zondag 30 december 2012

Year Review: Razor Top 30 2012

Top 30 Feature | October 20th 2012 - December 31st 2012 |

The end of the year approaches us step by step. I know plenty of people always get sick of all the "Retrospective December Mayhem" in any music-related scene, but I've always loved it. Sure, "Greatest Hits Of All Time" Top 100s / 200s / 500s / 1000s nearly ALWAYS end with "Bohemian Rapsody" at #1 and their Dance Music equivalents nearly ALWAYS end with "Born Slippy" at #1 but still... I am a Nostalgia loving person. History was my favorite subject in High School. Does that mean I live with my head stuck in the past? Nope, but I simply refuse to forget where I came from and I cherish memories a lot. As such, A Retrospective Razor Blogpost is essential to finish the year in style! In this year's last piece of written Razor-opinionism, I will happily look back at 2012 with you and share my 30 favorite tracks of the past 12 moon cycles. In the future I will write similar posts for previous years as I'd love to share the best parts of the annual journeys through EDM I made with those that are interested. Probably not many but heck, as long as I get to write about something precious, I'm good!

Now let's get started: I'll introduce my favorite 30 2012-discovered Gems from a reversed alphabetic order going by track title. I shall only point out which track is my Tune Of The Year 2012, but other than that I shall not pit them against each other in a complete hierarchy. The tracks are simply to diverse in mood, sound and feeling for me to successfully do so.

First, let me introduce these Honorable Mentions, as they didn't make it to the final 30:
- Alex Dolby - City Shark (16 Bit Lolitas Remix)
- CJ Art - Dyssomnia
- Craig Connelly - Robot Wars (Original Mix)
- Cybordelics - Adventures Of Dama
- FaFaq - 21st Century (Original Mix)
- Jody Wisternoff - 95
- Jozef Mihalik - Listen (Original Mix)
- Matt van Wyk - Cura Me
- Maxi Valvona & Matt Lange - Losing Marbles (Original Mix)
- Orkidea - Pacifique (Beetseekers Remix)
- Pryda - Allein (Original Mix)
- Rank 1 & Jochen Miller feat. Sarah Bettens - Wild And Perfect Day (Extended Mix)
- QX 1 - State Of 727 West
- Space Rockerz - Crooked Hook
- Solee - Jule (Pig & Dan Remix)
- Wiegel Meirmans Snitker - Nova Zembla (Armin van Buuren Remix)
- Vinny Troia feat. Jaidene Veda - Do For Love (Matt Lange Remix)



Razormane Top 30 2012 [Reversed-alphabetic order by title]

30. Your Love Ain't Fair (SMD Extended Mix) by Simian Mobile Disco [2012]
One of those memorable "WTF?!" tracks... During a July summernight this year, I was getting my groove on with July Intensified 2012 when this track came in: Jody mixed it so smoothly with the previous one which was already a formidable groover! What I absolutely love about this track is the twisting/stuttering Detroit-Tech like main synth: it has such a warm feel to it! Back by the cool male vocal protesting that "Your Love Ain't Fair" this track's climax' moments are all the more delightful since on the whole the track is somewhat more minimalistic: the beat returns with so much force, pure Housey delight at its finest! Bonuspoints for the mysterious outro, I love it when a track finishes in style rather than just letting the percussive elements slowly die down one by one.

29. Franky Knuckles feat. Jamie Principle - Your Love [1984/1987 -Classic #2 Of 2012]
This year the former ASOT Forum member Ski introduced me to the following documentary [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcpWFiriv3w]. He might be a familiar face to any Trancehead that visited the biggest EDM events in Europe the past 10 years: he is that sympathetic front row fist-pumping raver with the signature waterbottle in the other hand. Now this documentary he introduced me to kick-started my education on the History of House music as it formed in Chicago back in the early '80s with various pioneers telling their stories. In my humble opinion every self-acclaimed EDM fanatic should check this out! According to the narrator, this track was more or less declared the Year Zero in House Music History and boy... What a track it is! I find it hard to grasp how this track can be nearly three decades old(!!) yet sound SO good! The addictive opening melody hook carries throughout the whole track as the powerful drumbeats soon roll in with that short bassline. Soon a stylish yet powerful voice joins the whole to create an impressive House Harmony with Groove, and Emotion. This track really left a strong impression when it 'came on stage' during the documentary and since I usually have an annual Classic, this one could not be left out of my Top 30 this year. The very roots of that gorgeous Mother Of All Genres (the Detroit Techno Purists will have my head for this statement, no doubt!) is a beautiful piece of Electronic Dance Music that puts many productions to shame, especially those so popularly mislabeled as 'House' nowadays. Guetta is not House. DJ Chuckie is not House. Afrojack is not House. Swedish House Maffia is not House either. THIS is House.

28. Touchstone (Orkidea Remix) by Solarstone [2010]
Somehow I managed to keep procrastinating to get this track DESPITE having known it for two years now (yes, even with my passion for music I manage to procrastinate!)... By the very end of 2011 I finally got my hands on it though and throughout 2012 this track has proven its magnificent worth. This is honestly one of the most catchy, addictive, inspiring, uplifting pure Trancers I've heard in the last couple of years and I can only PRAY that I will one day be able to make a Trance track that is put together only half as damn well as this is... My favorite element without doubt has to be that damned-infectious twisting dark synth at the 1:39 minute mark that carries the track on its shoulders from that point onward. Everytime it kicks in, I have a hard time containing a big smile as I headbop with much energy while slipping further and further into this Feel-Good Journey that Tapio so elegantly created... His strings, pumping clean bassline and gifted builds are things that have made him a BIG favorite producer over the last year and I really got a give a big up to Ericc B for his enthusiastic sharing of news on this guy's great sets and self-crafted music.

Not-so-Trivial Cool Fact: Tapio and I share our birthdays (Blake Jarrell too btw!) which kinda makes me cool too. Though not as cool as he is of course (or Blake for that matter).

27. Time (Inception Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer [2010]
"Why is this brilliant 2010 soundtrack in his yearlist for 2012?! Was he living under a rock all this Time (pun intended)?!"... Well eh, no but eh... Up to this day I've failed to check out Inception *looks away in shame* and up till this year I had failed to buy either this gorgeous original or some of the interesting EDM remixes that were made out of it *looks away in shame in opposite direction*. But hey! Better late than never right?! I think the key to the impact this soundtrack has on me has to do with the fact that for Classical music standards, it's pretty simple and actually builds like an EDM track, layer by layer... The ever-stronger growing Sweeping Strings literally sweep you of your feet in this 4:35 minutes lasting Epic Opus. It's no wonder that nearly all of the remixes that were brought forth from its infectious euphoric melodies are at the least solid (though I can imagine more than one reader frowning now while (s)he remembers the Audible Bootleg)... This track ending here was a no-brainer after purchase, really. And like I said, better late than never! Also, Zimmer's piece has been a great inspiration for the intro track of my forthcoming album. :)

26. The Spell (Solarstone Pure Mix) by Solarstone And Clare Stegg [2012]
Solarstone, alongside JOOF & Airwave, has made a statement this year with his Pure Trance concept. Though I completely disagree that he chose Daniel Kandi and especially Guiseppe Ottaviani (among others I do agree with) to back his statement and even though I have discovered I am not the biggest fan of his sound (with exception of his pre-2005 work, his 2008 collab with Mr. Sam & Andy Duguid and obviously, The Spell), I take my hat off to Rich. When it comes to vocal tracks, I can be very tough to seduce and I can be VERY merciless when I don't like -or even worse- hate them. But God bless lfc4life, good friend and co-ASOT Forum resident to have brought this track to my ears in the summer! Clare has a distinct type of powerful voice that fits the track's driving and sad melody. There is something about the combination of Solar's melodies here and her voice that reminds me of something from the '90s or '80s even, but up till this day, I've failed to put my finger on it... :/ Suffice it to say that this is one of the rare occasions where the full vocal mix beats the Dub version hands down. This is Trance-backed-by-vocals at its very best and coming from me, a very harsh vocal-critic, that says enough!

25. The Astrophysical Nebula by John 00 Flemming [2012]
J00F is a Legend, a Pioneer and considered by many Trance Diehards/Oldtimers to be the Main Man in terms of "Serious/Real Trance" together with his no-less-Legendary colleague and friend Laurent, better known as 'Airwave'. In my first blogpost this year I wrote that I don't believe in one-man scene-saving entities (nor two-man scene saving entities for that matter). That said, John and Laurent did deliver where it matters with this track. It has one of the strongest, most bittersweet melancholic and emotional melodies I've ever heard in anything EDM related. That exotic Eastern hymnish humming/singing hits the Soul, and it hits it hard! So soothing, yet so sad but yet hopeful at the same time too, especially with the warm calming main "organ" sort of pluck melody from the breakdown onward... This track represents the emotional side of Trance in the most sophistocated way, the fact that this track is built on Breaks makes it all the more impressive... Where did I run into this beauty you wonder? Here: [http://cyberunknown.wordpress.com/category/inspired-podcast/] > in the February '12 edition. A highly recommended podcast series! Bitter as both John and Laurent might come across at times, they both deserve the highest credit for this masterpiece.

