zondag 31 december 2017

Year Review: Razor Top 30 2017

Top 30 Feature | December 21st - December 31st 2017 |

Hello all! 2017 is coming to a close… 2018 lurks on the horizon… And as is tradition, I have for you a blogpost covering my 30 favorite tracks/discoveries of the past 12 months. A little note beforehand: due to the unexpected revival of the Metroid franchise through Metroid: Samus Returns, I took a bit of an unintentional hiatus from dance music between June-October… It’s not that I didn’t listen to any Dance Music at all, it’s just that I didn’t really discover new music so this year’s selection comes from a far more limited pool of tunes. I am not sure if that automatically means this year’s Top 30 is weaker than those in previous years. I feel it would be unfair to call 2017 a bad year for music because of my own absence but if you heard some track you feel would have been a typical “Razor Top 30 entry” and you don’t see it here, well that’s the reason. I also ended up including tracks from the November batch which sound fresh and enjoyable right now but obviously haven’t passed the test of time whatsoever. Anyway. I’ll give you my Honorable Mentions first, then the actual Top 30 will follow. Enjoy the read!

This year's Honorable Mentions go to:
- Armin van Buuren - Ygrene Taht Rof Evil I
- Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 7)
- Nu NRG - Eclisse (Album Version)
- Transwave - Destiny (Original Mix)

Razormane Top 30 2017 [Order by how I'd mix them if I were a DJ]

01. Solarstone - Intracity (Original Mix) / Z2 - Intracity (Solarstone Solstice Remix) [2002 -Classic #5 of 2017]

Every now and then I realize I am not very up to speed with some Trance Legends’ earlier releases. So every now and then it’s refreshing to run into some unfamiliar oldies. I bought Intracity alongside Black Finished Chrome as summer was slowly approaching us. I wanted to have these two in particular because their Beatport samples revealed a Breaks/Chill-out vibe which often works very well for me. BFC was nice but Intracity was really something else. Its mysterious pads would often suck me to another dimension. The strings added a sense of extra wonder. I would easily shift into a State Of Trance when listening to this tune. Its hypnotizing power would often calm me down a lot. The almost mechanical voice spoke familiar words… Words from a Trance Classic I have never liked and never will. I find Jump The Next Train one of the most annoying and depressing tunes from that Golden Era but even though the voice here speaks the exact same words, the fact that it’s not done by Ben Lost (sorry Rich, I could never stand his voice) changes everything. It’s almost as if being spoken to by a being from another dimension. A great Classic discovery for my music library and a timeless one at that… It could have been from this year, 2007 or 2000! Absorbing, magical track.

02. Galimatias feat. Alina Baraz - Unfold (Original Mix) [2015]
Found it thanks to: a good friend of mine

A very sentimental track focusing on the theme of love making. Yeah I know, I didn’t think I’d have room for a tune like that in my Top 30 either but as it turns out the soothing production and lush lyrics combine into something that is more than the sum of its part. I also like the trippy end part a lot. A beautiful laidback song that is bound to heat your senses in these dark winter months.

03. Ben Liebrand feat. James ‘D-Train’ Williams - Weekend (Original Mix) [2015]

This track can only be described as MY JAM!! :D I bought it near the end of last year. Once I started to –play the new batch it was a part of, I actually forgot I had bought it! On my way home from work one autumn night, it came on and it lifted my spirit up SO much it was crazy! The vocals are sung with a true delight and happiness, it’s impossible to not start smiling and singing along. The production underneath is filled with such an easy-going groove, it invades your bones and makes you move your body, whether you are seated, standing or lying down. Five years ago Ben’s Remix for Love Can’t Turn Around was one of my favorite Classics discoveries in 2012. Now he strikes again with this funky masterpiece. I take my hat off to him once more. :)

