Sunday, October 21, 2007

CD Review: Vegas (Deluxe Edition) by The Crystal Method

Sometime in late 1997, I stood in a record store and decided that I would dive headfirst into electronic music. As a teenager who previously would only admit to being a hip-hop/R&B fan, it was a big deal for me. I narrowed down my potential purchase to three CDs and the one I bought was The Crystal Method's Vegas. Now, this album has been reissued in a 10th anniversary deluxe edition with a new remaster and a second disc of music. Ten years later, the original album holds up pretty well.

The deluxe edition of The Crystal Method's Vegas is packaged in a two-disc digipak with a slipcover that designates it as a deluxe edition. The booklet that comes with the set features an essay about the road to the album written by Aidin Vaziri, a track-by-track breakdown with the Las Vegas duo, short pieces written by the duo talking about the album's 10th anniversary, and the usual list of credits and thank yous.

Disc one is the original album with a fresh remaster. As someone who owns the original release, I can tell you that the remaster sounds better, but only a bit. You notice it more in the background elements on songs versus the main parts. The album's textures sounded a bit richer and fuller. Parts that didn't need fooling around with are not fooled around and that's a good thing.

The big question when revisiting an “older” album is whether or not it still holds up after so many years. In the case of Vegas, the answer is yes. The main reason is the duo's focus on texture. Many non-electronic music fans dismiss certain genres of electronic music due to the amount of repetition. The Crystal Method get around this by putting as many interesting, unique sounds as possible into what is repeated. Multiple elements fight for attention in each of the songs here and new stuff is always dropped in to keep the listener on their toes.

One of the things that I think drew non-electronic fans to this album is the way elements from other genres are brought into the mix. Hip-hop plays a very important part in “Busy Child.” The track features a sample from an Eric B. And Rakim song. The underlying drums could've been used as part of a hip-hop beat. Elements of alternative are also evident throughout Vegas. In the liner notes, Ken Jordan compares working a filter on the track “Cherry Twist” to doing a guitar solo. You could look at quite a few songs on Vegas as alternative tracks with electronics replacing live instruments. Also, songs like “Comin' Back” and “Jaded,” with their vocals by Trixie Reiss, blur the line separating electronic and alternative.

Disc two of the set is a nice collection of remixes and other tracks. A variety of artists offer some really interesting takes on songs from Vegas. Being the biggest hit off the album, “Busy Child” gets the most coverage with three different remixes. While all of them are pretty good, Paul Oakenfold's eight-minute-plus remix is excellent. Deadmau5's remix of “Cherry Twist” and Myagi's remix of “High Roller” are also highlights.

Two non-remixes are also included on this disc. The original demo of “Comin' Back” from 1993 is included and it's quite good. This version is rawer and a lot less polished and even without a lot of the texture of the original version, it still packs quite a punch. The other non-remix is a great live version of “Vapor Trail.” The disc is also an enhanced CD and popping it into your computer lets you look at photos and watch the videos for “Busy Child” and “Comin' Back.”

Ten years after its release, Vegas is still a very good album. It, like other albums of that time period, helped introduce a generation to electronic music. The deluxe edition of this album helps you appreciate it that much more. For fans who own the original album, the second disc alone may make you consider this re-release. However, this is a must-purchase for those who have never heard this great album or those who are curious about electronic music.

Check out one of the tracks from Disc Two:

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