24. Sulfur (Light Mix) by Nicholas Bennison [2011]
Orkidea's Radio Unity #041. One of the masterpiece episodes of these 12 months contained several big tracks including Pryda - Allein and Orkidea - Pacifique (Beetseekers Remix). It also contained this Sulfur track. What I love about this one is how it sounds like a modern mixture of the 2006 Trance sound with that Netherworld (Jules Verne Remix) / Hidden Sun Of Venus feel to it... That build-up could have come from T4L for all I know, the melody definitely reminds me of the older style Trance. All in all this track was one of the highlights of this particular episode, and of 2012 in general. Just another example of how good, actual Trance can sound these days, check it out!

23. Song For You (Original Mix) by Roberto Rodriguez feat. Devon Dunaway [2012]

For a long time, this beauty was going to claim my Tune Of The Year 2012 spot. May Intensified 2012, with some of the best 40 minutes stroke you'll ever hear presented this gem around the 25th minute mark if I'm not mistaken. So what have we got here? Quite possible the most respectable follow-up to the 2011 masterpiece that is Kraak & Smaak - Built For Love: like my TOTY 2011, this track is built around a stylish male vocal, in this particular case provided by Devon Dunaway, who sings on top of a very melancholic groovy beat backed by these sweet pads and minor melodic elements which tread back and forth smoothly. He's later backed by (I assume separately recorded parts of) himself singing on different tone heights. Btw, I absolutely love the gentle, tender female vox that backs up the final part of the track! She's in there almost unnoticeable which makes it all the more special. It's amazing how lyrical content like in this track (it's 100% pure romantic dedication: a full-out love song) works so well in House music but oh-so-poor in Trance music... I guess grooves and love are a superior match hehe ;) [Small side note: if you enjoyed this track, check out the album Dawn by Roberto Rodgriguez > it's full of insane groovy House tracks (mostly instrumentals with minor vocal samples) that will bring Summer to your ears, highly recommended!]

22. Solace by Max Cooper [2011]
Brought to my attention by my good friend Venomena (an ex-ASOT forum regular) earlier this year, is a soundscape of melancholic deepness I have to share with you. The introduction to the track is so amazing... All these strange bending sounds when an incredible trippy melody announces the tone of the track. When that beat and bassline kick in, you will venture into another world, SO DEEP... Max had another track called "Harmonische Serie", personally I feel that would have suited this track MUCH better as this track is pure harmonic bliss. People that look down on EDM as "simple boom-boom-boom music that sounds the same for seven minutes straight" should be imprisoned and forced to listen to this track over and over until they finally open their eyes to the sophistication Our Music can harbor amongst its most Prized Jewels... Okay, so this track wasn't from 2012 originally but having heard it this year, I have to say few tracks can compete with it in terms of production-brilliance and mood...

21. Shape Of Berlin (Basil O'Glue Remix) by Wellenrausch [2012]

Since late 2011, mr. O'Glue has slowly but steadily become one of my favorite producers. This guy makes Progressive tracks of the highest quality, with a really dark/moody edge, just the way I like 'em! His sound so strongly reminds me of ASOT in late 2005 / early 2006, the period when I was still a rookie to the show. That Progressive sound holds a special place in my memories and anything reminding me of that era, is likely to score high in the Razor Books. Most tracks on T4L's late 2010 album Biogenesis managed to do that. And so does Basil. After his remix for Territory last year I was looking forward to hear what he would pull off this year. His remix for Wellenrausch follows the same deep Progressive path as the previous, but with a more melodic hook and of course, the addition of a male vocal. Surprisingly this is one of the better male vocals around, at some parts he sounds more like he's speaking rather than singing. This is in a whole different league than Ben Lost or Jonathan Mendelsohn: this is actually a proper, complementing vocal with minor lyrics that contribute to the track's mood. Superb!

20. Sensation (Original Mix) by T4L [2010]
Speak of the devil! During a trip to a lecture earlier this year I was spacing off in the distance when I suddenly woke up as this track progressed. Since I bought a new batch of tracks just a week prior but hadn't linked every track to a title yet I wondered where the hell I got this amazing Classic-Trance-sounding track from! The build has hints of Synaesthesia in it and the breakdown melody sounds so '98-'03! When I took my mp3 out of my pocket and checked the artist and title, I couldn't contain a smile as it was the same name that had brought me much joy in the final months of 2011: T4L. I had completely forgotten that I had found one more track on their album which I just HAD to buy. "Sensation" is the sort of uplifting Trance I had thought to be dead when the wave of boring generic cliches flooded the scene from 2007 onward. But T4L proved that proper uplifting still exists. Winking to the past, this track manages to put a smile on probably one of the biggest uplifting Trance critics the ASOT Forum has ever seen and that my friends, is an incredible feat. If you haven't already done so, go grab that Biogenesis album!

19. Saturn (Original Mix) by Roberto Rodriguez [2012]
Rodriguez strikes straight from outer space with this one. Intro sounds will make you dream away before the powerful House vibes sneak into your body as the kickdrum joins in and you start headbopping, tapping your feet and perhaps, start smiling too... There is so much layered, sophisticated funk in this track, I can't stop grinning while writing it down! Can't stop moving either! This track, as well as Rodriguez' entire album sounds like a crossbreed between two of my favorite albums from last year: Eelke Kleijn's Untold Stories meets Kraak & Smaak's Electric Hustle in this tasty album. This track has the endless K&S groove whilst maintaining a layered sophistication quite similar to Eelke's album. Best of two great worlds, truly outstanding House gem here.

18. Orinoco by Jody Wisternoff [2012]
I wrote about this track in my review for Jody's Trails We Blaze, earlier in July: [http://razormaneofficial.blogspot.nl/2012/06/album-review-jody-wisternoff-trails-we.html]. I stand by what I wrote back then, this is Housey goodness at its Tranciest, a pure delight and musical treat for your ears... That exotic opening string still intrigues me! You really made something special here, Jody. :)

17. Not Over Yet (Max Graham vs. Protoculture Remix) by Grace [2011]
Yeah, yeah, yeah, this remix has been remixed a gazillion times. But for once, a remix like that actually manages to work for me throughout an entire year. Though I first heard it over the summer of 2011, I didn't get this one until December that year when I tried to catch up with a lot of tracks I hadn't gotten my hands on yet. It's surprising that this track ended up in here actually. It wasn't until a month ago when I started revisiting faves to make my final selection for this list that I realized how damn euphoric 4:53 still made me feel, no less than eleven months later! I dunno, that riff is just brilliant! It sounds so old yet so polished... And the vocals... Well, they are simply golden! Proto & Max managed to make a great Trancer here and I acknowledge them for it.

16. Never Lose The Magic by Menno de Jong [2012]
Never lose the magic indeed! This track takes you back, straight to the days of Gouryella, Binary Finary and all the other Dutch Trance Anthem style tracks. The piano-based, string-backed breakdown is out of this world: I thought Turtle Paradise last year was a great effort at capturing that Oldstyle but Menno surpassed himself with this one. It's as if we're back in 2000-2002, how can such Saws not seduce you? Melodywise this sounds like Ferry or Armin back in those days and that's definitely not a bad thing. Menno's isn't re-inventing the wheel here, let's be honest about that. Drop this track in a All-Classics set and you can fool a first-time listener to this track about its age. This is not necessarily what I want more producers to do, to create music that sounds like its ten years old but heck, that would still be heaps better than a lot of the nonsense we get fed nowadays anyway! After appearing in my Top lists for the last time in 2010 with Last Night Tonight, Menno makes a welcome return among my Creme De La Creme this year. Welcome back, my friend!

15. Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem) (Original Mix) by Marshall Jefferson and On The House [1987 -Classic #1 Of 2012]
When that documentary Ski introduced me to was about to end, the creators introduced me to The House Music Anthem. The moment I heard that piano backed by Marshall Jefferson proudly telling how people were dumbstruck by a piano on a House record ("you can't have no piano on a House track!") I nearly jumped out of my seat as the puzzle pieces finally fell in their place: all these years there were certain sort of House as well as Techno tracks that used a simple sort of three tone-layer melodies which kept continuing throughout  a track, sometimes with a lot of variation, sometimes without any variation... Whenever tracks like these reached me, I reacted to them with much enthusiasm... When I heard this track I finally understood where it all came from. This record and its euphoric lyrical content was an Ode to the blooming House culture of that time and it flabbergasts me that a track that's a quarter of a century(!) old can instantly turn my groove mode on. This track could have been my three-year-older brother had it been a person! You know what this says? Real Music Is Timeless. I'm not trying to appeal to the older analogue/vinyl generation by writing all this praise for a track I am positive many of said generation will have cherished up to this day. But it never ceases to amaze me how certain things were just so much better in the past... You all know my frustration about the caricature Trance music has turned into? Can you imagine how the people that grew up with this Anthem must have felt through the decades seeing their beloved House being mislabeled by legions of crappy artists and oblivious fans? Aw well. If we look at the bare fact that a Trance fanatic like yours truly can fall so madly in love with a House Classic as pure as this track, there is nothing to worry about. Real Music Is Timeless!

14. Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk - Love Can't Turn Around (Ben Liebrand House Remix) [1986 -Classic #3 Of 2012]

Three times a "Classic of the Year 20-X" entry is a bit excessive, isn't it? It can't be helped though, my much-needed venture into the past of House music and early EDM brought me into touch with some older stuff that I simply cannot neglect. You could say my love for this track couldn't turn around (sorry, open door!) the moment I heard it and it grooved my socks off! Where do I begin... The catchy vocal stutters? The disco-influenced string play? The rolling infectious piano line from 3:24 onward? The vocal style? All the little melody variations throughout the whole track? The feelgood vibe so strongly alive in a 26 year old production? This track defines the word "catchy" and ending up in this list is well deserved. Oldskool ftw!

13. Just One More by Jody Wisternoff feat. Pete Josef [2012]

Like Orinoco, this track already received my praise in the June blogpost, and like Orinoco, the praise still stands. Outstanding vocal performance by Pete, pure class from his part and of course MaestroJody delivers a grooving, soothing, summer-laced soundtrack with style. I've played this track so often by now, but I think I'll play it... Just One More time (bad joke, I know).

12. Illusion (Dub Mix) by Rave Channel [2012]
As opposed to The Spell, this track is the usual 'Dub Mix owns Original' ordeal. Back in April, during Rank 1's Radio Rush #025, I ran into great release by Rave Channel. Rave Channel had blown my mind three months earlier by excellently remixing a track I deemed uncapable of being saved: "Dash Berlin feat. Jonathan Mendelsohn - Better Half Of Me". Undoubtedly one of the worst Pop Trance garbage tracks I have ever heard was given a 180 degree experience shift by Rave Channel. The real  magic came with their own single though. This track's thugging Techy beats, enchanting voice echoes and -most importantly- its gorgeous breakdown. Breakdowns in Trance can be too long, too cliché and even though this one isn't groundbreaking or innovative in the slightest, 3:43 causes powerful goosebumps everytime I hear it: that thundering bassline pattern in combination with the minor vocal and the Trance synths create a harmonic whole that sends me high... As if that wasn't enough, the track's main melody line is brought forth by that Jochen Miller sounding synth (from when he was on fire 2008-2011). This is the sort of modern Techy/Electroish Trance style track that many longer time fans might find soulless, I absolutely dig this track though. A well deserved placing after more than eight months of continued goosebumps per play.

11. Hurting (C2 Runaway Edit Instrumental) by Friendly Fires [2012]

Boy oh boy oh boy... Do they come any slicker than this?? Enter March Intensified 2012, one of the grooviest installments I've heard yet... This mix was so much slower than usual, it was as if I was listening to Add2Basket & Luke Fair's amazing Rogue Show episodes! Hurting was the third track in this golden mix (though second actual full track if you disregard the intro) and man, whatta a track it was. The slow, jammin' groovy beats are back by all sorts of subtle elements and instruments as well as very subtly enhanced vocal chop. After the 2nd minute mark an '80s style vocal kicks in for a bit, giving this track some extra class. The track then slowly heads into a deeper direction which is no less catchy then everything preceding it while the vocal shortly returns to say "Hurting" a few times before vanishing again: the deepness continues until 6:30 when the vocal returns with the track's initial melodic elements to complete a funkalicious journey. This has got to be one of the best Housiest tracks I've ever heard, there is just no other track that can instantly summon Spring/Summer vibes as much as this one. A true must-hear!

10. HNT by I:Cube [2012]
"My Brothers and Sisters... Black... The Original... They say that Black Is Back... But when did it ever leave?" followed by that damn Groove of Grooves... This track has got the attitude. Cool vocal on top, it's a track that could carry on forever as far as I'm concerned. Originally came across it in Add2Basket's edition of The Rogue Show #014 and luckily for me it also appeared on Jody March 2012 Intensified: unlike Add2Basket & Luke Fair, Jody does maintain tracklists of his sets which allowed me to find the name behind the killer ID! Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... It doesn't matter when I listened to this track, it rocked EVERYTIME and still does so now. Just a shame it's so difficult to acquire digitally through legal means... *sigh* "Feel the rhythm!" *feels the rhythm* Bliss...

09. Forme (Guy J PM Mix) by Gill Norris [2012]
Damn... What we have here, is one scintillating, mesmerizing, DEEP production from the hands of Maestro Guy J... The Razor Verdict reads that this is Progressive at its very finest, there is such a surreal magical nocturnal feel to this track! It makes me want to get up at midnight and just walk the deserted streets of Amsterdam during a fresh, gloomy moon-lit night... Can you picture that? This track has an atmosphere that comes from outer space and the title befits its content so well! It's all thanks to Markus whom dropped this on his GDJB show several times. Say what you want of his Pitch-noise filled live sets, as far as his Radioshow goes, he still knows his Progressive.

08. Far East Garden (Original Mix) by Nhato [2011]
Plunged into my mp3 player at the very beginning of this year, this Nhato Bomba has been a favorite throughout. After impressing me with his epic remix for Painting Pyramids" (just how I love my Techtrance) and his own beautiful Dreamer's Symphony (thanks again, Aleksandra a.k.a. raffy!) he yet again manages to craft a Razor Fave! What I absolutely love about this track is the awesome fusion of Techtrance with Japanese harmonies and instruments: especially the almost "Anime/Videogame" style Electric Guitar(!) breakdown is pure joy. This track has got it all: exoticism, euphoria, beauty, energy and balls, Nhato-style! Though perhaps not as melodically mind-blowing as Dreamer's Symphony, this track still pushes all the right buttons for me. And it has done so impressively across this entire year. Nhato-Sensei! We salute you with much respect!

07. Eternal Flame (Original Breaks Mix) by Alex M.O.R.P.H. [2012]
M.O.R.P.H. is a strange one in my books. Every now and then, the guy shows his ability to make some very cool or very beautiful tracks (Life Less Ordinary, Walk The Edge -even though it took a LONG while to grow on me, Purple Audio, his remix for PvD - In Circles) as well as some of the most boring borderline generic 136-138 BPM you can imagine. This track however, belongs to the former category. Quite a memorable track, heard it by "accident" one a May or June night: GDJB had ended and since I had already said my goodbyes to ASOT a few months earlier there was no need to be on DI.fm. I was goofing off for a bit though and before I knew it the ASOT intro came on and wham! Instant breakbeat kicks in with this gorgeous piano-back melody. I couldn't believe that a 2012 episode of ASOT could start with something so brilliant, the last time had been in 2010 probably... All the more surprising was it to find out this track came from the hands of M.O.R.P.H.! Short but powerful and beautiful too, this track definitely deserves a spot among my favorites of 2012. Shame there is no longer version for it, I refuse to support that boring 'Reach For The Degga Mix'; kinda defeats the purpose of the cool breakbeat-meets-beautiful-melody concept, no?

06. Eskylator (Reaky Remix) by Pedro Delgardo vs. Reaky [2010]
Back in 2007, I remember being blown away by three powerful, energetic Techtrance/Techno driven monsters throughout that year: these Bombas were Orjan Nilsen - Black Mamba, Mojado - Kaktus and of course the one and only Ernesto vs. Bastian - Thrill. What has made these tracks memorable over all these years is that my first acquaintance with each of them was greeted with a loud "WTF!" uttered in sheer disbelief followed by varying-in-length-moments of jaw dropping. These type of tracks define a large portion of my taste and ever since these three I can't quite remember the last time heard an equally driving, mad, techy, monster record... ...until I listened to Rok Hecl's Trancified #005 Mix [http://www.mixcloud.com/rokhecl/trancified-005/] and got bombarded with the seventh track, badassly titled: "Eskylator" (yes I just made "badassly" up and also: is it a coincidence that epic music is always related to my favorite number?). This track is the first of the energetic kind in years to have given me a nearly identical jolt of pure hysterical happiness as the three mentioned above... I raved my chair to bits while this track banged through my headphones, as it instantly cemented a spot in my Top list for this year. Rok, I can't thank you enough! And Reaky? *bows down*

05. El Dorado (Original Mix) by Claessen & Martens [2011]
Another case of a procrastinated purchase leading to late-appreciation... After Hartseer, We.Are and Cryptonalysis, Claessen strikes with the Land Of Gold. Fitting title for a golden track. Even though there is a lot of Hartseer in this track, I can blink an eye since that Hartseer sound is SO good... Furthermore, unlike the melancholic Hartseer, El Dorado is euphoric, a true victory anthem for the Trance fanatic. 2:51 sees a sort of crystal clear high piano-sound join the energetic collective before we dive into a moment of peace in the breakdown. 3:47 will remind you of the Classic Trance glory days... Not long after this nostalgic wink, 4:16 will send a shockwave of shivers down your spine as an exotic, non-compromising magical flute melody entrances you. Before you know it, the energy returns in full force as you chairrave like a mad(wo)man! These "Retro" style Trancer by Claessen over the course of 2010-2011 have been an absolute delight and this one might just be one of his finest moments... May 2013 see the release of another such Claessen masterclass production!

