dinsdag 9 augustus 2016
Enter June '08
It was to be a glorious summer. I passed my high school exams, there was a Rank 1 mix compilation on the horizon (which would be my first self-bought CD ever!), and Benno was about to unleash Lost Connection with Jochen. Some glorious records were waiting on the horizon! When I finally got round to buying High Contrast presents Rank 1, I was delighted to read "Embrace Me (Rank 1 Remix)". I had heard the incredibly electric H!Vltg3 Mix on ASOT #349 (though at that time the tracklist didn't reveal a track version so I assumed it was the original). Now I was dying to hear what Rank 1's interpretation was going to sound like though. I should have learned my lesson from The Future. But I didn't, sadly for me... :')
Ronald van Gelderen - Embrace Me (Rank 1 Remix) 
vs. the Others
Embrace Me stood out among the other Ronald-Benno collabs due to the size of the release: no less than six(!) versions could be bought from it. Each mix presented something different but for this comparison I will merely focus on the two other club-length mixes for comparison with the Rank 1 Remix:
- The Heart-Shaped Reconstruction
- The H!Vltg3 Mix
The first of the two was the most laidback of the club-oriented ones, deploying a bit of Progressive Housey vibe you'd expect from the Jody Wisternoff realm... Or perhaps Gabriel & Dresden? A beautiful take on the original imo, very relaxing. Then there was the H!Vltg3 Mix. Up to this day it baffles me that this version was not the Rank 1 Remix to begin with... I mean honestly! Compare the Rank 1 Remix to this version and tell me what you hear. I mean: the wicked synths, the deep pulsing bass, the vocal stutters: heck, ESPECIALLY the strings in the breakdown: all of it is so trademark Rank 1! It would fit perfectly in line with their previous techy remixes as well! It even sounds like the proper follow-up to This Way (Rank 1 Remix). Why on earth wasn't this mix the Rank 1 Remix? Heck, for all I care it could have been a (Ronald van Gelderen vs. Rank 1 Remix). I will never really understand but I will eternally pity the fact that the most "Rank 1 Remix sounding mix" wasn't released as such... :/ It makes me recall that back with Ronald's Realize single, the Stripped Down Mix had been tagged as "Rank 1's Stripped Down Mix" in a few ASOT playlists at the time. In the end it was released as just the "Stripped Down Mix". Innocent mistake? Or did Ronald get involved in it, forcing them to drop the "Rank 1" part? If that is so, that makes it regretable that both the Stripped Down Mix of Realize and the H1Vltg3 Mix of Embrace Me didn't get to fortify the impressive Rank 1 Remixography... They were more than worthy of that Honor in my humblest of opinions...
A missed opportunity to present a cool follow-up to the amazing This Way (Rank 1 Remix)... Ronald had the right voice and in the case of this tribute to his Dad, the right sentiment for the Rank 1 Remix to be truly outstanding. In the end the build-up was slick, typical Eccletic-Era Rank 1 goodness but that main lead just felt uninspired, nothing but a cheap And Then copy. Harsh words perhaps, but compared to the many remixes preceding it, I feel the guys got it wrong with this one. Throughout the years it has often bordered between "meh" and "decent" for me, but in light of the other 14 remixes, I can't deny that this is by far their weakest moment in an otherwise Glorious Era for them. What I find the biggest shame is that it would turn out to be their very last remix for High Contrast Recordings... I've always been curious as to why they would never do a remix again for the label they've been on since '05? Hmmmm... Anyhow. Nobody is perfect. And even those accustomed to being number 1 tend to slip up. It's all good though. ;) It would turn out to be just a small blip on the road.
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
maandag 8 augustus 2016
Enter March '08
It had been a busy period for Rank 1: in December '07 they had promos flying around for And Then... and their Undone Remix. Especially the former was tearing apart dancefloor after dancefloor with people wondering who was behind this powerful, funky ID! Interesting about And Then... was the fact it was the second Rank 1 release/collab to feature a specific Rank 1 interpretation of the original. Rank 1's own And Then... version was much deeper, harder and rawer than the Electro-driven original: indeed, it had much of a Techno flavour to it. They must have been in a Techno-minded mood in this period as their brand new remix for Marcel Woods - On Fire turned out to be a heavy, industrial-inspired Techno mix. I have always asociated this remix (as well as a few other productions) with my 18th birthday, as my brother bought it for me as a gift. Good times, all. ;) Was it completely different from any of their past remixes? Yes. Did I love it? Hell yes! In fact, in the past 8 years it has not lost any of its appeal to me:
Marcel Woods - On Fire (Rank 1's No This Ain't Trance Like '99 Remix) 
It starts with pretty heavy percussion toms hitting left and right. Some low range bass sounds give of this feeling as if something below the surface is bubbling, cooking, about to burst loose: at 00:57, guided by MC Da Silva's MCing, the beat goes full power. There is some vague sort of thumping in the background and an industrial swoop that echoes away. Da Silva echoes over the track, saying what he will do next, add a little hihat. And indeed, hihats are added to the mix and an incredibly dark groove is created, much darker than you'd expect from Rank 1 (though that Lyteo Remix was pretty dark too). "Can you feel me? I said, can you feel me? Here we go..." Barely having spoken out those words, Rank 1 release some fiendish Techno synths in the background. They follow a monotone pattern truly befitting of this industrial beast. The track now heads into its "breakdown" phase without stopping the beat: it merely tunes down the majority of sounds so the track-opening percussion toms and Da Silva are the most prominent elements left. The toms grow louder and fiercer as Da Silva starts MCing about bringing "the noise" as the track heads into its climax and the percussion toms are heavily distorted before the beat drops and they return to full effect, with Da Silva being stuttered and utilized like a constant synth. At 04:36 the industrial Techno synths return as the toms have their own mini climax. The synths keep hammering until 05:44ish where they slowly fade back into the background alongside Da Silva's vocals. Now only the heavy beat and percussion remain. The track loses more and more elements and then at 07:32 it stops, the toms releasing a final fading echo. That was DARK! An absolutely devious remix that basically has nothing to do with Trance. Instead we get full-on Industrial Techno from Rank 1,how cool is that?! :D
vs. the Original
Even though he had a bit of a hit-and-miss ratio for me, I considered myself a Marcel Woods fan for most of the late '00s. Because when one of his tracks WOULD hit, they would hit HARD (Advanced, Beautiful Mind, Lemon Tree, Cherry Blossom, A Decade etc). Sadly, the original On Fire falls in the "miss" category: the build-up had some of his typically enjoyable percussion followed by MC Da Silva's MCing which inaugurates the bassline and the further elements in the track. I think I understand the MCing-track progression dynamic but my problem with the original is that the production just feels a bit bland. Woods had the ability to make some of the coolest Tech riffs, build-ups and FX out of everyone on ID&T and later High Contrast Recordings. But instead he opted for that annoying 2007-2008 Electro-ish style with nagging synths. Honestly, one of his weakest pre-Era Trouse originals :/ It makes me love Rank 1's Remix all the more because they only things they kept intact were MC Da Silva's MC-ing and one of the percussion elements you hear in the final bit of the original. Since they backed said MCing with an industrial Techno production, the remix feels like a tribute to the Detroit / Chicago styles of Dance Music where it was not uncommon to hear MCs or rappers on top of productions. Imo this hardly even classifies as a remix, it's basically a Rank 1 original with borrowed vocals from MC Da Silva!
