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LABEL: Epic RELEASE DATE: April 1993 GENRE: Trance, Progressive Trance, Ambient
// review by Jeff

Who opened the door to nowhere?

In the early 1990s, Jam & Spoon were at the top of their game in the trance world, finding particular international success with several singles between 1992 and 1994. The German duo also achieved hits under several pseudonyms, including Storm and Tokyo Ghetto Pussy. Sadly, their legacy ended early following the death of Spoon (real name Markus Löffel in 2006). Most fans will likely remember them for Tripomatic Fairytales 2001, which contained arguably their most popular track, "Stella", now considered a classic in the genre.

Many separate versions of Tripomatic Fairytales 2001 exist, their tracklists having been shuffled a little to include new singles released after its initial release. I'm going with the one version of the album that I found at an outdoor flea market, which is the version released in North America.

As a warped deep voice welcomes us into Heart of Africa, simple tribal beats and some strange space-laden notes enter us into a rather easygoing but organic track. As more pads roll in, we discover that we can easily chill to the music. Acid ripples are added closer to the end to give it a slightly more psychedelic feel, but overall, this is a relaxing start to the album that slips almost seamlessly into Odyssey To Anyoona, a track which later inspired a different single, "Find Me (Odyssey To Anyoona)", that is featured at the end of this album as a bonus. It takes two minutes to get even remotely beyond a very mild bassline and some light percussion, and even then, it's just a quick angelic jab before they add a few more beats. Past the three minute mark, native chants squeak their way in, revealing where this song is going. Padding's added in, and some twinkly fluffy piano work adds to the atmosphere by the five minute point, but you won't get more substance than that. Not a terrible tune overall, but it's about twice as long as it needs to be, given the limited idea range featured within. And no, I don't believe there's an actual place called Anyoona, or at least not one accessible without taking a few mystery tabs.

Two Spys In The House Of Love is a quick 30-second vocal sketch that makes no sense at all, and it's a bizarre introduction to Stella, the album's big claim to fame. If you'll remember anything from this stellar trancer, it's the plucked melody that just screams of reminiscence of the tranquil sunset in Ibiza. It doesn't arrive until halfway through, but the unwinding respite brought by the soft buildup should keep your ears entertained until then. It's a shame that the later single version in 1998 cut out the primary identifier, the guitar, from this classic. Listen to the original found here for a true trance legend.

If you love songs that sound like a MIDI file, Neurotrance Adventure should probably scratch that itch, or at least the first half. Some additional cosmic pads may change that perception, but this song sure sounds far too primitive at first, even for its time in the early 1990s. Neurotrance Adventure is a nice journey to lay down and fall asleep to, even if it's not necessarily meant to be a slow song. Zen Flash Zen Bones is a stranger blend of sounds — the occasional inclusion of a weird fart bass sticks out like a sore thumb at a finger party. The song proceeds to get stranger with the most jittery liquified acid bass I've heard in a while. Zen Flash Zen Bones is a track as bizarre as its own name, to say the least.

Who Opened The Door To Nowhere is an equally trippy journey. Over the sounds of the acidic cosmos is a robotic voice asking a series of questions, both philosophical and banal. You never know what to expect with this album, honestly. Next up is Right In The Night (Fall In Love With Music), a more upbeat track with guitar plucks featuring vocals by Plavka, a vocalist that frequently worked with Jam & Spoon on various productions over the years. Right In The Night was another of the duo's more popular singles and is far more conventional than many other oddities on Tripomatic Fairytales 2001. The focus is clearly on the vocals and the plucks; everything else behind is window dressing, but it's a very attractive display indeed.

Another quick vocal sketch, Muffeled Drums (and no, I didn't misspell that; they did), we head into more unusual territory with Path Of Harmony. Just the female voice clip repeatedly saying "Uh-huh" is about the most jarring thing I've heard yet on this album. I forget about all the weird beeping and jungle rhythms in the background because I'm bracing myself for more Uh-huhs. Eventually, this turns into a more rave-oriented eurodance excursion, and later on, a traditional trance tune that actually caught me by surprise, as I didn't expect something of this impeccable quality and sound amidst the slightly more antiquated sounds of previous tracks. This one's definitely something to check out!

Past that, you can pull your car into the Paradise Garage and enjoy some bass-laden ruffles that, while never particularly exciting, brings up strong impulses of Underworld, a great electronic duo from the U.K. that's still going today. The design of the bassline and its repetitive rhythms are very reminiscent of Underworld indeed. For something a bit more organic, Earth Spirit might tickle your ear. The only thing a tad peculiar is the flighty buzzing happening throughout the song; although it certainly gives it a unique personality, it could possibly annoy a few listeners as well. Thankfully, it later drops off as the track veers in a completely different direction, even occasionally entering practically Detroit techno territory. To seal the deal, we have Stellas Cry (nope, no apostrophe to be found), a far more ambient conclusion than expected and one that is very appealing. Starting with pure relaxation, we eventually move into a piano-dominated piece that, while unrelated to the Stella from earlier on, is a very competent electronic piece that illuminates the emotions. It's a superb ending to a very wild ride.

The album also includes, as a bonus, Find Me (Odyssey To Anyoona), which is essentially a shortening of Odyssey of Anyoona with more vocals by Plavka. It's another good earworm from Jam & Spoon for sure

Overall, Jam & Spoon's simple production style may not necessarily appeal to modern listeners, but if you give it a chance, there's a wide variety of possibilities to enjoy here. Not every track is a gem — and definitely a few have not aged particularly well — but there's certainly something for most fans of classic electronic music. They're no Skrillex, but you can definitely Jam to this Spoon.


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