04. Distant Bar (16 Bit Lolita's Remix) by Astrid Suryanto [2009]

Disregarding my triple Classic entries, this track is the oldest non-2012 released record to have made it into this selection. Unlike many of the postponed 2011 purchases, I came across this track by "accident". Earlier this year I was planning to buy 16 Bit Lolita's new artist album: whilst discussing expectations for this album on the ASOT Forum, I saw many members post quite some track by the Lolita's which I was unfamiliar with. So following the last month of intense courses, I treated myself on a huge batch of a 100 WAV tracks which included a lot of oldskool EDM tracks as well as a lot of Matt Lange & 16 Bit Lolita's productions, just to educate myself on their sound. Of all those tracks in the batch, this one stood out the most... This track is all about longing. If I'd have a crush right now, I'd probably listen to this non-stop! The Lolita's honor the name of this track with their sweet nostalgic melodies in this. It's the strings that create that feeling of longing so well... The melody isn't too complex, but the layering is done patiently and proper. This track slowly pulls me to some misty yet sunny abandoned small island with a bar whilst the sun slowly goes down. As I sit and sip from my icecold cocktail drink, I stare across the water, into the distance feeling somewhat sad yet relieved and fulfilled... It's hard to properly translate the image and feeling this track gives me but suffice it to say that this is a real beauty in my books...

03. Aura (G-Tek Remix) by David Akermanis [2011]
Credits for this one go to Jaytech's EYOC 2011 set, a set I thoroughly enjoyed throughout Spring and Summer this year, especially during those long sessions I had to work on my bloody essays. Even though that whole set is pure gold (bar that annoying Promises Remix -the more emo Richard Durand version is where it's at!- & Thing Called Love) it was this track that stood out: it INSTANTLY shot me back to May 2007, when doing these long public transport trips to the city centre whilst spacing my mind out on the road of life... It mostly reminds me of Teya - Only You (Dub). Aura is defined by its dreamy, nostalgic Trance synths (used like pads), backed by powerful deep bass and sweet vocal chops, giving the track such a nostalgic atmosphere... I am a sucker for tracks like this, ESPECIALLY if they remind me of one of my fave musical years ever, namely 2007.

02. Armagedon (Original Mix) by Ali Wilson & Lee Osborn [2012]

Rank 1's Radio Rush #023 from February this year had this one as the pre-final track of the episode. It's a track that managed to leave its mark on me. Why? Because after a disappointing 2011, High Contrast Recordings FINALLY released something that sounded like High Contrast Recordings to me again: that warm main lead, so techy, so distorted, yet with something melodic to it in a weird abstract way only my messed-up brain understands! Backed by the euphoric Trance synths in its main part, Ali & Lee managed to unleash a bigroom track that doesn't sound generic like most of the Techy stuff Coldharbour releases nowadays and better yet: they avoided the Trouse cliches of contemporary High Contrast tracks altogether. This is a track that honors the once respectful legacy of the High Contrast Clan, a proud Offspring of the Legendary ID&T imprint that brought forth many Classics and artists that collectively formed my taste and vision on Trance throughout the years... I sincerly hope High Contrast Recordings will release less cheesy Trouse and more quality Techtrance like this over 2013-2014. Regardless, for 2012, Ali & Lee have my utmost gratitude for this great track.

#1. 7 Instead Of 8 (Original Mix) by Rank 1 [Razormane's Tune Of The Year 2012]

Save the very best, for the very last... Now I already dedicated a whole blogpost to this masterpiece [which you can find here: http://razormaneofficial.blogspot.nl/2012/10/single-review-rank-1-7-instead-of-8.html] so I think it would be a bit excessive to write another praise-piece here. Suffice it to say that this track has strongly rekindled my hopes for Trance music in 2013. With more to come in a similar vein, things look bright for The Future! Listening to this track, it's hard to believe the same guys were beyond the Anthem nearly a decade ago... The Anthem that brought forth "Razormane"... ;)



Concluding
After my thirty-fold-praise (with some mini-rants inbetween hehe!) I can only conclude that 2012 was a great year in EDM music for me. The music I bought and listened to as well as the music I've been making myself (Mane Festival Theme being my personal highlight this year [http://razormaneofficial.blogspot.nl/2012/09/new-razormane-mane-festival-theme-2012.html]) and of course the music scene I've written about this year have all contributed to lots of fun and enjoyment. At the moment of publishing, my blog has been read over 1105 times (own pageviews not included) which is something I am very pleased with! I hope to continue to be able to deliver a monthly blogpost and I hope I can gain a total of 2000 reads by next year December! A big warm thank you to everyone (especially my ASOT Forum & Twitter buddies) that took the time to check out my rants and praise and retweet/favorite/share/like them on social media sites or forums! A personal thank you to Amos on the Anjunabeat forum, was very surprised to discover I am someone's favorite blogwriter! :D Hope I can keep you interested next year mate, thanks for sharing my November article!

As you know by now, I look forward to EDM's 2013 with much delight! One of the things I'm looking forward to the most is revealing my finished album "The BPM Spectrum" on Soundcloud. Though I am still just an amateur, this album has been under construction for nearly two years now and features tracks in styles I absolutely love. It's the most diverse project I've ever worked on and the longest too! I sincerely hope people will like what I made and I hope the finished product won't take too long to be realized as originally the album should have been finished by August this year... Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed the read, I most definitely enjoyed writing it! All that rests for me is to wish you all the best in health, friendship, love, family, fun and music for 2013! Be safe and enjoy the last moments of 2012! I look forward to boring/annoying/entertaining(?) you just as much as I did this year! Happy New Year kids!

-Papa Razor

dinsdag 25 december 2012

Merry Christmas All!

 Razormane Blogpost #9 | December 25th 2012 |


Merry Christmas everyone!


Like FL studio always says in its title bar around this period: don't eat too much tonight! You'll grow as fat as Santa before you know it!

vrijdag 30 november 2012

Looking Back, Analyzing & Looking Ahead

 Scene Analysis | November 29th - November 30th 2012 |

This year is slowly dropping its curtains: 2013 is swiftly on its way to us. I believe now might be a nice moment to look at 2012 in retrospect, analyze myself as a Trance fanatic throughout the years and look ahead to what I expect will be a promising new year!



Finally Feeling The Fun Again... 
As we entered 2012, I had decided to quit following ASOT but also to distance myself from Armin from #550 onward UNLESS both "brands" would introduce me to something positive in which case I would logically support that positive thing: in exchange for that I would regularly start following Markus Schulz' GDJB broadcast instead, accompanied by the monthly Radio Unity broadcast by Orkidea. A nice addition to these shows was the bi-monthly Inspired Podcast by Atmospheric Energy which (unfortunately) stopped being updated in June [http://cyberunknown.wordpress.com/category/inspired-podcast/]. There was no other way for me to start enjoying and discovering proper Trance &  Progressive again if I kept lying to myself that Armin would either become as diverse and funky again as he was in  2007-2008 or as melodic and Progressive Perfect as he was in 2005-2006. June/July 2011 was the point that my disappointment with ASOT, Trance and the route EDM was taking at large reached its height and I felt like dumping this music scene altogether. Thank God for the last weekend of July that year in which Rank 1's DJ sets at Electronic  Family Festival and Ford Fiesta Summersounds turned my mind around.

As 2012 progressed and I embraced Radio Unity and GDJB as my new havens for proper Trance and proper Progressive respectively, with the Inspired Podcast offering the more Downtempo/Breaks driven relaxing nutrients for my EDM hunger, I came to realize how "real Trance" (as in Trance with long melodic textures, deep builds and non-cliché piano breakdowns) did very much still exist, be it that sometimes there could be a driving Psy-Trance bassline underneath to give it a more energetic twist. The same goes for the Progressive brilliance that reached my ears through the likes of Basil O'Glue, Wellenrausch, Tucandeo, Guy J, Styller, Danilo Ercole and others supported on GDJB (mind you, I am solely referring to the Progressive dropped on this show, the Coldharbour Bigroom sound is quickly becoming as generic as 140 BPM uplifting has been for ages now)
. Both these shows have their dedicated followers and both Orkidea and Markus are capable of finding such beautiful music. Orki even manages to kick off some shows with Breaks (like the flawless Radio Unity #045) or with a slightly more Progressive House vibe á la Jody Wisternoff before building towards more Trancey goodness. Every time I heard a track that nostalgically shot me back to my early 2006 ASOT days I couldn't help but wonder: "Armin, what is your excuse to keep playing cheap Trouse, stupid vocal Pop-Trance and braindead Generic Uplifting?" Do you know the answer to this rethorical question? It's quite a simple one actually! You see, there is no excuse. It's just reality: Markus & Orkidea drop quality Progressive (House) and Trance, Armin does not. Not for someone that first got acquinted with Trance in 2003, 1999, 2005 or whenever. As I came to realize this, I started feeling joy for Trance music again but I also started to believe that this music is not dead; it is simply mislabeled by legions of people new to the scene or deliberately ignorant of its Past.


