Back in October I was completely caught by surprise when Zenith was premièred. It's the kind of pleasant unexpected thing that can happen to you as a Rank 1 fan. So last week I had this similar vibe when Rank 1 changed their social media headers and posted this beautiful cover: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CjcxBJCUgAAh-e2.jpg. No title though and no soundcloud or Youtube teaser either. Just this cover with a release date. Cryptic as always, but that's just how we like Rank 1, don't we? :D Seeing how by Wednesday this week I had yet to discover any hint about the title or the track itself for that matter, I decided to skip any potential A State Of Trance / Global DJ Broadcast / Ferry Corsten's Countdown premier and just wait till the 3rd of June to have my first hearing experience as "untainted" as possible. Sadly, the curiosity got the best of me and during my break at work I peeked on Rank 1's twitter to at least find out what the title was. "Tune in tonight @asot #ASOT766 for the world premier of our rework & new single ‘Superstring’!"
...That was not what I was hoping for. Another rework of a Rank 1 Classic? Why isn't it a brand new track instead? Doh! :< Disappointed Mane is disappointed. I was so disappointed in fact I just neglected my previous vow to listen to this "new" track untainted. I searched Youtube to listen to it. Let's just say that first listen came too soon after the initial disappointment so I didn't listen to it with a clean mind. So instead of typing down those first thoughts, I'll treat the full track listen as the first time. Here's my 2cts on this rework of one of Rank 1's greatest ever moments:
01. Rank 1 - Superstring (Radio Edit) [03:00]
The radio edit kicks off with all those iconic melody lines playing in harmony through various different types of pads and synths. After 00:47 seconds the track morphs into the breakdown. At exactly 01:00 that Riff Of Riffs kicks in and a short climax later we are head bopping along that good old melody, this time at 132 instead of 138 though ;) A short piano-like intermezzo follows with a synthline I believe comes from the original Superstring from the early '90s, I don't recall hearing this melody line in the 2000 version... They might have utilized it in their live performed version of Superstring throughout the years though... Anyway! The riff returns in a reprise and with a final stab of that mighty riff, the track stops as the Supersaw and fx echo away in the last 4-5 seconds.
02. Rank 1 - Superstring (Extended Mix) [06:14]
The rework kicks off with characteristic echoing percussion elements and a heavy synthline that sounds like it could go in an either Electro-driven or Techy direction. An extra synthline ala Zenith joins the fray as the track's tension starts to build up. At 1:27, that all-too-familiar Superstring melody reveals itself with a synth sound I can't really place, it almost sounds like an organic instrument but has an electronic ring to it at the same time... Nearing two minutes a different melody pattern takes over whilst the Supersaw teases in the background. At 2:14 one of the most well-known riffs in Trance history reveals itself. Oh yeah, they kept the original saw intact and didn't replace it with a distorted one!! Snare-hits start raining down before the track steadily reaches it climax as synth and beat join forces for what will definitely be a nice moment live. In the background they have this echoing melody line from the original playing, albeit with different pads.
The middle section reveals a nice piano-solo: prior to writing this review I saw someone on Twitter comment that this part sounded like the producer was having a blast playing it. I have to admit, I really like this piano part, it's a very nice addition to that gorgeous Superstring melody. It does have a bit of a weird ring to it at times, perhaps because there is more than just one element playing there. The riff returns, and I have to say I am GRATEFUL they kept the original saws in it and didn't replace it with an aggressive variant like they did with Airwave two years ago. I don't think Airwave works with an aggressive lead, let alone Superstring. Anyway! The track then enters the final phase of the main part, what happens here is pretty interesting, an Acid synth starts twisting and bending but as it grows fiercer and then pulses on after the track's final climax, it almost sounds like a heavily enhanced robotic voice (similar to the one in Inyathi that says "Inyathi"). The track starts winding down with the Acid synth "shouting" at intervals whilst that "Zenith lead" slowly sees the track out to its end. At 6:07 it's the only element playing, giving this Superstring 2016 an ending similar to 13.11.11.