Regardless, this is a case where the Rank 1 Remix completely eclipses and blows the original out of the water. And whether you compare you compare Rank 1's version to the original or just rate it on its own grounds, I feel it's one of their coolest remixes to date. I am a huge sucker for their Techy work, and this is one of the darkest productions they made in that style. I sincerely hope they will turn to Techno again in the future, I recall reading in several interviews with Rank 1 that the guys love their share of Breaks and Techno. In my humble opinion, now is as good a time as ever to put some "Tech 1" back on the Rank 1 (Discography) Menu. It's a guaranteed hot dish that always goes down well imo. :)
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
zondag 7 augustus 2016
Enter December '07
Anton Sonin & AMX feat. Sari - Undone (Rank 1 Remix) 
vs. the Original
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
zaterdag 6 augustus 2016
Enter February '07
From the mid November till this point in February 2007, I had been acquinted with three brand new Rank 1 productions (This World Is Watching Me and the remixes for Analog Feel and The Future). Needless to say, I was estatic! Imagine my surprise when my brother told me that the fresh new ASOT episode #289 had opened with a brand new Rank 1 Remix, a record third in just two months time!! I was over the moon! I don't quite recall whether my brother showed me that remix in the episode or that I checked it out on my own. All I remember is this remix being one of the most incredible openers for an ASOT episode ever (and as it would turn out, a fitting opener to one of the most memoraable first hours of any ASOT episode, starring those iconic 2007 tracks like Light The Sky and Formentera What (Gareth Emery Remix) next to its incredible opener). It was truly a good time to be alive for a Rank 1 fan (as would be the case throughout 2008-2010 and 2013). As opposed to the Techy and Progressive approach for the Analog Feel and The Future remixes respectively, this Rank 1 Remix would turn out to be one of their most unique next to being one of their most beautiful productions ever.
Alex Bartlett & Guess feat. Anthya - Touch The Sun (Rank 1 Remix) 
This gorgeous remix opens with what sounds like a beach with growling synth slowly swelling alongside a percussion element that sounds similar like a fingersnap. 30 seconds in, Anthya starts singing gently and after another synth growl, at 00:59, Rank 1 drops one of their sickest beats ever: it sounds Tribal and Techy but all on the minimal side. This remix might have showcased their best percussive efforts ever. There is so much GROOVE in this build-up due to the shakers and hihats left and right. Anthya shortly sings "Light shines always..." before echoing away. Approaching the two minute mark, a Techy synthline is added to the mix. Then at 02:12 a melody starts playing through what will reveal itself as the track's main lead. Anthya repeats her phrases from the intro as the main lead slowly comes to the fore. At 02:55 we reach the breakdown with a subtle bassguitar playing alongside the main lead which slowly starts swelling in power. Anthya reveals a new set of phrases in this breakdown and after she utters the word "Touch The Sun..." the kick returns as the main lead has reached its full power, it's a very warm techy synth which I believe is the predecessor to the one that would define L.E.D. There Be Light a little less than two years later.
The approach is on the breakdown is on the minimal side but I picture myself at a beach as the sun comes down, flashes of orange, red and yellow prominently in the sky as the silhouette of a woman stands in the ocean... There is a sense of nostalgia and mystery to this remix that enchanted me over the course of my first few listens and has never ceased to amaze me in the 9 years since I've known it. As Armin stated in ASOT #289: this Alex Bartlett tune was "beautifully remixed by Rank 1", he said it shortly before the track started winding down and was being mixed into "Light The Skies" which, come to think of it, was a very fitting track to mix into Touch The Sun. This remix is one of my favorite Rank 1 productions ever and also one of their most unique. There is a balearic vibe in this, yet it has Techy touches as well as an overall Progressive feel. The way they crossed boundaries for this is truly amazing and I would be delighted to hear them craft another masterpiece in a similar vein to this one some day, whether as a remix or a Rank 1 original.
Another thing I love about this remix is how its melody synth sounds like a precursor to L.E.D.'s mighty main lead. It's as if this remix was one of the many steps (and perhaps one of the most important) that would lead them to L.E.D. There Be Light. As such, Touch The Sun extends behind its individual brilliance and becomes a proud part of the narrative of Rank 1's sound development. Between Opus 17 and L.E.D., I consider this Touch The Sun remix their best work inbetween their 2006 - (summer) 2008 era. This remix had everything: grace, infectiousness, nostalgia, emotion, groove... One For The Ages...
