Svenson & Gielen is one of the biggest acts the trance scene has ever offered us. They have brought us multiple trance classics under various project names like Airscape, Balearic Bill and Boccaccio Life. Lets dive into a bit of trance history by checking out their only album called “The Beauty of Silence”.
“The Beauty of Silence” is also the name of the opening track and it’s nothing but a true trance classic. We’re dealing with the radio edit which fortunately doesn’t take away too much of the soul of the track. Specially the first minute containing the intro section shows how well these guys layer their music. The small details and little melodies floating around create a great atmosphere before the silence literally appears. As the main synth slams in, you realize that the beauty of silence is that it releases some extra energy and intensity when the synthsound kicks in after the silence. This trick has been used over and over now, but it was kick-ass when this track was released back in 2000.
“Unknown Pleasure”features the vocals of Simi Nah, and she delivers a nice unique almost spoken sounding vocal. After a minute a small arpeggio melody appears that will simply take you away… In the breakdown breakbeats are used and the vocals get louder and almost screaming-like as it progresses. A typical big room S&G synth melody rises slowly from it leading towards a great energetic climax. This track really shows how a vocal should be used in trance music. Simi Nah: “For this track the music was already written by Sven and Johan, I just had to write and add the lyrics. Sven told me they would like it be in ‘Anne Clark’ style. I had no idea what the other tracks on the album would sound like, so it was quite a challenge to write something that would fit the atmosphere.”
Originally, “Twisted” was meant to be released as a collaboration with Paul Mendez for a new project. Paul Mendez: “I spent three days in Belgium with Sven & Johan co-writing & producing ‘Twisted’, but with the instant attention it received I was asked by the label management if it could go under the project title ‘Svenson & Gielen’ as they wanted it for the trance energy theme track that year. I said ‘Yes’ as long as I was credited as a writer and producer.” The track is presented on the album in the radio edit of the Energy Mix. Wouldn’t the original, less for-the-floor, version be a better choice here? Maybe. Perhaps they believed the album would have been a little too ‘sweet’ and decided to go for the darker (and more unknown) Energy Mix. It does seem to fit better in the album.
The track “Fujirama” starts with just the drums and after a minute of introducing more drum sounds everything suddenly disappears. A synth melody slowly appears and then the beats and bassline join in as well. More and more sounds blend in and you are just hoping for one thing: a wonderful S&G climax. The breakdown follows with some strings chords and then the wonderful main melody kicks in. Perfection. Johan Gielen: “I’ve been lucky to visit the immense Fuji mountain. Standing at the feet of this mountain and enjoying the magnificent view you realize how small you are. This track captures the contrast between man and mountain.”
“Outward Voyage” is an emotional track which was inspired by the tragic death of a close friend of Johan. It is definitely the saddest sounding track on the album. It’s the only track that is not based around big synths, but around melancholic piano melodies and sad sounding strings. The track being down tempo does not imply it’s just a meaningless filler. It is a nice break from all the big synth madness yet still displays the S&G sound.
It probably would have been a major summer slammer if the Sunclub hadn’t come up with their Fiesta-remake “Summer Jam 2003”. Now, “Beachbreeze” didn’t do too well in the commercial charts (with a highest position of #32 in the Dutch chart), but in the trance scene it still had some success, mainly because of the powerful Green Court Remix which was a favorite amongst a lot of people. The original mix featured on the album is just as great though, with Jan Johnston delivering truly stunning vocals.
When a short sample of the breakdown of “We Know What You Did”, containing the famous cello sequence, was posted on the Trance Energy website, as a teaser, it lead to one of most requested and hyped records of 2002. The way the four different melody lines blend together during the build-up is astonishing. It’s another track that just doesn’t sound similar to anything else, even after all these years.
The ideas for “Answer The Question” were born after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA. Johan Gielen: “Because of my travelling as a DJ I get inspired quite easily. The events in New York touched me deeply. I’ve tried to put those emotions into the music in my own way.”. Their result is quite a mysterious trance track, darker than most of their productions.
With a melody in a similar style as the one in Kamaya Painters’ ‘Endless Wave’, “Falling Star”sets a very cheerful mood before going into the breakdown where yet another big S&G synth melody is revealed. It’s a fine track, but it’s not as superbly layered as some of the other tracks.
“Evol (In Love)”features vocals by Simi Nah again. The vocals are much more pop and don’t sound as unique compared to the ones in ‘Unknown Pleasure’. When the breakdown is reached thankfully a big S&G synth comes out again that saves the track, but to be frank, it is the least interesting vocal track on the album after the stunning vocals in ‘Unknown Pleasure’ and ‘Beachbreeze’. The track initially was created for a different project of Simi Nah. She explains: “Johan heard the track when he was working in the studio where I also work and he thought it was very good. We decided together that the track could be used for the S&G album. My partner-in-crime Kenny (Scuzzy) reworked the track together with Sven, but they left most of the original production intact. I really love this track, it brings back some of the soft gothic side in me!”
Back in 2002 Svenson & Gielen arranged a remix-swap with DJ Tiesto. The duo remixed “Lethal Industry” and in return they would receive a remix for “We Know What You Did” from the DJ Tiestoteam. The track is a lot softer and more dreamy compared to the original. In the breakdown the famous cello stabs appear, where Tiesto added some more orchestral elements, increasing the intensity. It’s a great version for home listening, while the original mix and the Johan Gielen remix offer some more dancefloor damage. Something for every mood…
The second bonus track was also part of a remix-swap. This time S&G remixed “The Wave” and got a Cosmic Gate remix of “Answer the Question” back. It’s a remix in the typical German hard-trance sound which is what Cosmic Gate was all about back in the day. The breakdown is a little bit long without much happening, but the reward is big. Right before take-off Cosmic Gate have altered the main melody a little bit giving it just a little bit more energy.
When you are capable of creating 10 great tracks that all breathe your signature S&G sound and yet all use different synth sounds and different note sequences, then you are doing something right. The mastering is also great and shows what is wrong with all that’s coming out now. Zero clipping, lovely dynamics, a treat to the ear. The great cover-artwork that fits exactly with Svenson & Gielen sound and a cool informative booklet with the boys commenting on the album also add to the value of the album.
The only downside of the album are the radio edits. It is understandable though as they probably wanted the previously released hits at that point to not take up too much time. But, now, after all these years, they are ‘just’ (yet great) radio edits. Especially considering the album plays only for 61:42 minutes, there would have been more than enough time for extended versions.
However, it is safe to say that if you have ever found yourself liking the sweet and smooth commercial trance sounds that Svenson & Gielen brought us, you will for sure love this album…
So… what are these guys doing now?
Johan Gielen is still busy as a deejay and releasing music. His tracks are released on Blackhole Recordings and the sound of his productions have developed into a progressive house sound. Currently Johan is working on a new artist album and a mix compilation, carrying the same name has his monthly radioshow, “Global Sessions”.
Sven Maes seems to have lost interest in a career in trance. There has not been a release from his side since 2008 and last year most hardware materials from the Svenson Studio were on sale. It seems that Sven is now focusing on other sorts of art, with his new company called “Svenson Art”, which is an online Art-gallery specialized in modern and contemporary art of excellence, and offers in permanence original and graphic works of important Belgian and international artists.
Good luck to Sven, but meanwhile let’s hope the studiowizard behind the Svenson & Gielen music will someday get new inspiration and energy to start making banging trance music once again…