You can lie to yourself and say that this album wasn’t the most talked-about album of 2010 in the trance scene. But it was! We can’t just let it pass by without a deeper look into it. So let’s see what Armin Van Buuren brought us in this album-rich year from his camp.
That tingling feeling of impatience. That thirst of new sounds to reach your ears and this amazing tease of first samples. Many of us go through these phases waiting for an album from our favorite artist, whoever that might be. That amazing quench-of-thirst feeling when you finally got a chance to listen to it from the beginning till the end? You all know that, right?
Well it was kind of different some years ago, when you had to run to the music store and wait with other people just to buy the album or checked you post box nervously after each visit of the mail-man. And there you have it – the sealed copy of the album in your hands. You remove the plastic covering and open the jewel-case for the first time. There’s this smell of ‘fresh music’ dwelling from the inside. You gently remove the CD (just so you wouldn’t crack the CD for heaven’s sake) and put it into you music player. You open the booklet and…
Up to this point is a very special feeling in album-buyer/fan/human relationship. It is totally independent on the tracklist. But the latter is what defines if you will ever open the album again.
Armin’s album was really anticipated by many. There is a huge fan-base all around the world and some of them (and I hope that most of them) went through the first phase described above. Because without it, the album looses its special spark which ignites that extra feeling while listening to these new tracks.
Imagine didn’t pass by unnoticed – it received as positive remarks as totaly negative critiques. So did Mirage, unfortunately before the release of the album. Now that it’s out, let’s see what’s hiding inside of it.
Desiderium 207 is what we call a proper intro for an album. Distant drums and angelic solo (later with extra voices) paints a somewhat dark picture and pushes us into the second track the album title owner – Mirage. First proper instrumental track with pounding beats and a very dark coming from depth bassline. A mono vocal chopped layer is there as well. Finally we reach the break – strings and tribal drums with an unexpected turn to the electric guitar line. A very fidgety, thus unusual part here. And you have got to admit – you don’t meet this kind of music every day. Merge it with Desiderium 207 in your mind and have a 9 minute duration track having it all.
We move on to the first vocal track, with the voice of Christian Burns. Well, honestly, you don’t have to like the vocals here to enjoy the track. If you had troubles listening to his previous collaborations (In The Dark, Power Of You), you might not find this appealing. Still behind the voice there is a breakbeat layer but This Light Between Ustries to rely a lot on vocals but the stripped-down version would be nice to hear. Then there is the second single from the album – my favorite one with female vocals on the album – Not Giving Up On Love. Sophie Ellis Bextor has a remarkable voice and I admired her solo works. Unlike the previous track – this one is purely driven by Sophie’s voice. And it’s a really nice and catchy track – a single material. It got a fair treatment as a single and I stand for my position that albums don’t have to be stuffed with 9:00 minutes tracks, but short versions which later receive proper remixes. A very successful collaboration IMO (as well as the video clip).
I Don’t Own You is another instrumental track with an intro and vocal layer made with the help from Carrie Skipper. No guys – she doesn’t sing much in there. There’s no lyrics in the booklet given, so just embrace the instruments here. A very typical structure of a trance track that works very well especially with that flavor of Carrie.
The very first single that presented us the upcoming album – Full Focus is up next. Short build up soon turns into break with strings, arppegio somewhere there and then the signature of the track – high pitched electric synth. Its purely up to your taste if you will find that appealing, I say – there are better instrumentals for sure.
