A State Of Trance
From his 2011 output high, Jezper Joakim ‘Airbase’ Söderlund's material is now but a once-a-year treat. ‘Vermillion’, 2018’s offering, overtures grandly, with sweeping orchestral movements, both brilliant and intrinsic. That opens up into a deeper, even more sophisticated than anticipated trancer, which equalises long harmonic sequences with intuitive chord changes. Many tracks talk up classical “composition” in their production. This is the real deal.
Jordan Suckley & Alex M.O.R.P.H.
Collabs are at their most remarkable when each protagonist brings their own distinct flavour to the brew. The anticipation is then naturally is to see which, as is almost always the case, becomes the most prominent. It’s a keen balance on ‘Ambush’; however, as purveyor of tougher, and more overt elements, Jordan might just (over Alex’s more harmonic proclivities) have the edge.
Armin Van Buuren
'Blah Blah Blah'
After his ‘Great Spirit’ team-up with Vini Vici, Armin hits the psy trail singlehanded. Judging how the individual is going to take to ‘Blah Blah Blah’s vocal is anyone’s guess. You’re either going to ‘hear’ puerile and fatuous, or the most catchy, outside-the-box trance topline of this season. I’m in the latter camp, and the effectiveness of its surrounding production only squares it into the net harder.
Another brace of tunes from Estiva, who seems to favour delivering these things in twos. ‘Cubes’ is the more original of the pair. Divested of bass, its minimally inclined first half sounds like it’s auditioning parts for its production. Basically, one big tease. With great conviction, these are then marshalled together post drop, alongside some particularly enthusiastic yells, whoops and, yes, finally, bass. ‘Bloom’ is more traditional, but ironically only finds its mojo post-break.
Post his ‘Red Moon’ debut alongside mentor Mario Piu last year, the clandestine Voolgarizm steps out on his own. As solo debuts go, ‘Distinctly’ is a more than respectable number, wedding (shotgun-style) the furious incessancy of BXR-ish bass/beat/perc loops with dollops of tech and psy. For floor-side recognition points, the title relates to the track’s spoken vocal, which ghosts its midsection.
'Orange Is The New Grey/Adapt Or Die'
The latest EP from Sunny Lax is one of those tales that starts off so-so, gets better with each chapter and ends up being a race to the finish. An unpromising start, ‘Orange’ is grinding, angular, analogue and generally a bit awkward. It does manage to level out in its final third, though. ‘Adapt’ is far brighter from the off, arrives in luminously harmonic form at the drop and ends up as a runner-up for track of the month.
John O’Callaghan & Stine Grove
JOC is regarded for more than the average number of trance forms. Vocals though aren’t one of them. I’ve never been all-in on Stine Grove’s delivery either, so expectations here were checked. Paradoxically, it’s hard to tell who’s out-surprising whom on ‘Our Destiny’. Often subtly unexpected, the distinctions of the Danish singer's intonation are cool, organic and affecting. JOC isolates each one and magnifies their effect with pinpoint detailing, all before delivering a restrained and supremely judged kiss-off.
‘Offshore’, ‘Autumn Tactics’, et al, Chicane’s enjoyed a fine tradition of having his chill-out and downtempo numbers ported to trance-floors. ‘Serendipity’ comes to us in the former’s manner, and truth be told, if it wasn’t quite, quite so elegiacally moving, we’d probably let it lie. But it gives both of the aforementioned classics a run for their money, so we say: “Someone get this a trance mix… and soon!”
Andy Moor & Adina Butar
Part of Markus Schulz’s ‘In Bloom EP’, ‘Wild Dream’ is in with a shout of being Adina Butar’s best vocal turn to date. Lyrically opaque and duskily sung, its abiding effect is heady, different and, title apt, ethereal. Andy takes his production cues directly from it, tracking her tone precisely throughout its verse and chorus. The BBE-ish sub-melody, again, curiously fitting, is the icing on its cake.