...Becoming What You Always Hated...
2012 might be the year I've finally come to face that I have become a so-called "Purist". I have always detested the term as it implied that the person in question had the authority to designate what is Trance and what is not as opposed to others who would be too "noobish" to have the same authority or knowledge for that matter. I detested the term because it allowed a handful of arrogant elitist pr*cks to dismiss the musical experience of those newer to the scene than them. Yet throughout the years I've noticed how my thought patterns regarding Trance and EDM in general having become increasingly similar to that of proudly self-acclaimed Purists. So should I apologize for my transformation? No. Unlike many Purists I've encountered throughout my time on Trance forums as well as social media in more recent times, I've always stated my opinions as opinions and not as Facts or Totalitarian Law. That said, I have become aware that some people think that Trance music is merely an opinion which is something I've come to fiercely resist. Trance music (or any specific genre for that matter) is not an opinion. By the logic of that train of thought, someone could claim that because Rock music puts them in a higher state in which they are disconnected from their surrounding that Rock music falls under Trance too.

...


Now that's plain bullsh*t, of course. Trance, as well as any genre for that matter, is bounded by vague borders we can't accurately describe but of which we can agree to a large extent where these borders lie. Moreover, we can definitely agree what does not count as Trance. Now this is an Age-Old tricky subject of which I believe there will never be agreement since the categorization of any genre leads to objectifying them, making them static, frozen entities in the flow of time that in a way, makes no sense at all. Then again, thinking of a genre as an endless continuing stream defies the essence that allows it to be a genre all together. There seems to be a constant clash between the verbally established borders versus the temporal transformation of a genre which makes it hard to ever reach consensus over what is or what is not. If we verbally try to categorize a genre, we will always end up doing it   injustice. I believe there is a social scientific theory that proposes that once we try to capture thoughts, emotions or music in langauge, it loses its fluidity and its essence at the same time. I believe this idea can be mentioned as one of the core problems underlying the so-called "decrease of P.L.U.R." many claim to be tainting EDM scenes today. Even though I am rather skeptical  of depicting the past as one big, happy, Conflict-Free Hippie Era, I can agree that today's EDM communities are sometimes overflowing with verbal conflict. How has this come to pass? Allow me to give my vision on that.



Analyzing... 
Consider that music experience, in any form, is an individual experience at best. Imagine a Trance gig where people close their eyes during a breakdown, all enlocked in a clean ecstasy making them feel liberated from the Triviality Of Everyday Life: in this setting, the chances of there being the exact same thoughts or the exact same images during each individuals' closed-eyes moments is pretty much non-existent. The euphoria might be shared yes, and the euphoria may cause a similar inner sensation but parts of that breakdown experience will still remain specific to the individual. Now imagine someone sitting at home, all alone, listening to a new track and being blown away by its sheer quality. The first thing you'd like to do (besides replaying it) is share your happiness over the music's power with someone else. This how many of us got into the music after all: by being dragged into it by others or approaching others that knew more about it than you did. The moment we start sharing our positive music experiences with others and get them involved, we build our musical communities with mostly like-minded people. But the music itself is so vast and diverse that the communities that sprout out of them will be too. Once the Internet emerged and helped this EDM music spread out to the many corners of the Globe, countless music communities rose in its wake. As we had already verbalized our music experiences -and in turn the music itself- we made them more static than they actually were in the individual experience. This process of "statification" so to speak, was inevitable: it is impossible for me to show you the images I see when I first heard Airbase - Escape for instance. Neither can you show me the images you saw when you first heard Perry O Neil - Wave Force. As years went by, the music slowly transformed with each passing year. Some started feeling disillusioned with the music development and either jumped to other genres or left the scene completely. Some remained. Logically, any kind of music is driven by fads and fashions which the artists as well as the fans react upon: some embrace, others resist, then some actively start a counter-movement: the fans' movement is pretty similar. With the rise of new generations and the phases of musical transformation strongly felt, conflicts started to arise. The shared experiences of older generation barely overlapped with that of newer ones, the result being a generation-based fragmentation where these diverse fans could not See Eye To Eye (or rather, where they could not Hear Ear To Ear). Then there was the  process of genre-based fragmentation taking place which I believe we can blame on the very static verbalization of music. As a result, the EDM scenes were presented overly static which resulted in people being deterministically "Progressive" (in the sense of being anti-boundary, anti-genre, anti-Classic: everything older than last year was "boring", etc.) as well as people being deterministically "Purist" (everything contemporary being put out is "poorly mastered", lacks "soul", is "painful to the ears", is created by "talentless people", is just "to gain  profit" etc.). This is not to say the Internet only caused strife among fans, but it certainly carried the seeds and fertile grounds to make conflict a common part of the online EDM experience. I think we can attribute some of the negativity to the slight anonymity accompanying one's presence on the Internet. Just scroll through some random Youtube videos and notice how the most idiotic usernames make the most stupid comments, often just seeking an online fight for the sake of it. The same can be applied to online EDM communities, and Trance communities in particular. Clashes within and between these communities has become more common, more widespread and larger in scale too. These conflicts are the flipside to the Good that the Internet can and has brought us and I think it's a flip side that Humanity is incapable of overcoming.


...And Realizing...
True, I myself am guilty of having contributed to genre-clashes throughout the years. Curiously, I took on both Purists and new generation fans in these "flame wars", be it in alternating phases throughout the years. It's ironic to see how throughout time my positions have shifted gradually in such a way that I have always been a type of music fan I sooner or later found myself in conflict with. Irony aside, I've become fully aware of all these developments and changes, and to some  degree, their inevitability. My goal for the next years is to try to tone down my passionate involvements in debates I know that can't be won or prevented since the "adversaries" are just as stubborn as me, or too "fresh" to the scene to understand some of its vile machinations (I myself had trouble accepting/digesting some of them). Then again, the idea of  becoming less outspoken might be wishful thinking considering I've always been like that, whether as a fresh new fan of 2005-and-onward-Trance or a now somewhat more educated "Purist" fan of EDM with a taste for the Classics and a high intolerance for much of the generic, mass-produced, overvocalized/overpoppified kind, the unnecessarily noisy music or the music lacking imagination. Besides, with my embracing of GDJB and Radio Unity, 2012 has proven that my "Purist" taste is not that of an extinct "Forum Warrior": on the contrary, if anything, I and my Like-minded Brethren are Many. And you know what? 2013 might see the Music We Hold Dear, reborn. Yes that's right, I hold high hopes for a gradual Renaissance of Trance music starting in 2013. Here are my reasons to be so naive:


...The Counter-Movement Wave Has Begun
Solarstone, backed by Legends/Veterans like John 00 Flemming and Orkidea, has initiated the "Pure Trance" concept as a serious offensive/statement against the overproduced Trouse cr*p that has become the norm, EDM-wide. This concept holds a  series of events with AH.fm support broadcast giving it a steady platform to attain ground next to the overrated ASOT  events. Airwave, a close friend of JOOF, released his album Dark Lines earlier this year which spawned a deep, serious  side of Trance which was once the norm in our scene. The album has had an overall positive reception and further proves the need for this music to be put out and supported. Then there is Rank 1 who unleashed 7 Instead Of 8 last month, and with it, garnered positive reactions unlike I've ever seen for any of their other singles in the past years. The joyous news is that this 7 Instead Of 8 sound is not just a temporarily soundphase but rather the announcement of more "hypnotic flow" to come regarding Rank 1 [read all about it in the interview they did here: http://www.dmcworld.net/features/entry/features/rank-1]. More artists seem to have claimed a return to the roots in  the (near) future. I believe that some have (rightfully) grown tired of the now generic short-hard lead template doctrine whilst others have been punished for their sacred glorification of a very limited "new" style in tango with a  respectless sacking of their previous sound. Whatever their motivation, people moving Back To Their Roots is a foresight I welcome with open arms. Not because I'm looking forward to another Synaesthesia, another Universal Nation, another Superstring, another Exhale, another Orange Theme, or another Hidden Sun Of Venus. No, I am looking forward to new tracks that will outshine these Classics because the artists responsible for them have had over a Decade now to re-invent themselves over and over and finally have the Technology and Know-How to produce Yesterday's Sentiment with the cleanest sounds, craziest twists and strongest bends ever. This is really putting tremendous faith in what so-far can only be called faint signals of a possible turning-point in our music. But for once, I dare to be a naive Dreamer again, just like back in 2005, when the Sky seemed to be the Limit regarding Music. I dream that the greatest producers are scene has (or had) to offer become unique and distinct again, disconnected from bandwagons and all focused on building a Worthy Musical Legacy.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying out a pair of new shoes. BUT. Wouldn't it suck to have thrown out your old trusty ones before having tried the new ones long enough to realize they were not your thing after all? I have my moments when I really enjoy a contemporary "noisy club" track like say, Festen - Wassup Vegas (though should I add this might in part be caused by that wicked main synth sounding similar to the one in Meet Her At The Love Parade?)... And I'm not THAT obsessed with Oldskool EDM that I demand each track be built with 909 kickdrums before I give them a chance. But let's be honest: it's time people stopped being so genre-phobic/fad-ophilic and stopped lying to themselves about what they do. In my eyes, EDM is like a supermarket: it offers a variety of distinct products (read: genres) which you may or may not like or need. If you look at it like this, suddenly you realize how much sense it makes to place the milk where the beans are stocked... And suddenly there's no point in going there if the products lose their diversity because everyone offers the same garbage.


