with the remixing and the loss of its overall somber ambience.

Crackling in afterward is I Can't Stand, which starts out with a voice sample of "I can't stand the pain..." before ATB slowly reels in new elements: the melancholy trance pads, the funky beat, and the equally distressed pianos. Though there's a bit of hip-hop bass styling in the song's midst, this is another reflection back to ATB's earlier days of creating relaxing ambient music suitable for beach lays or just mentally destressing. A good track overall.

One of two tracks specifically noted as being dedicated to "everyone who was affected by the horrific events of September 11, 2001", Hero is one of the poppier tracks available here. With an unmistakeably funky beat, it just might get your feet tapping... at least, until it's contrasted a bit by disheartening lyrics, again by Roberta Carter-Harrison. At that point you feel a bit more guilty about shuffling those feet. The song's not as bland as I remember; in fact, there are more layers to it than when I first heard this 15 years ago. I See It throws another trance number, filled with a simple, earthy bassline our way as a very deep voice chants mundane lyrics such as "I see it in your eyes... I see it in your smile... I see it in your... I see it in your eyes..." There's nothing particularly notable in this one, and clocking in at a little over seven minutes in length, it's stretched beyond its limits. Could have been half this length, or even a quarter.

Basic Love is the longest song on the album (almost seven and a half minutes in length) and focuses back on what ATB is known for: dancefloor-friendly tunes, blended with a bit of Ibiza night charm. ATB throws everything at us, be it calming warm pads, piano melodies, or sharper synths to jab at our hearts as we fill the club floors. Though not the most interesting song on the album, it's one that's closer to ATB's earlier productions, if that's what you came expecting. This vibe doesn't continue to I Wanna Cry, which instead takes on a more serious and definitely depressing vibe, though this is also absolutely one of the shining beacons of Dedicated. This is the other track specifically designated as being dedicate to the victims of September 11, and though it maintains some dance beats throughout, there's a fairly strong emotionality within. Add to it the repeated vocals of "I wanna cry..." and you have part of a model soundtrack for that tragic event.

The album closes with Remember, beginning with waves on the shore, moving into a single repeated guitar sample that guides the entire track into a more house vibe as the water continues to crash. Additional elements creep in, such as strings and a strong beat, to create an ongoing cohesive experience. Remember is a relaxing way to end the album.

Overall, Dedicated is a blend of both solid tracks and bromidic fillers. The theme of the album, mourning America's losses, definitely shines through, but when some of the songs are too uninteresting, it diffuses the message. ATB has made some truly remarkable tracks throughout his long career, but Dedicated is not necessarily the place to find many of them.


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