zaterdag 31 december 2016

Year Review: Razor Top 30 2016

Top 30 Feature | December 1st - December 31st 2016 |

2016 is nearly over and 2017 is ready to greet us. As has been the case in the last four years, I will end the year with a blogpost dedicated to those tracks that made me smile, headbop, fistpump, foot-tap and shout in joy. As usual, we will commence with a quick glimpse at those tracks that didn't make the final cut but are still memorable tracks that also played their part in defining my 2016 in terms of music. Here we go!

This year's Honorable Mentions go to:
- The Thrillseekers - They'll Never Know (Original Mix)
- Robert Vadney - Spaceman's Theme (Original Mix)
- Fata Morgana (Original Mix)
- Love (Narel's New Age Of Love & Acid Mix)
- Hady Tarek - Burning Bridges (Original Mix)
- J. - Breaking The Silence (Original Mix) [Classic]
- Pig & Dan - Growler (Original Mix)
- Skychaser (Facade Remix)
- The Journey (Original Mix)
- Summer Tonic (Jakhira Remix)
- Beats For Broken Minds (Original Mix)
- Festivo (Johan Gielen Remix)
- Fearless (Jody Wisternoff Remix)
- Yotto - Aviate (Original Mix)
- Aril Brikha - Akire (Original Mix)
- Slam Duck - Leaving Place (Extended Mix)
- UMEK - Delerium Is Family 2
- Joint Operations Centre - Dexathol (Original Mix)
- Armin van Buuren - Another You (Gundamea Remix)
- Rex Mundi - Sleepless (Original Mix)
- DJ Sakin & Friends - Conclusion (Club Mix)
- Airwave - The Quest For Beauty (Original Mix)
- P.O.B. & Patrick Reid - Zeebooth (Remastered) [Classic]
- Airbase - For The Fallen (Original Mix) [Classic]
- Can't Change The Wind (Original Mix)
- Marco V - Mighty Machine (Timelapse Mix)

Razormane Top 30 2016 [Order by how I'd mix them if I were a DJ]

Nicolaas Jaar - Fight (Original Mix) [2015]

Glitchy, different, weird but so cool all the same, especially the synths!

Zwicker feat. Olivera Stan - Strangeways (Original Mix) [2009]
- Found it thanks to: work

Say hello to a tune I encountered at my new job, a catchy House tune with a swell vocal (and even a bit of a duet in the chorus). Imagine going through the closing phase of your workday and suddenly this groovy, synthy tune starts playing with lyrics that are... "Different" to the usual type of lyrics they play in restaurants. As long as I can remember I've been a sucker for those oldskool sounding Tech-Housey chords & melodies for as long as I can remember so no surprise: I was instantly hooked! And luckily for me, it would re-appear ever now and then, allowing me to record a bit of it one night. With some of the lyrics caught on my phone, I could start my Google hunt and within no time I uncovered the name and creators. When I bought and played the track in full for the first time, it struck me how crisp, clean and insanely groovy it sounded on my headphones! It ended up being a huge summer tune for me and even as we approach the very end of 2016, it still stands firm. Kudos!

Justin Martin feat. Femme - Hello Clouds (Original Mix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Jody Wisternoff - Intensified

It should be forbidden for basslines to be so damn infectious.

Lane 8 - Sunlight (Jody Wisternoff Remix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins #052

Back in June I was all pumped up for Euro 2016. The group stage was on in full effect and during on particular matchday I decided to play Roth's Sacred Ruins #052. It opened with this gorgeous laidback Housey tune with a nice vocal. Upon inspecting the tracklist it turned out master Wisternoff was behind this 6:57 minute long piece of summer bliss. The overall atmosphere in this track is so relaxing, it really brings my mind to peace. The vocal meanwhile, complements that feeling. The singer gets a bit more emotional in the chorus but she retains a tenderness to her voice that i enjoy. As it would turn out later, this track was just one of four Top 30 worthy tracks I would encounter in this episode of SR, and it would be one of three key episodes of any show to add to contribute to my final 30. This entry is yet another credit to Jody's uniform, but that same thing applies to Rothma whose track selections have been on point consistently this year.

Chicane feat. Moya Brennan - Saltwater (Jody Wisternoff Remix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Jody Wisternoff - Intensified

Remixes of Classics are always a slippery slope for me. If I never knew the original, they often just feel like brand new standalone productions and I don't really care whether they honor the original or not (see my love for Rank 1's Remix of Cosmic Gate's Fire Wire). If, however, I do know the original and if that original stands among my favorite Classics ever, it's very easy to f*ck up and leave me pissed, often leading to less-than-flattering reviews of said reworks... Saltwater is one such Classic. Timeless, soul-enriching, simply gorgeous and even though it might be overplayed to some, to me it's one of those flawless examples of Trance at its finest of which the enjoyement can never be stolen from me (even when the creator did his utmost best to butcher the original with that disgusting Natasha Bedingfield rework 7 years ago). In short, Saltwater is simply a masterpiece for the ages. Jody decided to remix it... How did he do??

