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CD review: Above & Beyond’s ‘Acoustic’

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Two stars

Above & Beyond Acoustic

If you thought trance music was insubstantial in its arpeggiated synth glory, you should hear it played acoustically. English trio Above & Beyond sought to reinterpret tracks from its beloved catalog—or, more cynically, attempt to prove that their songwriting process starts organically, not with prefab digitalia—using strings, vibraphones and other unplugged instrumentation. It’s a novel idea on paper, but in execution, the songs’ appeal breaks like an MDMA fever. Favorites like “Thing Called Love” and “Sirens of the Sea” are sapped of their buoyancy and hypnotism, turning dancefloor anthemry into airy coffeehouse folk-pop. True, A&B’s Stevia-flavored bangers always carried a gauzy feel. But even with more natural-sounding vocals and new arrangements that range from Latin-kissed (“Can’t Sleep”) to James Bond-esque (“Alone Tonight”), these analog remixes call to mind the unobtrusive music typically piped into your dentist’s office—and cause the same sedation one undergoes there, too.

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