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Armin van Buuren – A State of Trance 2013

Of the many life lessons my mother taught me, two seem particularly pertinent right now. Firstly, she always told me to never trust a man who wears all white (although our local Catholic priest was exempt). Secondly, she also told me to never trust a man who, after previously wearing all white, chooses to dress in bright blue jeans. I ignored her at the time. Little did I know how eerily prescient her words were. Fast forward a couple of decades later and here I am trying to decide whether to trust Armin van Buuren to deliver his usual box of delights for the tenth release in the always-awesome A State of Trance series.

Maintaining the usual double-disc format of On the Beach and In the Club, you know that the former will contain floaty, glittery, melodic vocal trance, while the latter has the more banging, driving tracks. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but then familiarity also breeds contempt. I kind of wish he’d mess with the formula just to give us all a shock, but perhaps that would freak out all the hard core fans too much.

To give the first disc a proper review, I grabbed my bucket and spade and sat in some sand. It’s all systems go right from the start, with the pulsating frenzy whipped up by Armin’s collaboration with trance kid Arty on Nehalennia and Omnia’s rather hectic The Light. Just when you think it’s all too much too soon, BT’s freakin’ fantastic Skylarking drops in and we’re all in sonic heaven with warm fuzzy feelings – this track is already a classic, BT once again proving he’s a genius. A bit further on, Denis Kenzo’s Lullaby Lonely is as achingly beautiful as its title implies, ethereal layered vocals and syncopated piano lines creating one of the best pieces of progressive trance you’ll ever hear.

Hues of an ever so slightly darker shade then creep in, with a selection of vocal and instrumental cuts that twist and turn through a variety of sonic moods, Aly & Fila’s glistening Speed of Sound, Myon & Shane 54’s electro-infused Lights, and Super8 & Tab’s stadium-sized Teardrops all proving that duos really do flourish in the trance scene. Wrapping some Spanish guitar lines around a surging trance framework is always a good idea, so Jalí³n from VillaNaranjos gets my approval. Bringing the mix home in dramatic, uplifting fashion are big-room cuts from Matt Bukovski, Solarstone and Armin himself.

To give the second disc a proper review, I grabbed my mirror ball and flicked the lights on and off for 60 minutes. Alexander Popov’s full-throttle, operatic Lost Language sets the tone for the rest of the mix, the pace maintained by a couple of Armin’s own productions. One of these, The Expedition, is in collaboration with Markus Schulz, a combination of talent guaranteed to excite even the least committed trance fan. The result is a loud, dirty instrumental that sounds huge, but is ultimately trumped by Dancing Sea, a sumptuous, shimmering vocal track from Ana Criado & Adrian&Raz. The ever-reliable John O’Callaghan delivers the goods on Breathe with a deft fusion of delicate vocals and screaming synths, while Armin chips in again but this time under his Gaia guise with the widescreen Humming The Lights.

The second half of the mix ploughs on in the same relentless fashion, trance legends Rank 1 and M.I.K.E. creating a sonic synth whirlwind with Elements of Nature, but Andrew Rayel’s Musa lacks a little finesse, its big breakdown and pseudo-classical piano lines short on subtlety. MaRLo contributes the dark and dirty BOOM, and then things get really interesting with the warped electro styling and stomping rhythm of Heatbeat’s Game Over. Bringing the mix to a close in the best possible way are Bjorn Akesson’s hyperactive Gunsmoke and Andain’s absolutely epic vocal anthem What It’s Like.

So it looks like my dearest mother was somewhat off the mark when she delivered those two life lessons, and I don’t mean in relation to the Catholic priest. Clearly you can trust a man who dresses in all white as well as bright blue jeans. Yet again Armin has delivered two discs of beautiful trance that are impossible to stop listening to and that I cannot recommend highly enough.