maandag 28 januari 2013

Single Review: Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. - Elements Of Nature [January 2013]

Clash Of The Trance Titans
A single review involving Rank 1 is almost guaranteed to be full of praise, which you should know from me by now. If that bothers you, click "x". If you love my fanboy ramblings, carry on reading! I remember back in June or July 2009 I was checking my Hyves when I saw that Rank 1 announced their brand new single Symfo, barely 5 months after the official release of L.E.D. There Be Light: by their annual release quota and the spacing between their releases this was amazingly fast. You can imagine I was very surprised and also very delighted to hear a new release so soon, especially since I was still very addicted to L.E.D.! The end of 2012 saw a pretty similar scenario take place, this time on Twitter. Belgium Trance Legend M.I.K.E. a.k.a. Push was complimenting the Rank 1 gents on how 7 Instead Of 8 sounded like The Good Old Days, which the guys humbly accepted. They added that coming from one of the late 90's Trance Champions, it was a great compliment to receive. So far so good. What happened next is something this guy deserves as statue for imo: Ramballo, host of the Dub Fanatico Radioshow and ex-AVB Forum regular asked whether M.I.K.E. and Rank 1 could do a collab. Of course, big fans of several artists will always seek an opportunity to get them to collaborate but this time it actually worked! The Wheels Of Fate had been set in motion and after about a decade and a half since both Legends gained Prominence in the Trance scene, they finally put their Production Prowess together to deliver 'Elements Of Nature' for which M.I.K.E. drew inspiration from the devastating hurricane Sandy from last year. Now the big question is: Did this Clash Of The Trance Titans result in something memorable? Or did it turn into a bitter disappointment, not honoring the capabilities of the artists involved? In last year's semi-final blogpost, I held high hopes for this release, especially since it followed after two great solid productions by both artists involved, the mighty 7 Instead Of 8 and the powerful We Are!. Furthermore, we more or less got promised more oldskool Trance-inspired brilliance... So... Did these Trancey gentlemen deliver with their collective effort?? Here's what I have to say about it:

Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. - Elements Of Nature (Original Mix) [08:18]

The moment this track kicks in during any mix, be that GDJB, ASOT, GT or whatever, you know something good is about to come in. There is so much energy in it from the beginning and even the main lead is present early on though its melody is not fully revealed yet. This main lead clearly sounds like the good old M.I.K.E. from the Strange World/The Legacy days both melody- and synth wise though during the first short breakdown the euphoric-ness sounds very similar to Benno's The Quest - C-Sharp Classic too, as well as in the alternate melody play in the Rank 1 vs. Dutch Force Remix of Airwave. The melody in this part is just so DAMN good! The euphoric feel-good vibe truly honors the beauty of uplifting Trance but this track does so without your "1001 138 BPM clich├ęs". During the first teaser we only got a taste of a few of these melody layers, during the official preview and second teaser we got treated on the breakdown and the part after that (which already promised an energetic nostalgic all-out Trancer). When I got to hear the whole version on a Youtube rip provided by a forum buddy of mine, I got blown away especially when a second breakdown popped up with an alternate second melody which followed the more rhythmic "Anthem" pattern. As I was "bedraving" to this eargasmic journey through Trance Memory Lane, I was all smiles as I realized that this July it will mark exactly a decade ago that Piet and Benno's interpretation of Mozart's Requiem Lacrimosa got me into Trance. For ten long years they've rarely disappointed me and treated me to so many crazy, catchy, energetic, uplifting, melancholic, spellbinding, stunning and overall just brilliant productions. Not to mention their cool compilations and addictive radio sets as well as the epic live sets and one unforgettable live performance that started in the rain and ended with sunshine back in 2010... There is nothing more rewarding than loyalty being payed off with your favorite artists always delivering, especially when it matters!

