From the initial London show announcements right through to the Jan. 24 premiere of the official film, the Above & Beyond acoustic project has been hotly anticipated for months on end. A radical departure from their usual output, the project was initially shrouded in mystery–word of what it sounded like when one of the world’s biggest EDM acts went “unplugged” was initially spread through word of mouth, exclusively from those lucky enough to see it live–and as the project was slowly revealed to the world, demand became even higher. Now, the full majesty of Above & Beyond Acoustic is available for all, as the project culminates with the release of the full live album.
Despite the fact it’s been clear for some time that this isn’t just Above & Beyond with a guitar and a piano, the reality is that most people, even those very familiar with the trio’s work, are stunned when they first hear the style on offer here. Backed by a 15-piece band, these versions of 12 of their greatest hits range from vaguely familiar to astoundingly different. Orchestral arrangements are nothing new for the trio, with film-soundtrack qualities running through various tracks going right back to their debut album Tri State, but you’ve never heard anything quite like the James Bond-esque arrangement of Alone Tonight, or the emotional and uplifting version of Good For Me.
The album hints at jazz on occasion, notably in You Got To Go, but it’s largely soaring orchestral strings, passionate guitars, simple piano lines, and soulful percussion. It’s often the small changes that have the most profound effect– Good For Me moved people to tears during the live performances, and despite not being a massive departure from the original, it’s easy to understand why once you hear the version on offer here.
Mostly though, Above & Beyond Acoustic is subtle, careful, and meaningful musicianship from a group who always wrote “songs” before they made them into dance records, and who were clearly keen to show a hidden side to their work. It was always there, often threatening to show itself, just simply waiting for the right time. It was also clear from the off that even the group members themselves weren’t sure how it would be received, but the overwhelming response means it stands out as one of their greatest achievements, and one they should be very proud of.