donderdag 28 februari 2013

Album Review: M.I.K.E. - World Citizen [February 2013]

Album Review | February 28th - March 1st 2013 | 

In last month's review for Elements Of Nature [] I more or less placed much of my hopes for "Mainground" Trance in 2013 on the shoulders of mr. M.I.K.E. also known as Push. His collaboration with the Dutch superduo was nothing short of brilliant, and it's still claiming the most-played spot in my music library. Last week Mike's album was released digitally on all major download portals. No annoying Beatport exclusives wait for those that don't use that shop, everyone that buys their music could get right down to business. This morning I've given the album its first spin myself and I must say... ...Wouldn't you like to know now?! ;) Hehe! Okay. Enough joking around. Here's my review for World Citizen:

01. M.I.K.E. - World Citizen (Album Mix)
We kick of the album with a catchy melody line on higher tones before a lower guiding element backs it up followed by the bass. There is a nice dreamy atmosphere forming and before you know it a few rougher typical M.I.K.E. synths start stabbing here and there. Gotta say, this has a nice flow, if only it were Spring already! A typical uplifting M.I.K.E. lead slowly reveals itself around the 03:10 minute mark. If you're not smiling by now, I don't know what's wrong with you. The 4th minute suddenly introduces a techy climax with a crazy twist! The track has now transformed into a heavy-duty club banger. Sweet! World Citizen eh? I see(/hear) what you did there, Mike! ;) Great opener!

02. M.I.K.E. & Matteo Marini - Melodramma (Album Mix)
Track kicks off with the main lead right away. I love how the melody has that more simplistic type of melody you'd sooner find in (Tech) House or some variants of Techno. The synths slowly swell up before the beat smoothly raises in the background and the first climax is reached. Amazing groove guys! Really feel like dancing my ass off to this live, right now! I guess for now, chair raving will have to do though. Two and a half minute in, the melodies make way for a techy part driven by a pitchbend. I usually don't like mid-track or build-up pitches, it's become a generic trend amongst many Coldharbour residence sadly but somehow I don't mind it here that much since it's a mid-track climax. A variation on the main lead appears, moving into the track's third climax as that mighty melody returns. A snare hit tricks you into thinking the climax is already there, but it extends just a little beyond that moment. God, this is good stuff! First favorite of the album, ahoy!

03. M.I.K.E. - We Are!
Can't recall whether I heard the preview of this one before or after M.I.K.E. and Rank 1 announced their collab, but the track gave me high hopes for an amazing team-up monster, especially since it followed after my Tune Of The Year 2012, 7 Instead Of 8. Initially I wasn't too keen on that "whiny" synth around 1:01. By now I've gotten used to it though. As the track progresses, it gradually grows more powerful and addictive. Love that little vocal chop(?) that reoccurs every now and then btw! From the breakdown onward this track gains epic momentum. In particular: 02:54. Following from this point we are introduced to a very strong oldskool-sounding M.I.K.E. groove. Another layer backs the two dominating ones, it's chopped a bit to give it that anthem feel. The melodies back each other up for an almost hopeful melancholic feel! Awesome. Third winner in a row and still as good as months ago. We Are Happy with this one!

04. M.I.K.E. - Loverdose (Album Mix)
As this one kicks in, it feels like being back in 2007/2008 for a bit, it has got that Deadmau5 feel to it all over. First heard this on the special GDJB showcase of the album. This track starts very promising with an enjoyable catchy melody. What came in unexpected during that showcase and what I still don't like is the sudden Dubstep interference. Yes, yes, "don't be a prisoner of your own style", "be openminded", be a world citizen even! But honestly, I am pretty "openminded" (how I've come to hate this word *shrugs*) and yet I nearly got a heart-attack when the track went "Skrillex" on my ass at 02:18. 0_0  The relaxed flow is completely interrupted without any proper announcement to the noise that is to follow. No offense Mike, cut out that Dubstep part, and I'll gladly replay this one. But until then, I'm putting it on the shelf to catch dust. Meh.

