While seeking out music, after haphazardly downloading a track because it has a good name, my second favourite way of discovering material that would otherwise remain hidden is to begin with a producer and to weave through their releases bookmarking the best as I go. The number one and most obvious benefit of searching in this way is that you often find out about music that is lesser known, lesser shared and lesser appreciated. Aside from that, browsing like this gives you a greater understanding of where the chosen artist has come from and how they have progressed which improves your insight into the industry. If you’re like me you’ll wallow in such scraps of knowledge.
Paul Biegel was the latest victim of this ruthless approach and there would be no place to hide in my quest to hear what the Austrian drum and bass producer, better known by his stage name, Paul SG, had to offer.
It began with a single track.
For whatever reason the full length version of ‘In The Darkest Hour’ seems to have been removed entirely from SoundCloud, YouTube, and wiped off the face of the internet as if it knew I was coming for it. This Beatport snippet will suffice but, in case it doesn’t, luckily I’m about to spin your head with a few sentences of detailed analysis.
This was the first Paul SG track I came across and the one that sent me on this musical witch-hunt. In terms of exploring the boundaries of what D&B is capable of, In The Darkest Hour falls short and actually it never attempts to try anything ‘out there’. Having said that, I get why the Austrian produced the tune using what is essentially a modern Amen break, keeping to the tried and tested intro, build-up, drop, build-up, drop formula. This familiarity makes the song feel warm as if you’ve heard it a hundred times before. It’s like returning to a childhood holiday destination, you know what to expect but you still love going there, even if it’s not all that good. This warmth is typical of what the sub-genre should be, the sax was seductive, and on hearing the liquid gold I sensed the producer had more to offer.
Not much longer had passed before I came across a summery collaboration between Paul SG and Blue Motion called ‘Cape Hope’. This again wasn’t a particularly technical tune but promising signs could be heard. Some nice changes of tempo and a snare that bit harder put a smile on my face and reassured me that my search was heading in the right direction. For want of no sugar-coating, this isn’t my favourite liquid find, no way near, but on listening to Cape Hope I immediately recognised it as a song that would easily mix into DJ Marky’s ‘Yellow Shoes’ and that’s a compliment in itself. The proverbial honey-pot where Paul keeps his sweetest tracks was another step closer.
What’s this, Pauly boy on the remix and a chance for us to test his ability to take an existing track and improve it. The original by Joe Nebula, although named ‘Top Of The World,’ certainly doesn’t leave you feeling anywhere within 5,000 miles minimum. Looking at the bigger picture that just about places you in Puerto Rico which isn’t too bad considering it’s only 12,436 miles from North to South Pole. In other words here we have a slightly better than middle of the road tune. Enter Paul.
The Austrian strips back the strings to make the song sound less like pop and more like D&B, going bare-bones on the vocal and cutting elements such as the disgusting pre-drop crescendo. The outcome is a track filled with the type of brass, percussion and synth noises that typify Paul SG and give Top Of The World a sophisticated, silky feel. Subtle are the filter effects used to distort Patricia Edwards’ voice to suit the instrumental and the final product is much nicer in my opinion. Things just kept getting better.
Finally YouTube threw up the type of drum and bass I suspected Paul would have made. Liquid with an edge. ‘Hidden Smile’ released on Ambra Recordings contained all of the characteristics associated with the producer and then some. The allure of a piano in the distance draws you in like a sailor to a siren and elements both classical and modern are littered throughout the track. The introduction of a saxophone followed immediately by the sound of a rewind are two things, I would imagine, that are difficult to put side-by-side without sounding cheesy but it seems so natural and various noises are progressively brought in by the producer to keep you guessing. The snipped up vocal works really well too.
I had been on an epic pilgrimage, a long and hard journey*, but at last I had discovered the very finest Paul SG tracks. Hidden Smile, in particular, is a find that I actually like a lot and a piece of music which has been shared and enjoyed with others, a reward that would probably have never arrived if I hadn’t gone out of my way but I’m happy to do so. By using your musical nous buried tracks can be dug up.
Lemon D, I’m coming for you next.
*Journey in fact may not have been long and hard but short and easy lasting about 50-60 minutes.