Artist: Utah Saints
I’ve always had a problem with strict genre rules. I tend to hate boxes and people who place things within them. People do it with everything from food and politics to art and emotions. It’s rather obnoxious. Especially as a music lover.
When I was getting introduced to, and subsequently falling in love with, electronic music, there were certainly genres. There was still House, Trance, Jungle, Hardcore, Trip Hop, Techno, and Ambient; there was also a lot of middle-ground genre defying music simply labeled as "Electronica" or "Rave" or whatever stupid name the record store would toss on it. And some truly great music came from this realm of non-particulars.
Acts like Orbital, The Prodigy, Daft Punk, Messiah, Empirion, Underworld, and Utah Saints were all birthed out of this freedom to simply write the music that they wanted to write without concern of genre labels. Some music had lots of breaks and others more four-on-the-floor. There was the glitchy industrial stuff and the more melodic trancey moments as well. There were spoken word and vocal samples ripped from various places and a few even had original singing. Uptempo, downtempo, and mixed tempo were all on the same album and some of the artists of that time were even able to create their own genres/styles, now emulated and copied by scores of others. I don’t see this much(ever) anymore.
Utah Saints were one of these pioneers that I just don’t think can develop and find a home in today’s electronic music climate. They are not easily mashed into a micro genre and they are almost too poppy for dance music. While some of their peers were able to garner more commercial success and build larger followings, Utah Saints were unfortunately unable to do so. Which is a shame.
Utah Saints have a great and unique sound. They write a very positive—almost inspirational—style of dance music. Every song reminds you that life is a wonderful thing to behold and that good things happen. The sun coming out, the freeness of a mind, the belief in love; everything in the Utah Saints world is there to assist and support you as you get through your week. Even their more assertive tracks like "Power to the Beats" and "I Want You" are able to deliver energy on a positive note.
Maybe it was because I was going through my high school years when I first heard them, but their uplifting and poppy take on dance music really helped me see the sun on some less than bright days. The track "Soulution" on their first album (the self titled Utah Saints) is still one of my favorite songs to play in the morning or during an afternoon set.
"Something Good" was a pretty massive track and rightfully so. Instead of being full of Firestarting angst, Utah Saints focused on the other side of the coin. After their debut album got them some notoriety, they went into the studio and began working on their follow up. Which never happened. Unlike their peers Messiah who made a follow up of complete rubbish, Utah Saints recognized that they were on the wrong path, lost the plot, and trashed everything. They decided to refocus and start again. A few years later, they released "Two."
Two is a great album. Wonderfully layered pianos and synthesizers. Solid songs. Diverse sounds. A good chunk of Michael Stipe sampling. Unfortunately, when the album was released in 2000, the electronic music world had moved on. People wanted their trance to sound like trance and their breaks to sound like breaks. There wasn’t a place for a group like Utah Saints anymore.
It’s now been well over a decade since Two was released and other than a few new remixes, there hasn’t been much happening in the Utah Saints world. They play some live shows and seem to stay as active as possible, but because labels have moved on from their style of music, there isn’t as much support for them as perhaps there should be. There is an entire generation/audience of ravers and producers who have been born and raised since Utah Saints first graced the world in 1991. Some were probably even conceived to the sounds of Utah Saints. To them, Utah Saints aren’t cool. To them, Utah Saints are old people’s music.
On the inside of Utah Saints’ first album, there is a message that reads:
"No tape was used in the making of this album"
A message that is now quite common, but at the time was fairly unheard of.
Utah Saints may never receive the levels of recognition that their peers Orbital, The Prodigy, and Daft Punk have received, but they still deserve some respect. They certainly have it from me and if you haven’t really listened to them yet, give ’em a listen and hopefully they’ll earn your respect too.