05. M.I.K.E. - Under The Bridge (Album Mix)
Title reminds me off that time I was strangulating a guard in Metal Gear Solid 3, forcing him to reveal the location of a ration or some fancy weapon as he squealed "Under the rope bridge...!"... That was hilarious! Eh, but anyway... We are greeted with an other very uplifting melody, in a similar vein as the opening track. Track gets cathcy pretty fast and from 01:13 onward it reminds me of the old Ferry Corsten sound! Pretty cool simple, yet-not-any-less feelgood vibe. This track has got a good melody. Love the breakdown when an almost string-like synth backs up the deep bass and that "Ferry lead". The beat comes back and I realize I'm headbopping with a smile. More layers come in to make it more heavy duty. Powerful club material! The album is back on the level of the first three. :)

06. M.I.K.E. & Revero - Overseas (Album Mix)
Electro bassline pitch? I think this is going to be a very club oriented track, but don't quote me on that! Instead we are greeted with a piano breakdown with some minor distorted layers to give it a slightly rougher edge. Powerful Electro bass and kick are added before the climax shoots us into your typical SHM cliché Trouse "banger". Clap-clap-clap-clap on the kickpattern and ski-hut melody piano synths, ahoy! This sound may work magic live but ever since Bromance and SHM - One people haven't been able to take this "Trouse" sound HALF a step further... Wait, that's not entirely true: Jochen Miller used to do a good job with it until 2012 (remember Bamm!, Troucid, uPad, Classified?), nowadays I cannot point to one artist that makes it as enjoyable though... Sorry Mike, not feeling this one at all. Not because it is Trouse per se but because I consider this uncreative and it doesn't move me. Next!

07. M.I.K.E. - Any Direction (Album Mix)
No wonder I could never find the "original" mix of this anywhere and only the M.I.K.E. vs. Revero Club Mix! Mystery solved, the original version is here on the album. Now I have to say that remix wore off on me very fast so I was hoping this version would deliver something more memorable. It kicks of pretty abstract before loud stuttering angry synths announce the next phase of the track. We've got some raw elements rolling now and this track seems to be all about blowing ze dancefloor without mercy. 02:00ish introduces a Trancey main lead that swells in ferocity with this catchy Electro bassline. Now this I can enjoy! Electro-Trance takes me back to 2007, one of my favorite years in music of all time (bite me). Also love that trippy synth at the 4:00th minute mark. This definitely beats the M vs. R remix by a mile!

08. M.I.K.E. - Galactic Halo (Album Mix)
More uplifting tones incoming! We get another "synthical" Trance track on our plate. The part after three minutes has a bassline vibe going that strongly reminds me of the Gouryella tracks, though slightly different. Love how the extra melodies in that part have a strong delayed/echoed effect, adding to a very dreamy atmosphere. The track is mostly built on this single lead that keep increasing in ferocity whilst the background is reversed for a liberating hands-in-the-air melody. The feeling this track radiates really screams "early 2000s euphoria", absolutely love it :D

09. M.I.K.E. vs. Aerofoil - No Escape (Album Mix)
Without doubt the album's most techy tracks, which can definitely be attributed to Aerofoil's Coldharbour style. ;) If that bigroom sound isn't your style, this track will probably not do much for you. I don't mind though. That main lead sounds VERY Markus Schulzish and in that sense this might not exactly be a creative track but that doesn't make it any less good. Powerful club devastation detected! Reminds me a bit of the old Richard Durand sound in the middle come to think of it! I've always loved my Techtrance so this track is a welcome addition to the (so far) impressive album flow.

10. M.I.K.E. - Canvas (Album Mix)
Aaaaaaaaaaaah this one... It starts off so concealed, hiding its loaded, energetic content. The melody just keeps going and going, much like in Elements Of Nature: love tracks like these, provided they have good melodies and guess what? This one has just that. A second, lower tone melody variant soon swells in before it joins forces with the initial lead to maximize the ongoing Trance Energy. This is definitely another album favorite for me,  the contrast between the main melody's lightness and the bassline's darkness creates a cool harmony without losing any energy.

11. M.I.K.E. - Thursdays (Album Mix)
Is this a tribute to "Trance Thursday" as some people call it? There can be no doubt however that Thursday is, or used to, be a special day for many (ex-)Trance fans: for myself ASOT used to be the main reason to love the 4th weekday, nowadays it's GDJB (sometimes followed by a CES afterparty). Anyways, what have we got here? A very raw opening kicks off the track. A raw tech synth swells in the background when the more Trancey elements increase at the same time. The build-up has that "on the move" feel to it, you know, tracks that are great to listen to whilst sitting in the bus or train as landscapes flash by. In the break we get greeted by yet another Dubstep part but unlike in Loverdose, here it does fit in "more naturally". It's not exactly that much of a necessary part imo, but it's not THAT disturbing either. I think this is a grower. It's good a nice vibe, but lacks the magic of say, Canvas or Melodramma.

