|Various Artists - Awaken|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 06 November 2001|
Bringing together street culture with the most cutting edge technology, Awaken is a more than just a disc with some high resolution techno music and cool cover art. Techo DJs and producers bring the sounds and some of the most talented graffiti artists such as Los Angeles’ KOFIE provide the visual stimulation on this DVD-Audio disc mixed in 5.1 surround sound. Techno music and DVD-Audio surround sound make such a natural fit I’m amazed there aren’t already a handful of titles like Awaken already on the music scene.
There are several ways that you can enjoy this disc. If you have a DVD-Audio player but it isn’t hooked up to a video source, you can kick back, close your eyes and let the swirling techno sound envelope you. I do recommend you listen to Awaken this way but remember, this is more on this disc than just music. On the package of the disc, it is listed as being compatible with Microsoft’s X box and Sony’s Playstation 2. I decided to fire up the PS2 and give Awaken a spin so I could take advantage of the visual slide show that accompanies the audio tracks. The visuals don’t flash by at MTV like speeds, rather they are paced slowly enough as to not distract from the music. I found it a nice touch to not be visually bombarded by jump cuts, dissolves and other visual gimmicks while trying to enjoy the inventive mixes found on Awaken.
The DVD’s menus are very stylish, but seemed a touch clunky and slow when accessed by the Playstation’s DVD remote. This may be more a fault of Sony’s design than of the disc itself, but choosing a track was much more of an ordeal than it needed to be. In the additional material section, filmed interviews and profiles of the artists and producers of Awaken give great insight into how and why Awaken was created. None of the interviews are groundbreaking and unless you are deep into the techno scene, you probably won’t be familiar with any of the artists, but a little inside info goes along way to enhance the experience that is Awaken.
My biggest objection to techno music is overcome in the surround sound format. A song that features a repetitive sonic motif repeated over and over becomes quickly boring in stereo (unless you have the right drugs I’m told.) but in surround sound, these elements can be thrown around your head in ways that stereo just can’t and it draws you into the music. The engineers who mixed Awaken did not discriminate when mixing to the rears. Often reserved for subtle elements such as percussion or background vocals when mixing pop music, Awaken does away with this practice as the rear channels are almost always alive during all 12 songs (and all subsequent 8 re-mix tracks) on this 22 track disc.
This isn’t pop music by any means and there are no musical hooks to sink your teeth into, but it spans the gamut from old school influenced "Contemplation " by Josh One to the atmospheric sounds of "Divine Styler" by Terraform. There is a little bit of everything on Awaken, from trance, to house to drum-and-bass. It’s hard to keep up on all the differences in styles, but to find all of them in one place makes for some nice variety, something rarely seen (or heard) in the world of electronic music. It’s not all stellar music, but with so much visual and aural information to digest, anyone who has a 5.1 system and a DVD player or DVD-A player is even remotely into techno should have this disc.