Tom Trago: The Light Fantastic
Following upon his 2009 debut album Voyage Direct and 2011's Iris, Amsterdam-based producer Tom Trago imbues the ten tracks on his third album The Light Fantastic with a breezy and nimble-footed vibe. It's also a sociable affair, with Steffi, Ben Westbeech, Makam, and vocalist Holly Wood making appearances on the album. There's no question the album's well-crafted, with Trago wrapping each of the ten tracks in layers of synthesizers and percussion, and it's also a well-rounded set, stylistically speaking. In addition to its house tracks, “Cosmic Blacksmith” offers a punchy, strings-coated riff on acid house, while a Chicago jack vibe naturally runs through “Jack Me”—even if the tune's more memorable for its sexy female lead (“Baby, oh baby, jack me all night long…”).
Ostensibly an overture to the fifty-five-minute album, the tone-setting title track nevertheless establishes the music's airy and positive spirit, and paves the way for “True Friends,” one of the collection's strongest cuts. Digging deeper into the house swing of the opener, the track hauntingly drapes a repeating, stop-start vocal motif across a burbling synth-funk pulse that also manages to sneak a bit of Kraftwerk slink into its groove. The album's other standout is the floor-filling “Two Together,” which finds Trago teaming up with Steffi for a high-velocity house shuffle that pounds with fierce determination and struts with joyful abandon.
The Light Fantastic is rarely frenetic. Instead, Trago often opts for a laid-back vibe that at times makes the material sound as much designed for the after-hours lounge as the club floor. A cut such as “For the Children” is rhythmically engaging, for example, but more in a way that'll have one swaying in one's chair rather than bolting for the dancefloor. Similarly, the groove in “Down Under” definitely swings, but lightly. The album does flirt with a harder edge when “The Elite” serves up a banging funk groove in a rave-ready style, but, in general, anyone coming to The Light Fantastic expecting a furious, non-stop hell-raiser is in the wrong place.