04. Lifelike - Nightwalk (Original Mix) [2017]

I seem to have this weird tendency to run into summery Housey tunes during the winter and somehow feeling they are perfect for dark months of the year... xD A rather late discovery but a tasty one all the same. This one reminds me of the old Jaytech (think 2008ish) and just makes me feel very happy. When that not-a-care-in-the-world bouncy bassline kicks in, it's hard to keep a straight face. This is proper Progressive House imo. Two minutes in I get this strong Prydz vibe. The synths here rely on some heavy reverbs but once they combne with that funky bassline, the euphoria is complete. Obviously, up till this point, it wouldn't have been enough to make it to my final 30, especially not for a "cheat track" (one that comes in a little too late if we are honest). At 03:44 you hear the reason I couldn't resist adding this though. That little synthline does something to me, it feels like the cherry-on-the-cake element in a richly melodic tune when all elements reach their peak together and blend into one aural cocktail of pure ecstasy. When I first heard that synthline kick in, I went all "F*ck yeah!!"... I know, it's odd how one sound can decide that a track belongs among your elite picks of the year. And it hasn't proven to stand the test of time but we'll see. I have a pretty strong hunch that this happiness injection will be as delightful in December 2018 as it is now. Now I should honor this track's title and actually play it when I am outside at night.

05. Lifelike - Non Stop Music (Original Mix) [2017]

Anybody called for more late Lifelike additions? We get another dose of Prydzy/old Jaytech/melodic Prog House goodness with this tune. A rolling synthline carries the first half of the track. Some gentle flanged/reverbed pads, acid and synths are added some 4 minutes in making this one trippy whilst also invading your body to make you move. I feel this one is the more dancefloor-oriented of the two Lifelike tunes I have here, despite both having similar sounds/effects. A tasty summer tune that I'm giving a lot of love in the winter. I know, I know... Silly me! But better late than never.  

06. Yotto - Ghost Signal (Original Mix) [2017]

Part of the November batch I got from Beatport, this track came by through shuffle a few times and each time it did I found myself slowly drifting off to the deep depths of my thoughts. The first minute and a half so effortlessly shift your focus away from the world around you. The next bit honors the track’s title with stuttering voice fragments that might very well be ghosts seeking to communicate with you. A very proud string melody starts playing giving the track a sudden uplifting feel, as if you are being liberated from the world around you. The final minute has the intro synth line returning and slowly fading away again. Very different type of tune from Yotto, since late 2015 he’s been on my radar and has delivered some great melodic Progressive/Housey tunes left and right. This proves he’s got more up his sleeve and I look forward to seeing him play around with different styles in the future.

07. Pig & Dan - Mojo Man (Original Club Mix) [2012]

This. Is. My. Kind. Of. Techno. From the very first second it has THOSE synths! Yes! Those typical Techno synths that drive me insane, no matter how shortly they appear in a track. They have a great rhythm to them. At 01:01 the bassline smoothly rolls in and I find myself bouncing my head with more purpose. Minimalistic percussion is layered on top for an infectious persistent groove that won’t let go once it firmly sinks its teeth into your soul. Nearly two and a half minutes in, extra hats WILL have you moving in your seat. In the background a some synth is gradually being pitched up for the climax effect you just KNOW will rip a dancefloor apart. It’s done subtly, not ever over the top. That “Mister Mojo Man” sample fits this track… This track has some serious Techno mojo going for it. I see myself turning to Pig & Dan more often. Last year they blew my mind with “Growler” and their Remix for In Between. For November I got my hands on their collaborations with Monika Kruse called “Get Me On” and “Sensation”. But Mojo Man was there from the beginning of the year and throughout it never lost its appeal. Yeah, it’s half a decade old but it could very well have been released today, that would not make it any less of a stormer in my books!

08. Josh Abrahams - The Traveller (Carl Cox Remix) [2016]

From the moment I got this one, it captivated me. It's so damn infectious! Listen to the beat it starts with. You know lots of groove is coming! Half a minute in this mysterious short synth progression grabs your attention when the bassline is released.Trippy synthlines follow on top of this unrelenting beat. Don't you love it when tracks go all groovy, melodic and trippy at the same time? I just love that extra synth at 02:06! Halfway through the beat gives a away and the teasing synth arrangement from the beginning pops up again to "restart" the track with the wicked bassline. I have to admit here I am very unfamiliar with Carl Cox productions, I only know he is a Techno Don that has been around since forever. This remix got a lot of replay love from me so maaaaybe I should dive into his discography some time!