vs. the Original
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
vrijdag 5 augustus 2016
Enter January '07
Sometimes, you should just not have expectations. True: when they are met, there are fewer feelings in the world that top the joy surging through your veins, but when they aren't met, it's one of the greatest disappointments you can feel... Anyhoo. Over the course of Autumn/Winter 2006, I had come to enjoy the original The Future more and more. Then after a while, I saw the announcement of two remixes by two particular artists that made my heart race: none other than Leon Bolier and Rank 1! I. Was. THRILLED (way ahead of you Ernesto vs. Bastian, hehe). The original was a killer Tech bomb and now two of my favorite artists were doing remixes, potentially taking those Tech levels beyond what is legally allowed?! I could not wait! So when the time came to hear both remixes I was shocked to learn that nor Leon, nor Rank 1 even bothered with a techy direction. Leon's Remix would end up becoming my Tune Of The Year 2007 however whereas my first taste of the Rank 1 Remix (ASOT episode #285) left me bitterly disappointed. It was too good to be true wasn't it? Two brand new remixes in two consecutive ASOT episodes! xD But yeah, at first I thought the Rank 1 Remix was highly underwhelming and weak. The choice to replace that wicked original lead with a guitar-ish sound I found mindboggling. I just could not understand the intention of this remix. Was it trying to undo the drive of the original? Thank God my brother felt differently about it: he liked it and bought the full version. So when we sat down to check the whole thing out, I gradually changed my opinion because as a whole it reflected Rank 1's typically sublime production skills. It never managed to beat the original or the Leon Remix for me, but it was a solid production by its own merit:
JOOP - The Future (Rank 1 Remix) 
"The future, the future, the future" echoes back and forth as the techy, glitchy, heavily delayed sound effects flow through the opening phase of this remix like an electric current. A heavy thugging, low synth swells in power before the bassline kicks in. It too, has a strong delay, giving it a stutter effect. At 01:09 you hear a very strong glitchy effect, it kind of reminds me of that techy stutter you hear in Opus 17 (at 02:37). A sneaky background pad joins the mix at this stage. Rank 1 let the beat fade away whilst the percussion keeps playing and the pad gradually becomes stronger. A sort of guitar instrument is added in this part as the deep bass rolls underneath. You can hear another guitar playing the first bit of The Future's main melody. Despite the glitchy elements this is not a Techy remix at all. Rank 1 went for a deeper, more Progressive-minded approach. In the breakdown the main guitar lead is revealed along another background pad. At 03:48 that guitar lead repeats as the percussion elements increase their intensity and a smooth climax is reached. 04:45 the main guitar seems to fade, flanked by the voice repeating "The Future", whilst the percussion elements create more tension in a final post-main part climax. At 05:41 the beat returns. The glitchy elements carry on, as does the voice, as the main guitar slowly fades to the background until it's completely gone at 06:24. The track then takes its time to break down into less elements, making it quite a mixable track (I can also imagine you can play a lot with this one in a Mega Mix). The approach to this version is very different from the Leon Remix, the Markus Remix (which to me sounds more like a cheap bootleg, sorry Markus) or the original. I feel it was created with the dancefloor in mind but they went for a deep dancefloor experience. It's well put together, they gave a lot of attention to the details and percussion (very characteristic of this Ecclectic Rank 1 of the 2006-2008 era) in particular. I have to say though, much like with their Dub Mix for Freddie Mercury, the strenghts of these remixes lie more in their beats, basslines, effects and tension moments, rather then their melodies or leads. Again we see Rank 1
vs. the Original
Like I said before, the original was a firm fave. The Leon Remix actually ended up outshining everything else in a year I consider the best I've known in music so far (the kudos for this has to go to my highschool crush, she sure as hell helped 2007's music sound magical, in particular that Leon Remix since it would always make me think/daydream of her). Anyhow, digressing again! Now, the original The Future is an iconic "Tech Energy" anthem with the combined minds of Alkema and Bolier leading to an explosive result (yup, Leon co-produced the original). The build-up is intense, angry, menacing, you can tell that something big is coming. There is something almost cinematic to the tension they create in the build-up (I think they took this a step further in their 3008 collab a year later). Then comes that raw main lead. There isn't even anything really melodic throughout the track, not even in the breakdown. And such a raw lead in combination with such a loaded bassline and kick... Bangin' in all the way! Probably the techiest Trance Energy Anthem ever, in retrospect it was logically that neither Leon or Rank 1 bothered to make an alternative in a Tech style. Neither would have topped the original's ferociousness in the end. It took me a while to understand that.
As was the case with Analog Feel, the original takes my preference over the Rank 1 version though the margin between both sets of tracks is a bit bigger in the case of The Future. The Rank 1 Remix turned out to be an interesting Progressive take on a banging original and after all these years I still feel it's a solid remix. A job well done in the end, considering the quality of said original!
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
donderdag 4 augustus 2016
Enter January '07
I had spent the last two weeks of a dreadful personal 2006 in the hospital so when I got out on the final day of the year, I was not only relieved but things had been so bad, they possibly couldn't get any worse. In that sense, 2007 was set to be a year of recovery, not just physically, but also mentally. What better way to kick-off a Year Of Hope, than with a brand Rank 1 production?! Prior to my hospitalization I had seen on their website that they had two upcoming remixes for two of my favorite late-2006 tracks no less! And I got to hear their remix for the amazing Analog Feel by Cosmic Gate on ASOT episode #284. Considering how I held the original in high regard, I was curious whether they could get near or equal the original... After all, why try to fix something that isn't broken, right? In the end though, I am happy to spoil that the guys did just fine!
Cosmic Gate - Analog Feel (Rank 1's Digital Re-hash) 
This rehash starts off with an intro that instantly grabs your attention: these high tingling mystery bells have you wondering what kind of rabbit hole you are about to fall through! At 00:16 you hear some glitchy techy percussion (percussion that is so characteristic of this techy Rank 1 sound) alongside a bouncy kick that all build to a point before the first minute where you hear a tech synth swoop pop up out of nowhere. Just as it fades, the bassline hits with more percussive elements added to the mix. The synth roars softly in the background, as a teaser of what is yet to come... Now listen closely at 01:30! Are those the intro bells in the background?? What a subtle, nay, sneaky thing to do! As if announced by the synth roar, at 01:43 an alternate version to the original's breakdown synths is revealed. At 02:13 the beat grows a bit fainter and a few elements fade. Then, at 02:19 the main riff of the original starts hammering uncontrollably. The beat returns to full force as the this synths keeps hammering and a few subtle background elements give away that we are headed somewhere! 03:24, sudden peace... And then... 03:30, flowing forth from the synth roar, Rank 1 do what they do best: take you to another place with a beautiful strings rendition of the original breakdown. What a contrast with the build-up of the track so far! Short as they last, the strings are truly one of the characteristics that make this remix stand out and stand on its own two feet for me. After this point the hammering tech synth returns and starts spiralling out of control until the beat kicks back in at the climax and it hammers and stutters like a machine gone haywire! Just how do they create that SICK effect between 04:54-04:55 where the synth stutters in two different rhythms?! For the fans of everything Tech / Industrial in Dance Music, this remix is nothing but pure delight with the wicked tech synth play the guys deploy! After 05:45 it stutters between a few intervals before fading away, leaving us with nothing but that bouncy bassline and the glitchy, techy percussion as the track winds down to its end. Of course, this is Rank 1 we're talking about and even at the very end they will give the track a small twist, a shor final tease (as they did with the bassline bending at the end of their This Way Remix): a final synthroar at 06:42 ends the track...
vs. the Original
The original Analog Feel became one of my favorite tracks of 2006 and from what I remember it's the first Cosmic Gate track I ever heard. Sorry Fire Wire / Exploration Of Space enthusiasts! Though I loved the track from the get-go, the very concept of combining a slightly Progressive-based build-up/breakdown with a Techy main part is something I came to appreciate as an afterthought. Obviously, for me the most striking element of Analog Feel was its warm, reverbed, Techno-inspired piano lead. I have always been a sucker for that type of sound and man... The rest of the track... The percussion, FX, and overall infectiousnes (in one of the ASOT episodes that Armin played it, he had his voice-over panned after the main part had passed whilst saying "bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce on your radio!")... What was there not to love?? And the breakdown! This deep, dreamy "Coldharbour Progressive" mood, maybe with a dash of Perry O'Neill if you ignored the techy lead's interuption... Such a cool track! I had heard this original before Rank 1's Rehash and though I really loved both and I had given both lots of replay, back then I slightly prefer CG's original. Juuust slightly, though! A miniscule difference! Over the years however, that preference has faded as this remix proved to stand the Test Of Time (and the Test Of Replays) just as firm as its original counterpart. That's Rank 1 for ya, for the guys to have crafted such a clever interpretation with a slightly different twist of such a strong original speaks volumes of their remixing skills.
