zaterdag 26 september 2009

CD Review: Armin van Buuren- Universal Religion Chapter 4

Obviously I’d heard quite a few previews already and I actually was at Amnesia when it was recorded, but since I refuse to buy into the digital download scam I had to wait for the cd version to arrive to be able to give it a proper listen and write up my thoughts.

First and foremost this cd will forever landmark the breaking point in where I finally gave up visiting Armin’s live gigs. Although that is an entirely different subject, the fact that he deliberately broke off his 2009 Amnesia solo set to record this cd, and by that completely ruining the flow of the night, to me is just unforgivable and the final proof that making money now has completely taken over all priority. Screw the fans who fly in from all over the world for this special night, and because of that are forced to plan their holiday on Ibiza when it’s just too fucking full, too fucking hot and too fucking expensive. The old Armin would have never even considered doing this. I’m sorry for saying this but you really screwed up big time here. You sacrificed what was basically the last opportunity a year to see a long vintage Armin set.

That being said let’s get into the actual product that came out of this.

The cover design has been debated by many people already. Apart from it being as butt ugly as the UR3 one this time it also is a royal rip off of the logo of the Unreal Tournament game:

This really isn’t helping Armin’s growing image of being a copy cat and I think he definitely needs to find another party to do his designs. On the positive side it does fit in with the style that was already used on UR1 and 3 and consistency in that sense is something I can appreciate.

As usual 9 of the 14 tracks are Armada productions keeping the royalty flow nicely in house. I have to add though that this is not necessarily a bad thing because all big DJs with their own record company do this nowadays, and because of it their mix albums at least don’t all contain the same tracks. But that doesn’t hide the fact that the tracklist is 100% made up with commercial intentions. It is in no way a fair representation of what Armin was spinning at Amnesia during the 2009 summer, because more than half of the tracks were actually brand new and had not even been played on ASOT at the time of the recording. So once again it is a cleverly crafted piece brand marketing but at the same time totally misleading the general audience. However since 99% of the people who will end up buying it have never even been to Ibiza they will have no clue that they are actually listening to the Armada show, instead of an Armin Amnesia set. It’s one of those things artists and record companies can get away with, because the general public is ignorant. Nevertheless I will never stop to question the ethics of these practices.

I do find that as a compilation cd this is well designed. The track selection is varied yet because of the excellent sequencing it still leaves a very homogeneous impression. This is something that Armin is just really good at. Even if you don’t like the individual elements, he’s a master in piecing things together. I’ve been rather critical lately of the mixing effort he has put into his recent ASOT compilation cd’s. But the mixing of this cd deserves praise since it was done completely live. Mixing wise he was in rare form that night, the first two hours before he began recording this cd were also full of top notch live mixing.

I’ll round up this review with my opinion on the individual tracks:

BT ft Jes - Every other way (Armin van Buuren Remix)
After Tuvan easily my second favorite of all the new Armin productions of the past year. Since we probably won’t be hearing Jes with Tiesto anymore it’s great that she got involved with BT. Remarkably enough apart from in the song titles none of the remixers on this compilation are credited in the booklet, so Benno de Goeij’s name isn’t even mentioned. Which is odd because of all the remixes Armin has presented in the past year this one probably has Benno’s signature over it the most, especially because of the heavy use of LED there be light samples. It should have been called Rank 1 Remix if you ask me. Anyway good track and I hope Armin does one or two with Jes on his new artist album, because she fits a hell of a lot better than crows like Jacqueline Govaert.

Nic Chagall ft Jonathan Mendelsohn - This moment
A lot of people complain about this track but I actually really like it. It’s proggy and I prefer that over current trance any second of the day. Nice male vocal for a change too.

Julian Vincent ft Cathy Burton - Here for me (Mark Otten Re-Dub)
Nice track, would fit very well in a warmup set. Simple piano riffs always work for me.