09. Ikon - Signs (Jody Wisternoff Remix) [2007]

Jody! Forgive me for I have sinned oh might Wisty one... I have missed a ton of your sets over the past year and I've even allowed myself to miss out on your productions! Which is ridiculous when it was you who nearly singlehandedly dragged me through the Trouse Infested Horrorshows of 2011 and 2012 to keep my fate in Dance Music standing! I tried to make amends by buying your remixes for Signs, Luv Deluxe and Flightless! Of the three, Signs hit me the hardest though. That vocal yo... She's sounds sexy! And that bassline! This is a tune with attitude, gives me such a badass feeling. Couldn't even tell it was a decade old, which makes the "Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii feeeeeeeeeel time is moving on..." segment all the more ironic! xD I love that sound at 03:50, and the following beatless part. It emphasizes how cool this track is. And 5 minutes in we even get some strings for dessert! Damn... The Wisternoff Magic proves once more to transcend time. *bows down*

10. Grum - Shout (Original Mix) [2017]

This isn't the first track to use these famous Tears For Fears lyrics/vocals. But I have to say the combination of those iconic vocals with the typical uplifting Grum sound works pretty well. When the melody starts revealing itself and we are gently led into the breakdown at the height of vocals' power... That moment when the main lead comes out of hiding is pretty epic! Very cool effort by Grum. Feel kinda stupid I didn't add Something About You to my final 30 two years ago as it leans on the same effective formula... Aw well. Big tune here!

11. Ilan Bluestone & Andrew Bayer - Destiny (Intro Mix) [2017]

Gorgeous intro and tasty synth progression. The melody actually reminds me a lot of Grum though there is also something Prydzy to it. What I like about Grum's style is how he uses synths that have that long reverb reach like in Trouse, but unlike in Trouse, his synths sound really Trancey. Bayer and Bluestone achieved that Grum factor here with a great Progressive Trancer that even has a slight bit of a Housey groove to it. Majestic stuff!

12. Paradox - Can’t Change The Wind [2016]
Found it thanks to: Rothma - Sacred Ruins #056
When this track reaches its real breakdown around 4:50ish, that choir in combination with the pluck and pads in the background makes me feel so homesick, I am completely enveloped by nostalgic sentiment... Last year I didn't include it in my Top 30 ONLY because I discovered it too late for this track to be a "fair" addition but after all this time it still gets me. Beautiful tune. Thanks Roth!

13. Ferry Corsten - Trust (Original Mix) [2017]

I am REALLY pleased with this new Ferry style... Ferry is hands down one of the greatest Trance producers of the Genre's Golden Age... For him to finally return to a genre he knows so well, and for him to infuse it with Modern Ferry touches leads to mighty tracks like Voema, Follow Me and of course the new Gouryella's. I have to admit that Venera did little for me but this one on the other hand caught my attention instantly. It really is the year of the synthical Prydz-like Trancers isn't? Regardless, the percussion, bass and melody additions all scream Ferry-At-His-Best. With a track like this, I feel it's safe to Trust Ferry has more to deliver for me in the future. Keep it up mr. Corsten. Your Trance Revival has been one of the most delightful out of all your peers imo.

14. Solarstone - A State Of Mind (Extended Mix) [2017]

To be fair, the build-up upon first listening to it didn't really do much at first. Sure, there is a nice groove to it, a hint of mystery because of the teasing lead that will reveal the main melody and a nice atmospheric touch. But some tracks' build-ups became better once you know what lies ahead. ASOM is one such track. Four and a half minutes in the main melody is slowly revealed and it is from here that it really begins as far as I'm concerned, honoring its name as it made me sink deep into my thoughts and contemplate life everytime it came by and I was on my way to some place this year. Rich masterfully layers and spreads the arrangements here doing Trance the Eye-Q way almost, albeit slower and somewhat groovier. Six minutes in we get piano guidance and the melody grows ever sadder as more layers are added to make the track richer, the emotion stronger, the track more intense... This might not be Solar's trademark uplifting style but it fits my Trance preferences like a glove. This track is as sad as it is beautiful. And that's just the way I like em.

15. Hazem Beltagui feat. Nourey - Light In A Darkened World (Reiklavik Remix) [2016]
Found it through: Rok Hecl

We go sadder still. Two years ago Hazem's Light Painting ended up in my Top 30 2015. We can clearly hear his melancholic melodic genius behind this but the smooth, soothing, trippy Progressive shaping of the track is no doubt Reiklavik's work. That guitar man... Gets me everytime... Even though the title seems to want to evoke hope in desolation, this tune sounds to me like the slow painful process of overcoming loss. The sadness is evident, I can feel it strongly. It's a soothing kind of sadness, one that calms my mind... Damn, what a beauty.