Anyhoo. Let me make a toast *collides glass with bottle* to the return of Bounded Diversity within a Reborn Trance in 2013. Cheers!

maandag 29 oktober 2012

Single Review: Rank 1 - 7 Instead Of 8 [October 2012]


They Are Back
Well said, High Contrast Recordings! This month's post will be wholly dedicated to Rank 1's brand new single 7 Instead Of  8. Being a huge fan of the guys, expect a lengthy, full-of-praise biased review. In other words, now is the time to decide whether you stay on this page or not and cringe your toes at my praiseful ramblings. It's not too late, you can still click away!! I mean it, you don't have to read! What if the World was about to end and you wasted your last minutes reading this? If you don't want to, then don't! ... So. Still here? Well then, let's get it over with.

August 2012: Piet headed over to The Gallery at Ministry Of  Sound to spin a two hour set which Be@Tv broadcasted live. As the 9th track kicked in, I heard these "Traces Of  Benno" in the set's most melancholic and Trancey "less is more" track. And thus the speculation about a new Rank 1 track had begun! http://forum.astateoftrance.com/topic/21889-rank-1-7-instead-of-8-revealed-new-single/. I eventually managed to get a rip of the set and listened to it over and over. At one point I felt something sounded... Different, out of sync perhaps. I then counted the claps in the breakdown and noticed there to be 14 and not the expected 16. Could it be THAT track at last?? You see, in March/April 2011 they revealed they were working on a new single that would be "different" and the only hint they gave us was that it would be built on a 7/8 time signature rather then the usual 4/4 or 8/8. Soon, the guys began cryptically tweeting and facebooking about sevens and eights. I grew more confident that this about-to-be-revealed-single had to be the ID I had on repeat the whole time. Two months later, on October 15th, I was finally relieved of my suspicions as this trailer proved my speculation right http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uhEbufX3w5w. The word was finally out.


With 7 Instead Of 8, the Rank 1 gents have put out a record-breaking third (by their no-more-than-two-singles-a-year standard) 2012 single. It's the first non-collaboration single since L.E.D. There Be Light leaked out in 2008's dying days. And boy, what a return to form it is.


Rank 1 - 7 Instead Of 8 (Original Mix) [08:01]
http://www.beatport.com/track/7-instead-of-8-original-mix/3863278

This new track was built on seven rather than eight measures, giving the track a slightly different rhythm which is most noticeable whilst being mixed with other EDM tracks. It's slightly minimalistic in the build, deploying a "less-is-more" approach, not unlike their Fire Wire Remix. The build might remind the longer-time Trance fan of Push's Universal Nation as it has a similar vibe going there. The track starts with a sound similar to that And Then.../L.E.D.'s "telephone" beep which is then supplemented by a nice driving kick. The build is further accompanied by all sorts of subtle background "liquid" sounds and echoes, as a somewhat haunting synth joins in at one point. All these elements together, especially in the breakdown, cause me to envision some sort of deep ocean setting of a long forgotten civilization... There is something very mysterious to the melody as well as something sad. As the main lead gets backed by more elements, the haunting melancholic Blue Fear sort of synth plays along the now revealed main melody to send shivers down your spine. What a mesmerizing harmony of melodies! A snare backs the increasing climatic elements to unleash a beautiful Trance rush. As the melody lines alternate and tread back and forth, a reprise follows after a second climax, keeping you entranced an enchanted even longer. In this reprise the plucked melody pattern changes from its initial form, giving the second part a nice twist. Truly, Rank 1-style, truly genius! This second part was mixed out during Piet's The Gallery set (or perhaps it wasn't in there yet), but during ASOT #583 it unexpectedly lasted longer, blowing me away as the track was more polished and felt more "complete" than that August promo version: that extra layer after the climax gives the track a slightly more dramatic edge and the alternate reprise melody lengthens the track's epicness without sounding artificial or unnecessary. The main elements then tune down as the kick returns and the track reverse-builds to its end, with the haunting synth taking the dominant role in this final part of the track for the most part before slowly dying down. Damn... "Trance Is Dead" you say? If anything, Trance Is Back With A Vengeance, and She's sounding better than ever too.


Why can't it be like this More Often?
When my brother checked out the Be@Tv link I sent him, he positively remarked that it was as if Rank 1 stepped into a time machine to create this track. I completely agree with him. I mean, That Oldskool Vibe, what else can it be then truly delicious! The track's overall minimalistic approach gives it that "pioneer touch" that many of the older Classics possess. The only difference between this track and its "98/99 forefathers" is of course the advanced production/mastering quality with crisp, crystal clear sounds: merging Yesterday's Sentiment with Today's Sounds (all of it wrapped in an unusual-for-common-EDM 7/8 time signature), Rank 1 create their most beautiful as well as their freshest track since Opus 17 and L.E.D. There Be Light respectively. Now Piet and Benno aren't the first to have used this time signature (in this interview http://trancehub.com/interviews/djs-producers/orkidea-20/ Orkidea explains how he and Solarstone used the 7/8 time signature for Slowmotion II, the  gorgeous follow-up to Slowmotion from 2008 > definitely another track I recommend!). They are however, the first to give this little fact much attention, as  evidenced by the track's self explanatory title. This is the sort of innovation I wish (ex-)producers in Trance would take more notice off. Like one of the commentator's in the "World Premier" Youtube rip rightfully remarked: "Finally innovation within the trance scene without the stupid dubstep, trouse, or other shittyness". By simply employing a slightly different rhythm with a bit of a Nostalgic Oldskool Touch, 7 Instead  Of 8 instantly blows every High Contrast release of the past years out of the water. It also eclipses all of its older siblings all the way back to at least L.E.D. as far as I'm concerned. Rank 1 proves you don't have to re-invent the wheel to make a new car that feels Fresh and rides like a Dream.

Which leads me to the next thing. This track seems to mark the end of a somewhat systematic production schematic the guys have deployed since going Techy all the way back in 2004. Every two to three years since then have usually been accompanied by complete sound shifts production wise (which, logically, also affected the Rank 1 live sets). With the release of Wild And Perfect Day earlier this year I expected them to turn Trousey until at least 2013/2014ish.  But with this new track they (surprisingly!) head straight back to their roots, be it in a new coat. It has set the door wide open really! Anything could happen now, including that long awaited second studio album... Never before did they release three brand new singles in a year (no, 1999 doesn't count, one release was a double-sided EP). Adding to this fact that a fresh Rank 1 vs. Dennis Shepard collaboration is already in existence https://twitter.com/dennissheperd/status/254298274792603648 as well as this optimistic tweet  about bursting with creativity https://twitter.com/rank1official/status/250671494265466880 and not to forget this amazing possible future collaboration with M.I.K.E. [https://twitter.com/mikepush/status/260487781967613953], I am more confident than ever that the best is yet to come regarding Rank 1!
 



Consistency Earns Loyalty
You know, it's a relief that after nine years, I can still count on these guys to make my day and give me stuff to look forward to. And yes, they have released tracks in the past that disappointed me, mr. Fanboy Supreme, or that I never grew to like. Nobody is perfect after all! As far as the originals of their singles go however, they have yet to make something I find less than solid. Those that know me well, know that nowadays I am pretty pessimistic (or should that be realistic?) about giving artists second or third chances as so many keep screwing up their unique sounds and styles to jump bandwagons which will crash in a near future anyway... As a result, my avid loyalty to many former EDM heroes has decreased dramatically over the past two years. Hence I am relieved that the ones that brought me here in the first place, are still the go-to men when it really matters. So what are you waiting for?! Go support this gem and lift it to #1 on the Beatport Trance charts where it belongs! Also... Piet and Benno?

Cheers gentlemen, to another masterpiece, and another Future Classic.


 | Single Review | October 16th - October 29th 2012 |

maandag 17 september 2012

Razormane - Mane Festival Theme I


Promotion Feature | September 17th 2012 |

Razormane Recordings | Cat# RZMREC001
Released: Monday September 17th 2012
Listen here: https://hearthis.at/razormane/mane-festival-theme-i/
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/razormane/mane-festival-theme-i

Listen here: https://mixcloud.com/Razormane/mane-festival-theme-i/
01. | 135 BPM | 07:47 | Original Mix

Additional info:
Written, composed, produced and arranged by C. I. do Rosario.
(p) 2012 Razormane Recordings
(c) 2012 Razormane Recordings
All rights reserved.
Started MFT I Original Mix on: July 20th 2012
Finished it on: September 17th 2012
Cover designed & created by C. I. do Rosario.
Background-image taken from:
http://www.hdpaperwall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/1317162-1024x640.jpg


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Support Record

2013-11-05 | Blachshma - Electronic Haven #018 | Track 05
http://www.mixcloud.com/blachshma/electronic-haven-episode-18/

dinsdag 4 september 2012

The B Speaks Out

Scene Analysis | September 4th 2012 |

This is not a regular post, it's more of an effort to spread this brilliant, well-written and straight-to-the-point reply by one of the most passionate music addicts I've encountered in my years on digital Dance Music communities: it's a reply that I believe resonates among the many of us disillusioned by former heroes. My only request of you is that you share/spread the link/reply below as much as possible, as I believe this is a voice that must be heard.
 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From the Markus Schulz forums, this is Ericc B's reply to Markus' after joining the ("negative") debate on his latest album "Scream":


Ericc B, on 01-09-2012

Dear Markus,

First of all I take my hat off to you for coming here and replying to our criticism. That really shows character and makes you stand out among your colleagues, who comfortably hide behind their hired Facebook marketing employees. At least you have the balls to interact. Much much appreciated.


