Various Artists – A State of Trance 2012

The A State of Trance dynasty has grown to become the most popular yearly compilation in dance music. ‎The original 2004 edition included now respected producers Super 8, Above & Beyond, Kyau & Albert, and ‎Solarstone, and eventually set a course that would culminate in Armin van Buuren becoming the most sought ‎after DJ in the world. His weekly radio show of the same name boasts an estimated 26 million followers world‎wide, and it is from here that inspiration is drawn for the eventual track list. It is a celebration of all things trance: the most popular songs and the most popular artists, with the majority supplied directly from the ‎Armada galaxy and van Buuren himself. 2012 has proved no exception.

The format is laid out into two themed discs, beginning with On the Beach. On a surprisingly upbeat note it gets ‎under way with Omnia & IRA’s The Fusion. This progressive track makes you sit up and immediately take notice, a change in ‎tact to most trance compilations that generally ease you in. Granadella then brings it back to a slower pace and ‎suddenly you are transported to a lazy Ibiza summer day, with a Corona in one hand, tennis ball in the other, ‎nursing a hangover from the night before. ‎

The next few tracks follow suit, they are very chilled out, with beautiful melodies and relaxed drops. The best ‎exponent of this is Piercing the Fog by The Blizzard – a super track. But by the time Keep This Memory has run ‎its course you feel it’s getting a little bogged down with this type of sound, and a well-deserved nap ‎on the lounge chair has set in. Alexander Popov restores normal programming though with When the Sun; ‎an uplifting and dynamic tune that sets a new tone thereafter. ‎

A series of melodic numbers follow. Each feature big splashes of euphoric trance, making use of the pianos, ‎Spanish guitars and the usual massive builds that you would associate with this style. While they are all solid, In ‎your Arms featuring Jessica Sweetman is a standout for me. It has a more unpolished and aggressive sound that ‎contradicts the tracks around it allowing it stand out. ‎This run ends with Armin’s own Suddenly ‎Summer; it’s a nice – if somewhat poppy – track that heightens the anticipation of a huge finish around the ‎corner. ‎

As the sun sets, the beers are going down well and the prospect of a night out is no longer so daunting. Susana ‎& Max Graham’s Down to Nothing is the second to last track of the album, but it should be the last. A big vocal, it ‎finishes off the flow that Armin has established, beckoning the commencement of the second instalment. ‎We Are What We Are is ok but nothing special, and leaves you feeling he has gone one track too long. Still, the ‎stage has been set: Dust off the sand, locate your wallet, and back to the hotel for pre-drinks! ‎

‎_In the Club_ is upon us. Locate the bar, agree on a meeting point and get a good spot on the dance floor. Ashley ‎Wallbridge’s Mumbai Traffic is my favourite track over the two albums, and that’s where Armin begins. With a nice heavy ‎beat that supports a more flowing high energy tune, it rides a few good dips and peaks along the way. After ‎this he descends into a series of deeper tracks. True to a club set, the big anthem first up establishes your interest ‎and then a series of slow burners will follow that don’t demand your full attention. Overthrow by James Dymond ‎is worthy of note among these but may have been better utilised later on.‎

There are a then large number of instrumentals in a row, as someone who likes trance but isn’t a die ‎hard, this is too much of the same stuff together. In isolation tracks like Amsterdam, and Blossom are really good, but with so many ‎in sequence I find myself am tuning out; looking to the other room to see what else is ‎playing. 550 Senta by Andrew Rayel eventually breaks this rhythm, far poppier and lighter than its predecessors, it acts as a bridge to final onslaught of the more melodic tunes that close.‎

From Icarus, all the way through to the Armin and Orjan Nilson team up Belter the only time your hands aren’t in ‎the air is to swig your drink or occasionally hug a complete stranger. Wave after wave of big energy beats are ‎washing over you before Concrete Angel finally provides the big vocal that had previously been lacking. Paul van ‎Dyk’s latest one Dae Yor comes agonisingly close to bursting into For An Angel a few times, but other than that its ‎a bit of a let-down. ‎

The final weapon of choice is Coming Home, a collaboration of Aly & Fila and Jwaydan. These guys rarely ‎disappoint and this was a good choice to round it out. The layers of heavy, techy beats behind the vocals are ‎stripped away and replaced with nothing but a piano by the half way point, before gathering again to for one last ‎massive drop. Then suddenly the lights come on and its 7am, and you’re wondering where all your mates are and ‎how much a cab back to the Fiesta Hotel Palmyra is going to cost. ‎

There is something about reviewing a compilation that seems a little pointless. Generally speaking, you know a ‎lot of the tracks already, and you know that something called A State of Trance isn’t going to offer you great ‎deal by way of true variation. So I guess the question becomes: has Armin achieved what he set out to? And you ‎would have to say yes, he has. There are a number of great anthems in here and the song placing is almost perfect; you can ‎feel the journey and you can tell there isn’t one facet of the production that he hasn’t strategically positioned. ‎This kind of meticulous production can lead to a feeling that there are no surprises when you are listening. ‎While that could be valid criticism, nobody who would buy this would have expected surprises anyway. There are ‎many other options ( Universal Religion included) that have more unrehearsed rawness to them if that’s what ‎you are after. At times it was monotonous, but it’s hard to find too many more holes in this ‎release. All in all, no trance junkie could be disappointed. ‎

A State of Trance 2012 is out now on Armada Music.