Tom Trago has always been a producer who melted a warm disco heart over his house concoctions, and the Rush Hour staple’s third album shows that his work is stronger when he sticks to what he knows. The Light Fantastic is a record of two halves, its opening run peddling trendy deep house sounds, yet the album only comes into its own when that disco influence seeps in, dominating the LP’s superior second movement.
It’s not like Trago is unable to innovate – his excellent Bok Bok collaboration is more than proof that the man’s capable of brilliance beyond his early soulful sounds, but the reference point for The Light Fantastic’s first half is flawed. After the promising title track opens up over a pretty, low-key melody and subtle percussive gestures, the cracks in Trago’s new pop-deep-house formula begin to emerge.
The burbling melodies that underpin True Friends’ vocoded vocals are strong but the composition wears thin well before its 6-minute runtime is through, while follow-up For The Children again bears strong individual elements without ever hitting that sweet spot that makes you want to hit the repeat button.
This new style reaches its nadir on the desperately derivative Jack Me, where a sensual female vocal directs us to get dirty on the dancefloor over a wafer-thin approximation of a moody bassline. The intention is there but the execution is off: the simple soundscape offers nothing new, while the familiar vocal is more likely to dull the senses than liven them. Despite a disappointing opening run, The Light Fantastic does contain some strong ideas in its first half, exhibited in the soupy chords of slo-mo acid roller Down Under or the strings that wash elegantly over Cosmic Blacksmith’s low-slung groove.
This latter success gives way to an abrupt change in the LP, where Trago returns to his routes, injecting some soul into the plastic house workouts that came before. Following number The Elite is ebullient in comparison, opening with lush orchestral funk before giving way to a bleep-fed techno roller which stands head and shoulders above all which came before. As clips of the original sample intrude into the staccato soundfield the energy is palpable, resulting in an effervescent modern disco cut which stands in sharp contrast to the album’s po-faced deep house beginnings. The roll continues into lead single Two Together, a less imaginative but equally giddy slice of filter-disco, as a propulsive techno pulse underpins jazzy keys and looped guitar cuts.
The album closes with two odd-ones-out: the sweetened Balearic sounds of The Wrong Right give onto the nervy analogue pop of closer I Still Desire, all down-pitched vocals and dystopian synth swatches. Both are decent tracks, yet they don’t quite gel, an uncomfortable issue of sequencing which reflects upon the album as a whole: its gems are hidden towards the end where they might be missed, while the unremarkable deep house exercises that dominate the album’s first half could use some extra weight, or have been cut altogether. Clip The Light Fantastic down to an EP of its best tracks and you’ve have a standout release, but as it stands there’s too much fat, and listeners will unfortunately spend time searching for the gems which are all packed into the album’s third quarter.
|Artist: Tom Trago
Title: The Light Fantastic LP
Label: Rush Hour Recordings
Tracklist01. The Light Fantastic02. True Friends03. For The Children04. Down Under05. Jack Me06. Cosmic Blacksmith07. The Elite08. Two Together09. The Wrong Right10. I Still Desire
Our rating: 6.5/10