16. Matt Holliday - Divide & Rule (Awakened Mix) [2017]
Found it through: Rok Hecl

I could obviously compliment this track on its use of (echoing percussion), its subtle arrangements or its cool range of deep effects. But let’s talk about the main melody. That melody is so full of melancholia, it is so sad yet so beautiful. If you are feeling down and you need to express that sadness, this is an excellent track to do that with. I especially love how in the breakdown the first half of the melody actually sounds hopeful before going all sad in the second part. 05:07 is sheer brilliance as Matt switches to synths that have a higher note range and instantly emphasize the sadness. Where I come from we have “Morna” a type of music filled with “Sodade”. This track captures the mood and emotions associated with those words effortlessly, wrapped in Trancey goodness. Damn it Rok. Another excellent masterpiece from your Visions Of Sound series to my music library… Obrigado. :)

17. Basil O’Glue & Gordey Tsukanov - The Day Before (Original Mix) [2016]

The bassline in this one takes no prisoners. It's ferocious! The melody is one for troubled moods, for When Things Go Wrong... And that's exactly the Classic it reminds me off. Can't go wrong with some old Airwave... Heavy on the nostalgia but I have to admit this is a pretty heavy track, usually nostalgic melodies like this are present in tracks that are lighter. That said, it still pushes the right Trance buttons for me. Everytime it came by, it sent me deep into my thougths. Powerful tune. And once again, a gem from Master Roel's selection genius. Is your appetite to make Sacred Ruins really gone Roel? Are you positive? Adding tracks like these to your mixes make me doubt that...

18. Jaia & Pris Stratton - Use Your Imagination (Jaia Pressure Mix) [2016]

Very unusual sound to this track... From the first minute you'd expect this to go down the heavy Progressive route but once the bassline kicks in at 01:18, it turns out to be a lot groovier than you'd expect. We hear a whispery female voice uttering the title in the track without letting herself finish talking. There is something eerie and dark in the air here, the additional synth teases give this track something different... It's breakdown also plays out differently than most tracks do. The main lead at 04:40 is at once cool, dramatic and weird. It only solidifies that surreal feeling in this track. I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit and always seemed to be caught by surprise by it. Big up Roel, you sure you REALLY lost the appetite to make Sacred Ruins? Because tracks like this prove how essential you are to the annual Razor Top 30!

19. Estiva - Tarmac (Extended Mix) [2017]
Found it thanks to: Raigen Smash

Sometimes the coolest tracks come from people you wouldn't expect... Especially when they delve into styles you never heard them make before. During Spring Raigen apped me and told me to check out the new Estiva EP. I should trust him and increase the volume. Somewhere he also mentioned "Prydz". Obviously Raigen caught my attention. I first checked out Barba (which we will discuss in a minute) and then went on to check out Tarmac. Holy shit my dude(ttes)... Some cool Progressive beats kick off the track with a faint hint of the main melody in the background. 01:31 in all we have is beat and bass and a clap pattern that more or less serves as this section's "melody". Incredible groovy stuff here! More melody teasing follows with some weird voice in the background before more groove follows with a heavy focus on background effects, pitches, short glitches and heavy snares. As we approach three minutes, Estiva deploys a gentle tech synth of sorts while the teasing melody slowly gains more ground and space. Its pads are finally given full breathing space halfway through the track were a delightful pluck melody is put on top of them. It sounds clear and beautiful. I close my eyes and remember the Progressive we had on ASOT during 2006-2008. I smile. This is the stuff! Climax approaches: tech synth, crazy voice and that main clap join hands in a tasty drop heavy on the percussion... If you had told me beforehand this was from Estiva, I'd have laughed in your face. This is a killer Progressive tune, the type of dancefloor desintegrating bomba I didn't think Estiva capable of making. But here he is proving me wrong. And there Raigen is, once again responsible for helping me find year-defining records. Masterpiece.

20. Estiva - Barba (Extended Mix) [2017]
Found it thanks to: Raigen Smash

Estiva NAILED it with the main lead in this track… It is so goddamn badass I instantly see images of some large metropole infested with criminals getting their asses kicked by some anti-hero vigilante. This is a soundtrack that would go well with that type of scenario. The main lead and the groove it rides on kind of remind me of Cirez D which is quite a massive compliment to receive imo. At 03:33 Estiva dishes out a sudden Trance melody with a faint low kick underneath before he switches back to Progressive with that Attitude Lead. The climax takes its time, raising the hairs on your arms until you can no longer contain it before mr E drops that lead with no mercy. I have to admit my mind was blown when my good friend Raigen Smash showed me this track. I’d never for the life of me expect Estiva to make this kind of badass Progressive. I stand corrected. As if Tarmac wasn’t already a gem of a refreshing track, Barba is on the very same EP making this quite easily the EP of the year for me. My hat is off to you, Estiva! Very impressive.

