maandag 19 april 2010

Review: A Sate of Trance 2010

Like every year Armin van Buuren and Armada serve their audience a new double compilation under the State of Trance brand. Although Armin’s take on the current state of trance has drifted further away from mine than ever before I still find it interesting to dissect these productions, if only to reevaluate where I stand versus Armin’s take on what music is timeless enough to become part of his eternal catalogue. So here we go…


1. The Blizzard & Omnia ft Susana - Closer
Well what can I say, okay track I guess. I think Susana’s a lovely person but to be honest I’m not really a fan of her voice and on this particular tune it doesn’t really do anything for me. It also sounds like it is timeshifted slightly behind the actual music. The track itself is decent though, very calm but pulsating and bassline oriented. It doesn’t really have a melody imo. What it does have is a bunch of rather weird little sound effects which most of the times that I listened to it made me feel like there was something wrong with my speakers. I’m glad to see the Blizzard guys have resurfaced though. Not sure what they need this Omnia guy for, since all he has done so far is copy cat their sound. Also noticed that Armin’s old mates Raz Nitzan and Adrian Broekhuyse were involved in this production. That’s a lot of guys for making one track :D

2. Luigi Lusini - Who we are
Pretty decent track, nice filler and the Spanish guitar adds a nice summerish flavor.

3. M6 - Days of wonder
This is good stuff, low tempo, firm progressive bassline topped off with a nice summer flavor. Sounds a bit like Roger Shah when he was still fresh.

4. Mat Zo - Near the end
Another progressive tune, not as catchy as the M6 one but still pleasant on the ear.

5. Monogato - Sincere
Okay tune, but not really memorable. The compilation is getting rather monotonous at this point, all the tracks so far are very similar.

6. Ron Hagen & Al Exander - Last minute
Another Roger Shah clone track, okay but nothing memorable. Weird transition from the previous track. Understood that Ron made this track with his brother, which is a nice touch.

7. The Thrillseekers - Savanna
Hard to believe this track is from Steve, it doesn’t sound like him at all. It’s a bit schizophrenic as well. One one hand there is the fat bassline and the oldskool synths. But on the other a rather unfitting Spanish guitar, which is getting rather old at this point in the compilation anyway.

8. Ørjan Nilsen - Lovers lane
Oh wow yet another Spanish guitar, fourth time within 36 minutes. I am now getting the impression that there was an error at the CD factory and that this is actually Roger Shah’s upcoming Magic Island Volume 3 compilation with the wrong label on it. Very generic track btw, rather boring and definitely a disappointing successor to La Guitarra.

9. Beat Service ft Emma Lock - Cut and run
Okay finally done with the Roger Shah impersonations now and on to something a bit more powerful. The track itself is starts with a really nice drive but the trancy break in the middle is rather blend. When it finally picks back Armin cuts it off and throws in the next track. The vocalist sounds more like a nagging housewife than a singer. Ugh.

10. Tenishia ft Aneym - Stranger to myself (tenishia burnout mix)
Boring track, with by far the most horrible vocal I have heard all year.

11. Andy Moor ft Carrie Skipper - She moves
Finally… a really cool track! As is to be expected from Andy Moor, but in this compilation it works extra well after the string of average at best tracks that preceded it. Carrie Skipper is what most of those other wannabe singers are not: powerful, melodic and oozing self confidence. What’s also brilliant about this track is that because of its sound design it fits in almost every DJ’s set. A talent that Andy shares with Gareth Emery. By a mile the best one on this disk. Andy Moor has become one of my favorite producers lately.

12. DJ Governor - Shades of grey
This track has that boring generic deggadegga bassline but it is cleverly hidden by the melody line and other sounds. It works here, but mostly because the first 40 minutes were so slow.

13. Myon & Shane 54 ft Labworks - Ibiza sunrise (classic dub)
Back to okay level here, I’m usually not a big fan of these guys and this is one for me is in line with their previous productions. Not great, but not bad either. It doesn’t give me any Ibiza sunrise feelings whatsoever though. The extremely thin melody line is nicked as usual, this time from an old Alan Parson’s Project tune from the 70’s.

14. Andrew Bennett ft Sir Adrian - Run till U shine (cosmic gate remix)
This is a track that doesn’t really know what it wants out of life it seems. It starts really progressive but all of a sudden it wants to be pop and then eventually it decides to be techy. Too much Rank 1 copycat elements to be interesting, although that might very well be the Cosmic Gate touch. The vocal is again a complete fail and would have best been left out. The end sounds like a cut off Twitter message.


01. Velvetine - Safe (rank 1 remix - avb intro edit)
A remarkably nice track from the studios of Myon & Shane 54. Unfortunately already being played to death everywhere. This track does everything right though, nice melody, nice vocals (seriously processed!) and Benno perfected it with an excellent remix. I have never heard of anyone who doesn’t like this track.

