Presenting Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff – partners in breakbeat crime for some 12 years now, and joined by a third member for Don’t Look Now. Vocalist Omi brings her ice cool tones to the boys’ meticulously produced textures and beats.
In the ’90s Way Out West were a byword for exceptionally fine and emotive house and breaks music. Characterised by meaty bass lines, rich chord breakdowns and rolling beats they rose to the top through tunes such as Ajare, Domination and most notably The Gift, a dreamy summer hit in 1996.
The Intensify album saw the continuation of this rich vein of progressive form as they switched labels to Distinctive. Don’t Look Now, their third album release in seven years, once again embodies their perfectionist work ethic, leaving no stone unturned in its search for the right sound.
Sonically it’s pretty much business as usual. The booming basslines, imaginative breaks and cool, spacious keyboards remain – the addition of Omi’s vocals, meanwhile, enhance some tracks but hinder others. Opener Anything But You is a case in point, the momentum lost somewhat by an over-calculated vocal despite a promising start.
The vulnerability of her voice continues in the downgeared Don’t Forget Me. A couple of atmospheric instrumentals follow, Everyday starting out as a superbly brooding slice of synthesised music but not making the most of the potential offered by its piano breakdown.
If all this sounds a bit negative it should be pointed out that all Way Out West’s good features remain, especially on the excellent Fear, combining these with acoustically-based percussion that gives momentum and drive, culminating in a majestic breakdown sequence. The warm chords of Coming Home lead to similar patterns as found in The Gift, and Killa has a symphonic breadth rarely found in dance music these days. In a surprisingly downbeat ending, Absinthe Dreams brings a dark, foreboding presence to linger in the memory.
It all adds up to a good album, progressive but staying true to the band’s roots, which will no doubt please fans of the previous two records. For the promise shown in tracks like Domination to be realised, though, it needs a bit more aggression, particularly in the vocal tracks.
The enclosed bonus mix CD is a real treat though, with some excellent break-housers from Blue Room, Palava and Way Out West themselves with Buzzin’, a track that probably should have made the album. It makes this package a must-have.