Armin van Buuren pres Rising Star feat Betsie Larkin
'Safe Inside You'
The serial killer look/serially thrilling sound of Gaia was expected to provide van Buuren’s plat-de-mois this, er, mois. Some 13 years since his last Rising Star outing though, ‘Safe Inside You’ transpires to be the head-&-shoulders pick. The production packs the meatiest of punches — hitting each aimed-for high with ease, while Betsie’s vocal smoulders, with her nonchalant intonation. Somewhat out-dated a sobriquet ‘Rising Star’ may be, but it’s a helluva return.
'Balls to the Wall (Allan Morrow Remix)'
Virtually title-and-review in one, ‘Balls to the Wall’ will be no one's idea of a musical wallflower. Dumbbell weight drums, acidizing sub-riffs, multiple drops/bring-backs and snares (oh so many snares!) — count them, all present and correct on Morrow’s mix.
The Spaniard’s latest offers something of which there is remarkably little around of in May. Extra surprising too for the time of year. The build intimates somewhat towards a tech buffeting ahead, but ‘Iker’s putting out some red herrings. Thawing at the break into a synthesized Eldorado of pads, chords, immaculately structured note arrangements and seraphim harmonies, it delivers a high-class trop-trancer.
Arisen Flame & Driftmoon
'Live Your Dream'
Symphony or sim-phony? It’s the question that always needs be asked when producers opt to go ‘full-Philharmonic’. Done right, with real feeling and without resorting to trope, cliché or crowbar, it can bring real atmosphere and occasion to a track. Sadly ‘Live’ falls south of that line. Jammed inorganically into what’s otherwise a decently truckin’ trancer, its orchestral elements are less symbolic and more symbollocks.
‘Luke’ kicks off at such a crazed tempo, I had to check the computer’s memory wasn’t tanking. It hammers away with a degree of production recklessness rarely seen, almost completely reliant on its drum, percussion and bass programming. With only the faintest whiff of sub-riff initially, post break it does finally summon up a decent-ish mainline. Bags of fun, but perhaps not the most DJ-friendly track of the month.
Bilal El Aly feat Eva Kade
Another track this month that’s had far more focus lavished on its intro than your average. El Aly chops Kade’s vocal over a painstaking build, which compels, propels and absorbs in equal measures. Don’t be put off by the EDM slanted title either. ‘My World’s vox resonates in ways 90% of trance vocals can only dream of. Profound? Too much to say, but they match the production’s emotion word for word.
Black Hole Recordings
Saying the best thing about a track is its intro could sound like damning it with faint praise. You won’t be able to miss just how much supreme ingenuity's gone into ‘Shield’s though. Further in, it lifts in more classic Solar elements, with wistful, castaway geetars and beachside atmos aplenty. Sharply in contrast with the prog moodiness of last single ‘Nothing But Chemistry Here’, between them it’ll keep Solarstone fans of all gens happy.
Who's Afraid Of 138?!
Back in 2004, ‘Spiral’ wasn’t doing anything particularly new or original. What it was doing, though (perfectly bisecting melodic and euphoric), it did very well. The first thing that hits you about the track’s 11-years-later refresh is what an advance the production’s taken. Small surprise perhaps, but comparatively it now seems to bound, near wall-of-sound like from the speakers… And that’s a leap worth taking.
Less prolific than Saturate or J00F, Melodika’s sound does, though, nestle quite neatly between the two. Further, the label’s producers and remixers are feeding its releases with sounds no one else is coming up with. ‘The Fallen’ has wonderfully deep and doomy thrall, with loads of echo, thunder and attention-grabbing quirky production asides. Label boss Mark Pledger turns in a strategically different remix, which is far harder, and every bit as good.
'The Pillars of Creation'
These ‘Pillars’ were created after some misty-eyed nostalga-rizing between its producer and Subculture honcho JOC over Italy’s BXR label. It homages with beats so heavy they’d give the Hulk a hernia, industrial-strength percussive clank, one-note bass and some spoken mumbo about the titular. All of which evokes the spirit of Picotto’s warmly remembered label/production legacy perfectly!