dinsdag 3 februari 2009

Review: Armin van Buuren – Imagine the Remixes



A new phenomenon that quickly seems to have become the norm in the dance music industry is releasing a “remixed” version of your artist album around 9-12 months after the original release. Whereas I am a rather fanatic opponent of commercialization I do actually like this concept, especially since due to the ongoing demise of the cd single a lot of cool remixes never see the light of day on cd anymore.

Armin of course couldn’t stay behind and therefore now presents us a collection of his Imagine tunes that have received new treatments by a variety of fellow producers. A few of the tracks are already well known from major support in his live sets, but since so far only 3 singles have been released (the 3rd actually one only one week ago) most of them were commissioned for this specific release and weren’t even available as a digital download before. And in a way I think that shows; quite a few of these remixes sound like they were made just for the sake of having a remix, not because their producers spontaneously saw the light and decided to lift the specific track to a new level.

It’s hard to give an overall score to this compilation, because the elements vary in quality from brilliant to extremely poor. Unfortunately the average and poor ones form a majority. Because of the wide variety I decided to rate the tracks individually.

Face to face (Martin Roth Remix)
Now let me start by saying that I would consider an invitation to remix Face to face the challenge of the year, as it is by far my favorite track on Imagine and it is simply perfect as it is. I just love the drive and the overall oldskool feel of it. If Armin could only make an entire album of this kind of tracks I would be in heaven.

In current dancefloor reality however it doesn’t seem to work and maybe Armin feels that way too. Because apart from the first Imagine show and the MixMag CD party in the UK I never heard him play the track live anywhere. In Utrecht it just didn’t fit. Maybe it was because he put it in the wrong slot (it was at the end of the too long warm up set when you could feel that people were getting bored) and it didn’t match with the mainly progressive sounds he played till that point. The fact that he was already reducing the volume to prepare for the big sound opening didn’t help either.

Now as was to be expected initially I didn’t care for this remix, because like I said to me the original is perfect as it is. But upon second hearing I saw what Martin has done to it: he made it dancefloor suitable. With its seemingly slightly lower tempo and nice progressive bassline it will now fit in much better in the beginning of a live set and as such I look forward to seeing that happen. So hat off to Martin Roth for making this a very functional remix. Nevertheless the original will always be my favorite and I hope one day Armin will risk dropping that one at the end of a trancy night. Because I’m convinced then it actually will work :)

Score: 8/10
iPod resident: Yes

Hold on to me (JOC Remix)
One word: Terrible. This is the ultimate example of what I dislike about the unified generic JOC/Aly&Fila/etc sound of 2008. I already disliked the original, mostly because it was just a cheap Big sky follow up, and this remix doesn’t do anything for me either. As someone on the Armin forum so strikingly said: Adding your generic bassline to a track doesn’t make it a remix. I wholeheartedly hope this is the last we hear of this done to death JOC sound and that he now continues to make more tracks like Surreal, because that one is an absolute gem.

Score: 3/10
iPod resident: No

Unforgivable (First State Smooth Mix)
As the title says a smooth remix, that has been hammered by Armin since the summer. Still very enjoyable to listen to, as is the “Rough Mix” which is not included here but is currently available on the single release of Unforgivable.

Score: 8/10
iPod resident: Yes

Unforgivable (Stoneface & Terminal Vocal Mix)
Quite okay attempt by the German trance duo. The production itself is very slick and with the quality of the original song and the brilliant vocals by Jaren it results in a nice listen. The first half seriously lacks originality but after the break they get quite a bit more aggressive and the track really picks up from there. Should work nicely in a club.

Score: 8/10
iPod resident: Yes

Imagine (Paul Miller Remix)
Another extremely boring Paul Miller production. Generic trance bassline added, some of the piano work replayed and that’s basically it. The original track is one of the bombs of the Imagine album and has a unique sound, structure and atmosphere, which this remix totally destroys. I have no clue why it was made in the first place, it doesn’t even come close to the quality of the original, it has absolutely no novelty and therefore serves no purpose.

Score: 3/10
iPod resident: Hell no

Never say never (Myon & Shane 54 Remix)
Not outstanding but definitely above average remix. Functional for the dancefloor and better than the original, but this song will just never become a favorite of mine because it’s way too poppish for my taste.

Score: 7/10
iPod resident: No

Never say never (Omnia Remix)
This one really sucks. Not because it doesn’t sound nice (it actually does), but because it is a total rip off of the signature Blizzard sound. I really hate it when producers copy each others styles, especially when it’s something as fresh and unique as The Blizzard’s. This remix should have been refused for lack of originality. And if I were Lars I would be pissed.

Score: 4/10
iPod resident: No

In and out of love (The Blizzard Remix)
Lovely Blizzard style remix that didn’t get the attention it deserved because Armin played the shit out of his Durand/Miller mashup. Unfortunately I am rather done with this song after having heard it a million times everywhere, making me realize that I am also sortof done with pop chart oriented vocals in general.