I think the title for the remix shows Rank 1's humility and humor: a digital (brilliant xD) re-hash, implying they merely shook the original up a bit rather than fully reinventing it. And it's true they stayed pretty close to it. Yet whereas the Cosmics had infused Tech with Progressive, Rank 1 went for Tech all the way by harnessing that main lead from the get-go. And God... Those strings in Rank 1's breakdown... <3 If only ALL rehashes/edits were this polished! This rehash was just more evidence that it was a brave and intelligent choice for them to leave their euphoric supersaw days for glitchy, stuttering Techy days. A Glorious addition to Tech 1's discography.
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
woensdag 3 augustus 2016
Enter July '06
Contrary to what their discography tells you, 2006 would turn out to be a busy year for the guys. Despite there being no official single releases (since they were to be released in 2007 instead), 2006 saw them reveal two collaborations and two remixes (of which the second had two different versions). I had been replaying their This Way Remix like mad and over the course of May, I had also gotten my hands on a rip of Life Less Ordinary, which I was enjoying too. During another night of being tuned into ASOT (episode #258), Armin would give their tribute remix for Freddie Mercury a second spin. I had missed the first play on #254, but I had been told by my brother that there was a new Rank 1 remix on rotation, albeit in his words, it was a bit of a let down. I was curious and remained hopeful that it wouldn't be so bad. But initially, during that first play, I had to share his sentiments. The track felt a bit void, didn't have a real main lead or riff and even for a more abstract, Techy kind of tune it really missed something captivating for me. A year later I would rip this remix from the episode again and give it another chance, by that time I liked it slightly more but it wasn't until I bought the vinyl for these Rank 1 Remixes about half a decade later, that I came to see this as a solid remix:
Freddie Mercury - Love Kills (Rank 1 Dub Mix) 
It kicks of with a faint mysterious background synth and some Techno-ish percussion and minor delayed techy sounds. 00:32 seconds in, this monotone tech synth starts playing which will turn out ot be the track's main lead. At 01:29 the bassline kicks in and extra percussion is added, with an almost tribal-ish feel to it. Interestingly enough, there is something trippy and atmospheric to the whole despite the track seeming to be headed down a sort of Techno-inspired route as it is pretty abstract for the most part. At 01:55 Freddie's vocals are introduced, as he repeats "Kill-kill-kill, love kill-kill-kills" until at 02:52 the track reaches its breakdown. In this bit Freddie sings the full lyrics of the original's chorus. I get the idea they used the same breakdown material from their Extended Vocal Mix but they altered the melody elements by layering some flangers and delays over them. At 03:50 Rank 1's bass pulses in the background before the kick and that tech synth return. Listening to it at home, might make it sound "faint" but in a club setting, it should sound pretty cool. The guitar strum from the original is used like a short echo before the percussion, Freddie's voice and sound fx return together at 04:32, to spicen up this danceable. At 05:00 the kick turns faint whilst the percussion keeps playing, you can hear a heavily altered Freddie sample in the background, he almost sounds like a pad here! I really love this bit, short as it is! It serves as a sort of intermezzo before that post-climax part is repeated. The percussion is just amazing here and examplary of this era's Rank 1 sound. I have to say that it took a while for me to appreciate this remix and it wasn't until I heard it in full and I sat down to analyze it from the beginning till the end that my respect for it rose. It has a bit of a Techno-driven vibe, but it's very different from the remix they did for On Fire or their own alternate version of their 2008 single "And Then...". It's a very abstract remix, and a pretty obscure one that is hard to find unless you bought the vinyl or got your hands on a vinyl rip (in my case, I have both). I can imagine that not many Rank 1 fans know it or like it, since even compared to Rank 1's techy endeavours on Top Gear, Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom or their Lyteo Remix, this remix doesn't have the same... "Accesibility" or stand-out energy that might attract people that are into rougher sounds. I mean, it doesn't have the madness of TG, the powerful riff of B@R1DC or the hard addictive lead of Lyteo. Even the tech synth that serves as its main lead isn't exactly phenomenal, I can imagine some calling it "bland" or "weak" even. Despite it being one of Rank 1's most abstract efforts, I appreciate this remix exactly for that reason though. It's so edgy, heavy on percussion and it features Freddie's iconic voice as bonus... Maybe it would have been cooler if they played around more with his vocals. Then again, this was titled Rank 1's Dub Mix for a reason. All in all, after this one grew on me, it proved to be another solid effort from the guys. That said, before I learned to appreaciate this mix, I got very easily distracted by that other mix!
Enter Summer '08
In early 2008, my brother told me he had heard a different Rank 1 Remix for Freddie Mercury on the radio, one that was melodic and synths more remniscent of their older work, he seemed quite positive about it! Obviously, this news caused my curiosity to peak. I decided to visit that now-defunct Bervoets & De Goeij website by Gert Egscholten which had over 300 samples of Piet and/or Benno (co-)produced tracks on it. Afterward I went to Youtube to find it. Found the Rank 1 Radio Mix instead. And just like las time, I was to share my brother's opinion (well, I went well beyond it actually!) on this alternate remix: it rocked!