We dive deep into the sea of vocals. Winter Kills is quite new in the trance scene so it’s always nice to hear more exploitations of Meridith’s voice (what’s not overused is usually a bliss). Take A Moment is another example of vocals-or-nothing track. There is only a few instruments here to pay attention to, so put a full focus (pun intended) on that sweet lady singing. Then theres Nadia Ali singing in Feels So Good. My least favorite here, due to too monotonous instrumental side and it sounds more like another track from Nadia’s album. Wouldn’t call it bad, yet would’ve kept this as a bonus track. New voice for me – Sophie – gets the most time on the album (Virtual Friend). A fair surprise for me as I loved the lyrics so much (well except for the ‘software windows’ part *khem*commercial*khem*), because they are not our typical superficial ones. Pay attention to these, if you haven’t done for the first time – might hit some soft spots. The progression of the tracks is the standard one. Not very remix-friendly track, so I’m curious if there’s gonna be a case of Mirage:Remixed and who would get to work on this one (no Dash Berlin please). Acoustic outro accompanies acoustic intro. Played it two times in a row actually at first. Contrasts here – the shortest vocal track – Drowning – is up next. And it doesn’t add much to the album – blame the track length here because it felt too rushed. And theres my second favourite vocal track on the album featuring that Sunset-Boulevardish voice of Ana Criado. You can easily spot that she adds so much to this work. In some way her voice complements smoothly with the synth and bass combination or it might be that I’m still delusional from Sunset Boulevard. I also would like to note that there is Raz Nitzan and Sir Adrian behind this track. Down to Love is this miniaturized version of a full length track which blooms with all its beauty in the extended version (you can get this on digital music stores). And I sincerely hope to see this one remixed.
Now. We go back to instrumentals and here is my favorite track of the album named Coming Home. The buildup puts a label for Coming Home – uplifting here. And we are right – processed piano keys playing these nice lines and the guitar from well familiar Eller Van Buuren. That classical synth wrapping everything up in the breakdown (oh yeah, and some vocal effects), more guitar – which is the key element here and unveils the energy of the track. Piano comes back to lead us towards the end. My choice for the beginning of this autumn. Extended version is also out there – do not miss it guys.
Rumours about this track spread already back in winter 2009/2010 (thank you twitter and facebook). I’m talking about the collaboration with BT in the track These Silent Hearts. The booklet says that its Feat. BT and Christian Burns, but the vocals come from BT himself. The rule is simple here – if you liked BT‘s vocal tracks before – you won’t have an issue with this one. For me it’s hard to resist to that “These silent hearts..” part opening the break. Once again the vocals are the heart of the track. Stripping it would be a grave sin.
Another quality instrumental track is following up. Orbion has a few ‘borrowed’ elements from Full Focus, but goes a little bit Gaia-ish way with these soloist vocals (I assume digital sample here) (no lyrics involved). Very rhytmic and well balanced track that has potential to cause a panick (in a good sense) on the dancefloor if properly extended and remixed (haven’t heard the extended version thus far).
Another hot collaboration that didn’t go to waste. Minack, co-produced with Ferry Corsten, is out-of-regular boundaries track. The dark buildup is amazing. And then it messes up with your tempo feeling when it all kinda slows down. There is something off in this track, and it’s just in the best way. It definitely stands out and requires few more plays, which will undoubtedly follow soon.
I was suprised myself when I found this to be one of the most played tracks from the album. A very light production, mostly due to the voice of Adam Young which is also very specific. He was just featured in Chicane’s Middledistancerunner which IMO was a success. Youtopia might not be what you’d expect to find in an EDM album, but then again I’d like to give you an advice to look at this from a different perspective if you can. I consider this to be a good closing track, which doesn’t need to be remixed – it’s good as it is.
And there we go. The first listen is over and now it’s up to you what to do – make this CD a flying saucer or play your favorite tracks again. Vocals lovers shouldn’t be disappointed, and I dare to say that there’re two-three solid instrumentals here. If you look into this album without any prejudice (it might be hard, but try) you will see that it reflects a big work coming from the producers and vocalists. An album that hopefully will give birth to many dancefloor killing tunes in the upcoming months.
I’m giving it a solid 8.
Pros: Instrumentals stand out for sure.
Cons: Some vocal tracks could be left out, and some of the bonus tracks could’ve been more successfully featured here.
Out now… well everywhere actually :]