Now back to EON: As someone mentioned to me last week: this track is relentless and he meant it in a very positive way! It keeps an energetic tension throughout whilst having one of the most beautiful, inspiring, euphoric melodies I've heard in Trance in a loooooooong time. Consider I am usually not that much into these sort of euphoric melodies! 7 Instead Of 8 covers my needs better in that regard, being a piece from the melancholic department but M.I.K.E. & the Rank 1 gents managed to deliver a collaboration which would have been an ideal Trance Energy Theme, as this track honors both words in the purest manner. It's as if you're taking a trip through Trance's Memory Lane if you're one of us that grew up with the Classics of the '98-'03 era and followed the Trance of 2004-2006 up close. This track is without doubt one of the strongest testimonies to that "Golden Age" of Trance from '98-'03 ever. Skeptics might claim: "What's the big deal? So they made a track that sounds like 2000, boooooooooooring." For me it's not so much that Rank 1 and M.I.K.E. have provided us with a nostalgic Trancer... What makes me love this track so much besides its content just appealing to me is the fact that we finally get a Clash Of The Titans collaboration that actually lives up to the caliber of its legendary artists involved. Before the track was even one note long, they promised us the Oldskool, "bringing back what it's all about" and f*** me, they delivered! The forum buddy that provided me with the Youtube link with EON's ASOT debut described it aptly: it's as if you are a little kid in a candy store! I mean h
ow often do we see collaborations getting announced which get all hyped up but ultimately amount to either an average track or something worse? Furthermore, not only is this collaboration amazing (imo), it also managed to combine the sound and spirit of these guys' Classic style in one harmonious whole. Add a fitting title to the mix and you get one of the very first Top tracks of this freshly commenced-2013. Big points for Belgium & The Netherlands on this one and a homerun for High Contrast Recordings (a third homerun no less, after 7 Instead Of 8 and We Are!)! So what are you waiting for?! Get off your lazy chair, skip the Starbucks for once and go buy this track. Make it top the Beatport Trance chart so that for once there is actually a Trance track ranking #1 in said charts!

From here?
It seldom happens you put so much hope and faith in a track and the final result actually delivers. The first objective of this collaboration is completed as far as I'm concerned: it's a Belter Of A Trancer. Now the waiting game begins for its second objective: will it have the impact I hope it will? Will it inspire other producers? So far the track has seen support on the biggest radioshows that were once mainly (or stubbornly claim to still be) about Trance: many of these hosts are not only supportive of this track but also praise it for taking them back to the "good old days". Last Thursday I had a cool little exchange with Markus and even though nowadays he is mostly supportive of the rawer Pitchbend driven bigroom when it comes to his (shorter) live gigs, he too is very enthusiastic about this release: (thanks again for honoring Ramballo and my request btw, Markus!). The fans' response to this track has also been mainly postive, I've seen many Trance Forum, Twitter and Youtube members praise this track for finally bringing back the sound they miss so much nowadays. For me this positive response from colleagues and fans alike will hopefully mean that more artists will stop being Swedish House Maffia clones and bring back their own unique sounds. Let me make one thing clear though: I by no means demand a repetition of the 2000-2003(/2006) era. I merely hope that having your "own Unique Sound with Soul" will for once outweigh the "Be Openminded" doctrine of hypocrisy. The funny thing is that the Trance scene used to be openminded before this Trouse nonsense rose to prominence. Artists would make any form of Trance, regardless whether it had hints of Electro, Progressive, Techno, Breaks, Classical music, Rock, Jazz, etc. and as a Trance fan you had the choice out of various forms for Trance from various people: even those coined in the same genre would be unique from each other (e.g. Techtrance => Sander van Doorn vs. Marco V: both unique). The scene was a supermarket with quality products (genres) delivered by quality manufacturers (the producers). The SHM Hype completely ruined that diverse supermarket and turned it into a Fastfood joint in every sense of the analogy: fast meals that get prepared in little time which wear of even faster than the time it took to make them and which can be fun every once in a while but which will ultimately make you sick if it's all you get to consume. Thomas Datt seems rather skeptical about this "back-to-the-roots" euphoria, claiming that after a few years of Trouse, Trance is "the new bandwagon" now. But you know what? I'd rather have my bandwagon Trance Supermarket back on track than that smelly Trouse Fastfood Joint. And at least the artists I mentioned above never mocked their Trance legacy, even when they were trying different sounds unlike some of their current "Team 128" colleagues. Just sayin'.

No need to end on a depressing tone though. January 2013 has proven to be a hopeful year for Trance if you ask me. Elements Of Nature is just the first piece of evidence. The second piece is this new release by Airscape, an alias of none other than that other Trance Legend: Johan Gielen Both Original and Three Drives Remixes will take you back to the sounds that matter. The third piece of evidence has yet to prove itself but following in Elements Of Nature's wake, I am willing to be naive and declare that it is bound to deliver already: M.I.K.E. has barely released one monster collab or he's already in the mood to unleash a second, with yet another Trance Legend: Mr. Steve "Rapid Eye" Helstrip! A fourth piece of pre-assumptive evidence is the third provided by M.I.K.E. > trusting Steve's judgement, Mike's album will probably be a testimony to Trance, across various BPMs even! We're in for a lot of speculation for the time being and in my earliest blogposts I already stated that Trance shouldn't exist by the grace of its Pioneers but damn, doesn't it feel nice to be able to claim back a few of those Heroes Of Old, even if it's just for now? For Old Times' Sake? :)

@SteveHelstrip: "I got a feeling 2013 is going to be a massive year for trance." > I have the same feeling, Steve ;) Make it happen!

| January 9th 2013 - January 28th 2013 |

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