Score: 7/10
iPod resident: No

In and out of love (Richard Durand Remix)
The fact that Armin had to mash this one with Jochen Millers Lost connection track to make it work basically proves where this remix falls short. Although it was already included in ASOT 2008 that mashup should have been the one included here, if only for history sake. Markus Schulz’ relatively unknown instrumental mashup of the same two tracks would have made a nice addition, since that’s the one I like the most actually.

Score: 6/10
iPod resident: No

Rain (W&W Remix)
Now with Rain definitely being one of my favorite tracks from Imagine and finding most W&W productions likable (albeit a bit repetitive) I was looking forward to hear this. Big mistake though, this remix is really terrible. It doesn’t add any new structure to the song and the replacement bassline is too predominant and has no soul whatsoever. When I first heard it live it sounded like a bad mashup between the original and Arena. After listening to it again a few times I can safely conclude that it basically is a bad mashup of the original and Arena. Doesn’t belong on this album.

Score: 4/10
iPod resident: Definitely not

Rain (Cosmic Gate Remix)
Now this one they should have called the Cosmic Gate Bloody Awesome Remix. OMFG how brilliant is this?! Remixing as an art form, taking the signature elements of a track and building a totally new foundation underneath. I think this is absolutely brilliant and makes it worth buying the cd for just by itself.

Having said that I just can’t believe this one didn’t make it to CD1. Oh I forgot, Cosmic Gate is not signed to Armada. Nevertheless W&W: you guys sure are talented, but take a good listen to these old farts: THIS is how it’s done.

Score: 10/10
iPod resident: Hell yes

Fine without you (Sied van Riel Remix)
I remember ElSandro dropping an early version of this remix way back mid last year. He said that is wasn’t finished at the time. Somehow listening to the first part it still gives me that same feeling. It sounds a bit like a mashup between a Sied van Riel track and the acapella version of Fine without you; the vocals just don’t really blend in with the track itself. But when halfway the whole thing lifts up and Sied starts to freak out all of a sudden it really starts to work. Overall I like this remix, but mainly because I really dig that deep dark sound that Sied has been perfecting over the last year and also because it couldn’t be more different from the rather terrible original version. This remix screams for a dub version though. Hopefully we will see one in the undoubtedly following stream of digital only extras.

Score: 7/10
iPod resident: Yes

Going wrong (Alex Morph Remix)
I guess I am well known for hating this song, not just because I think it’s way too commercial and pop chart oriented but also because it turned out to be the kickoff to a disappointing turn in Armin’s musical direction. So whoever they commission to remix it and whatever they make of it I doubt I will ever like it.

That being said objectively I can’t say that I am very impressed with this remix either, it’s basically nothing more than an altered bassline and some semi acapella vocal parts, with the bassline being of the generic trance type that I so royally dislike nowadays. People have been asking about it for months so I guess it’s good that it finally is released, but it’s definitely not my thing. If I do have to listen to this song I’d still rather hear Armin’s Universal Religion Mix.

Score: 5/10
iPod resident: Not a chance

Going wrong (Sean Tyas Remix)
Rather similar to the Alex Morph remix, but more polished in the well known Sean Tyas style. I am not at all a fan of his work, it’s all too similar for my taste, but in this case he definitely did the better job of the two. The arrangements are quite heavily altered which makes for good remixing. If he had left out those terrible vocals I might have actually liked it a little bit. Anyway I’d much rather hear his excellent new track Melbourne.

Score: 6/10
iPod resident: No

Intricacy (Thomas Bronzwaer Remix)
Equally disappointing as Paul Miller’s Imagine remix. Absolutely nothing new except a slightly altered more generic bassline and a very small restructure of the break. It’s 90% the same as the original, yet has managed to lose a lot of its power. Waste of space.

Score: 3/10
iPod resident: Absolutely not

What if (Arnej Remix)
One of the better originals on Imagine and therefore a handful to redo. I have to say Arnej showed his qualities here. He basically redid the entire song and yet managed to preserve some of the dark atmosphere of the original. Good work.

Score: 8/10
iPod resident: Yes

What if (Ohmna Remix)
Doesn’t reach the level of Arnej’s take, doesn’t offer anything unique stucturewise either but nevertheless pleasant to listen to. Slightly above average production, in the midfield of this collection.

Score: 7/10
iPod resident: No

3 opmerkingen:

Girish Bhaskaran zei

You are right about the Omnia Remix of Never Say Never.

I mean what a disrespectful act of copying is that.....

Amay zei

Hey Eric,

I don't think Cosmic Gate have added anything to the original for Rain, all they have is add some more techy, more proggy elements into IMO. It still sounds the same at least to me.

But I will have a listen to the others and give me opinion on it.

Blogger zei

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