Nevertheless I am saddened deeply by your replies.


First off I'm actually insulted by you categorizing us as "forum people". Yes people who actually still visit forums and take the time to write stuff there and read others comments are small in numbers nowadays compared to the lazy masses on the social media who only consume pre-fabricated marking bla and add zero themselves except maybe “MaRkUsSsS wHeN aRe YoU cOmmmInG 2 mY cOuNtYYYY???!!!!” below every post. And we “forum people” probably are not the current 15 year olds either. Heck 99% of those don't even know what a forum is. But that doesn't excuse the current industry trend to put us away as an insignificant bunch of frustrated old people who complain about everything that is different from 2004 and doesn't resemble what they used to love in the past. What we are are people who have loved you music all our lives and are probably the last ones standing of those who made it possible for you to become a DJ and a producer. We were the ones buying your first albums, singles and compilations when you were still small potatoes. We were the ones screaming our heads off at your gigs. We were the ones who fell in love with your music and your sets when you were still making them from them heart, from what you truly believe in, from who you really are. Uninfluenced by popularity poll ratings, drugged up managers and promoters or sales figures.


What you are now saying basically is that you have to compromise yourself under the commercial pressure of the pop dance explosion. That you now produce new “radio friendly” vocal tracks to please the networks, that you adjust your GDJB programming to avoid being kicked of the air and that you compromise your live sets because money hungry promoters bow to the pressure of crowds that only consist of 15 year old nitwits who get bored if they don’t get their fabricated built in SHM style pitch bend climax every 3 minutes. And that is a big big shame.


Why? Let me tell you man. You cannot stay on top of the food chain forever. Noone can. Yes you can prolongue your career by compromising into every new trend and the next, the way guys like Tiesto and Armin are doing, but like them you will become a total caricature of yourself. Because what you have to do to stay up there goes more and more against everything you really are inside. And even if you keep on compromising, at some point people WILL spit you out because you are like us. Too old. Not cool anymore. You will end up the Rubens Barichello of dance music and get dumped in a back alley through the backdoor without so much as an appreciative farewell party.


Obviously you are not the first to come to this point in your career. How do you think people like Sasha or Nick Warren or John Digweed felt at the end of the 90’s acid rush in the UK? When all of a sudden new guys like Ferry Corsten and Paul van Dyk stormed the scene with their new and more energetic interpretation of trance music? It’s the exact same thing. But what they did is keep their dignity. They accepted that a new thing had arrived and that the new thing was more popular with the crowds. But they NEVER COMPROMISED. They kept on doing music the way their hearts told them to do music. For the people who appreciate that style. Maybe less in numbers from there on, but loyal as a dog. Because they are connected through the same musical values.


And guess what? All of them are still around, touring the globe and playing in clubs to crowds adoring them for what they do. Without any compromise. They don’t give a flying fuck if radio stations wanna play their radio shows or not. They don’t need to release radio tracks with cheap nameless singers who can’t sing fuck live (you should go and see an Armin Only show if you have a chance, it’s hilarious). They don’t have to star in cheezy videos for those tracks. They don’t have to do gigs for hostile crowds holding up phones all night long and giving you the finger for not giving them instant climax tracks or childish heart signs every 10 seconds. They don’t care. Because they are completely independent and they do what they love. And the people who come to see them and buy their new stuff love it from A to Z. And they always have. That Markus, is where real gratification lies. Not in trying to be the hero of the 15 year olds. They will spit you out the moment the new fad comes on stage and forget you ever existed.


Unfortunately your career seems to have been taken over completely by power and fame hungry managers and promoters who are only interested in being the biggest and making the most money. Who force release schedules upon you. Who force you to make radio friendly vocal crap. Tracks that you should be ashamed off. Who force you to adjust your radio show format. Who force you to headline festivals. And force you to play this constantly further derailing aggressive shit music that every producer and his dog is now making and has diverted so far off from your own original Markus Schulz sound.


You know what? Fuck them. You don’t need that shit. Do you really feel a need to compete or even compare yourself with Dash Berlin? The Milli Vanilli of trance? A completely fake act fabricated by Armada marketing and a bunch of studio engineers? Come on man, you are so much better than that. You are one of the few remaining originals. One of the few who actually knows how to DJ, how to produce a track with a unique and distinctive sound and how to compile a legendary compilation.


Remember that DJ gigs and festivals are not what will eventually be your musical legacy. They are here for a second and are gone the next. Vaporized into total silence. Witnessed by what on a global scale is only a handful of people. What really forms your musical legacy are your own productions and your compilations. And to some lesser extent your radio sets too. Those are heard time and again by a thousand fold of people compared to the numbers at your gigs. And locked into eternity in peoples homes, cars and mobile players.


Compromise those and you compromise the essence of yourself as an artist. If you don’t untie yourself from this commercial madness you will eventually end up in the trash bin with all the other pop stars. 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Ericc B has his own blog btw, if you are interested in more critical, well-thought-out reviews and analyses of the scene, be sure to check his stuff here >> http://ericcb.blogspot.nl/

woensdag 29 augustus 2012

Ferry Cor$ten, Justin Bieber and the Scene's Wolves

Scene Analysis | August 28th - August 29th 2012 |

It had to happen, didn't it? Someone just had to remix Justin Bieber. Just between you and me, I would have put my money on it that Tiësto would be the one but instead it was Ferry "Out Of The Blue" Corsten who was approached to retouch one of the "biggest" teen "stars" ever. And so he did. And #Trancefamily Land was instantly bombarded with a lot of hatred. As usual.
 

What also seems to be business as usual is that a lot of colleagues rush to the victim-DJ/Producer's side, defending the person in question with nearly as much passion as the haters that flame him. Of course, Ferry is not a nobody. If we were to consider the five most influential Trance producers of all-time, Ferry would undoubtedly be voted #1 or at least secure a Top-3 spot. The productions this guy put out in the beginning of his career helped establish this scene of ours and he cannot receive enough praise for the likes of Carte Blanche, Out Of The Blue, Dance Valley Theme 2001, Gouryella tracks, Exhale and his many, many, remixes and aliases that have entranced hundreds of thousands if not millions over the course of time. Ferry, hate him or love him, is a Trance Legend and this early Legacy of his will be cherished for Time Immemorial among those of us that know what Trance is. At one point, Ferry introduced a new sound. He called it L.E.F. (in Dutch these 3 letters together translate as "guts") > Loud, Electronic, Ferocious. Some hated it. Others, including yours truly, LOVED it. Ferry used to be one of few producers who knew how to blend Electro with Trance properly. In retrospect, he always had a rougher edge to his productions, long before L.E.F. actually (just listen to Needlejuice, Punk, Right Of Way, DV Theme '01, etc.). I always felt L.E.F. was the perfection of this rougher side. And hey, after his Electro-Adventures he did return to Trance with Twice In A Blue Moon and some tasty remixes, didn't he? Credit where credit is due. Fastforward to Summer '12 however and the man is approached to remix Bieber: he says yes, gets the job done and before we know it, all hell breaks loose in #Trancefamily Land (again). What else is new? *rolleyes*

Is the outrage justified? If you ask me, hell no. Though not for the "cut this Legend some slack already"-reasons. It's obvious that after Twice In A Blue Moon and with the release of "Feel It" & "Check It Out" more specifically, Ferry decided to join the Trouse bandwagon. His last album WKND combined this "new sound" with lots and lots of lyric-intensive tracks. The few I heard sounded like the typical Pop-dance hybrid garbage that has come to characterize EDM's "Top Dogs" (if we are to believe the useless DJ Mag). The result was an album that sought to resonate within the interest of that mainstream area bordering between Pop and EDM. His newest fans loved it no doubt, his elder fans were nothing but disappointed (if they still had any naive hopes that Ferry would manage to deliver). It's obvious he, like Armin, like Emery, like Above & Beyond, like any of the (former) Top 10 (Trance) DJs/artists decided to start producing "today's music". However, whereas in the past this guy was way ahead of others production-wise (and thus able to help establish the genre Trance), in this 2011-2012 period I cannot conclude otherwise than that the tables have turned: he's been chasing after others. And with others I mean those so-called "EDM" artists that have taken not just our scene but nearly any scene within EDM as well the mainstream (or Pop) by storm. Yes, the accursed SHM/Avicii combination. What I am trying to say is that Ferry kinda lost his credits a long time ago, so why the sudden outrage at this so-called mainstream remix? The moment he joined Trouse, and thus, the moment he released WKND he was already serving the mainstream. If you liked WKND, why are you bashing this remix? Somehow, this level of mainstream is too much even for his most contemporary fans? Oh you bunch of hypocrites, you! :D

The shift to a new, "more accessible" (read: more accessible for the mainstream) sound has been perceived by many former fans as betrayal. One the one hand you could call this wrong as who the hell are fans to think they own an artist? On the other hand, you could also argue that it were these very fans that supported you through the years and contributed to your rise: without them you wouldn't have been here today, so why turn your back on them so radically? Now "artists changing debates" always revolve around these two aspects, and supporters of the former camp never agree with the latter. So let's leave that aside. Instead, let's consider this:

(1) EDM music has a certain logic and feeling that surrounds it which draws in certain people. This music can be fragmented into several genres which each have their own champions, some which are hard to categorize in just one genre as they have an overlapping sound. Fans of EDM will have expectations of their champions and will praise some exactly for not being the other.

