There are DJs who can rock a party, a club, a festival. And there are acts that can write songs that will bring out the goose bumps in you. But there’s only one group that can do both: Above & Beyond. This three piece have remixed Madonna, won Essential Mix of the Year, and played to one million people in Rio de Janeiro. More importantly they’ve written songs with the power and the melody to en-trance that one million-strong crowd, many of who were singing along, word for word.
Above & Beyond make music, pure and simple. That music happens to be electronic. And it connects. “We’re a group,” says Above & Beyond founder Tony McGuinness. “And what we’re trying to do is exactly do that, connect with people. You try and describe something in your own life, but in a way that will resonate with other people. When you see people singing along as passionately as they do, I guess you’re getting it right.” This makes Above & Beyond unique, not just in trance, but in popular music as well. “We like to think of ourselves as songwriters first,” says Paavo Siljamaki, who with Jono Grant makes up the trio. “That’s our approach to music. The most challenging thing is to write a song that really touches the listener.”
Above & Beyond are not people who like to do things by halves. Witness their latest release, ‘Anjunabeats 100’ – a collection of the very best tracks from their universally respected Anjunabeats label. The album also includes a DVD documentary, which captures the two shows the band played over Christmas and New Year 2007. First they travelled to Goa, India, the spiritual home of trance and their label Anjunabeats, to play an unforgettable sunset set at an open-air beach festival. Days later they flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, another stronghold of the international trance sound, to headline a New Year’s Eve show on Barra de Tijuca beach – in front of one million people. Dressed in the traditional white of Brazilian New Year, Above & Beyond captivated Rio with a set that was truly magical. Many of that crowd were fans who had travelled from all over Brazil.
“It was life-changing,” says Tony. “It was amazing to look out and see that many people. In some ways it was too big to comprehend!” From club gigs in Eastern Europe to major festivals like Coachella in California, Above & Beyond have the ability to entrance audiences.
Their music has grandeur and melody, but it’s edged with steel too. There are dark shadows but sweet moments too. And it’s bigger than any genre. Trance is too small a word for what they do. All three are experienced musicians who know their way around a studio without the need for engineers. Tony McGuinness was marketing director for Warner Brothers Records – but for years previously was the guitarist/songwriter of cult indie band Sad Lovers & Giants. Asked to organize a remix of Chakra’s ‘Home’ in 2000, he joined together with Jono Grant and Paavo Siljamaki - and Above & Beyond was born. “By coincidence we ended up putting three individuals with complimentary and different talents into the mix,” says Tony. Pete Tong quickly latched on to their talents: that debut remix for Chakra quickly reached Number One on the club charts. It’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.