Freddie Mercury - Love Kills (Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix) 
Unlike the Dub Mix, the Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix leaves abstractness behind and heads down a far more accesible and melodic approach. Its build-up focuses heavily on the original's synthesizer lead line, which gives the track a very catchy and infectious vibe from the word go. This remix opens with the piano from the original. They have it play like a stab the one moment, the next moment they chop it and let its velocity roll in from low-to-high. At 01:13 you hear a sort of "record skips" effect that announces the track is really going to start now. The strumming guitar backs the bassline as a pad capturing a melody line from the original is put on top before Freddie joins in and before we know it we are at the breakdown. It uses melodies and instrumentals from the original which reach a short stop. Then, at 02:11, they do it. What do they do?! They do one of those things that has made them infamous. They release this typical rhythmic Rank 1 riff with a synth that almost sounds like a "digital organ" if that makes any sense. It doesn't get more typically Rank 1 than this! At 02:26 the strumming guitar, some hats and a faint kick slowly start building towards the climax. As the main synth is heavily flanged, Freddie's "Love Kills!" shout unleashes the drop and we get to headbop (or if you are standing, dance) to an infectious Trance-synth-meets-Rock'n'roll-ish-groove. Freddie's vocals jump in and out of this part, giving this main bit it's extra spice. 03:53 - here the main lead gets partially interupted on top of a faint kick. It serves as the prelude to a "second breakdown", similar to what they did in their 2014 single "Freudenrausch" come to think of it... They keep enough percussion intact in this part to betray that we will soon be dancing again. As Freddie's voice slowly echoes away whilst singing the words "...and leave you alooone!", we can hear the main lead -now heavily flanged- swell back into the centre stage, accompanied by the guitar strum until it reaches its height at 04:58 and the track's second drop follows. At 05:33ish the main synth starts bending due to the flanger effect used on it and from 05:42 its melody pattern is stretched as it slowly echoes away, getting all the more flanged as more time progresses. At 06:11 it's gone and what's left is that catchy synthesizer lead, the guitar, the bassline and percussion. At 06:40 you can tell the track is about to end. At 07:09 the synthesizer lead is the last element to fade out as a stretched echo. Man, that was a groovy ride! Fantastic synth play and instant ear-pleaser. As opposed to its darker sibling, the Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix fits more in line with Rank 1's melodic and euphoric mood, albeit on a more Proggy than Trancey vibe. I am suprised Armin chose to play the Dub Mix twice and give no attention to this, I'd say this could have served as a nice, moodsetting opener back in the day. Aw well. For me this is a great, fun remix with nice synthwork and I enjoy the overall groovy energy and feel-good vibes. And of course, mr. Mercury gives it that extra bit of magic. It's kind of funny: I have a high intolerance for male vocals in Trance-based music, but if all vocals were nearly as epic as Freddie's (or cool like Ronald's), I'd be the biggest fan of them. Rank 1's 2006 remixes completely focused on male vox but for me both sets of remixes worked out very well. Big up, Rank 1! Legends remixing Legend = Win
vs the OriginalThe song starts with a pretty strong drumbeat, backed by some piano stabs and play as well as some guitar strumming. At 00:32 Freddie starts singing. Soon we have synthesizer pads and a pretty wicked bassline added to the whole. At the chorus part, Freddie is backed by a few other voices which gives it a Queen-style choir effect. It's interesting to note that only at the chorus parts do you actually hear a lot of melodic/instrumental backing and after the last chorus: guitar riffs and xylophones can be heard from the 3rd minute onward. In the short verse parts however it's mostly the bass, the guitar, that infectious synthesizer line that runs throughout the Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix and of course Freddie's infamous vocals. It's hard to compare a pop song to two more club-oriented mixes but I have to say that structure-wise it seems both Rank 1 Remixes reflect different parts of the original. The Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix seems to focus on the melodies of the original in the chorusses whilst the Rank 1 Dub Mix seems to focus on its groovy, deeper verse parts. Obviously, both remixes lean towards those different bits in a Dance music friendly way. Overall I think the guys did a good job in using elements of the original in both mixes, whilst giving both a typical Rank 1 treatment.
vs. each otherThe Dub Mix obviously serves as the Club-oriented weapon of the two, whereas the Extended Vocal Mix serves as the primary remix, keeping most hints to the original preserved, although with a typical Rank 1 touch (it was the mix that appeared on the Tribute CD after all). Whereas the Dub Mix reflects the Rank 1 of that particular moment, I feel the Extended Vocal Mix captures a general Rank 1, one that goes beyond that specific Tech phase of theirs, whilst at the same time revealing their ability to adapt to the changing times in Trance music. In that regard, the Extended Vocal Mix is truer to what was to become the core of the Rank 1 project than the Dub Mix. What I mean to say is that whereas the Dub Mix was the perfect example of the Rank 1 at that particular moment (2006), the other version combined new grooves with a hint at the older Rank 1 through its main lead. To phrase it in a pretentious, mystic way: The Dub Mix focused on their Here And Now. The Extended Vocal Mix focused on What Had Been and What Was To Come. Generally speaking, "melodic & accesible" defeats "dark & abstract" and in the case of these remixes I feel the same way though the difference in preference is not as huge as it might sound: the Dub Mix has been guaranteed of being played as well throughout the years. It's just that the Extended Vocal Mix tends to be my primary choice of the two.
I am not big on Dance remixes of Pop originals, but I find the Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix highly infectious and the Rank 1 Dub Mix is a nice gritty club track for when I'm in a more Techy mood. Are they mindblowing remixes? Do they live up to the original? Imo all three tracks are enjoyable in their own way but do not necessarily represent the elite crop of music in their respective artists' discographies: they do however, get the job done. Isn't that what matters the most? All in all I find this a very solid release and I think it must have been very special for Piet & Benno to have been approached to remix one of the most Legendary Performers ever, especially considering at least one of them once said in an interview that he was a fan of Queen's music. It's a bit sad that these remixes or often overlooked or unknown to people claiming to be Rank 1 fans. If your support for them stretched beyond their Supersaw Days and if you, like me, cherished their ecclectic Progressive meets Electro meet Techno inspired era, then do yourself a favor. Get your hands on these remixes ASAP. They are a vital part of your Rank 1 collection! And if this review hasn't convinced you to get them, than I honestly don't know what will...
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
dinsdag 2 augustus 2016
Enter April '06
About half a year prior to hearing this remix, my brother and I had started following A State Of Trance and it turned out to be a memorable half year. The Progressive and Tech Trance sounds covered the majority of the show's scope in this era and though I was still learning to appreciate both genres, Rank 1 was there to lend me a hand. I remember episode #245 airing at a moment where my brother was working on a project for his study with his mp3 player locked on whilst sitting in the room with our household's only computer. Meanwhile, I was in his room, having turned on the radio, either doing some homework or drawing stuff. I remember Armin announcing something "special" involving two or three Dutch guys. And before we knew it, that Sensation voice announced the Tune Of The Week for the brand new Rank 1 Remix of This Way by Ronald van Gelderen (later I would discover that Benno co-produced the original, and the next few RvG singles). I remember being blown away by the remix and I also remember running to the other room to share my enthusiasm with my brother who was loving this remix as well. There is quite nothing like that moment when you a hear a great tune, you turn to someone else and they were already facing your direction with an expression that betrays an all-telling "I know right?!". Whether at a gig or at home, it ALWAYS feels great to share this type of moment in music.