12. M.I.K.E. - Natural Source (Album Mix)
Mike sure knows how to get an energetic groove going from the word go! His trademark synths are present though one of them also has a bit of an "Orjan Nilsen - Go Fast!" vibe in it. This track has "party hard" written all over it. Energetic modern Trance ftw! Love its catchy vibes, listening to this I can only hope that Spring and Summer (Festivals) make their way to us soon, this is an essential live track!

13. M.I.K.E. - Touching Your Senses (Album Mix)
This one slowly winds into a tuned-down energetic groove from its calm start. Love it when the deep bass is revealed after two minutes, Coldhabour Prog basslines for the win :) Unlike the previous tracks this track releases its power around the middle part instead of gradually growing more intense, like We Are! and Canvas did. I like the happy mood and this, especially around 04:27, that new synth in that part reminds me of FL Studio's default WASP preset, always had a soft spot for that sound or sounds similar to it! This is definitely a good track. Not a fave, but solid nonetheless!

14. Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. - Elements Of Nature (Original Mix)
The ultimate Final Word for anyone album. Thanks again Ramballo! You should realize how you influenced the album with an extra track I think! So what can I say about this track that I've not already said in my review of it last month? Still in love with this and after daily replays for over a month and a half, I am still feeling it. The Rank 1 gents and Mike really outdid themselves with the melody here, it's so addictive!! Modern Trance tempo, Classic Trance magic. What more can you ask for, seriously? Definitely the album's defining track imo!

15. "Bonus": Push - Till We Meet Again (Sonny Wharton Remix)
I was actually planning to avoid the remixed half of the album after hearing two rather weak reworks of Mike's Classics. My forum pal Rok however advised me to give this one a shot, so I did [check out his review for World Citizen here btw:]. And you know? I am glad I gave this one a shot! Amazing tribal driven beat from the very start, this track has an infectious groove that would suit both a Trance as well as a more Progressive House oriented one! Love the string play in the middle whilst the tribal funk remains intact. After the climaxes passes, the insane tribal groove returns. What a remix! Like Rok, I can wholeheartedly advise this remix to those of you out there skeptical of Classic reworks.

What I said way back when I reviewed Jody Wisternoff's album [] also applies here: I won't grade the tracks individually as I believe an album or a set for that matter, is more than the sum of its parts: individual tracks don't have to be brilliant to work together perfectly and create an ambience that transcends their individual qualities. That said, I do intend to grade the album as whole.

Razor Verdict
World Citizen's 14 originals + 1 score a solid 8/10 after this first listen. I must take my hat off to Mike, he pulled of a great job. The 140 BPM determinists will no doubt nag how this album lacks a "real Trance" feel and that there are too many "influences" from outside of Trance. I'd say that's nonsense. True, the album's average speed might hover between 130 and 135 BPM but if you think "Pure Trance" exists at the grace of fast BPMs, then I have little to say to you anyway. Mike might have thrown some Dubstep here (which went horribly wrong in Loverdose imo), some Techtrance typical sounds there, and yes: there are pitchbends in some tracks but ultimately the melodies, moods and track progressions are nothing short of energetic modern Trance, Elements Of Nature and Canvas being the clearest examples of this. Lately Mike tweeted and FB'd (is that even a word?) about how you must sometimes take a step back before taking leaps forward and how sometimes you need to explore the grass on the other side to realize that it was much greener where you came from. I know some people will call these comments of his "retrospective excuses" because following fads and fashions didn't pay off for him. But looking at the past 1,5 hours I cannot conclude otherwise than that I am happy to see M.I.K.E. embracing Trance and upgrading his discography with some typical though modern M.I.K.E. bangers. What are you waiting for? The album has been out for a week at all the major download shops. You get full unmixed versions, no useless short edits (take notes ARMADA, you cashcow milking label!)... To top it off, you don't even have to buy all 23 tracks if like me, you are not interested in the Trouse-based other noisy/simplistic insults to the Legendary M.I.K.E. Legacy. Let's hope this album will inspire many (upcoming) artists to stick to an own sound rather than copying what's hot at the moment under the false adagio of "breaking down (imaginary) musical boundaries". When everyone is baking according to the same receipts, appetite is lost fast in my experience. If you value diversity as much as some artists tend to claim, then stop being like everyone else and start Being Yourself! Like M.I.K.E. just did. It's not that difficult, really.

Kudos mr. Mike Dierickx! The first half of 2013 belongs to you ;)

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