Various Artists – A State of Trance 2011
I don’t think many people are aware of this, but Armin van Buuren recently took ownership of the colour white. That’s right readers – no one else in the entire world is allowed to use white without first seeking the permission of the trance maestro himself. He’s also trademarked the “moody pose” when employed in conjunction with the colour, so if you’re thinking of dressing up like an angel and pulling a serious face, forget it, you’ll only get sued.
Facile mockery of the cover art aside, Armin’s latest instalment of his evergreen ASOT series comes with the usual two mixes of On The Beach and In The Club. While his artist albums haven’t really set the world on fire, I’ve always been enamoured with his mix-CDs. The power and influence that comes with being one of the most popular DJs on the planet means you’re always going to get a decent selection of tracks on his releases. The problem is that this popularity increases the level of expectation, and while it’s unrealistic to expect every mix to be gold, there’s a certain disappointment if things aren’t up to scratch. Fortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with what’s on offer here.
Disc one contains a solid collection of tunes and is close to being one of the most consistent mixes Van Buuren has committed to disc. I’ve had it on repeat for weeks and it’s still showing no sign of becoming boring, which can only mean it’s timeless, or that I’m becoming lazy in my selection of music.
The mix commences with an AVB collaboration, Winter Stayed, which comes in the form of a subtle vocal mix that builds gradually to lay some solid foundations for the rest of the disc. The groove is locked down with the rumbling bass moves on The Blizzard & Omnia’s My Inner Island, which contains an epic breakdown of acoustic guitars and ethereal vocals, and flows seamlessly into the piano-driven euphoria of Mike Shiver’s Slacker.
The shimmering Mormugao from Dreas vs Alex Robert gets a fresh lick of paint for 2011 and is notable for its gorgeous electric-guitar infused breakdown, and then things get even more warm and fuzzy with some beautifully balanced tracks from Anhken and Nuera. Sandstone from Rex Mundi sees the tone get a little darker, and the pace gets cranked up a notch with Robert Nickson’s surging Godless.
I know they’re a bit of a sonic cliché in trance, but I’m a sucker for acoustic guitar lines, so I’m in love with Bobina’s Lamento Sentimental, and I’m also a sucker for a lush female vocal, so full marks go to Max Graham for So Caught Up and Beat Service for When Tomorrow Never Comes. Rounding the mix off is Arty and Mat Zo’s amazing Rebound, which contains one of the most mind-blowing breakdowns ever that you just kind of melt into. There isn’t a single superfluous track on this disc, and they all fit together perfectly.
The second disc, being the In the Club mix, is a little darker and faster. Ron Hagen’s Now Is The Time gets re-shaped by Van Buuren for introductory purposes, and then there’s a massive double punch with Rank 1’s remix of Super8 & Tab’s towering My Enemy and Shogun’s widescreen Skyfire. There’s a glorious moment of epic euphoria with John O’Callaghan’s Talk To Me, and then Van Buuren drops his own Status Excessu D, which is as grandiose as the title suggests. Subsequent tracks from Mark Eteson, Daniel Kandi and Ørjan Nilsen all keep the pace surging along in engrossing fashion.
Van Buuren drops another of his own productions with Take A Moment, a gorgeous vocal cut that takes off into the stratosphere after a heavenly breakdown, and we stay there with another tasty slice of vocal trance from Aly & Fila with We Control The Sunlight. The mix then begins to wind down with the chunky synth riffs of Juventa’s Dionysia and the rolling bass of Bjorn Akesson’s Painting Pyramids. The final track, Laura Jansen’s Use Somebody, might have you squirming a little uncomfortably when you realise it’s a cover of Kings of Leon, but it works, albeit in a cheesy, end-of-set, hands-in-the-air kind of way.
This is certainly one of the strongest releases in the ASOT series, and will easily find a home in the collections of AVB fans. I’ve been sat on it for a few weeks, but only because I wanted to make sure my initial hyper-positive reaction wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. I’m pretty much convinced there isn’t a single track on here that is out of place or surplus to requirements.
If you dismiss Van Buuren because of some of his more populist tendencies, then try to overlook them and take this for what it is – quality music, compiled by a man at the top of his game. The problem now is: can this be topped in 2012? The answer’s probably “yes”, if only because I’m playing this so much now that by the time next year rolls around I’ll be sick of it.