Ronald van Gelderen - This Way (Rank 1 Remix) 
"It wouldn't be this way-way-way-way-way" and in comes the kick, as Ronald's voice is chopped and keeps at it during the whole build-up. The bassline joins the fray, with some fx here and there as well as a few minor techy sounds that are heavily delayed like in their Top Gear tune and their Lyteo & Humanity Remixes. So far so good. But what's that in the background at 01:13? It's a melody! And damn! It's so... Addicting! Can't stop bopping my head! In come the cymbals to add to this infectious groove! This melody is so Rank 1ish, absolutely delicious! We're only at 02:09 now... Is that a bass guitar?? And suddenly the breakdown from the original is revealed, albeit with Ronald chopped and enhanced. Dang, this is really, really cool and so different from the other tracks in this era... Within the Rank 1 discography it also stands out! Oh shit, 03:11. It's about to go down now! That killer synth melody is back and it sounds like it's gonna go fierce on us!! No over-the-top climax but that bassline hits HARD at 03:39. The melody swells in intensity until at 04:35 it goes full throttle. GAH THIS IS SO ADDICTING! You just wish that melody would play forever! Past 05:00 minutes the track slowly starts winding down with the techy background sounds and effects the most prominent elements next to Ronald's chopped voice. As the track dies down into less and less elements you'd expect nothing more out of the ordinary to happen, but this being Rank 1 on remix duties, between 06:12 and 06:29 you can hear how they twist the bassline with a final touch that I find so characteristic of their music. Just that small detail at the end to make even the final seconds interesting. Damn these guys are brilliant!
vs. the Original
I was delighted when I figured out that the original was co-produced by Benno and I was very surprised that those amazing vocals came from Ronald himself. You can tell especially in the build-up that this track features Benno as the bass, kick and especially percussion have a similar groove to their techy tracks of this era. The original is a bit heavier than the remix and it has a pretty powerful acid stab to set it apart. Overall the build is just as intense, just more techy than the remix and the breakdown features full lyrical glory from Ronald. He has an edgy voice and the lyrics have something dirty yet cool and appealing to them. A part of me feels it's a shame that the remix did not keep Ronald's singing untouched. Then again, now you have a legitimate excuse to own both tracks. The main synth / part of the original is a lot more Tech Trance oriented with a slightly more monotone synthplay in effect as I feel this mix depends more on its heavy bassline than the Rank 1 Remix which is all about the synths. Personally I prefer the Rank 1 remix but the original is a solid piece of quality High Contrast Recordings glory that you should add to your library all the same. Remix and original lie much closer together than in the case of Lyteo but that doesn't mean they aren't both worth your time and money.
I will admit that having an insanely deep high school crush during this time really added to my appreciation for this remix as the lyrics in the breakdown served as great material to daydream... But even if I disregard that aspect, this still stands as one of the greatest Rank 1 Remixes I have ever heard. Granted, it was able to borrow that cool breakdown from the original (in an enhanced state) but even so... It was an instant favorite and after more than a decade (holy sh*t I'm getting old) I still love it as much as ever. It's hard to believe it took me 9 years to finally hear this remix live (at Piet's Luminosity at the Beach gig in 2015) but as always Piet REALLY made my day by giving me the privilege to hear it in a party environment. It's just a shame that the crowd wasn't as acquinted with it as I was, because damn, we would have blown the roof of over there! This remix is nothing but a sublime piece of remixing skill from the guys and it was a well deserved and worthy Top 30 2006 entry.
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
maandag 1 augustus 2016
Enter August '05
I had first heard this remix during a Sensation Black pre-party broadcast on the radio my brother was listening to. I didn't really feel it at that moment, it was a little to rough for me. A couple of days later I gave the Freerecord Shop a little visit after school and I saw the Sensation White 2005 compilation among the new CD releases. I quickly turned the CD case around to scan the tracklist! I saw "Rank 1 - Opus 17" and I actually thought this was the Lyteo Remix! I don't remember what I thought when I then read "Lyteo (Rank 1 Remix)" or if I even noticed that they also had a remix on CD2. Regardless, a couple of weeks later my brother bought the compilation and I got my mind blown inside-out as it turned out that Opus 17 was actually a brand new production and the Lyteo Remix was... Well... The Lyteo Remix.
Mr. Sam - Lyteo (Rank 1 Remix) 
Without doubt this remix stands as one of Rank 1's heaviest, rawest and hardest remixes ever. The only one I can think of that is darker in this regard is the one they did for On Fire (but since that one has an Industrial Techno flavor, that's no surprise really). You can hear the BAR1DC influences in the percussion and bassline of this remix, their transformation into "Tech 1" gaining momentum. If I am not mistaken this is also the first remix in which they started using those delicious vocal chops/stutters of theirs. And what can I say? That happens to be another feature I like about their interpretations of other people's work: they cut out unnecessary vocals if necessary and turn them into another instrument for the track's composition. Of course, the Lyteo Remix's stand-out element is its Hard As Nails main lead. The main lead's synth is a pretty fierce one and it increases its intensity throughout the track, first teasing into "fake climax" halfway throughout the track before its "rage" starts to increase and the melody is hammered at full power. There is a sort of whistle/pan flute like element guiding this part and it creates an interesting contrast: fierce main lead and serene flute melody to back it. Meanwhile the vocal chops are sprinkled on top of it all, giving this hard remix a mysterious feeling at the same time.
vs. the Original
The contrast with the original couldn't be any bigger: the original has more of a bouncy Prog feel to it before it turns Trancier in the final third. It's pretty low energy and feel like a completely different track. Bar Kristy Hawkshaw saying "Lyteo", there isn't a clear cut recognizable element from the original that can be traced back to the original ALTHOUGH that flute thingie in the Rank 1 Remix sounds a bit like the background "howling vox" of Kirsty. Very subtle reference guys!
All in all, to me the Rank 1 Remix is a far superior experience than the original, but I am biased as hell of course (plus I had never even heard the original before doing this review hehe). Even so, it took me some time to appreciate Lyteo. And somehow I've never "loved it" beyond a certain point. I would say that in the case of a 5 star ranking system, at best I've always felt it was a 4/5 even though I've experienced first hand what kind of a Floorlifter this track can be. I like it, I think it's cool but as it would turn out, Rank 1 would do even better on other remixes. Little did I know it would take just about half a year from that moment to discover that first-hand.
NOTE | This review is part of a larger Retrospective feature:
There are various ways in which a Dance Music artist can stand out: they can be Master Storytellers with their absorbing DJ sets, seemlessly putting together different tracks and moods to make you dance into the late hours of the night as you lose all sense of time and reach a higher State. Then we have those creative geniuses that hear melodies in their heads, heck perhaps they even have Visions Of Sound (right Rok?) throughout the day before they decide to sit down and turn those thoughts into Airwaves that enchant us all. They craft soundscapes that take you Out Of This World and beyond. To create an own masterpiece can take quite the effort, it can be a truly frustrating proces at times. I feel however, that especially when a producer manages to make a brilliant remix out of an original, that we Witness Pure Genius shining through. For me personally, Rank 1 have proven to be Master Remixers. As such, for this year's retrospective Rank 1 review, we will thus turn our attention to Piet & Benno's remix masterpieces from the 2005 - 2011 era under their Rank 1 guise. Why this particular era though? Allow me to explain. For starters, Rank 1's Year Zero for me was Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom and since the first remix to follow after that single was the one they did for Mr. Sam - Lyteo, that is the most logical starting point for me. The absence of their 2013 remixes is attributed to the fact that both were reviewed already reviewed three years ago and both are simply "too young" to be considered in this retrospective. The final reason for this specific era of Rank 1 Remixes is because I feel that it showed them at their most diverse. The styles of their singles have morphed time and time again but it was with these remixes that Rank 1 breathed versatility, twisted originals over a wide spectrum and it is one of the characteristics that makes me hold them in high regard.