21. Two Fingers - Fool’s Rhythm (Original Mix) [2010]
Found it thanks to: that car commercial

I hate car commercials. They always tend to focus on things that hold no single relation to the capabilities of the car, thus rendering the whole commercial pointless and a waste of precious time. HOWEVER. It seems that in an ironic twist of fate, the Music Gods decided to hide an incredible monster tune within the confines of the worst type of commercial out there. Every time I was at my brother and we’d have to endure another block of commercials, this particular one would appear and suddenly my attention was caught. A merciless hoovinator-styled lead carries the track and stutters and bends throughout, as if it’s some sort of vile machine from a post-apocalyptic Mad Max like future. It’s gritty, it’s filthy, it’s edgy and it’s so damn badass. Heavy on bass elements yet light on percussion, it seems to be compromised of few elements though with its duration and MASSIVE Hoovinator lead, you don’t need much else. I have no idea what genre this falls under but if anyone has more, hook me up. This was one hell of a filthy discovery and I don’t mind getting dirty for good music!

22. Armin van Buuren - My Symphony (The Best Of Armin Only Anthem) (Extended Mix) [2017]
Found it thanks to: Raigen Smash

Raigen was on a roll here! Even though Electronic Haven may be no more, I can always count on his keen ear to acquaint me with interesting, cool, or beautiful tunes. This was one such tune. Yes I know what you are thinking… A Bigroomer from Armin in a Razor Top 30, did hell freeze over??? Not exactly. Look. My Symphony rocks my socks off. Because it does it right. The build-up is pretty straight forward. Until that voice starts talking. “Words… are human invention. Music spreads my real intention. It says exactly how I’m feelin’, this is My Symphony of you”. Stop. This part right here reminds me of none other than the Mighty Maxi Jazz, the Voice Of Faithless. Faithless, as you know, is Life. I have to admit at first I wasn’t too keen on how the beat goes almost Dubstep-ish here, it is later repeated but in the end the good parts in the track more than account for these minor blips. Next the break. Those strings. I adore those strings. They remind me of good old Symfo. But even in these strings there is something almost Faithless-like to the track. They are simple but catchy and most off all, they lead the way for THAT riff. That f*cking riff. It strongly reminds me off Full Focus but where FF didn’t really survive many replays, MS stands unfazed after more than a half year of replay button abuse. When that riff kicks in at 02:02 it ALWAYS “activates” me. Gets me in the mood for a party. Or to get off my ass and do the stuff I have to do. It’s one of the best riffs I’ve heard all year and definitely one of Armin’s best yet. When the second break comes and the voice is stuttered to repeat “You, you, you, you” whilst fading to the background: this reminded me of Faithless yet again. This whole track seems to be a mixture of 2010 Armin meets Faithless meets 2017 Armin. It’s an unusual combination of styles that somehow just works perfectly for me.

It’s kind of ironic though… The Bigroom Armin is part of the reason I stopped being a fan yet here he executes it in a way that works so well. It’s impossible to sit still when this plays. Honestly, it does not compare to Club Embrace by aesthetics but in terms of the role it played in my musical 2017 it deserves to be here as it managed to remain captivating and relevant throughout. I take the deepest of bows to Armin. Incredible sneak attack to make it back into my Top 30 for a consecutive year!

23. Marco V - Mighty Machine (Timelapse Mix) [2016]

This one didn’t make it to my Top 30 last year purely because of discovering it in December. However, it was a tough call to make since this is easily the best Marco V track I’ve heard since… Well… 2008? 2007 even? That robotic voice is SO V!! The build-up delivers those typical techy background sound and bassline ala V as well. And that riff!! Is it the early ‘00s again? Those synths give me instant C:/del*mp3 vibes! All in all, this was one of my favorite Tech tracks in the first quarter of this year and I feel that with the many plays it got from me and the fact I’m not sick and tired of it right now, means it earns a spot among my faves of 2017! Well done, Marco! It’s great to have you back :)