He did well. He did really well! Now I won't say he re-invented the original. But neither will I claim that he merely recycled the original by dropping it a few BPM. Rather, he made the original fit his spectrum of sounds and grooves, retaining its fresh summer feeling and air-raising,heavenly choir and happiness. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe Jody made this remix to repay the favor of Chicane remixing Jody's The Bridge last year. What is funny is that said Chicane Remix made it in my Top 30 last year, exactly because it reminded me of Saltwater so much and now Jody actually ends up remixing Saltwater himself! It completes an interesting interaction between two artists that all end up linking to the glorious original Saltwater. Moya's voice feels more prominent here since the production underneath works in a more subtle way, offering a gentle groovy way to experience its beauty. The build-up has a very minimalistic approach, but exactly this less-is-more playing around with the elements makes it work so well. If 02:44 doesn't slowly suck you into this "bopping my head without noticing how I am sporting a smile that gradually gets bigger" sequence, than I don't know what will. The next part is so playful, so... innocently summer, so grateful for enjoying the moment for what it is. As Moya sings "open my eyes", Jody subtly releases some strings with the choir as we slowly approach the breakdown. This is unmistakably Saltwater, yet it feels different. Jody managed to strike the perfect balance between bending the track to his signature sounds yet allowing its spirit to remain fully intact whilst blowing somewhat of a different experience into it, all at the same time. In a sense, it's almost as if the original Saltwater fits more with myself at age 18, somewhat naive but ready to take on the world whilst this remix fits more in line with how I am now, well aware of the pitfalls of juvenile idealism, and naivity of believing the sky is the limit or that the world is fair as long as you are fair. The Jody Remix is more levelheaded in that sense, slightly more nostalgic too. It appreciates the simple things more... Still, whether the original or this respectable remix, Saltwater is a treasure I will forever carry with me. Nothing left for me to say than that Jody did a great job on this one. I have to admit its inclusion also has to do with my love for the original but even on its own it's one of the most blissful efforts of 2016.

Heliotype - Catching Fire (Original Mix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Jody Wisternoff - Intensified

One of the most emotional tracks I heard all year.

Heliotype - Cloud City (Original Mix) [2015]

I am yet to find out if Heliotype named this track after the iconic Cloud City from Star Wars Episode V but regardless, after he blew my mind with the beautiful bittersweet nostalgia of Catching Fire, I was curious to see if he had made more tunes that deserved my attention and praise. Much to my surprise he had one stand-out candidate in his listed Beatport productions that somehow completely slipped my attention! It was Cloud City, released about a year prior to CF and it's a typical Razor-tune. It has those Tech House chords I simply adore, those simple two tone chords so defining of the oldest House and Techno out there, backed by some lovely strings and xylophone sounds. The excellent use of reverbs on this give me a very floaty feeling and images of a city in the clouds become very easy to imagine. The bassline's deep tones mix well with the floaty melodies on top of it. The vocal/choir sample throughout gives it an extra oldskool-ish glow. This track kind of reminds me of Lone - Airglow Fires because of the sounds
both use. Airglow Fires was such a kick-in-the-nuts track when I first heard it in a summer Intensified back in 2013, and this one had a similar effect. I simply had to include among my 30 favorites this year. And based on the replay-button-lovin' I've been giving this baby, it's a well-deserved entry. Congratulations on the brace, Helio!

Lakker - Milch (Original Mix) [2015]
- Found it thanks to: DJ Eco

Ethnic. Tribal. Primordial. Delicious.

AudioStorm - Sweet Temptation (Exoplanet Remix) [2015]
- Found it thanks to: Darkboy Larry - Darkboy Sessions #015

To be reviewed.

Armin van Buuren - Club Embrace (Extended Intro) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Raigen Smash

When he wants to... He can really nail it.

Fatal Error - Angel's Arms (Airwave Remix) [2015]

It's funny how you can purchase a track and then not "feel it" until two or three months later!

Rick Pier O'Neil - Onix Beat (Exoplanet Remix) [2015]
- Found it thanks to: Rok Hecl - Visions Of Sound


Solarstone feat. Elizabeth Fields - Speaking In Sympathy (Plastic Angel Instrumental Mix) [2002 -Classic #1 of 2016]

They don't come more addicting than this.

Aril Brikha - Winter (Original Mix) [2007 -Classic #2 of 2016]

I envy those synths.

Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 14) [2016] [From the album 'Oxygene 3']

JMJ is King.

Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 16) [2016] [From the album 'Oxygene 3']

Long Live The King!

Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 19) [2016] [From the album 'Oxygene 3']

Oh no he didn't...

Temple One - Santiago (Slam Duck Autumn Mix) [2016]
Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins

The track that challenged my eventual TOTY 2016 for #1 credentials!

Katrin Souza - Incepto (Allende Remix) [2015]
Found it thanks to: Darkboy Larry - Darkboy Sessions #015

Allende sure made me crave the summer with this one.

York & Marco Torrance - Lilyleaf Ladybell (Original Mix) [2015]
Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins

To be reviewed.

