With 2013's first third coming to a close, I thought it would be nice to share the most impactful tracks for me which I discovered this year. So far there have been 15 tracks that have made a good impression. Here's my thoughts on each of the fifteen tracks, I've ordered them alphabetically as over the years it has become more and more difficult for me to rank them by preference: my taste has become a bit too diverse for that. Anyhoo, here we go:
01. Airscape - Endless Forever (Three Drives Remix)
One of my hopes for 2013 was that it would be the year that more people would rediscover their original Trance roots and honor these with a modernized interpretation of the Classic Sound (since expecting a complete Trance innovation would obviously be asking for way too much). One of the tracks that serves as the realization of this hope is no doubt Airscape's beautiful return to form with Endless Forever. I could have chosen either version to be honest but in the end I had to go with the Three Drives Remix. 04:11 explains why: a gorgeous Classic pluck melody swells but the depth of the synths is executed in that way that allows for a surge of positive melancholy to flow through your body. A concealed sadness intertwined with a hopeful euphoria more or less perfectly translate the sense of loss many of us feel for our scene as well as the hope many of us keep maintaining that one day we will be rid of the current aggressive club noise invasion. May Trance be endless and forever indeed.
02. Conjure One feat. Leigh Nash - Under The Gun (Rank 1 Remix)
I can see your frown all the way from behind my own laptop screen. How can I open a Top 15 with a nostalgic Trancer and then move into something so techy? You just answered your own question, bro. Me GUSTA techy Rank 1. Always have. Always will. And no, I don't think this track is as good as 7IO8 or EON but it just works for me. I won't give this track a detailed review here, if you are curious what my detailed version entails, keep an eye out on my blog next week to find out. ;)
03. Danilo Ercole - Another Morning (Original Mix)
One of those tracks that just hits you on an early morning ride to work. Ercole is name that's relatively new to me but alongside Basil O'Glue and veteran Rex Mundi he's earned his stripes as one of my favorite Progressive producers. Another Morning has steady groovy build that slowly makes way for melodic pad and synth work. The harmonic middle part is great dreamy stuff and the melody works in any season for me: Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer... Truly a beautiful Progressive Trance production!
04. DJ Tarkan - Sad Story (Original Mix)
A track I first encountered on M.I.K.E.'s Club Elite Sessions and later on in Rank 1's Radio Rush, this was an essential pick. Its base melody is of the kind IDEAL for when you are underway to some far place, sitting in transport, staring outside as you ponder life... It's a "think" melody, a "dream" melody, a slightly nostalgic one even... Its bassline is a firm one, bringing a steady edge of groove to the melody's dream-factor. I can easily lose myself in this Progressive build-up. In the fourth minute mark we slowly head into the breakdown. 04:32 is when it happens though. Very subtly it swells in the background, this warm typical monotone Techno-style synth on a rhythmic pattern. Progressive meets Tech? WIN. Bassline and beat return to back this Mighty Synth as you groove behind that window. Tech synth steps down for a bit then as Prog melody returns in the mean time before both push the track forward. Both then fade as the track builds down to mere percussion and kick.
05. Fairmont - Last Dance (Ewan Pearson Remix)
The fourth track in Wisternoff's UNSTOPPABLE February 2013 Intensified edition snuck into my system "like a thief in the night". Unexpectedly bopping my head to the increasingly brilliantizing (yes, I just made that word up, deal with it!) February episode whilst reading the One Piece manga online, this track jus latched itself into myself and since then there has been no escaping its relentless feel-good bassline and overall funky rhythms, kick-ass vox, and melodic layers. I don't really know what to start with. I could dissect every separate element of the production but... Isn't it obvious that rolling bassline with the fast note pattern allows for a downtempo groovy variant of a possible Sander van Doorn bassline back in the day? Isn't it obvious that short up-and-downwinding arpregiated sound just makes you feel really happy? Isn't it obvious that unexpected Latin guitar will make your smile grow ever larger? Isn't it obvious that vocal is just so friggin badass with that leaning-inbetween-throaty-and-whispery sound? Isn't it obvious that second higher apregiated layer further completes the happiness you get from this track? Isn't it obvious that the very fact the producer gave the vocal space in the beginning, left the whole middlepart for the instrumental elements and then brought back the vocal is brilliance? This is a masterclass in proper House music, and it honors what those pioneers in Chicago set out to back in the early '80s perfectly. I'm a complete noob when it comes to the History of House music but I'll be foolish enough to make this bold statement. Deal with it! This is eargasmic perfection!