It is not just the diversity though: each of these remixes was bent to fit the Rank 1 sound. Sometimes they kept elements of the original intact, sometimes they took just one recognizable element and went haywire with it. The amount of remixes I've made myself so far (for friends) can be counted on one hand alone but for all these remixes I've often turned to Rank 1 as an example. How much of an original do they even use for their remixes? What is the basis for a good remix? I recall an interesting article by Decoded Magazine which was published a little while ago: [http://www.decodedmagazine.com/when-is-a-remix-a-remix/] It discusses what makes a proper remix and what doesn't. For me personally, Rank 1 have always been stand-out remixers. For the record: it's not as if EVERY remix they've made was gold to me (in fact, I have more remixes of them I rate pretty low, than singles) BUT I do feel that in the case of these 2005 - 2011 remixes, they put a lot of Heart, Soul and Rank 1 Goodness in their tracks. Some of these remixes are among my favorite Rank 1 productions of all time and now that I've known them for so long, it's finally time to give them the verbal appreciation they deserve. And this is how I am gonna do it.
I have programmed Blogger to reveal a new review every day in the next 14 days. This blogpost will serve as an Index page so you can see which ones have been revealed and which ones can be read. So I'd say, kick back and join me on this journey crossing 7 years and no less than 15 diverse productions! Let us enjoy the Beauty Of The Modern Rank 1 Sounds. Note that I've not placed the reviews to appear in their chronological order of release but rather by the order in which I discovered them. This Way, it will serve as a true trip down memory lane for me. I hope you'll enjoy the reviews! The one for Lyteo is already up. Check back every day in the next two weeks to get the links to the other reviews:
01. Mr. Sam - Lyteo (Rank 1 Remix) 
dinsdag 19 juli 2016
The best things happen when you don't expect them at all! I was working on a retrospective review for an old Rank 1 Remix when I had to visit Beatport to find the original for comparisons since I didn't have it in my library: I don't always like originals (enough) to buy them alongside their Rank 1 remixes. So I decided to check out Rank 1's releases section to see if I'd stumble upon the Radio Mix of the Superstring rework or perhaps a re-released old remix of theirs: back in 2013 I got my hands on their remix for Jam X & De Leon - Mind Made Up as I stumbled upon it by accident! Ever since I keep my eyes open. So I found the Superstring Radio Mix (sadly not acquirable without purchasing the whole compilation it's on) but I also ran into a Chill Out collab they made with York for the latter's new album... WHICH HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 11 DAYS FFS! How on earth could I have miss that?? Damn you, Euro 2016! Anyway. The collab in question has been purchased and eh, decided I might as well do a little review for it! So here we go:
01. York & Rank 1 feat. Lola - This World Is So Amazing [04.29]
A gentle pad swells into the track with a morphed ball of guitar noise alongside it. The pads soon reach Trancey fullness when Lola softly tell us "The World Is So Amazing". Right after she speaks those words, a typical Mediterrenean York guitar plays, backed by yet another more defined guitar whilst the Trancey pads in the background cause a combination fo serenity with joy. A rhythmic typical-Rank 1 lead grows stronger until it peaks at 01:58. Then, some very subtle percussion starts playing alongside the whole. Wouldn't go as far as to call it a breakbeat since, well, it's way too subtle. The melodies are the centre-focus here. The main lead tunes down a bit and gives more space to the York guitar. The pads quiet down a bit as Lola softly speaks to us. Listening closely you can hear some subtle piano guidance in the background. The Trance pads reappear in full effect as the main lead sneaks away. The percussion fades, said lead decided to swell in power once more before gently fading away with the rest of the melodic elements. The piano gets to have its final say in the dying seconds of this chill-out piece.
Is it a coincidence that I discover this track on the day that #HottestDayOfTheYear is trending? Is it a coincidence I discover this on a warm, cloudless, sunny 30 degrees day in the usually rainy Amsterdam? I think not! As with Zenith, the surprise factor of a new Rank 1 tune alone can lift a track to be instantly loved. It really helps that this track can be seen as a sort of "follow-up" to Reachers Of Civilization (Rank 1 Remix). But the track itself just oozes happiness. Those pads <3 Those guitars <3 It's not the first track to be made in this style but I've been missing the Balearic Trance sound from a decade ago and it's great to hear something that has that kind of sentiment to it. Lilyleaf Ladybell has been one of my favorite tracks since I discovered it in December 2015 (thanks again Roth!) and skimming through the previews of the other tracks, York truly worked hard to deliver that sound in a classy way. I fully recommend this to anyone that loves tracks befitting of summer. And if you are a York or a Rank 1 fan, this tune can't miss out in your collection!
As stated above: this is a great surprise! A short album track but I would love to see Rank 1 do more collabs like this in the future. It doesn't always have to be a mindblowing club banger, it doesn't always have to be 13 minute majestic masterpiece. Enjoyable tunes like TWISA are always welcome. And it has been such a long time since the likes of Still In My Mind, T.T.C. etc. I sincerely hope we'll hear more Chill-out from them again in the near future, they rock at it. Can't wait to put this track on my phone & mp3 player and chill out to it on one of the coming summer days... It's during those moments you best realize... This World Is So Amazing indeed!
vrijdag 3 juni 2016
Back in October I was completely caught by surprise when Zenith was premièred. It's the kind of pleasant unexpected thing that can happen to you as a Rank 1 fan. So last week I had this similar vibe when Rank 1 changed their social media headers and posted this beautiful cover: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CjcxBJCUgAAh-e2.jpg. No title though and no soundcloud or Youtube teaser either. Just this cover with a release date. Cryptic as always, but that's just how we like Rank 1, don't we? :D Seeing how by Wednesday this week I had yet to discover any hint about the title or the track itself for that matter, I decided to skip any potential A State Of Trance / Global DJ Broadcast / Ferry Corsten's Countdown premier and just wait till the 3rd of June to have my first hearing experience as "untainted" as possible. Sadly, the curiosity got the best of me and during my break at work I peeked on Rank 1's twitter to at least find out what the title was. "Tune in tonight @asot #ASOT766 for the world premier of our rework & new single ‘Superstring’!"