02. Faithless - Not going home (armin van buuren remix)
Good to hear Armin and Benno producing something different and more techy for a change. The track itself obviously already belongs to the better part of the Faithless catalog, but this remix adds some serious beef to it. As expected it sounds awesome on a big system. Love the effects, the break and the buildup after that. The vocal effects are a bit over the top imo, they would have been better left out. Maxi Jazz’ hypnotic voice is strong enough by itself. Overall though one of Armin’s best remixes of recent years.

03. Gaia - Aisha
After the massive euphoria about Tuvan last year obviously people were very much looking forward to a successor and despite their current focus on the new artist album Armin and Benno delivered one. Reactions are mixed this time, but personally I like it. It may not be as catchy a tune as Tuvan was (if you ask me to hum the melody by heart I would fail) but this still is nice stuff and I will take 100 of these over one Broken tonight every day. Armin should do a complete Gaia album. That would create a lot of goodwill with the fans he lost by selling out with fluffy pop trance tracks. Gaia could easily develop into what Dakota is for Markus Schulz. Anyway nice track and for me one of the highlights of this compilation.

04. Arnej - The strings that bind us
I’m a big fan of Arnej’s productions so far but this is the first time he disappoints me. Rather unremarkable tune in every aspect.

05. Eco ft Lira Yin - Love (dub mix)
A bit simple but rather unusual track and I can dig that. Not sure who this Lira Yin is but he or she ain’t singing much on this version that’s for sure.

06. Roger Shah & Signum - Ancient world (roger shah long haul flight)
I’m not gonna waste much words on this. Extremely disappointing successor to last year’s smash Healsville Santuary. Cheesy, extremely generic and boring. Just like his new “Found” track. Roger Shah is off the rails at the moment it seems.

07. Jer Martin - Ten minutes to midnight (club mix)
08. Dreastic - Spirit
09 Ferry Tayle & Static Blue - Trapeze (daniel kandi emotional remix)

Seriously I had to rewind these tracks a couple of times to hear the difference. Initially I thought Ancient world was still playing when I suddenly recognized the vocals of Sun in the winter. To my amazement I read in the cover info that another 3 tracks had passed in the meantime. Pristine examples of todays generic uplifting all the same deggadeggadegga garbage.

10. Max Graham ft Neev Kennedy - Sun in the winter (alex morph remix)
This is such a beautiful tune but why the hell did Armin feel the need to use the Alex “King of Deggadeggadegga” Morph remix? He completely ruined it :( On top of that there is a very noticeable out of key speed increase about halfway the track. The sound of a rush job.

11. Sebastian Brandt - 450
Initially I didn’t really care for this track, as I basically never do for Sebastian’s work. But I must say it has grown a bit on me. Still borderline generic, but the melody is actually quite nice which makes it at least kind of enjoyable amidst all the other noise on this cd.

12. Thomas Bronzwaer - Collider (jorn van deynhoven remix)
Bronzwaer and Van Failhoven combined in one production are a written guarantee for uber generic uplifting deggadegga crap and this one is no exception.

13. Ehren Stowers - Ascent
I must admit I never even heard of this guy but it turns out he has delivered quite a list of productions already in the past few years. Then again considering what this one is (more deggadeggadegga) I am not that likely to have heard of him, since I usually tune out of ASOT when this stuff comes on.

14. Robert Nickson - We won’t forget
Well I will, and very quickly too.

15. Simon Patterson - Taxi

You probably won’t be surprised that I rate this 2010 edition (and I’m putting it mildly here) my least favorite in the ASOT series. In his video introduction of the compilation Armin explicitly mentioned that he used more instrumental tunes this time, which I definitely see as a positive gesture towards the many people complaining about his overuse of vocals in his live sets and compilations. But while that is a nice development as such it is still in the track selection where this album falls on its face. Hard. It grossly lacks outstanding tunes and the few ones that do are simply not able to mask the flood of below average productions that are featured in between. Like I said before CD1 could almost serve as another episode of Roger Shah’s Magic Island series, most of the tracks sound the same and except for Andy Moor’s She moves none of them really stand out. CD2, after starting with three great tracks, almost immediately degenerates into a mega boring uplifting deggadeggadegga crap fest, which could just as well have been released under Daniel Kandi’s or Cheese Berlin’s name. I guess for me this compilation is the ultimate confirmation of why I have fallen so much out of love with Armin’s music selection.

The mixing is flawless as usual but completely unexciting as well. Once again Armin did not make any effort to make it special and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in a day, just like any other ASOT radio show. Which according to his Twitter updates actually was the case indeed. There is no special intro, no additional production or gimmicks. Anyone with some experience in Ableton can basically do the exact same mix nowadays. I have to add that this is not something that is unique to Armin, if you listen to the latest compilations by any of the big names you will hear the same uninspiring straight forward mixing and lack of special treatments as well. I guess I will keep dreaming of a time when these guys finally realize that in the long run there is more satisfaction to be found in creating true musical legacy than in wasting all your time on constantly flying around the world to play the same boring live set over and over and over again. Oh well, we can always have dreams I guess.