By: Andrew E. Brown
Roger Shah has some sort of compulsion for organization. He produces music under at least five different aliases and has released tracks or albums from four of them in 2010. How he decides whether to use Black Pearl, Savannah, or DJ Shah is beyond me – perhaps there is some micro-variation in genre between the music of each project. But music from one of his handles, Sunlounger, is noticeably different from the rest: Shah uses it to release chilled-out Balearic trance, while his other projects are used for more generic, if still slightly down-tempo trance.
Sunlounger has evolved little, if at all, in its four-year existence. 2007 saw the release of Another Day on the Terrace, a two-disc album with “chill” and club versions of 11 songs. Its song titles almost exclusively appealed to beach imagery while its vocals evoked serenity and love. Sunlounger returned a year later with Sunny Tales, another two-disc set of club and chill mixes of a group of beach-oriented songs.
Now Shah is back with Sunlounger’s third full-length album, The Beach Side of Life. The only departure from Another Day and Sunny Tales is that Shah has dropped the chill mixes from Beach Side. The formula of ocean-themed lyrics crooned over reverbed-out Spanish guitar that served Sunlounger well in the past (Another Day on the Terrace topped the Dutch iTunes chart) is unchanged and growing stale. Shah’s lack of innovation can be seen in his song titles as well. “Lost” was Sunny Tales’ biggest success; now we have “Found”, Beach Side’s first single. Perhaps this is a half-baked attempt to keep riding the wave of success from “Lost” (the track was featured in Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance 2008). “Trademark White” is some vain, inscrutable reference to Shah’s tendency to perform dressed solely in white. And then there’s the album closer, “Son of a Beach”, whose title merits perplexity but no discussion.
But The Beach Side of Life is not completely devoid of success. The beat drop in “Beautiful Night” is at first unrewarding but is shortly redeemed tenfold by the hugeness and warmth of the following wall of sound of the synths. “Coastline,” has a soaring electric guitar part that make it one of the album’s highest energy cuts. And vocals from longtime collaborator Zara Taylor on two songs provide relief from instrumental tracks. Shah’s ability to paint a picture of the beauty and tranquility of a Mediterranean beach at sundown is as sharp as ever. It’s just that the picture he’s painting hasn’t changed.
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