...That was not what I was hoping for. Another rework of a Rank 1 Classic? Why isn't it a brand new track instead? Doh! :< Disappointed Mane is disappointed. I was so disappointed in fact I just neglected my previous vow to listen to this "new" track untainted. I searched Youtube to listen to it. Let's just say that first listen came too soon after the initial disappointment so I didn't listen to it with a clean mind. So instead of typing down those first thoughts, I'll treat the full track listen as the first time. Here's my 2cts on this rework of one of Rank 1's greatest ever moments:
01. Rank 1 - Superstring (Radio Edit) [03:00]
The radio edit kicks off with all those iconic melody lines playing in harmony through various different types of pads and synths. After 00:47 seconds the track morphs into the breakdown. At exactly 01:00 that Riff Of Riffs kicks in and a short climax later we are head bopping along that good old melody, this time at 132 instead of 138 though ;) A short piano-like intermezzo follows with a synthline I believe comes from the original Superstring from the early '90s, I don't recall hearing this melody line in the 2000 version... They might have utilized it in their live performed version of Superstring throughout the years though... Anyway! The riff returns in a reprise and with a final stab of that mighty riff, the track stops as the Supersaw and fx echo away in the last 4-5 seconds.
02. Rank 1 - Superstring (Extended Mix) [06:14]
The rework kicks off with characteristic echoing percussion elements and a heavy synthline that sounds like it could go in an either Electro-driven or Techy direction. An extra synthline ala Zenith joins the fray as the track's tension starts to build up. At 1:27, that all-too-familiar Superstring melody reveals itself with a synth sound I can't really place, it almost sounds like an organic instrument but has an electronic ring to it at the same time... Nearing two minutes a different melody pattern takes over whilst the Supersaw teases in the background. At 2:14 one of the most well-known riffs in Trance history reveals itself. Oh yeah, they kept the original saw intact and didn't replace it with a distorted one!! Snare-hits start raining down before the track steadily reaches it climax as synth and beat join forces for what will definitely be a nice moment live. In the background they have this echoing melody line from the original playing, albeit with different pads.
The middle section reveals a nice piano-solo: prior to writing this review I saw someone on Twitter comment that this part sounded like the producer was having a blast playing it. I have to admit, I really like this piano part, it's a very nice addition to that gorgeous Superstring melody. It does have a bit of a weird ring to it at times, perhaps because there is more than just one element playing there. The riff returns, and I have to say I am GRATEFUL they kept the original saws in it and didn't replace it with an aggressive variant like they did with Airwave two years ago. I don't think Airwave works with an aggressive lead, let alone Superstring. Anyway! The track then enters the final phase of the main part, what happens here is pretty interesting, an Acid synth starts twisting and bending but as it grows fiercer and then pulses on after the track's final climax, it almost sounds like a heavily enhanced robotic voice (similar to the one in Inyathi that says "Inyathi"). The track starts winding down with the Acid synth "shouting" at intervals whilst that "Zenith lead" slowly sees the track out to its end. At 6:07 it's the only element playing, giving this Superstring 2016 an ending similar to 13.11.11.
Unlike their 21st Century Mix for Airwave, this Superstring Rework takes on a different structure arrangement-wise but curiously enough the moments that matter the most have the original saws as intact as possible. The Airwave rework was the opposite: arrangement wise it followed the 1999 original inch by inch whereas its most important element was enhanced to fit modern day demands... In that regard I find this a better rework to Superstring than the 21st Century Mix was to Airwave. Then again, whereas I have a bit of a hate-love relationship with the 1999 Classic, I have nothing but love for its Sensation-defining 2000 sibling.
And yet, I am left with mixed feelings. First of all there is the (I won't lie) MASSIVE disappointment at this release being just a rework and not a completely new single. In retrospect I should have been aware of that as the 21st Century Mix for Airwave was also released on a Friday. Rank 1 releases on Fridays in this modern mp3 era don't bode well for my high expectations it seems :P So there is the disappointment. Then there is the fact that we are talking about a rework of Superstring (Rank 1 Remix). Said remix is one of my favourite Rank 1 tunes ever so my judgement on any kind of rework will always be harsher than it would be in the case of new production. I understand the motivation behind the rework: they want to be able to fit one of their most beloved Classic in a contemporary set without it feeling out of place tempo and production-wise. Furthermore, looking at High Contrast's recent trend of releasing modern reworks of some of their catalog's gems (Advanced, Lost Connection, Lemon Tree, Dark Side Of The Moon etc), this rework could very well have been suggested by the label. And honestly? I'll take a Rank 1 rework over anyone else's rework of their past/future gems, ANY DAY.
All that said, listening to this rework, I don't feel the excitement, rush or not even those 1/100 moments of disappointment when a new R1 production doesn't manage to enchant me. In fact, I feel kinda void listening to this. The bits I like best (basically the parts with the main riff) are also in their 2000 version... And bar the piano part, all the other additions to this rework aren't thrilling enough for me to choose this version over the 2000 one. And no, I am not being a sour, nagging purist here. If anything, my love for Rank 1's modern discography will have plenty of purists scratching their heads in confusion. I am digressing here though, my point is that this rework has some nice bits but overall it's an upgrade I deem a bit unnecessary. Especially if you consider that over the course of last year, the Trance scene has seen lots of producers slowly drop the Bigroom Festival sound in favour of a Classic-Trance inspired one. This means that sounds and tempos are headed in a direction that makes the modern tracks much more compatible with the Classics. In that sense, this lower-tempo rework would have made a lot more sense 5 years ago when everyone was dropping 128 sets left and right. But right now I feel it misses the boat, which is unusual for Rank 1 considering they've always been ahead. Airwave, Top Gear, Life Less Ordinary, L.E.D. There Be Light, 7 Instead Of 8: each of these were highly innovate back when released and some of them inspired whole subgenres. Speaking of 7 Instead Of 8, with that gem Piet & Benno were way ahead of most of their peers: before Anahera took the scene by storm last year, the Rank 1 gents had already crossed that old-in-a-new-coat venue. And heck, if you look even further back, they already released two remixes on Anjunabeats which had strong nostalgic vibes hinting at the old Dutch Anthem Trance era of the late '90s.
Rank 1. Doing "new oldskool Trance" before it was cool. B|
So yes, ultimately this rework leaves me wanting but as I am listening to it on repeat whilst typing all this I am wondering what potential those non-Superstring bits could have had in a different context. I have to say that "voice acid" element kind of intrigues me. And the addition of that piano in the middle section gives the track a surprisingly organic feeling in that section. I can't help but wonder what the guys could do if they were to take these elements into a new direction for a next track... Albeit rawer, darker. A track that combines hypnotic synthlines with crazy bending Acid voices and Techno synths. But that's just my fanatical mind speculating like a bull gone wild (as usual). This rework, for me, ranks as decent but as always I will prefer a brand new production. If Twitter is anything to go by, I am of a small minority though as so far I've only read highly supportive and appreciative comments towards this rework. To those people I say: enjoy it! Those that are new to Rank 1 I deffo recommend to check this out as groove-wise this rework is typical of their current sound whereas that timeless riff gives them a glimpse of Rank 1's glorious Classic discography. In the end, this release was not what I hoped it to be but other than that they didn't mess up the original so I'd say, go and support it! Let me give you a helping hand: https://www.beatport.com/track/superstring-extended-mix/7989978
| Single Review | June 1st - June 3rd 2016 |