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Product Format: CD               

Price: £12.49 (exc) £14.99 (inc)


Classy, well designed/manufactured product in a Digi-Pak that’s for those into Electronic Music with highly infectious melodies & modern rhythmic patterns!

Wow! – What a really nice album this is! Initial impressions were on of how well the product had been designed and manufactured for an independent release – Both the Disc and the Digi-Pak packaging are finished to a very high standard and look extremely professional – better than many of the majors get it! Musically, if you’re into electronic music with highly infectious melodies & rhythms, ‘Mode Zen’ will be right up your street!

Back in the later days of the German I.C. label, VENJA was one of the better selling artists for CDS Towers. His melodic style proved to be really popular with customers who placed melody above everything else in their personal tastes in electronic music, and VENJA fitted that bill perfectly.

Now, almost two decades on, Belgian born synth artist VENJA a.k.a. Johan Geens, a musician who has always had a great flair for melody, is back, and it’s all still there – and in generous proportions!

The eleven tracks on ‘Mode Zen’ were recorded between 1997 and 2012, so this has been a slow build-up of material spanning fifteen years. The overall feel is kind of laid-back, falling somewhere between the heartfelt, melodic, ethereal style of AMETHYSTIUM, the infections rhythmic currents of DEEP FOREST and strong tuneful forces of KITARO, VANGELIS or perhaps SCHILLER.

VENJA now blends his base simplistic, melodic style with some more modern rhythmic elements and has produced an album that should fit into several different electronic music camps, but he never strays too far from his roots. Each track flows beautifully, with infectious tunes and rhythms gelling in a way that I found quite magical and totally absorbing. The sounds from VENJA’s synthesizers are infectious in the extreme, injecting that “Wow” factor into many of the themes that seem to take the music up on to a new level – you know the kind of thrill you experience when a spacey or emotion fuelled synth sound just grabs you and won’t let go, sending shivers down the spine as it sings and spirals round your brain.
Well, there’s a lot of that happening as I sit and listen to ‘Mode Zen’. The opening track: ‘Elevating Dream’, then ‘It Plays In The Head’ and ‘Head In The Clouds’ are all perfect examples of this effect.

Now, I have to be honest here and say that I was well into the album until I reached track 9, ‘Passing By’, where I was “turned off” somewhat!
Musically, it is a really attractive track, but for me it is spoiled by the 1st of the album’s two female vocalists – soprano: Reinhilde Weytjens – who I believe has sung on previous VENJA albums. She has a nice enough voice and it is ok when shrouded in electronic effects, but when she takes centre stage, for me, it just doesn’t work. Lyrically, it is on the “twee” side and seems out of place on the album! The same has to be said for: ‘Cold For Years’, which, once I’d gotten over the “crackly” intro (I don’t get it – I’ve never quite understood why musicians want to add the sounds of bad vinyl to a CD?), sounds fine musically, but (again with my “Simon Cowell” trousers on) the 2nd vocalist: Hilde Vanhove – a very famous jazz singer in Belgium – just sounds a bit flat to me!
The same vocalist is on part of: ‘Touch The Sky’, which almost befalls a similar fate, but as the lyric is not really “sung” as such, it tends to work, as it is treated with electronic effects and is part of the overall sound of the track.
Unlike many of our clients, I don’t have a problem with musicians that normally make albums in an instrumental form trying to add a new dimension to their music by adding a vocal to a track where it is felt necessary, but the voice has to be right, and the lyrics have to complimentary to the album as a whole, and for me, neither is the case on this VENJA album! Seemingly, the vocals on the album have been a point of some conjecture in early reviews of ‘Mode Zen’ - some agree with me, others don’t, so there’s no centre ground here – you’ll either like them of hate them!

OK, so for me, ‘Mode Zen’ is brilliant “EM” up to the point where the vocals kick in on track 9, but even if you have to hit the stop button at that point, the album is still giving you over forty-one minutes of really top-notch, beautifully crafted, tuneful and rhythmic electronic music, and as such, well worth the asking price! I’m really glad that all three vocal tracks were left to the end, because they don’t interrupt the flow of the instrumental part of the CD.


01. Elevating Dream (5:16)
02. Astral Waves (4:50)
03. Mode (4:17)
04. Zen (4:22)
05. Her Weird Lo-Fi Dreams (5:00)
06. It Plays In The Head (7:08)
07. Cycles Of A Refined Beauty (3:15)
08. Head In The Clouds (6:56)
09. Passing By (4:17)
10. Cold For Years (5:17
11. Touch The Sky (6:38)

TPT: 57:39