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LABEL: Deconstruction RELEASE DATE: July 5, 1999 GENRE: Trance
// review by SoyBomb

Xpand your mind.

Sasha's "Xpander EP" from 1999 has been credited with revitalizing and breathing new life into the trance genre. But beyond the title track, is there really anything to this package? I investigate!

With a dark beat announcing its entry, Xpander immediately presents itself as "ready to go" with various space-laden effects and filtered flangulations as its buildup. Soon enough, the euphoric spacey synths slide in with their simultaneously simple and complex melody, and you're immediately hooked by the hook. If the goal of this tune was to fill us with joyous ebullience, it's definitely doing its job. Synthetic bells join in on the fun, adding another layer to this ever-Xpanding marvel. The energy fades away about halfway through, only to add some additional levels of heavily-flanged darkness to the mix. This is serious business, effectively complimenting the main course of the album. Xpander feels like exactly what trance should be: a transportation of the mind to a different dimension, a slice of escapism all the while enchanting us with a solid melody in hand.

Belfunk follows up with a warped clock ticking away what limited time we have. Unlike Xpander, Belfunk takes a little more time to rev up, staying relatively static for a while before dragging itself in with a deep rolling bass driving the overall track. Distant vocal cries line the song as well, adding a bit of thickness, though nothing too notable until the plucks come in to deliver the main, sad melody. I do enjoy the edged bassline that creeps in later on, though. That's always pleasant to the ears. Overall, this is a far less interesting track than Xpander, but then again, that was a tough act to follow. It's far less likely I would replay this one.

Rabbitweed starts out with rolling, almost randomized beats, eventually leading up some light breakbeat action, though still focusing heavily on percussion over anything else before an eerie organ creeps in around the three-minute mark. Faint alien cries spatter over the already solemn change in tone, as an acid bassline steps onto the plate, followed later by some unusual Middle Eastern-inspired melodic undertones, draped with smooth angelic waves of synthetic emotion. Unlike the uplifting Xpander, this track's shrouded in darkness, a stark contrast in spirit. This one's not a bad listen at all with ample variation to keep the ears from falling asleep.

Last is Baja, which starts rather solemnly before wedging in some unusual vocoded acoustic guitars as the harmonic pad plays on in the background. There's real beauty in this, amplified as the snare and the energizing dotted bass layer themselves on. Spliced vocals also fade in and out of the fray. Tribal chanting and a stronger kick take hold, as well as strange industrial fraps. The many strata of this tune are impressive, resembling something straight out of an Orbital album. Over time, Baja transforms back into a more chillout track with additional guitar work. Definitely give this one a spin as well.

Really, Xpander is the song you're coming here for. It's the one that made Sasha such a popular name. But you needn't neglect the other tracks, for they are more than just nice displays of what special effects equipment was available at the time. Though Belfunk was a little dry for my taste, Rabbitweed and Baja are classics in their own rite. The Xpander EP deserves the accolades it received, for there is significant care in each track.


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