24. Lostly - By Morning You’ll Be Gone [2017]

A very delicious uptempo Trancer here! One minute in you have this reverbed synth stab that echoes away in the distance… This little effect reminded me of ASOT in the first quarter of 2006… After often very deep, dark, progressive opening hours, the 2nd hours could often have these soothing Trancers to follow suit. This track strongly reminded me of those good old tunes in those good old days. Especially the melody and synth combination in the breakdown. It’s a melody that got stuck in my head for quite a bit and just felt nice to listen to. The funny thing is it’s not even all that complex. Pretty straightforward to be fair but it works really well. Sometimes execution > flair. Yet another track to prove that uplifting Trance doesn’t have to be generic tralalala 3-minute breakdown nonsense with a girl’s name for a title to be good. Props to you Lostly!

25. Second Sine - Immoral (Original Mix) [2017]
Found it thanks to: Rok Hecl

I can always count on that Rok Hecl dude to introduce the good uptempo stuff to me. This track doesn’t really have much of a stand-out riff/melody or synth stab kind of lead. It’s based almost solely on pounding beats and reverbing percussion effects… Oh, and that female voice and the dark voice. But that reverbed tom(?) that comes in at 01:24 is probably the reason this track got a lot of replay love from me. This track is a KICK in the b*lls, tough as nails and dark as hell. It has a raw edge I simply cannot resist. Much like My Symphony and Fools Rhythm, it is not so much the aesthetic beauty but rather its raw brilliance that managed to captivate me throughout 2017. What a badass track.

26. The Digital Blonde - Symposium (Original Mix) [2017]
Found it thanks to: Rok Hecl

One of my heroes of this decade, The Digital Blonde has proven to be a master of rewarding his deep atmospheric build-ups with gorgeous or epic melodies on delicious synths. This year he released his album “The Witches”. Earth Tone and Dreamscape were the other tunes I bought, they all reached my ears thanks to mr. Hecl (as usual) but out of the three, Symposium was always going to take the cake. The build-up is typical TDB: crazy background effects on a solid bassline, with a good energetic vibe, albeit a bit lowkey for the most parts. Nothing too special yet. But that is about to change soon. At 02:18 we hear an element being added that is the spice of this build-up phase. I can be a sucker for various types of sounds and I just LOVE glitchy, chopped, high-note melody patterns with a quick rhythm. At 03:13 a pad gives us a hint of the track’s main melody. Nearing 5 minutes the beat gives away and the atmospheric effects slowly die down when at 05:04 the main lead starts playing. I am not sure what this sound is… A reverbed xylophone of sorts? Doesn’t matter what it is, the first, second and 50th time I heard it, it drove me wild. Such a simple melody on such a simple instrument… Yet it feels so powerful! When the beat suddenly slams back at 05:31… I can only imagine what that must feel like LIVE… As the main part carries on, pads are added to the mix for a typical epic TDB anthem. After Hymm in 2015 and Argo in 2016 this guy proves once again to be along in the Mane Pantheon of Music Heroes. Epic respect.

27. William Orbit - Adagio For Strings (Ferry Corsten Remix) [1999 -Classic #1 of 2017]

FINALLY. It took me ages to acquire it but this year I made proper work of tracking down the William Orbit single Adagio For Strings to finally get my paws on the Ferry Corsten remix. My first taste of AFS was Tiesto’s rework from 2003. I loved that to bits but then ended up overplaying it and nowadays I prefer to skip it than hear it. In 2005 I got to hear a Danjo & Styles Remix which used the second part of the main arrangement that Ferry had used too, but Tiesto for some reason decided to ditch. Then in 2007ish or something (can’t quite recall) my brother recorded a radio rip of the Ferry version. Ever since I’ve tried to keep my eye out for it digitally, to no avail sadly. Don’t mentiond iTunes. I don’t do iTunes. Anyway, 2017 marked a change in fortunes for me! What is there to say? It’s good ol’ Classic ’99 Trance Corsten. The build has the bassline/groove combination you would hear strongly in the Gouryella productions as well as Ferry’s biggest Trance hits at that time. The AFS melody has always been a gorgeous, sweeping arrangement with real sentiment, sadness mixed with hope. Combined with those delicious trademark Mister Midas Touch Trance synths it makes for one killer combi. The first Classic I hunted down this year, and one for the ages…

28. Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 11) [1997 -Classic #2 of 2017]

