Lithuania's Mario Basanov has released a number of spot on singles over the past couple of years and here he turns his hands to a full album for Needwant, Journey. It's that classic tricky territory - the house long-player, all 16-songs and 68-minutes worth.
His 'Lonely Days' track from last year regularly crops up when I'm picking favourite tracks for lazy sunny afternoons and so Journey has a lot of potential... Only it sadly never really manages to deliver.
Basanov takes the generous step of replacing the big singles 'We Are Child Of Love' and 'Lonely Days' with alternate, album versions. On a shorter album such as Merveille & Crosson's (who didn't take this step, presenting only 30% new material on their album) it might be a wise move. Here it feels stingy if anything - where are the big moments and why is the album being denied it's tent poles? 'We Are Child Of Love' loses its thundering bass and tech-heavy percussion, resulting in a more cautious, subtle take that lacks a little of the gravity of the original.
In comparison to what he has done to 'Lonely Days' however, the version of 'We Are Child Of Love' seems pretty acceptable. Originally a beach-bound Balearic gem, here 'Lonely Days' closes out the album in the form of a slow, Prince-inspired ballad. As a b-side or a bonus track this might be fine but here, as the only version on the album, it feels like a con. It simply lacks all of the subtle disco of the original.
These changes do Basanov no favours as there aren't any natural replacements for these down-played high-points. Mario's willingness to drop the BPM and play things slow should be commended but it feels like at times he goes too far - the result plodding rather than laid back, and lacking the charm of his earlier, sunnier work. Guest spots are wheeled out to provide vocals but a lot of these feel like standard album-filling fodder, not providing extra dimension that a decent collaboration can.
There are a few moments that survive however. The gentle percussion of 'Slip Away' gives the track a delicate, emotional feel reminiscent of the use of steel drums on the latest xx album. 'High School' leaves out the guest vocals and instead delivers a tight piece of electronic funk, complete with thick, chunk bass, handclaps and vocal shouts.
Basanov is at his best when a bit more left-field, pushing into funky, relaxed sunshine territory. Aside from the slightly jazzy 'Mes Souvenirs' and two frustratingly good interludes there just isn't enough of that here, and yet there is too much of everything else. There is talent in Journey, it's just buried beneath 45-minutes' worth of desire to create an album.
Journey is released through Needwant tomorrow, available to pre-order on MP3 from Amazon.co.uk [affiliate link].