06. Lana Del Rey - Summertime Sadness (Asadinho Main Vocal Mix)
Have to say that until this 2nd track in that phenomenal February 2013 Intensified kicked in, I couldn't care any less about who "Lana Del Rey" was. That... Might have been a harsh thing to say, who would have thought that very Lana would be remixed into one of my favorite vocal tracks of the year? The vocal has been processed in complete harmony with the rest of the utterly funky, dreamy and slightly nostalgic production. Why can House producers make vocals magical where as so many "Trance" producers turn them into a pure Pop-based annoyance? One of the many EDM mysteries I suppose. Anyhow. This track. It's SWEET. Let it enchant you whilst the sun shines through the leaves of the trees in the park, whilst the cool grass augments the relaxing vibes as you sit down and head bop to this Housey delight.
07. M.I.K.E. - Canvas (Club Mix)
An incredibly beefed-up version as compared to the album cut I reviewed two months ago [http://razormaneofficial.blogspot.nl/2013/02/album-review-mike-world-citizen.html]. I dunno what M.I.K.E. ate before he started working on this Club Mix but DAMN. He squared the amount of energy the original had and then added an extra layer of epicness with that high saw melody around 03:51. The track feels so pulsing, so alive, so energetic! This is Classic Trance revitalized, at its best!
08. Odyssee Of Noises - Firedance (The Sunrise) [Classic of 2013]
Speaking of Classic Trance! Or should I say Oldskool Trance in its purest +145 BPM form! The Odyssee Of Noises project reached my ears again in late February, after having been first acquainted with this old collective in October 2011. Composed of the two (former) Cygnus X members and Sven Väth on its earliest releases, this gem from '94 feels like the best representation for Trance in the early '90s: fast (save it with your "Who's Afraid Of 138" or "Team 140" please, this era's Trancers were at least 148 or 150 BPM!) and built around a single hook or melody with many variations that follow right after each other and intersect at parts (I guess I should say "hypnotic" but I hate that word due to someone's over usage of it). Gated saws, arpregiated layers, pads, it's all in here. By shifting the base melody through varying tone heights and melodies, a story is forged out of the 07:10 lasting whole: a story of Epicness. I mean it, this track is epic to me. Try playing it on the background whilst reading a story in which something like a war or big fight is taking place, it will truly enhance the reading experience. But even without that, this track is simply... Breathtaking. And it's 19 years old. That's right. I wasn't in kindergarten yet when this came out. And it STILL sounds this good. It should come as no surprise that this will most likely be my Classic Discovery Of The Year 2013. Well deserved. Legendary track this!
09. Paul Martinez & Fiddler - Direction (Matias Chilano Remix)
This Progressive piece of pure Melancholy reached me through my good forum friend Greek999 [http://www.mixcloud.com/Greek999/]. This Progressive, Classic Trance and Techno mixing mastermind shared an incredibly surreal, magical, enchanting video of this great track: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9ynSyEIv7Y]. As it starts, you might wonder to yourself what the hell is going on. But as the video and music progress you are slowly drawn into a mesmerizing sad melancholy which currently goes unparallelled imo. The padwork in this track is simply magnificent. This is Progressive at its purest and at its finest.
10. Pete Oak - An Ode To My Love (Original Mix)
One of my first favorites of the new year was this incredible relaxed House gem from Pete Oak, brought to my attention by yet another good forum friend, mr. gOt2be [http://www.mixcloud.com/gOt2be/]. Slow-paced, this funker demanded Summer before we could even taste a faint bit of Spring. The male vocal is simple and short and just adds that little bit of Class to a straight-to-the-point grooving piece. Especially that crystal clear pad (or whatever it is) gives the track its edge, alongside the funk bassline of course. And get this. You can get this track FOR FREE on Pete's Soundcloud. So wait. Brilliant music like this is offered for free whilst some of the "top tracks" in the genre charts demand you pay €2.17 for them?? We live in a strange world, eh?
11. Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. - Elements Of Nature (Original Mix)
The full review for this one can be found here: [http://razormaneofficial.blogspot.nl/2013/01/single-review-rank-1-vs-mike-elements.html]. This track is still so epic, so energetic, so nostalgic, so Trancey!
12. Soul & Senses - Natural Symbiosis (Original Mix)
This gem was brought to my attention by my good friend Sunspot Sessions [http://www.mixcloud.com/SunspotSessions/]. Presented in his mix episode "Confessions Of A Broken Heart", I was completely blown away when the breakdown revealed itself. What a beautiful melody! So pure and sincere, rife with emotion without using cliché elements. Happy with a tad bit of concealed sadness in it too, I was stunned as the track progressed. Truly an outstanding track and one of the best discoveries for me this year!
13. The Digital Blonde - Six Strings Singing (Original Mix)
The Digital Blonde is one of my good forum friend Rok Hecl's [http://www.mixcloud.com/rokhecl/] favorite artists, more so since the guy is a huge fan of the Psy-Trance genre. Throughout all these years Psy-Trance has been unable to fully grab me, as opposed to the other subgenres like Tech and Progressive Trance. But this track might be a first step in that direction. Initially I was a bit skeptical of the very long build in the track. Yes I know, how can I not like such a deep build? I felt it took a bit too long since it didn't have a really interesting twist or groove going on. But then 04:52 happened. A string melody like I've never heard them before, simple but hopeful, forced a smile right through my initial skepticism. As the beat and rolling bassline accompanied that melody, my smile grew ever larger. Some extra higher-tone layers subtly joined in a little further on, completing the harmonic perfection. Damn. 09:51 minutes went by in the blink of an eye.
14. Till Krüger - 0001A (Vince Watson Remix)
Bought this at the end of 2012, after I did a little "Intensified" round-up for that year by checking out the separate gems from each edition I had heard of Maestro Wisternoff's supreme podcast. This track came by one morning, much like Ercole's track, and just seized all my senses. I believe this is a track which my "House music mentor" TheVrk (an AVB/ASOT Forum veteran also very active on the TA Forums since the early 00's until recently) would have called "House at its Tranciest". The tempo and grooves are inherently House, but the melodic layered textures and dreamy synthwork gives the track that "Trance" feeling of reaching higher states by just closing your eyes and letting the beats and melodies carry you into that other world. Such bliss!
15. Zaki - All I Have Is Love (Steve Mill & Elias Tzikas Remix)
I'm sorry but I have to mention February Intensified 2013 YET AGAIN. The last of my 15 current favorites appeared in this mighty edition past the 36 minute mark. An oldskool sounding melody on an oldskool sounding (analog?) synth slowly swells when this calm and classy male vox tells us "All I have is Love... Love for the music. It's the music that gets us through. Music. Love. Music. Love. Music. Love. When it rains, and we are in pain, it's the music that gets through". I mean, WTF. "Lyrics" purely dedicated to the music in and of itself, underlining the importance and power of music at the same time? With an oldskool sounding production to back up that feeling of "pure" musical satisfaction no less? Like there could be any other track that speaks out what I feel THIS good! DAYUM! Furthermore, no love-life drama's or clichéd complaining about building fortresses to keep "them" out? No wailing about men on the run? No poppy nonsense about falling concrete angels? No toe-cringing sugary sweet singing about how "you are a risk worth taking" but rather a straightforward, no-nonsense, passionate yet calm tribute to the music itself? Lo and behold ladies and gentlemen, the difference between Trance and House's vocal departments. And this comes from a Trance addict in heart and kidneys. Steve Mill & Elias Tzikas? I salute you, gentlemen.
It's The Last Word, Last Word, The Last Word From Me
I've seen some people that have already started talking about having found a potential "Tune Of The Year 2013". I think it's really cool for them that they're that far already but my Soul is yet to be invigorated by something like Rank 1's 7 Instead Of 8 last year, or Kraak & Smaak's Built For Love in 2011 for that matter. The abovementioned 15 are all Top Tier Records for me at this time, but none of them have that... How to call it... "TOTY edge" for me. YET. This might change over time of course. If 6 months from now, some of these still give me the same goosebumps as they do now, I might have to get back on this. But as it stands now, I am yet to appoint a possible TOTY2013 candidate. So far I can't conclude otherwise however: 2013 has been a good year for the EDM addict. :)