In 1991 Eamon Downes and Shane Heneghan (AKA Liquid) released a track that would come to define the rave era. When it was re-released to a wider audience in 1992 (the original 1991 white label had a limited pressing of 500 copies), "Sweet Harmony" spread like wildfire and could be heard several times a night at raves and warehouse parties all over the UK. Achieving "classic" status, 25 years later it still gets party-goers completely fired up.
That was 25 years ago - so what about now? Very soon after the release of "Sweet Harmony" and the equally important "Liquid is Liquid" Shane Heneghan left the group leaving Eamon Downes to carry forth the Liquid legacy. What does "Energy Flows" have in store for fans of Liquid and the genre for which they're famous?
Well... if you're a fan of the old skool rave scene then certainly there are many tracks that will push all the right buttons. But... if you're not, then you'll be pleasantly surprised at what an artist that has become so entwined with the rave scene can pull out of the bag.
I found that "Energy Flows" is a real mash-up of retro-rave sounds for the old skool fans combined with a deeper, more confident techno production that pushes the album past being an exercise in nostalgia.
For example, take the opening track "What is This" - a blend of piano house, "rave" vocals and synths taken straight from the early 90's - and compare it to the 2nd track of the album, "Nebbia". "Nebbia" is a personal favourite of mine as it takes some familiar sounds of the early rave years but presents them in an arrangement that is more befitting an album than a 12" club pressing. The bass bubbling below the surface of the '92-era synths is a pleasure and the final 30 seconds of half-speed breaks and samples would make a track in itself.
The third track of the album introduces us to the bleepy-breaks reggae-vibes of "No Hooligans" (think "Baptised by Dub" meets "Out of Space" and you're in the right ball park). One of the stand-out tracks of the album, this is where Downes lays his cards on the table as both a purveyor of party bangers and a producer of album-quality EDM (I really can't stand that acronym so I promise to never use it again on this website I promise!)
The wonderful Rachel Wallace features on track 4 - "Runaway" - a piano led vocal track that will certainly appeal to the old-skool heads out there. The piano stab in the verses is not dissimilar to those used in her seminal track "Tell Me Why" - a clearly intentional homage by Eamon Downes to the legacy of his guest vocalist. The production on this track is beautifully crisp and a testament to Downe's maturity as a producer.
Track 5, "Everything's Going To Be alright" and track 7, "Cali Blues" fall into the bracket of retro tunes that fully capture the sense of early 90's breakbeat in all it's piano-led glory, and who better to give it to you than one of the original purveyors of the scene? If you're driving, lower the windows and soak up those summer vibes - this is what it's all about.
"It Is What It Is" - was the first track on the album that I didn't initially warm to and that is a reflection on me and not the track. I'm the kind of guy that wants a track to grab me very early on and in this case I originally found the opening bars too familiar. However, I'm now starting to wonder how many other great tunes I've managed to miss out on by being impatient. I can now safely say that "It Is What It Is" is one of my favorite tracks on the album! Beautifully produced, the opening bars quickly grow into an emotion-packed tune that is elevated by the swelling strings that build in the background - I applaud you Eamon Downes, I was a fool for overlooking this on first play through. This track really demonstrates Eamon's skills and maturity as a producer of world class techno.
"Dopefiend" is a down-tempo breakbeat tune with splashes of electro influence. "By Faith Master" is a summer anthem of emotion-packed vocals, piano-led chords and squelching 303's - something you'd expect from the man who changed the game with "Sweet Harmony". "These Metal Hands" and "Dry Your Tears" all fall into the same camp - these are the retro tunes with a modern twist.
If you liked "No Hooligans" then the reggae-influenced "Rude Boy" will really float. The clattering jungle breakbeats are utterly compelling - I dare you to not hit the dance floor!
I can safely say that "Energy Flows" is going to be a prominent feature in my playlist this summer. If the early 90's vibe combined with a sophisticated techno influence appeals to you then do yourself a favour and buy this album. For many of us Liquid represented a particular moment in time, but on the basis of this album Eamon Downes very much remains a prominent player in the world of contemporary dance music.