Espen Gulbrandsen & DJ Julian Vincent ft Maria Nayler - Perfect sky
This is easily the weak spot in the set. Not just because it’s a very average track and the vocals are uber cheesy, but mainly because Armin gets overboard with the vocals (4th vocal track in a row). And the fact that he throws in another one after this doesn’t really help either. Both Here for me and Perfect sky btw are produced by his old buddies Adrian Broekhuyse and Raz Nitzan, who he throws a little royalties bone this way. Kinda similar to the way he keeps his old friend Remy afloat by keeping him booked on Armada events.

Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren – Beggin’ you (Armin van Buuren Remix)
Not really the best CM&J track I’ve ever heard but it’s fairly enjoyable for home use and definitely ranks above pure annoyance like Armin’s Killers remix and that new Broken tonight track. Haven’t heard the original mix so it’s a bit hard to say what it is exactly that Armin and Benno changed about it.

Daniel Kandi - Venice Beach
I’m not a fan of Daniel Kandi, but I think this is one of his better productions. That’s basically all I can think of. Oh and guys please stop naming tracks after beaches. It’s getting old now.

Gaia - Tuvan (Gareth Emery Remix)
I’ve commented on this remix before and although it has grown on me a little I still find this to be sub par for an Emery production. My main beef with it is that it doesn’t sound like a remix of Tuvan but like an original Gareth Emery production mashed up with samples of Tuvan by someone else. The base track he made for this has more potential though as it showcases his skill of putting all kinds of styles into a blender and making the total sum sound very distinctive and catchy. Gareth is one of those producers who stands out by a mile because he actually developed a genuine sound of his own. And because that sound has elements of so many styles his tracks fit in many DJ’s sets, which in it’s turn is spreading his name worldwide at bullet train speed. He’s already crashed into the scene big time in the past 2 years and imo in a few years he’s going to be one of the biggest DJ’s on the planet.

Lange & Andy Moor - Stadium 4
Not something I would expect from guys like Stuart and Andy tbh. Okay kind of track but nothing I will remember a year from now. Still think the guitar part sounds like Cliff Richard and the Shadows on LSD.

Activa, Chris & Matt Kidd - UR (Stoneface & Terminal Remix)
Like the previous one, okay track. Not great but enjoyable. And also like the previous one a track that belongs on this cd because of Armin playing the shit out of it all summer long.

Roger Shah & Signum - Healesville Sanctuary (Roger Shah Mix)
I can’t get over how great this track is, not just because of the awesome breakdowns but especially because of how it is produced. It has that awesome oldskool feel to it with extremely present hi-hats and without those overly present yakketyak riffs that make most current productions so utterly boring. Bass and kick drums are very generic, but again not overly present. This is really a work of art, a serious candidate for my favorite tune of this year.

Ram - Ramsterdam (Jorn van Deynhoven Remix)
This is probably the perfect example of why I don’t like 2009 trance and the fact that Armin can’t stop raving about it also illustrates where his and my tastes have parted ways some time ago. Nevertheless another deserving track to be featured on this compilation as this actually is one of the ones he banged out all summer.

Ian Betts - False gods
Starts out as just another example of 2009 formula trance but I do like this track because of the way mr Betts brings in those acidy arrangements halfway. Me likey acid :)

Tydi & Dennis Sheperd - Somehow (Sebastian Brandt Dub Remix)
Thankfully Armin choose the dub mix of this track, although I would have applauded him if he would have edited out those few dub samples of what easily is one of the most annoying vocals of 2009. Reminds me of that hilarious remark Solarstone made about it: a new track there from Tydi and Dennis Sheppard, although I’m not sure if it’s Tydi or Dennis who did the vocals :D

Dakota - Sin city (Rex Mundi Remix)
Personally I like Markus’ original mix a lot better, Dakota tracks don’t need to be remade into trance tracks. That being said the way it is done is quite decent and the remix is exactly what makes it fit in the flow of the compilation at this point, bringing the rhythm down slightly and preventing the set from ending with a total formula track.

Overall 7/10.