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Posted on August 20th, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Michael Negron

When I covered one of Monstercat's semi-regular compilations earlier this year, it was sort of an introduction. Despite being such a monolithic force in pop-EDM, I'm not ashamed to admit that at the time I'd never heard of them (though, like many others, I'd seen their logo). So, seeing a group of like-minded EDM artists – some up-and-coming, some already established – composing a variety pack of loosely-related material they consider to be exceptional, I figured that there must not be that much people had to say on the subject.

Boy, was I wrong.

Monstercat has managed to garner the most aggressively supportive fanbase of a label from any genre that I've seen to date, due either to their business practices, branding, output, or most likely some mixture of the three. They've also managed to stir up more than their fair share of detractors, the most common line of criticism writing them off as trope-heavy and homogeneous. Amidst this war, at least with Altitude, I was pretty ambivalent. With Voyage, you can count me as an affirmed Monstercat apologist.

Many of my criticisms from Altitude translate to Voyage because, in effect, only the material has changed. At 30 tracks, any album would struggle with bloat, but as I mentioned in that previous review, that's less of an issue than the actual content you're putting in; there's room for error or a non-stellar track in a compilation, so long as they are minimized and mitigated by the exceptional. Voyage tightens up a formula that had already managed to escape any outright misses, taking many of the same attributes of its predecessor – most notably a purposeful structure and lack of thematic consistency – and produces what is simply a better playlist.

Even in moments where it might seem to play to tropes, as in Varien's "Supercell" and Au5's "Inside," it's clear that they're choice cuts. In my review of Varien's The Ancient and Arcane, I commented that he had a knack for being able to work within tropes to produce something positive, and "Supercell" was one such example; here, that's essentially the case in every song that works with clichés. There are times when some tracks sound same-y, but that's due more to aesthetic similarity than a lack of compositional know-how.

That alone would have made this a vastly superior experience, but there are many returning faces that carry the comp, and they're clearly in their prime; recent Speakermix featured artist Hellberg contributes a remix of "The Girl" and it's arguably better than the fantastic original; Mr. Fijiwiji's "Aphasia" is a cleverly-composed, excellently-placed deviation from the comp's more forceful entries; Laszlo's "Law of the Jungle" manages to touch on a number of tones, some of them seemingly unlikely to mingle with the club-vibe of the chorus, but he manages to corral the pieces into a powerful presentation of a common sentiment.

When you get to the heart of it, that's the issue: Monstercat is appealing to populist ideals. They present simplicity as not only worthy of appreciation, but something that can compete with the grandiose, and is worth exploring equally. They do this with such vigor and tenacity that detractors need to find vindication. Every overplayed trope, dull track, or trendy quirk is an excuse to write it off as pedestrian. Here, they aren't given the satisfaction, but it will have no problem pleasing the rest of us: Voyage is easily one of the best Monstercat compilations to date.

Track List:

  1. Aero Chord – 4U
  2. Nitro Fun – Final Boss
  3. Pegboard Nerds – Swamp Thing
  4. Varien – Supercell (feat. Veela)
  5. WRLD – Chase It
  6. Au5 – Inside
  7. Muzzy & Droptek – Warhead
  8. Razihel & Aero Chord – Titans
  9. Hellberg – The Girl (Color Source Remix)
  10. Kasbo – Again
  11. Grant Bowtie – High Tide
  12. Mr. FijiWiji – Aphasia
  13. Trivecta – Drift Away (feat. Charlotte Haining)
  14. Summer Was Fun – Watching (feat. Colordrive)
  15. Draper – On You (feat. Alby hobbs)
  16. Rootkit – Concrete Jungle (feat. P. Keys)
  17. Slips & Slurs – Divided
  18. Laszlo – Closer
  19. Stephen Walking & Hyper Potions – Saturday Morning Space Ride
  20. Deon Custom – Roses
  21. Subtact – Restart
  22. PIXL – This Time
  23. Protostar & Draper – Chrysalis
  24. Eminence – Knock Me Out (feat. Anna Cyzon)
  25. Richard Caddock – Glow
  26. Muzzy – Feeling Stronger (High maintenance Remix)
  27. Droptek – Colossus
  28. Hyper Potions & Subtact – Adventures
  29. Varien – Hypnotique (feat. Charlotte Haining)
  30. Laszlo – Law of the Jungle
  31. Passage (Album Mix)
  32. Excursion (Album Mix)
Monstercat - Voyage
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

78 / 100
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