vrijdag 8 augustus 2014

Single Review: Rank 1 - Airwave (21st Century Mix) [August 2014]

Piet & Benno were in teasing mode again the past month as they changed their social media avatars to a picture of an insect set to a beige like background. They posted the link to their website www.rank-1.com which showed that very picture, accompanied by a modern rendition of the infamous Airwave melody. That a rework of their most famous track was coming was pretty obvious from that point onward, even more so since they already hinted at it in the Trancefix interview during the period Freudenrausch was released. Some speculated they might have had their second album coming, but as it turns out, it is the  second Rank 1 single of 2014: an Airwave rework! The "21st Century Mix" title has a cool ring to it (if a little inaccurate > Remember Airwave 2003?), had expected it to be titled "Airwave 2014", followed by some of the unreleased bootlegs over the years. Now what's surprising about this release is that it was released on all download stores on a Friday, rather than the usual "BeatPort Monday" (a further reason to believe this might actually have been an album). Just a little before 00:00 today I realized I could get the release right away and so I did. Decided to listen to it with "fresh ears" the next morning though. Here's what I have to say:

01. Rank 1 - Airwave (21st Century Edit)
It kicks off with a continuous funky bassline lead and the infamous Airwave percussion when after 30 seconds the all too familiar melody reveals itself with some soothing padwork and a background Deadmau5 pluck. A rough Gaia-sounding synth swells as the climax is reached and the Airwave melody rushes on. After a minute or so, some minor fx and tuned down Electro synths/interruptions play out before the main melody swells back on. As this reprise ends, the funky elements return as the track starts winding down. Usually I feel radio/shorter versions to Rank 1 tracks always have something extra or different to them (take that extra melody layer in the Awakening radio edit or the way the L.E.D. There Be Light radio mix blends its build and breakdown cleverly to reach the "climax conclusion" more swiftly) but in this case the "Edit" is really just a shorter version without any extra's. I feel that the last bit is somewhat rushed, it ends a bit too sudden in my opinion. Nevertheless a nice summary of the full version.

02. Rank 1 - Airwave (21st Century Mix)
A more stretched out build than its shorter counterpart, the bassline lead here swells more gradually too as background swooshes and minor pitches raise the tension as the breakdown slowly rolls in around 01:15. I like the execution of this part: the subtle Deadmau5 pluck and background pads work well in harmony to honour the euphoric effect of the soon-to-be-revealed main lead. So far so good! It's at 02:29 where the track reveals its centre stage lead, a Gaia-sounding bigroom synth. No doubt this will set any crowd on fire live. For me it's a bit of a relief that this is how the track's main part sounds, as I feared an overload of carhorns and Dubstep wobbles (especially as Mark Sixma's utter noisy, aggressive and unnecessary rework of Adagio For Strings preceded this track on ASOT last night). After 3:40 there is a bit of a "Freudenrausch meets 13.11.11" vibe going on: minor Electro-ish fx with a single high pad that seeks to create a similar trippy phase as in the latter's "bridge". Earlier bassline lead then returns for a reprise breakdown: it all happens in a proper pace. Before you know it, it's hands in the air time again as the main lead returns. As it ends, a short post-breakdown follows in which the bass lead carries the rest of the track to the end as it grows fiercer and more calm throughout. Correct me if I'm wrong but this lead has a sort of minor-acid like ring to it? I love acid B) But yeah, the total amount of minutes for this rework peaks at 08:25! Much like the original! A subtle wink? Classy ;) Throughout its structure it seems to have retained much of the original's minimalism, with some added sounds here and there to spicen things up.

Safe to say, this track packs a "modern club" punch. That is not say it's the most innovative approach to Airwave out there, but it tries to translate the Classic into an outfit that suits today's dancefloors. Building on that, I'd say the choice for the Gaia-esque lead must have something do with its effectiveness. Based on the style of Airwave bootlegs that Piet supported the most in the last four years or so I feel he and Benno deliberately chose to incorporate this rough bigroom synth rather than going for the melodic/Trancey Elements Of Nature/13.11.11 approach. All in all I must say I am somewhat relieved over this rework as I feared it would be a complete and utter noise fest. If you disregard the rougher main lead, the rest sounds pretty crisp 'n clean and especially the elements surrounding the breakdowns sound nice and soothing. There is also bit of a Freudenrausch-ish funk to the extra elements the guys added to this version. So. Is it a mindblower? No, not in my opinion. Is it a complete destruction of the original? Nope, not for me: I'd call that a blatant exaggeration fitting of certain deterministic people. Sure, it's an "EDM" festival-fueled rework soundwise but it will work. It might not have the "good at home, good at the road" combination of the original Airwaves but it WILL go off live. Because that's what this track has done since day 1, for the past 15 years of Piet and Benno's most successful project to date.

I'll just be honest about it. I know this might be "cursing in the Church of Rank 1 Fandom" but for me Airwave is somewhat, well, overrated. Its originals and reworked Breathing forms range from solid to great in my opinion (especially the latter Breaks Dub > my personal fave among them, if we solely regard officially released versions) but the hype around Airwave is something that never caught onto me since I never experienced its impact in its age. And unlike younger/newer fans I never felt it was the "Godsent" Classic of all Classics. Within the history of Anthem Trance its impact can never be denied, but for me personally? I like The Citrus Juicer better! And then there is the fact that the Rank 1 I started to follow and I've respected the most is the Rank 1 that left the euphoric style which this track was the foundation of. Now I don't mind these (Rank 1 made) Airwave versions. The one thing I do mind are the people that reduce 15 diverse and awesome years of Rank 1 to just this particular track. From a neutral point of view I understand why they do so, from my fanatic point of view I absolutely hate it.... There is so much more to Rank 1 than just this one track!

I can very well imagine that Piet and Benno felt they wanted a modern, up-to-date version of their most beloved track to fit in the Rank 1 sets: if there is one track that's guaranteed to get the crowds going, it's this one. No arguing there! Then there's the fact this is much of an anniversary year to the project so why not relive the track crucial to its rise to prominence? Besides that, I can also imagine that many (newer) fans have been asking for a modern rendition over the years. And I'll admit I'll take this 21st Century Mix over the Porter Robinson/Wallbridge/Jullians/ICJ Stone & Milo.NL bootlegs any day. If we are gonna have a modern approach to Airwave then at least let's have it in the least noisy/annoying way possible! I really expected this rework to fall in line with those bootlegs but bar the rougher Gaia-ish lead, this Airwave version seems to have more of a Freudenrausch groove to it, which works for me. But there is a part of me that regrets this rework wasn't more of a reflection of the 2012/2013 live version they performed at Nature One, EDC Las Vegas and Sunrise Festival: that one is to this day, absolutely magical!

Ultimately I would much rather have had a brand new "weird" and out-of-the-box single ala Top Gear than a second rework of one of the most bootlegged/remixed Classics ever... Again, I understand Airwave's significance and impact, and I am sure this version will further expand its Legacy and Classic euphoria over the wheels of usb-driven steel for the coming years but at the end of the day I simply like other Rank 1 tracks better. But that's just my opinion. I know that many fans are happy with this release, and I am positive that applies to the gents as well, otherwise they wouldn't have released it right? ;)

So... If you don't mind your Classics with a modern touch, and you've always loved Airwave, this is an essential release for the remainder of your summer/year. Grab your copy here: http://www.beatport.com/release/airwave-21st-century-mix/1347830

Ps. Who on earth came up with that insect on the cover?? Does it have a meaning? Didn't hear any insect buzzes in this rework so I guess it doesn't relate to the track itself? :)

 | Single Review | August 8th 2014 |

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