(2) Then there is Justin Bieber: personally I couldn't care any less about his music. It isn't for me but for millions across the world he is the most talented/greatest artist of the moment. His music too, follows a certain logic and has a certain feeling enveloped around it which draw in his fans. They too have expectations from him and like him for his sound which others do not have.

(3) As an artist you should be free to do whatever you like and I can understand that eating potatoes everyday gets boring at one point, no matter how addicted to potatoes you might be. So yes, artists change their sound over time. To keep it fresh, to re-invent themselves or just for some variation every once in a while. 


This all makes perfect sense. But not in the mind of the contemporary Trance fan. If you have them among your fanbase, you are going to have to endure a lot of hate the moment you start remixing something as mainstream as Bieber. Ferry himself was shocked and no doubt annoyed by the many furious, extreme hateful reactions he received: I haven't run into any of these, neither do I intend to run into them (I've had my share with the Fei-Fei at #550 debacle, thank you). He responded on Twitter with the following:

"Hey guys, as a response to some extremely ridiculous reactions to me doing a remix for Justin Bieber, I just want to say this… The request for this remix came in and I found it quite a challenge to make a dance radio remix for such a young and talented artist. And YES, if you can play 3 instruments and you can sing, I call you talented! I just had fun producing this, please don’t cry over it, I create EDM!" (http://www.twitlonger.com/show/j2kmbn)

I fail to understand why anyone would insult him (assuming this has happened) for this move. Criticize him? Your good right. But to take it further than that is pathetic imo. It goes to show how degenerated and bastardized Trance fanbases have become over the years. That said, I do find it amusing how these same former-Trance artists constantly seem to be living on this "new EDM walhalla Cloud 9" where everything is so amazing, until they decide to remix the likes of Guetta or Bieber and discover how the majority of their current fanbases are composed of Wolves In Sheeps' clothes: Make them their cheesy Emma Hewitt sung burgers and you'll be their Trance God. Make them their generic mass-produced 138 BPM deggadegga Candy, and you'll be their Trance God. Make them their noisy kindergarden-melody driven Wack&Wack Trouse record and you're their Trance God. Remix Pop's currently most celebrated hypes and they'll kill you. Verbally. Through Social Media.


You see, an artist can revert to point (3) all they like, the reality remains that when point (1) and point (2) don't want to mix, but they try to achieve this anyway, there will be collision and there will be fires burning. You can complain about it all you want or you could spare yourself the hassle and leave it. You can create this illusion that boundaries don't exist, but fanbases do exist and they are restricted by boundaries. Someone of the Ferry Corsten caliber should have been aware of this ages ago. Any high caliber artist should know how this works. Yes it sucks for you, but hey, that's life. Get over it.

Though I disapprove of insults and personal attacks at any time, I have to admit that somewhere I find this situation fitting for the lack of backbone these artists have had when they decided to completely turn to new hypes, pretend to still hold on to what made them big (and what they in turn made bigger) but in the mean time became more and more mainstream in the process. If you want to be mainstream, fine, but at least be as arrogant though at least gutsy as Tiësto was and say: "Scr*w you all, I'm going for the $$$+MTV success". Heck, you'll get a lot of piss over you too, but it will last only for a bit and then it'll be over for good. Who in there right minds nowadays would ask Tiësto to "please come back to Trance" and "please make another Lethal Industry"? Exactly. NOBODY.

What I personally don't understand from Ferry's side is where he gets the idea that he was trying something "new". The track sounds like it could have been featured on WKND: cheesy vocal, Electro sounds, predictable main lead. Furthermore, the fact that Bieber plays three instruments and is thus talented is a lame reason to remix him. I mean, if the to-be-remixed song in question contains none of his talentful traces beside the singing, he might as well remix anyone that sings? Also, if it was just for fun, why not release it under an alias or as a free bootleg? Or, why not simply decline the offer to remix Bieber? Oh wait, I know. Though Trance might come Twice In A Blue Moon, this was a Once In A Lifetime opportunity. Ferry can claim this as fun and as a challenge all he wants but anyone remixing Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lil' Wayne, Britney Spears Rihanna or Kanye West knows it won't hurt their wallet in the long run, on the contrary!

What has increasingly come to annoy me about these "gradually/completely change my sound but afraid to come out of the closet with it"-artists is how they tend to act so victimized, at least that's the impression I get. "I'm just trying something new, what's wrong with that?" Seriously? How come everytime said artists "try something new", it coincides with something that leads to more exposure in the mainstream, more money, more fame? How come they never try something new that works for the non-mainstream? How come they never try some Drum & Bass if they never made that before? How come they never try something more Techno-based if they never tried that before? How come they never try a new time-signature if they never did that before? A sudden rhythm-shift throughout a track? A combination of breaks with 4-to-the-floor beats throughout a single track? Instead, whenever it's something new, it's usually vocal or something that is extremely popular atm. Everyone is talking "out of the box" but no one is acting like it. This is one of those things "that grinds my gears", to quote Griffin.

I'll admit: Trance fans seem to become less and less mature as time progresses. Obsessive, abusive, instantly insulted, close-minded, ill-informed (Guetta is not House, get it out of your bloody system), the list grows longer with each "Trance debacle". Though this says a lot about the persons in question, former-Trance artists have had a big hand in this development themselves if you ask me. No, they didn't make these people stupid, but yes, they did pull them into our scene! The hatred they get doused with is immature and stupid, but in my eyes it's the price they pay for having sought to move Trance into the mainstream. Since it didn't work in its original from, they thought they'd make it work by watering it down and removing more and more of its characteristics until it finally worked for these mainstream lovers but the music itself had ceased being what it was supposed to be. The result? Fad-hungry people were introduced into a scene where they don't belong. Because of that Trance holds the record for the most fragmented fanbases of EDM in its totality nowadays. The self-acclaimed most serene genre of all has Fallen From Grace at the hands of those that made it rise to prominence and the fake fans in their wake. Irony has it that these fans scream for blood the moment someone of Ferry's caliber remixes something as non-Trance as Bieber, yet the joke is on them: half of them only know Ferry's discography of the past two years or so anyway. The rest of us know that portion of his discography can be denied any association with the sounds that earned him his Legendary status in our scene.

So the joke then? Fans of a non-Trance Ferry are crying over his non-Trance Bieber remix. LOL. On a more serious note: what's sad about all this is that the scene hits a new low because of these antics by fans and artists alike. The people that are supposed to be keeping it alive do a piss poor job at it.


*A little off-topic note to some of the re-occurring nonsense arguments I've seen people use in debacles such as these:

- Tip: don't say you'll support an artist forever. You can't look into the future and I wouldn't want to go "told you so" over your ass the moment they do a 180 degree soundshift on ya. ;)
- Everyone trying to shut up critics with the argument: "don't b*tch unless you can do better". I expect you to support and cheer on every athlete, politician, cook, writer, driver, boss, nanny, parent you set your eyes on, REGARDLESS whether you like what they do, UNLESS you can do better. Freedom of speech (HA! Don't make me laugh!)? Only if you can do better! Having an opinion (What, are you living in a free country or something?? Pfffffffft!)? Only if you can do better!
- People using the argument that the person in question is a legend: if you helped establish a scene; yes. You are indeed a Legend then. BUT, if in your later career you put out stuff that destroys this very scene, you lose any credit for or claim on this Legendary status. Legends don't destroy what they stood for. Betrayers do.


...

You know what, screw all this cr*p. I'm just gonna put on some Synaesthesia (Ferry Corsten Remix), Cubikated, From The Heart, Invisible Touch (Ferry Corsten Remix), Sublime, The Orange Theme (Moonman's Orange Juice Mix), Gouryella (Extended), Possesion, and Sweet Sorrow (Ferry Fix) right now. You know, awesome tracks by that Trance Legend. Imo some of his best ever! That's a cool guy I definitely won't forget about anytime soon...