If you have ever played Knight Of The Old Republic or the Mass Effect games you will no doubt be familiar with the concept of “the derelict space vessel”. Just floating around in space, the vessels often seem abandoned at first glance, only for them to be teeming with machines/creatures/mercs seeking to ambush and kill you. The atmosphere is tense, thrilling, scary at times. Since you have to be on your toes an outburst of violence is potentially waiting around every corner. When I first heard Oxygene 11, these were the images that flashed through my mind. That, and spaceships moving through wormholes with bright lights flashing and reality distorting around me. 02:27 in particular. Listen to how nearly every form of melody in the tune is bent down in pitch in their final notes creating aural chaos. Glitchy, mechanical and computing sounds are constantly heard in the background, becoming fiercer as the track grows more abstract, and the images you see portray your fall into the void. I adore this 11th Oxygene. Its beauty lies in its chaos and constant tension, no, constant threat of things spiraling out of control. As such I would sooner classify this track as a cinematic soundtrack experience. In my mind it evokes vivid images, aggressively distorted as the track reaches its thrilling zenith before mysteriously winding down and fading away… For the third year running, JMJ claims a well-deserved spot in my Top 30. But as was the case in the previous two years, he didn’t do it with just one entry.

29. Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene (Part 12) [1997 -Classic #3 of 2017]

Here’s the other entry. Again I cannot help but be reminded of the video game universe when listening to this 12th Oxygene. Picture the following: when you think you have defeated the final boss and suddenly everything starts shaking and collapsing and you have to get the hell away when either said final boss turns out to be still alive in some final chaotic/monstrous form or some other antagonist decides to show up at the last moment in a stupid attempt to take you down… Much is at stake, not least of all your own survival. Unlike the previous Oxygene this one is filled with sweeping melodies interchanging turns played on rich synths. The echoing stutter clap effect from the previous Oxygene is still present here (remember that JMJ albums are supposed to be listened to as whole experiences, not as separate units), alongside all sorts of crazy typical JMJ effects. As a whole Oxygene 12 has that Larger Than Life type of epic melody throughout that I simply adore.

I had received the original Oxygene as a birthday gift in 2015, I had gifted myself Oxygene 3 for Christmas 2016 and early this year I got the second one. I have to admit that when I first listened to Oxygene 7-13, I felt it to be a bit too similar to the first album, especially the Oxygene 7, 8 and 9. Might also have to add I happened to listen to it when everything was going wrong in the beginning of 2017 so that influenced my mood. But. Once I started replaying it regularly and it became the “on my way to work” soundtrack, it grew on me immensely. As such, I simply do not agree with some of the less-than-flattering comments I saw on this second installment of the Oxygene series. Especially these two parts, 11 and 12, give us ’97 Jarre in style. New and refreshing, without throwbacks to the first one. This guy is and has been a truly phenomenal composer. He is without doubt the biggest enrichment to my music library over the last two years. I still have a few albums of his I need to check out. Better make sure I do that because if he has more gems I have yet to hear than they need to be in my Top 30 next year! Thank you JMJ, for these timeless gems!

30. Aida - Fear Of Love (Trance Mix) [1995 - Classic #4 of 2017]

Every five episodes Rok has been doing a live edition of his Visions Of Sound mix series where he mixes an extended 3 to 4 hour set LIVE and broadcasts this over the net. These sets are always notable for showing how diverse his taste is as well as his story-telling capabilities mix-wise. The 20th VoS was no exception in that regard though rather than doing a contemporary set with some Classics inbetween like he usually does towards the end, he opted to go for the Full Classics treatment this time around (tracklist is in the link above, sadly, he did not record this session). The final track for this tasty Trance rush was the beautiful Aida - Fear Of Love (Trance Mix), an oldskool Trance gem from the mid ‘90s.

It starts off with my kind of melody and sets an instant epic mood. You know you are in for something good. “Take my love… Passion… Darkness”. The female voice adds to the sense of mystery in the intro which stays rather lowkey until 01:38 when it unleashes its haunting piano. I get instant Eye-Q Records vibes from this, in particular Brainchild - Synfonica. I LOVE Classics like this!! As the female voice starts singing we hear gentle acid layers, strings and the overall haunting, combining to give the dramatic melody the power it deserves. We get a reprise to enjoy just past the four and a half minute mark (a part which sounds so Eye-Q I might add, at least to me). At 05:10 a choir-like sound announces the return of the piano and off we go to Trance Land once more. How could I ever resist a gem like this? I must say I discovered some beautiful oldies through JMJ, Ferry and Solarstone but this one by Aida was my Classic Summer Hit. The ending is amazing as well as the voice holds a long note before the melodic elements fade away. I love it.

