Many years ago (okay, in about 2006) the present reviewer had reached a certain brief echelon of fame within the scene and found himself connected on MSN Messenger (remember that?) to none other than Simon Posford, of whom you have probably heard.
In a chat whose MSN log I desperately wish I still had, Posford asked me whether Hallucinogen’s Twisted would have got ten out of ten if psyreviews had been around to review it. My response, with which I was and remain incredibly chuffed, was that it would indeed have probably scored ten out of ten; but if it had, then I would have had to give Doof’s Let’s Turn On eleven out of ten.
Hilarious Spinal Tappisms aside, what makes Let’s Turn On the greatest Goa Trance album of all time?
I must admit, it’s a question I struggle with but all I know is that even in its original form, Let’s Turn On still holds up ridiculously well as being a brilliantly produced, playfully fluid, straight-down-the-middle fluoro thunkslab. I rarely go back to the old Hallucinogen albums (probably something to do with knowing every note, wobble and adjustment to the reverb knob by heart), but I can’t recall a time since its release in 1996 when I’ve not thoroughly enjoyed slapping Doof’s first album on.
It’s never sounded dated, except in the best possible way — a parallel can be sketched between Doof and Soul II Soul (bear with me) whose Club Classics Vol 1 never sounded old or out of place because it’s blessed with a degree of uniqueness that somehow lifts it out of the sheer context of time.
Perhaps its longevity is down to its high number of standouts. Doof crafted the archetypal Goa Trance Hearty Party vibe with Mars Needs Women, and all of a sudden nobody was sure whether this was a serious scene about shanti and awakenenings, or a scene obsessed with wobbly noises and sci fi samples that was taking the piss out of itself from the inside out, from a zillion different angles, simultaneously (etc.) Meanwhile, Angelina was a top-line example of how 303 abuse and deliriously-high BPMs can create a sort of blissful silence in the middle of everything; and Star Above Parvatti gives oxygen to experiences by slowing things down, and the album’s title track remains the best-sounding opening bookend that the era ever produced.
So when word came out that the superlative DAT records were talking with Nick Doof about remastering and re-releasing this album, I will confess to a little bit of wee coming out. Recent releases on some of what we used to think of as majorish labels have had a “cast your mind back” vibe so it wasn’t entirely a surprise that this would get the treatment; but still, regardless of surprise it’s a huge, huge delight.
And it’s difficult to know which half of the 2CD set to be more excited about. The first contains remixes, one or two I think might have heard before, but never so crisply and evenly layered as here. The Live Mix of Mars Needs Women is a lesson in how themes can be subtly introduced to make people lose their absolute shit (in a good way), and the alternate mix of Double Dragons has you wondering why it was never released until now, being so uniquely and deftly ‘avin it as to make sweat pour from the ceiling (metaphor).
Secret Sun was never a standout favourite, but the way the 7th Sun Mix builds and layers is reminiscent of what Doof would later do with his contribution to Tip’s Crystal Skull’s — it has that ticklish effect of good weed on the senses. The brain-tingling probably peaks with the alternate mix of Destination Bom, sounding stretched and deep and dripping with an organic ooziness; the movement and progression is somehow honest and innocent, and so distant from what we call psychedelic today it almost begs for a reclassification of the word.
Finally, the Original Mix of Star Above Parvatti may or may not be the same version as was released on Tip Blue — I’m tempted to say flat out that it’s the same, because eventually someone will tell me in the comments that it isn’t, and then finally I’ll know without dragging out the CDJs to listen to both simultaneously but anyway — delightful.
The second disc is a remastered start-to-finish of the original album and surprisingly, even with something so familiar there’s a some added depth and clarity in the remaster. The bottom-end is rich, there’s sharpness in the high mids, and the sheer absorption of it is somehow more engaging; this might all be because the sound of the original release is so indelibly etched into my nervous system that I’m substituting novelty with quality, but who cares.
Such a well-known piece of work doesn’t warrant a track-by-track, so let’s just say that the experience of the remastered album is an incredibly fun one. Parts of the fluidity reminded me of that 2002-ish Israeli revival, the glistening movement of the upper-end acidlines sounding shimmery. At times the BPMs sound too fast and beg to be slowed down, but somehow that feels like adding three sugars to a cup of tea or dipping a Dairylea Dunker into a $10,000 Penfold Grange: doing so would be to miss the point.
It’s worth making the point that Doof was never just about belting out daft sounds at high speeds; there was always an unquantifiable stream of emotion in there, a very genuine capturing of an out-there experience and translating it into a musical form. This extended beyond Doof’s party music: his solo acoustic work is honest, stripped-back devotional stuff, and the Third Ear Audio collaboration with Earthling had some humbly beautiful moments. There’s a common thread — Nick Doof captures an otherworldly experience and recreates it sonically, and that’s definitely in evidence here.
So, the greatest Goa Trance album of all time has just got greater; which, I think, means that the greatest Goa Trance album of all time was actually released this month, by an Italian record label called DAT records and not by a London record label twentyish years ago.
Whether you look at Let’s Turn On as a relic in history, as a milestone in your own love of the music, as a lesson in sheer Goan hedonism, or as a sideline curio, you need this re-release. I’m running out of superlatives, but I still can’t see this album ever losing a special little place in my soul, and nor should it ever lose its place in yours.
- Release Date: 4/2015