The Beloved Sweet Harmony The Very Best Of The Beloved
Get It At Discogs
Controversial dance outfit the Beloved became the chilled-out advocators of the early-'90s rave scene with their blissful brand of dreamy synth pop, which provided the perfect comedown soundtrack for many a hardcore clubber, but they actually started out half-a-decade earlier as a new wave rock band influenced by the less-likely dancefloor favorites Nick Cave and Joy Division. Not that you'd know it from Sweet Harmony: The Very Best of the Beloved -- their third compilation after 1997's Single File and 2005's The Sun Rising -- which, like its predecessors, ignores their guitar-heavy 1989 debut Where It Is, and instead focuses on their three more successful, electronica-based albums. All but one of Happiness' ten songs are included (only closing track "Found" is omitted) with the most recognizable being the gorgeous "The Sun Rising," based on a sample of the haunting choral piece "O Euchari," which first introduced us to the seductive whispering tones of frontman Jon Marsh and their unique fusion of Balearic beats and ethereal acid-house synths. Elsewhere, the gothic undertones of the Depeche Mode-influenced opener "Hello" perfectly bridged the gap between their indie beginnings and their new-found loved-up sound; the skeletal guitars and languid piano chords of "Don't You Worry" echoed the Hacienda house of New Order; while more poppier, Erasure-ish influences crept in on the hi-NRG electro of "Scarlet Beautiful" and "Up, Up and Away." Only two tracks fail to make the cut from 1993's number two commercial breakthrough Conscience ("Lose Yourself in Me" and "1000 Years from Today"), their first release since Marsh's wife Helena replaced founding member Steve Waddington. Famed for its risque naked video, signature tune "Sweet Harmony," a glorious slice of ice-cool synth pop which manages to be both brooding and euphoric at the same time, is unsurprisingly the album's highlight. But the gospel-fused trip-hoppy "Spirit," the new age trance leanings of "Dream On," and the psychedelic techno of "Outerspace Girl" shows that Conscience had more than one trick up its sleeve. But by the time of 1996's swan song X, the whole illegal warehouse rave scene was all but a distant memory, and although the lush ambient soundscapes of "Spaceman," the Underworld-esque techno of the nine-minute "Crystal Wave," and the anthemic Italo house-inspired "Satellite," were valiant attempts at a more experimental sound, the rest of the album failed to transcend their club roots in the same way as its predecessor did. Hardcore fans will be delighted at the inclusion of "Loving Feeling," a previously unreleased song from their early days, but for a band so synonymous with the dance scene, it's surprising that not one of the tracks from their 1991 remix album Blissed Out makes the grade. Besides their two big hit singles, the Beloved aren't really treated with the same respect as other early-'90s dance luminaries like the KLF and Saint Etienne, but this comprehensive two-CD collection suggests they deserve far more credit than they're given.