Michael Ashcroft

September 6, 2021 16:54

Why I love Anjunabeats

Anjunabeats is a record label that, according to Wikipedia, specialises in electronic, trance, progressive trance and progressive house music.

I listen to an enormous amount of Anjunabeats. I have been to at least 20 club nights, concerts and events put on by their artists and have introduced many of my friends to them. Literally two days ago I went to the live event for their 450th weekly radio show (needless proof).

So it's probably about time that I explain why I love them.

Their music just works for me.

Sometimes you hear a piece of music for the first time and it just clicks. You realise that this is what you've been longing for, that this is what was missing from your life.

This was my experience when I discovered Above & Beyond, the band that created the Anjunabeats label, at Glastonbury festival in 2014. I hadn't heard of them, but was convinced to go by a new friend, and I'll be forever grateful to him for that (thanks, Kev).

Above & Beyond were the last official set of the festival, at something like 10pm on day five — the Sunday — and I was ruined. Absolutely, thoroughly used up and totally worn out, although not quite ready to loudly proclaim "Wow! What a Ride!"" (with apologies to Hunter S. Thompson).

I had been dancing until dawn the previous Thursday, Friday and Saturday (well, Sunday morning). Since Glastonbury is always the week after the summer solstice, and since the UK is surprisingly far north, it got dark around 10.30pm and light at 4.30am. I was not sleeping much or well. 

And that was a rainy year, so my 200k+ fellow revellers and I had turned Worthy Farm into a swamp with sticky mud inches deep. The only place that it was ever possible to sit down was inside my own tent, and I wasn't there much.

I thought it worth stressing all that to give you a sense of just how broken I was. And yet, when Above & Beyond came on and I heard their music, all the pain and tiredness went away. Charles Darwin, of all people, captures it well:

“Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement" — Charles Darwin

It's been seven years since I first felt that stupefied amazement and I still experience it regularly when I listen to their music. It just makes me feel so good.

The song that really grabbed me was "Hello". You can watch the video here. I love that the energy of the video matches how the track makes me feel. The way to listen to these tracks is to let them take you to where they want to go. See what associations come up in your mind, notice what feelings emerge, and let them get more powerful. 

They treat their music like art.

Listening to someone wax lyrical about why their favourite music is the best music is unlikely to be convincing, so I'll give a concrete example that supports my argument here.

Consider their regular Anjunabeats Volume X albums, where X is a number. You know how most albums are a sequential list of tracks that are generally disconnected from each other? Well, all the tracks on the Anjunabeats Volumes are mixed together, flowing seamlessly from one to the next. You can tell how much an electronic music artist cares about their music by the quality of their transitions, and these are always... hmm, sublime is the only word I'm willing to settle for.

Not only that, but these albums are shaped. Each one is a journey. They start softly, perhaps even a little melancholically, and then surge unapologetically towards euphoria.

If you want to see what I mean, I recommend Volume 11, which is where I started. It's in two parts on YouTube for some reason, or it's all on Spotify. Listen in order!

YouTube Part 1

YouTube Part 2

Spotify album

They are prolific.

Sometimes you discover a new artist, get all excited, go look up their other works and realise they have maybe one other album. Sadness ensues.

Not so with Anjunabeats. Because it's a well-curated label with dozens of talented artists that share a specific set of vibes, there is an essentially endless amount of music to fall into. 

I'm currently enjoying and playing with the idea of an online oasis, a place on the Internet that you can discover and take refuge in from the noise outside. Well, that's what discovering Anjunabeats was like for me. A musical oasis with many gardens and paths, some well sign-posted, others more hidden, and almost all leading somewhere delightful.

They sign a large number of talented artists.

Related to their prolificness, the label accommodates a vast list of artists, of course some very well known within the scene who date back to the early years of the label, but many new ones as well. 

It strikes me that they are always on the lookout for up and coming names and giving them opportunities to rise through the ranks, so to speak. This suggests a collaborative sentiment and willingness to innovate, both of which are important to me. It also means that I get to be delighted more often and experience the joy of discovering someone new I really like.

They spread a positive message of love, appreciation and connection.

Above & Beyond have a weekly 'radio' show called Above & Beyond Group Therapy, based on an album by the same name.

GROUP THERAPY.

That might give you a hint as to the general vibe of their music. If you want to feel feels, if you want to do some emotional processing in an environment that validates that your feelings are okay, go to an Above & Beyond concert.

It's common for them to write messages up on a screen behind them, where everyone can see.:

I took this picture.

It's a huge relief to enter such a space. While the music can be heavy and intense, it's never aggressive. If someone bumps into you while dancing they apologise and maybe give you a hug. The fans are generally lovely people, although of course some bad eggs are always present at events like these.

Going to an Anjunabeats event can often feel like finding the others. In fact, so many people seem to make friends through Anjunabeats that there's a name for the people you know who are also very into Anjunabeats: Anjunafamily

Is it cheesy? Hell yes. Is it also awesome? Hell yes.

All this and more is why I love Anjunabeats.

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