Posted by Scott Willats
This seems a proper time to pay tribute to Germany. With the UEFA Champions League final — the “Super Bowl of Soccer” — slated for May 19 in Munich at the jaw-dropping/awe-inspiring Allianz Arena, it was always going to be a special time for the country. That the home team has surpassed all expectations by miraculously making it to the final – a first in the history of the competition — just makes it all the sweeter.
Meanwhile, in the competitive arena that concerns this blog, Germany current runs neck-and-neck with Sweden in terms of exporting EDM talent to the world: Moguai, Digitalism, Cosmic Gate, and Zedd — these are just a few of the German artists you’ll find ensconced in the top tier of electronic music’s own champions league.
And let’s not forget the Godfather of German dance. Grammy winner Paul van Dyk has managed to maintain household name status — in EDM-friendly households, at least — for a decade-plus. That alone is enough to certify him as a legend. And his new album, Evolution, finds him re-creating himself, with a sound that’s current, fresh and unique. Forget legend — try icon.
I’ll zero in on the tracks I’ve enjoyed. In fairness, though, they’re all really meant to be heard at a Bal en Blanc type of festival with thousands of other people all tuned in to the same vibe you’re on.
* Symmetries stands out for me because its 130-ish bpm tempo sets the standard for an album that is clearly made for dancing. So often, trance albums have … well, let’s call it a Cinderella storybook type of sound. Great for those long walks through the enchanted forest, for sure. But those of us who live in real life in real time, a 10-minute ballad with two minutes of full-out kick, clap and snare is sometimes just … a little much. Now maybe that pegs me as less than a fully fledged trance fan in your eyes. I assure you, to the contrary, that I am — and that the kind of trance sound van Dyk experiments with on this album is precisely the kind I’ve most come to love.
* The Ocean is something special. A trance song with female vocals is usually only going to go as far as the songstress can take it. And Arty takes it all the way to the edge of the Pacific. (Barf in your mouth at the play on words, if you will, but there it is.) There are points in this song, at 0:45 and 3:13, when the filter really starts kicking in and you feel, in your bones, what trance is about. Cinderella storybook, but with a conscious beat. Hard to describe, easy to listen to.
* Verano is a big room anthem. I mean, f**k genre boundaries. van Dyk sees what’s good, wherever it is, and goes to there. This song sounds conjures up all that’s best about Avicii, yet it’s van Dyk all the way. Proof that this established artist is still perfectly happy playing around with new sounds. Credit must go to Austin Leeds, whom I’m sure helped with the “evolution” of this track. (See what I did there?)
* I Don’t Deserve You. OK, at first I thought this was going to be a trance version of Milhouse’s “Can I Borrow A Feeling” — basically a little melodramatic and over-the-top. But the beat van Dyk lays down really throws the vocal and the vulnerability of the lyrics into sharp relief. You’re the first face that I see and the last thing I think about. I think we’ve all been there.
* Lost in Berlin. Simply put, the kind of EDM track I love. In your face from start to finish, all style and flair. Catch me dancing to this at 4am like it’s noon.
* Rock This. Now, just wait a bloodclot minute! Isn’t this supposed to be a trance album? You know, all flowers and rainbows and shooting stars and s**t? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, man. Mr. van D goes for some glitchy, amped-up electrofunk on this one, creating the biggest drop on the album. Go on, rudebwoi!
* All the Way. Hmmm. Now, this song bit me on the ass the minute I pressed play. Something sounds awfully familiar, though. I’m getting a “Mason-Exceeder” feel — but the way van Dyk plays with the sound is so original that I say what the hell: bump it!
* If You Want My Love. Saving the best for last. It might sound pedestrian to some, but for me this jumps off the Pioneers for me. As in: potential top 40 classic. Or at least prime — and I mean PRIME — remix material. Give it a shot!
van Dyk has really experimented with an array of styles and sounds on this stellar collection. Albums really seem to be making a comeback in EDM right now, and when you see iconic artists like Paul van Dyk and Cosmic Gate at the forefront of this revolution, it gives you faith that we’re in for a good run in these next few years. No question: this is Germany’s moment.