Unlike their 21st Century Mix for Airwave, this Superstring Rework takes on a different structure arrangement-wise but curiously enough the moments that matter the most have the original saws as intact as possible. The Airwave rework was the opposite: arrangement wise it followed the 1999 original inch by inch whereas its most important element was enhanced to fit modern day demands... In that regard I find this a better rework to Superstring than the 21st Century Mix was to Airwave. Then again, whereas I have a bit of a hate-love relationship with the 1999 Classic, I have nothing but love for its Sensation-defining 2000 sibling.
And yet, I am left with mixed feelings. First of all there is the (I won't lie) MASSIVE disappointment at this release being just a rework and not a completely new single. In retrospect I should have been aware of that as the 21st Century Mix for Airwave was also released on a Friday. Rank 1 releases on Fridays in this modern mp3 era don't bode well for my high expectations it seems :P So there is the disappointment. Then there is the fact that we are talking about a rework of Superstring (Rank 1 Remix). Said remix is one of my favourite Rank 1 tunes ever so my judgement on any kind of rework will always be harsher than it would be in the case of new production. I understand the motivation behind the rework: they want to be able to fit one of their most beloved Classic in a contemporary set without it feeling out of place tempo and production-wise. Furthermore, looking at High Contrast's recent trend of releasing modern reworks of some of their catalog's gems (Advanced, Lost Connection, Lemon Tree, Dark Side Of The Moon etc), this rework could very well have been suggested by the label. And honestly? I'll take a Rank 1 rework over anyone else's rework of their past/future gems, ANY DAY.
All that said, listening to this rework, I don't feel the excitement, rush or not even those 1/100 moments of disappointment when a new R1 production doesn't manage to enchant me. In fact, I feel kinda void listening to this. The bits I like best (basically the parts with the main riff) are also in their 2000 version... And bar the piano part, all the other additions to this rework aren't thrilling enough for me to choose this version over the 2000 one. And no, I am not being a sour, nagging purist here. If anything, my love for Rank 1's modern discography will have plenty of purists scratching their heads in confusion. I am digressing here though, my point is that this rework has some nice bits but overall it's an upgrade I deem a bit unnecessary. Especially if you consider that over the course of last year, the Trance scene has seen lots of producers slowly drop the Bigroom Festival sound in favour of a Classic-Trance inspired one. This means that sounds and tempos are headed in a direction that makes the modern tracks much more compatible with the Classics. In that sense, this lower-tempo rework would have made a lot more sense 5 years ago when everyone was dropping 128 sets left and right. But right now I feel it misses the boat, which is unusual for Rank 1 considering they've always been ahead. Airwave, Top Gear, Life Less Ordinary, L.E.D. There Be Light, 7 Instead Of 8: each of these were highly innovate back when released and some of them inspired whole subgenres. Speaking of 7 Instead Of 8, with that gem Piet & Benno were way ahead of most of their peers: before Anahera took the scene by storm last year, the Rank 1 gents had already crossed that old-in-a-new-coat venue. And heck, if you look even further back, they already released two remixes on Anjunabeats which had strong nostalgic vibes hinting at the old Dutch Anthem Trance era of the late '90s.
Rank 1. Doing "new oldskool Trance" before it was cool. B|
So yes, ultimately this rework leaves me wanting but as I am listening to it on repeat whilst typing all this I am wondering what potential those non-Superstring bits could have had in a different context. I have to say that "voice acid" element kind of intrigues me. And the addition of that piano in the middle section gives the track a surprisingly organic feeling in that section. I can't help but wonder what the guys could do if they were to take these elements into a new direction for a next track... Albeit rawer, darker. A track that combines hypnotic synthlines with crazy bending Acid voices and Techno synths. But that's just my fanatical mind speculating like a bull gone wild (as usual). This rework, for me, ranks as decent but as always I will prefer a brand new production. If Twitter is anything to go by, I am of a small minority though as so far I've only read highly supportive and appreciative comments towards this rework. To those people I say: enjoy it! Those that are new to Rank 1 I deffo recommend to check this out as groove-wise this rework is typical of their current sound whereas that timeless riff gives them a glimpse of Rank 1's glorious Classic discography. In the end, this release was not what I hoped it to be but other than that they didn't mess up the original so I'd say, go and support it! Let me give you a helping hand: https://www.beatport.com/track/superstring-extended-mix/7989978