York & Rank 1 feat. Lola - This World Is So Amazing (Original Mix) [2016]

Another York, another gem! An unexpected, previously un-announced collab can hit you the hardest sometimes. Much like Zenith last year, TWISA more or less popped up out of nowhere and if it wasn't for my occasional checking of Rank 1's Beatport releases in the hopes of finding some re-released old remix I have yet to add to my collection, I wouldn't have found out about this collab until October! The comparison to Zenith goes further, as TWISA too, followed after a previous Rank 1 single left me wanting more (though fairplay to Juno, it did grow on me whereas Superstring hasn't). It's short. It's simple. And it's beautiful. In the short space of time they have, York and Rank 1 present some combined trademark sounds in a feelgood breaks/chill-out track that feels like a belated follow-up to Reachers Of Civilization (Rank 1 Remix). Meanwhile, the addition of Lola adds just that little bit of marvel as her lush sexy voice confirms the title of the tune in a Spoken Word manner. It came out of nowhere, but it's here to stay as this was yet another summer-defining track for me that came at just the right time as I was still high on the euphoria of Portugal's Euro 2016 winning exploits. Obrigado York, obrigado Rank 1, obrigado Lola! This World CAN be so amazing indeed...

The Thrillseekers presents Hydra - Amber (Extended Mix) [2016]

Though it was released in the summer, I didn't get it until Autumn. And perhaps that was a good turn-of-events as its tender nostalgia fit the Autumn setting flawlessly.

Relaunch - Fusion (Original Mix) [2016]

Would you expect someone renowned for their delicious blend of Techno & Progressive to blend those signature sound with early Millenial Anthem Trance?

BRKFST - Fate [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins

I don't always call a brand new track by an artist on par with an absolute gem from 9 years prior but when I do, it's legit (imo).

Tioan - My Prayer (Original Mix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins


Sander van Doorn - Cuba Libre ("Extended" Mix) [2016]

For the third year running Sander releases at least one "Bigroom Tech" bomba that thunders like his old masterpieces did for me back in the day. And I will say that between this one, Oh Amazing Bass and Get Enough, Cuba Libre takes the cake. It might be the shortest of the three, and probably the shortest ever tune to make it into any of my Top 30s (I should inspect that first though hehe), but as far as this year goes, it's the rawest, hardest and most adrenaline-rush-causing dancefloor destroyer of everything I've heard in '16. It's stabbing Tech chords strike with a vengeance I have not heard since... Vengeance Vengeance by Leon Bolier. This track has only one weakness. It. Is. Way. Too. Flippin. Short! How can you call this an "extended mix"?? It's basically a luxury radio edit length-wise, but extended my ass! I just wish it was longer so I could enjoy those stabbing Tech synths some more. Sadly the new Sander doesn't bother with tracks beyond 6 minutes anymore. Still, one of my earliest favorites this year and the fact it hasn't lost one bit of its impact goes to show that when Sander wants to, he can be as good as he used to be. Muchas gracias, hombre!

M.I.K.E. Push - Circa (Original Mix) [Razormane Tune Of The Year 2016]

This tune...

Pure NRG - Pump Up The NRG (Original Mix) [2015]

To be reviewed.

The Digital Blonde - Argo (Original Mix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Rok Hecl - Visions Of Sound

He just had to do it again, did he?

Michael L. & Alyona B - I Will Never Burn Again (Stoneface & Terminal Remix) [2016]
- Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins

Can you spell "Trance Anthem"?

Shameless Self-mention: Razormane - Mane Festival Theme V [Dedicated To E9] (Original Mix) [2016]

Much like last year, I will dedicate the final review of this Top 30 (should be 31, lol) to my own track. Not because I am looking to start a tradition here but because much like IV last year, MFT V has been one of the tracks best defining my 2016 as a whole. Add how it coincided with one of the best things I witnessed this year (Portugual winning Euro 2016) and it ended up being a track I simply could not leave out. Dedicating it to Eder was the right thing to do and gave it an extra dimension, especially seeing how his personal life struggles relate to someone close to me. Artwork wise this is the best MFT cover yet (though let's face it, it doesn't really have that much competition since I-III used the same picture, only different parts of it). I have to admit that on the technical side I am not as satisified with this one as I was with IV. With IV I got much closer to getting my best out of the track than I did with V in the end. There were certain things I couldn't execute as well as I wanted to but ignoring the technical deficincies, this track as a whole has so many things I love about (Tech) Trance and the most important thing is that its mood is just spot-on 2016 for me. I've seen many people on Twitter complain that 2016 sucked, mostly because of its rather sizeable "celebrity massacre" but I haven't had a year this good since 2013 so I couldn't care any less. That might be selfish AF perhaps but so be it. MFT V has ended up being another worthy addition to the MFT series and I am looking very forward to creating the next installment which will mark the series' five-year anniversary. I'd like to thank everyone that has given me feedback on the track, thanks to you I've got some useful things to pay attention to when I commence work on MFT VI. :)

To Conclude...
A very Happy New Year to all of you and may 2017 be as good to you as 2016 was to me! Ciao,

- Papa Razor

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