zaterdag 25 september 2010

Review: Gareth Emery - Northern lights


Gareth Emery is probably the single most successful one of the new generation of DJs that have rushed into the spotlights in the past few years. After he skyrocketed into the DJ Mag Top 100 in 2009 his schedule has completely exploded and today he is one of the most sought after names around the globe. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same guy we were hanging out with in the crowd at Tomorrowland only a few years ago, eating an ice cream and not being bothered by anyone.

What’s even more remarkable is that Gareth did it all on his own. He runs his own label and is not on the massive promo waves of companies like Armada, who in todays market full of ignorant consumers can make any talentless noone into a star DJ. Boosting his popularity by his early adoption of the Podcast phenomenon and a stream of quality productions and remixes, all laced with his very unique signature sound, him being embraced by the global audience is proof that there really is a place for real telent, next to the Tiestos, Armins and Paul van Dyks of this world.

Perhaps a bit overwhelmed by this massive career acceleration it became clear that he needed to put out a debut artist album fast. With expectations being sky high after his quality single productions and being pressed for time because of the aforementioned bizarre travel schedule this obviously was not an easy nut to crack. Yet he finished it and didn’t fall for the temptation to recycle his former releases but instead came up with all new tracks. So let’s press play and see what he made of it:

01. Stars
In between the loads and loads of generic garbage the dance music scene has been flooded with in the past few years Gareth Emery and Jerome Isma-ae are two of the best examples of new producers that deserve massive respect for their unique styles.

This track is a magical fusion between the Emery and the Isma-ae sound, which totally works for me. Really excellent track.

9/10

02. El Segundo
Well well, El Segundo. I know a guy who left his wallet there once, but that’s a long time ago. In the meantime this is a pretty nice piece of work, although sequenced right after the powerful ‘Stars’ track it lacks a bit of umpf. Still an album full of tracks like this would make me a happy consumer.

8/10

03. Too dark tonight
Hmz, this one is seriously lame. Even though working with your sibling from another genre is not entirely original (Eller van Buuren anyone?) I think as such it is a cool idea, but the result is a disappointing track. Unworthy of the album.

03/10

04. Arrival
Gareth immediately recuperates here with this track he opened almost every set with this summer. This is really one of the strongest tracks on the album and one of his strongest productions ever I might add. While it sounds actually quite simple it has a massive drive and all the great Emery ingredients. I experienced the effect of this track live a few times and it’s just the perfect set opener. Progressive, yet driving and setting you up for more.

9/10

05. Into the light
Not really into this one. In general I’m not a fan of vocal tracks, so I always try to listen beyond the vocal, imagining an instrumental version. In this case that leaves a decent but not great track, which I would rate with a 7 perhaps, but with the vocal I have to deduct. A very similar situation as with various tracks on Armin’s new album.

5/10

06. Full tilt
This is getting better again. Nice typical album track, nothing particularly special but pleasant on the ears.

7/10

07. Sanctuary
The single track that preceded the album and a great example of the smartness of the Emery sound. It really balances between trance, progressive and house which makes it a great fit in any set, and it’s really hard not to like it. Also a great use of vocal in this one, it’s nicely executed and actually adds body to the track. The only point of criticism I could think of is that right before the track gets into the chorus that annoying buzzing sound sample that Gareth also used before in his ‘On a good day’ remix is back. This sound makes me think my speakers are blown all the time. Nevertheless really liking this one. Had he put the club mix in here it would have been a 9.

8/10

08. Citadel
Great instrumental track. If only the entire album was like this it would be heavenly.

8/10

09. Fight the sunrise
The number of vocal tracks is getting rather annoying at this point. And not being a particularly good one this just doesn’t add anything. It’s too simple, the structure is borderline generic deggadegga uplifting and the vocal is seriously nagging. Will probably fit perfectly in the second hour of A State of Trance and therefore will not make it into my iPod.

4/10

10. All is now
Failed crossbreed between Emery and generic uplifting. At least it’s instrumental but as much as the collaboration with Jerome Isma-Ae did work, this one with Activa just doesn’t. Not really working very well as an album closer either as it doesn’t really leave you with any particular feeling.

5/10

As seems to be the trend nowadays CD buyers get screwed over by getting an incomplete product, compared to the digital download buyers who get bonus tracks. Let’s see what us CD heads are missing out on:

11. I will be the same
This should have been called ‘I will be the shame’. Poor track and very poor vocal. Which is rather odd, since Emma Hewitt is one of the best singers around atm.

3/10

12. Global
Absolutely great track and an even more absolute shame that this is only a digital bonus and is not on the CD. This instead of ‘Too dark tonight’ or ‘Fight the sunrise’ would have boosted the quality of the album significantly.

8/10

13. On a Metropolis day
Big tripple meh on this one. I’m not a fan of mashups to begin with, and even though technically this one is well executed it basically wastes two tracks that were already great by themselves. The worst part however is that every Tom, Dick and Harry DJ plus Gareth himself have been playing this thing to utter death all year long and if I hear it one more time I’m gonna puke. For real. I am sooo done with this mashup and besides being totally misplaced on Anjunabeats Volume 8 it now needs to pop up once again here. Blegh, meh and what else.

Not rated/10

In conclusion
Becoming a really popular DJ may seem cool and glamorous, but in reality it’s not an easy thing. In fact it puts immense pressure on you, because your crowd suddenly changes from just underground lovers who can ID every track you play to masses of people who come to see you mainly because they heard your name mentioned on MTV and are not primarily there out of love for the music. Once you get into the DJ Mag Top 10 your crowds will convert to 90% of this type of people and except maybe when your name is Deadmau5 and you really don’t give a fuck you will feel the pressure of going for tried and tested safe tracks and loads of recognizable vocals. Plus if you don’t endlessly keep on playing your own hits the masses will still think your set sucked.

I’ve heard Gareth perform in multiple occasions this year and unfortunately the signs of his sets turning into the typical superstar DJ ones are bright and clear. And although I still vastly prefer hearing him over Armin, Tiesto, Ferry or Van Dyk I can’t help but wanting to run when he gets On a Metropolis day or Lethal industry out for the umptieth time. I know he has to, but I hate it. In this light the collection of songs on this artist album doesn’t surprise me one bit. Too many vocal tracks and definitely no risky experiments. The average rating came out at 6.6, which is right there with my thoughts of Armin’s and Markus’ new albums. All three of them share the same hit and miss selection of really cool and rather meh tracks. The cool ones are seriously cool in this case, but gawd do I hate DJ Mag.

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