31. Shameless Self-mention: Razormane - Mane Festival Theme VI (Extended Mix) [2017]

And the 31st entry goes to Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane! Man… I love the intro. It kicks off without wasting time. Sweeping chords swell in ferocity as we head towards the first climax. The next part has some snarerolls eager to swell up meaning we jump from one climax to another in just over one minute of time! When that drop hits at 01:17, it hits HARD. I don’t think any previous MFT had me grinning as much at 01:17 as VI has done all year. The piano-like synth that follows  a little later is very much inspired by Serenity. In particular the 02:13 part is based on what Jan Vayne did during his live performance of Serenity with Armin at Sensation 2005 [skip to 01:10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5viy-CAB3C0]: when my brother and I heard this when we first played Armin’s Sensation set at home, I was overcome with a rush of adrenaline during this piano tease. One of the things that made Serenity so incredible for me was that piano melody. For Jan to do that little tease was something so memorable I was dedicated to doing a tease like that myself for MFT VI. As the break plays out here, I hope people can tell it’s a salute to the wonderful Serenity. I actually have a variant of the melody that literally has the same rhythm pattern as the one in Serenity but due to me not wanting Armada/Armind/Armin to come sue my butt over at Soundcloud, I haven’t used it for the official version. The stutterish Tech synth is another wink to Serenity (as are the choirs during its introduction before the drop).

At 04:47 the tribute to Serenity ends. What follows is a salute to the Mane Festival Theme series as a whole. When I created MFT I five years ago, I always hoped and dreamed I’d still have it going five years later and for that to be the case fills me with an incredible sense of satisfaction and pride. Moreover, ignoring technical deficiencies that one can attribute to my amateur level, I think all six themes prove that I have the potential to create epic Trance anthems once I reach pro level. This second part in VI goes all crazy with different chord variations that complement each other so well to create a truly dramatic, epic Anthem Trance feeling. Chords have been the foundation of this series and have allowed me to make some melodies I am really proud of. I am also happy with my arrangement skills as I’ve managed to make to long tracks with III and II whilst IV, V & VI are all over eight and a half minutes long. I can use Trance-based tunes to tell a story through music. That is quite the achievement me thinks. :)

With five years of MFTs done, I wish to make VI the curtain-fall on this chord-driven style. It’s time to take things down the Rank 1 - Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom / Marcel Woods - Advanced / JOOP - Advanced / Ernesto vs Bastian - Thrill route. Driving, industrial, badass Tech Trance with killer riffs and crazy basslines, emphasizing the Energy in Trance Energy! It will be a challenge no doubt, but I am looking forward to it. Before I set off to make MFT VII a Tech Banger however, there is something else I need to do first.

To Conclude…
For 2018 I have one project I deem of greater importance than MFT VII. It is a project to revive a bunch of tracks I made (or nearly finished) between 2006 and 2011 but never shared online before. These tracks capture what I intended to be the essence of the "Razormane sound" back then (back when I was convinced of using different aliases for different styles). I've come to reject that idea though. Razormane should reflect my taste as a Dance Music fanatic from a creator's perspective. Why limit it to just energetic, wicked, angry, crazy, weird Tech tracks that range from 139 to 148 BPM? Why not let Razormane be about everything Dance Music I deem to be amazing in one way or other?

But why a revival of old stuff you ask? To achieve peace of mind. These tracks have always had potential imo: I just never had the skills to unlock said potential. I still have a lot to learn but my skills have vastly improved compared to what I was doing prior to 2012. So it's time to make these tracks shine. An unintended positive side-effect is that I will be delving into the psyche of a Tech Trance-minded Razormane Of The Past. I am positive that it will be a valuable "refresh course" in how to make music because it just sounds cool, without limiting myself to what sounds logic. The irony here is that though I am a better producer now than I was back in those days, back in those days my creation process was... Freer. More amateurish perhaps yes, but also way more out of the box.

I look forward to share this revival project with you once it is finished. And I am looking forward to the moment I create "that perfect draft" that will define MFT VII. Brace Yourself. The Year Of Tech is Coming!

Let’s go kick some serious ass in 2018! Happy New Year to all of you and stay safe out there! Take care :)

- Papa Razor

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