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. â€ŽThe original 2004 edition included now respected producers Super 8, Above & Beyond, Kyau & Albert, and â€ŽSolarstone, and eventually set a course that would culminate in Armin van Buuren becoming the most sought â€Žafter DJ in the world. His weekly radio show of the same name boasts an estimated 26 million followers worldâ€Žwide, 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 â€ŽArmada 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 â€Žunder way with Omnia & IRA’s The Fusion. This progressive track makes you sit up and immediately take notice, a change in â€Žtact to most trance compilations that generally ease you in. Granadella then brings it back to a slower pace and â€Žsuddenly you are transported to a lazy Ibiza summer day, with a Corona in one hand, tennis ball in the other, â€Žnursing a hangover from the night before. â€Ž
The next few tracks follow suit, they are very chilled out, with beautiful melodies and relaxed drops. The best â€Žexponent of this is Piercing the Fog by The Blizzard – a super track. But by the time Keep This Memory has run â€Žits course you feel it’s getting a little bogged down with this type of sound, and a well-deserved nap â€Žon the lounge chair has set in. Alexander Popov restores normal programming though with When the Sun; â€Žan uplifting and dynamic tune that sets a new tone thereafter. â€Ž
A series of melodic numbers follow. Each feature big splashes of euphoric trance, making use of the pianos, â€ŽSpanish guitars and the usual massive builds that you would associate with this style. While they are all solid, In â€Žyour Arms featuring Jessica Sweetman is a standout for me. It has a more unpolished and aggressive sound that â€Žcontradicts the tracks around it allowing it stand out. â€ŽThis run ends with Armin’s own Suddenly â€ŽSummer; it’s a nice – if somewhat poppy – track that heightens the anticipation of a huge finish around the â€Žcorner. â€Ž
As the sun sets, the beers are going down well and the prospect of a night out is no longer so daunting. Susana â€Ž& 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 â€Žfinishes off the flow that Armin has established, beckoning the commencement of the second instalment. â€ŽWe Are What We Are is ok but nothing special, and leaves you feeling he has gone one track too long. Still, the â€Žstage has been set: Dust off the sand, locate your wallet, and back to the hotel for pre-drinks! â€Ž
â€Ž_In the Club_ is upon us. Locate the bar, agree on a meeting point and get a good spot on the dance floor. Ashley â€ŽWallbridge’s Mumbai Traffic is my favourite track over the two albums, and that’s where Armin begins. With a nice heavy â€Žbeat that supports a more flowing high energy tune, it rides a few good dips and peaks along the way. After â€Žthis he descends into a series of deeper tracks. True to a club set, the big anthem first up establishes your interest â€Žand then a series of slow burners will follow that don’t demand your full attention. Overthrow by James Dymond â€Žis worthy of note among these but may have been better utilised later on.â€Ž
There are a then large number of instrumentals in a row, as someone who likes trance but isn’t a die â€Žhard, this is too much of the same stuff together. In isolation tracks like Amsterdam, and Blossom are really good, but with so many â€Žin sequence I find myself am tuning out; looking to the other room to see what else is â€Žplaying. 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.â€Ž
From Icarus, all the way through to the Armin and Orjan Nilson team up Belter the only time your hands aren’t in â€Žthe air is to swig your drink or occasionally hug a complete stranger. Wave after wave of big energy beats are â€Žwashing over you before Concrete Angel finally provides the big vocal that had previously been lacking. Paul van â€ŽDyk’s latest one Dae Yor comes agonisingly close to bursting into For An Angel a few times, but other than that its â€Ža bit of a let-down. â€Ž
The final weapon of choice is Coming Home, a collaboration of Aly & Fila and Jwaydan. These guys rarely â€Ždisappoint and this was a good choice to round it out. The layers of heavy, techy beats behind the vocals are â€Žstripped away and replaced with nothing but a piano by the half way point, before gathering again to for one last â€Žmassive drop. Then suddenly the lights come on and its 7am, and you’re wondering where all your mates are and â€Žhow much a cab back to the Fiesta Hotel Palmyra is going to cost. â€Ž
There is something about reviewing a compilation that seems a little pointless. Generally speaking, you know a â€Žlot of the tracks already, and you know that something called A State of Trance isn’t going to offer you great â€Ždeal by way of true variation. So I guess the question becomes: has Armin achieved what he set out to? And you â€Žwould have to say yes, he has. There are a number of great anthems in here and the song placing is almost perfect; you can â€Žfeel the journey and you can tell there isn’t one facet of the production that he hasn’t strategically positioned. â€ŽThis kind of meticulous production can lead to a feeling that there are no surprises when you are listening. â€ŽWhile that could be valid criticism, nobody who would buy this would have expected surprises anyway. There are â€Žmany other options ( Universal Religion included) that have more unrehearsed rawness to them if that’s what â€Žyou are after. At times it was monotonous, but it’s hard to find too many more holes in this â€Žrelease. All in all, no trance junkie could be disappointed. â€Ž
A State of Trance 2012 is out now on Armada Music.