[Album Review] Max Graham Cycles 5 Compilation

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JAN. 22, 2014

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Lauren of Theory X PR says “What makes this continuous mix [Max Graham’s Cycles 5 compilation] different from all the other compilations on the market is that it actually contains tracks we haven’t heard yet.” Lauren is right and wrong when she says this, and I mean that as a compliment to both Max Graham as an artist and the way in which tracks make their way onto a scene and become big hits before they are even officially released in this technological age, but we’ll get into that later.

The first third of Max’s compilation is a brilliant lesson in instrumental nuance and simplicity with attention to detail.  Every build up, every down tempo, the overall pace of each track mixed into the next is extremely thoughtful and executed beautifully. There’s no beat or melody played without purpose or direction. It’s uplifting, upbeat and relaxing all at the same time. Every time I played the album the first few tracks were filled with moments for me to let my mind “wander.” You could make an argument that these moments would be lulls in the track, where images of a dark bar lounge, filled with wine drinking socialites lounging on low cushiony sofa seats came to mind.

But as with many of my favorite albums, this only set me up to get settled in and comfortable for what I thought I was about to listen to for the next hour. Then it hit me, again and again, like a ten pound bag of beat busting bricks.

As it reaches “Speedlimits” by Offshore, it means just that, that this ride isn’t going to be just a lazy Sunday afternoon drive, it was time to buckle up and sit tight. Max Graham is no conformist to expected beats and drops and he certainly bangs his drums whenever and however he likes.

“Lekker” by Max Graham vs Maarten De Jong was the pinnacle for me. I always listen to an album at least two times completely through to get the overall effect before I go back to tackle each individual track…and every time I listened to Max Graham’s I couldn’t help but stop when it got to “Lekker” and hit the rewind and replay button on this number. It elevates that moment in the compilation to a whole new level. Side note, being from South Africa, this track ID stood out to me because Lekker is a word you hear often in South Africa. It’s Dutch, and in South Africa we have a Dutch derived language, Afrikaans. The direct translation of Lekker in Afrikaans means delicious or pleasurable…really, just a way to say something is nice or awesome; clearly a nod to the contribution of Dutch producer Maarten De Jong. But it just gave me a smile because that track is definitely all those things, delicious, pleasurable and nice and really…just friggin’ awesome.

The beats keep getting punched into overdrive in the next track Max Graham – Evil I.D. (Mark Sherry Remix). This was where I had to disagree with Lauren from Theory X in that I definitely knew I had heard this track and heard it many times in 2013. It’s been included in many a major DJ’s set at big and small festivals and seeing as the crowd seems to love it every time it’s played, I see it being used for the foreseeable future. I specifically recall it being played by Paul Van Dyk on his last stop in Charlotte, NC and it had the crowd going hard.

Overall Max Graham does what he does best and doesn’t relent. He spends the first part of Cycles 5 showing us his skills and credentials to be in this line of work, but he wastes no time getting down to work giving the listeners what they love.

By Lauren Stafford

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CYCLES 5 is now available on iTunes.

For more dates, keep an eye out on Max Graham’s Facebook page.

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