Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Banco De Gaia "Maya 20th Anniversary Edition"

Artist: Banco De Gaia

Album: Maya
20th Anniversary Edition

Label: Disco Gecko Records

Release Date: Feb 28th 2014

A bit late with this one. But as they say better late than never. This special edition will be released as a triple cd package only. Limited to 1500 copies and not available to stream or download.

Originally released in February 1994 on the Planet Dog label, Maya reached No1 in the independent charts in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

Disc One contains the original album, which mixes beautiful textures, soaring melodies and slamming grooves with sounds from the far corners of the world as airy breaks and beats ripple against a backdrop of Asian and other ethnic influences.

Disc Two features mainly unreleased alternative mixes of the album, including a live version of Sunspot, recorded for the John Peel Sessions, and the original full 22 minute mix of Shanti.

Disc Three is predominantly remixes and features a brand new mix of Mafichi Arabi by Temple Hedz, as well as versions by Eat Static, 100th Monkey & Mr Noisy and Veloce.

I never actually brought a copy of Maya at the time. However, I came across Banco De Gaia on what was for me a landmark compilation from Beyond Records “Ambient Dub Vol 2”. I'd already leaned towards more chilled Balearic no's in the late 80's and was listening to a lot of reggae, psychedelic rock, progressive house and techno at the time.

This album did something I hadn't really come across before combining ambient sounds with the Roland TB-303 which instantly appealed to me. However, there were also two tracks that had a cinematic, global edge to them. These tracks (if you didn't know already, you've probably guessed) were from the album “Maya”. The track “Shanti” was and still is one of my favourite all-time chill out tracks and too be honest I really can't see that changing.

Shortly after, I also brought a video that featured what was considered state of the art 3-D C.G.I. at the time, with a soundtrack featuring some of the artists from the Beyond compilations, as well as the Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and of course Banco De Gaia. I then caught a live show at a Mega-Dog event and was blown away, so eagerly purchased a cassette only release “Freeform Flutes and Fading Tibetans”. All in all I can't compare all the re-mixes one hundred percent as some of the tracks have only reached my ears of late. However, I shall give it a go.

I'll start with Gamelah where Dub 3 was featured on the original an alternative Dub 1 and a live version are also featured here. Dub 1 seems to combine the sounds of the Eastern bazaar with tribal drumming that you could easily imagine is being performed by a drum troupe. Dub 3 starts in a gentler fashion but as it progresses has a lot more going and has the edge for me.

Mafich Arabi begins in a psychedelic manner with indistinct voices and digeridoo before the African vocals join and the beat kicks in (and I'm beginning to feel I missed out not purchasing Maya at the time). Also included on this release is the original demo and a new re-hash by Templehedz. I have to say Paul's done an a sterling job, retaining the didge intro and a lot of the vocals he's lifted the tempo and energy resulting in a global dancefloor monster.

Sunspot I guess epitomises Ambient Dub in the way the synth loops rotate through the track, but it doesn't end there add some gypsy violin, tribal drum rolls and scientific vocal samples and you should get a feel of a track. Argue or debate if you will, but I suspect tracks like this set the building blocks and probably inspired much of what we hear in the psy-chill tracks that followed in later years. This release also includes a live Peel session and a new re-mix by 100th Monkey & Mr Noisy whose take flickers between orchestral dance and tribal rhythms with some lush dubby sequences along the way.

Heliopolis begins with a combination of rainforest field recordings, whale song and acidy synth loops which is is soon joined by sweeping vocals and housey elements and is a track I well remember from the time. Also included on this release are the Aethereal and Veloce re-mixes. The former adds a more chanty, slightly harder and repetitive take which doesn't really do it for me, while the latter gets dubbier and more acidic which I quite like. However, the original is the one for me.

Qurna (Mister Christian on the decks) begins with a mixture of natural field recordings and synth sequences, a lovely chilled number not a million miles away from Shanti, which then transcends into the bazaar and back. I for one would not start a mutiny here and there's an additional live version and Hah Ali's Birthday Mix a slow paced and suitably chilled alternative.

Sheesha begins with helicopter and submarine sounds laid under psychedelic and military rhetoric, while the music clashes ambient synths and harder edged techy acidic sounds. This is the weakest track for me, not in the sense there isn't a lot going on, as there is. I just found it created an edgy mood in places, as opposed to a peaceful ambience I'd relate to a Sheesha pipe. I didn't find the Green Tractor mix any better, but then that's hardly surprising considering my stance on the source material.

Now I've arrived at Shanti and have to consider the Black Mountain version that became my pedestal of ambience was not the original Red & White Spots version on Maya. Also included on this release is the full 22 minute original and a live version. In all fairness no matter how you dress it up or which version I select to play the core of this tune is always going to make me blissfully happy.

Similarly the version of Lai Lah on the Ambient Dub compilation was the Deeply Sirus mix recorded live at Club Dog as opposed to the Version 1.Infinity mix on Maya. However, I also have this on another compilation and have always liked both. Also included here are the Marine Mix and a Kitchen Sink mix by then label mate Eat Static. The former begins more dark, brooding and tribally percussive, dubbing the seagull samples which I guess give the mix it's name? All in all an interesting alternative. The latter retains all the quality of the original with a more thumping dancefloor orientated vibe with some wonderful oud and tribal samples you won't find in the original. 

Finally we reach the title track, where for some reason there is only the one version. Bearing in mind I've never heard it before I found that quite odd. Admittedly, it doesn't rank as my favourite track but at the same time it's more than listenable.

There's also a couple of bonus tracks. Firstly the Blue Mix original of Soufie (a track that featured on the aforementioned video, cassette and on Beyond Records Ambient Dub Vol 1) a slower paced version which mimics the original with a lovely piano, haunting strings and operatic vocals. I loved the original but this is a very nice alternative. The other is Data Inadequate recorded live at Club Dog and a track I'm not familiar with. Beginning with vocal samples, choral synths and eerie sci-fi sounds before becoming more dance orientated.

To summarise I'd imagine any fan of Banco De Gaia has already ordered a copy and if you haven't you really should. In my opinion this is a must buy for all fans of global tinged ambient dub.

Review by Woodzee.


You may also like the Banco De Gaia special of Ambient Music Guide's Mike G's Radio Show the Cosmic Lounge.

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