Armin Van Buuren - Mirage

Image For Armin Van Buuren - Mirage

Voted the world’s #1 DJ for several successive years, Armin van Buuren faces the weight of expectations every time he steps up to the CDJs. With the release of a new artist album though, he’s fronting up to a different set of expectations entirely – that it’s not going to be very good.

As a DJ he’s one of dance music’s most versatile performers, and he led trance through its creative renaissance several years ago into the solid (if a little bumpy) place that it finds itself in today. As a producer though, he lost his edge to the young guns a long time ago. His last album Imagine was a lukewarm collection of great melodic ideas wrapped up in uninspired production, in a package that was forgiveable only because it was Armin. It was surprising how well a lot of it worked on the dancefloor in the context of his ‘Armin Only’ extravaganza, but what was most telling was how next-gen producers like Martin Roth and Myon & Shane54 managed to transform his ideas into something much better with their remixes. So what awaits us on Armin’s latest opus Mirage?

From the opening moments, you’ll feel a cringe creeping over your face. The introductory medley Mirage is an embarrassingly overblown melting pot of melodrama – sad sirens singing, ascending high-pitched synths, string ensembles, and even a heavy metal guitar breakdown… It’s all in there. It’s so overdone it could be passed off as Armin Lloyd Webber composing a grand introduction to his tranced-up version of ¬Jesus Christ Superstar, that’s how far it tips into musical theatre.

What follows over the next half of the album is an inoffensive and slickly produced serving of pop trance. Former Spiller glamour Sophie Ellis Bextor fronts up for the album’s next single Not Giving Up On Love; drenched in syrupy strings and tinkling pianos, it’s a perfectly functional slice of radio-friendly house, and it’s a theme repeated often throughout Mirage with a cast of female lovelies like Nadia Ali. However, it’ll do nothing to restore Armin’s waning credibility with the trance scene Mafioso, who are already baying for his blood.

It all might all sound a little bleak, but a lot of consideration has been shown to shifts in tempo across Mirage, and there’s definitely a sense of the epic going on. We’re treated to a few deeper and quite effective First State style Balearic offerings that fall well outside the euphoric trance spectrum, while Take A Moment is the album’s first excellent tune, a collaboration with Josh Gabriel’s new Winter Kills project that starts deep with the focus on the gorgeous vocals, before ascending into one of Armin’s classic build-ups, with the emotion coming off as sincere as opposed to contrived.

Far from abandoning the hands-in-the-air moments, Armin hits his first euphoric note in Coming Home (with a guitar solo courtesy of Ella van Buuren, naturally). He keeps us in the clubs for the progressive trance of These Silent Hearts and Orbion, with some solid production work that takes these songs the places they need to go – even if they’re predictable every step of the way. Those wimpy, indie-lite vocals of Adam Young from Owl City on Youtopia actually brings a lovely texture to the album’s close, and like a lot on Mirage, you’ll find yourself enjoying it more than you maybe feel you should.

Most curious for Mirage is the quote splashed across the liner notes that implores you to, “Never be a prisoner of your own style”. It’s like Armin could hear the howls of derision erupting when he veered out of familiar territory. He’s only got himself to blame for feeling boxed in though, as he’s never been afraid to splash the word ‘trance’ across everything he does: his radio show, his record label, his compilations.

However, if you remove Mirage from the expectations attached to such a release, from any limiting notion of what it ‘should’ have sounded like, then it’s actually Armin’s most realised album to date. Moving from the bombast of the opening, into the vocal pop trance that follows, through to the peaktime club tunes of the final act; it’s easily got a wider scope than anything he’s done to date.

Perhaps the somewhat ‘adult contemporary’ sound of Mirage is exactly where Armin’s heart lies, and it’s the music he wants to make, instead of carbon copying what’s featured in his DJ sets. Like a trancified Rob Thomas or Michael Bublé, if you will.

Regardless though, Mirage is not an album that’ll be embraced by the trance underground. If you can take this into account, and ignore the ever-present sense of the ludicrous, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Personally though, I’m hoping Armin leaves it in his record box at ‘Armin Only’ on New Years Eve.

Mirage is out now on 405 Recordings.


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Rocca said on the 29th Sep, 2010

listened to about 25 mins of the mirage ASOT special. not much point going any further i reckon lol


RaVeR_SpIkE said on the 29th Sep, 2010

listened to it a few times not armins best Album imo


Trance_Angel said on the 29th Sep, 2010

i love armin!....but i mst say quite dissapointed...horribly reminds me of pop music *sigh*... trying 2 keep an open mind but frankly i agree with angy, perhaps leave it in the record box 4 armin only plz.


Trance_Angel said on the 29th Sep, 2010

i love armin!...but i mst say im quite sadly reminds me of pop music :/ *sigh*. although i am trying to keep an open mind i agree with angy, leave it in the record box at armin only on nw yrs plz


Trance_Angel said on the 29th Sep, 2010

double comment = sad face


tranzmanniac said on the 30th Sep, 2010

what people need to realise is that this album was not made to satisfy the trance 'underground' it was made as most music is these days to make money in the commercial marketplace we live in. Yes it is sad that he like most 'superstar' DJs have before him, gone done a more commercial track, music is a business. leave the so-called 'underground' to make music for the 'underground', and let commercialised DJs make music for the masses. All that being said i think, while it doesnt even come close to being the best trance release, it is probably the best he has done since the early part of the 2000s.


Burnhi said on the 30th Sep, 2010

Have to agree with the author, has a couple of ok songs but nothing I could literally rave about. Yes he has gone very commercial and probably lost his roots a bit I reckon, lucky he knows how to put on good events/shows...


angy said on the 30th Sep, 2010

I don't really think that's true at all - he would have been taking less of a risk if he just pumped out trance for his fans. I don't even think he's got that in him anymore.


Burnhi said on the 30th Sep, 2010

Maybe he has just lost his edge, and people use the words "gone commerial" (like I did also) as a justification.... :)


ProjectwJs said on the 5th Oct, 2010

dont be a prisoner of your own style - apparently all u guys want to do BDSM with Armin


spydamusic said on the 7th Oct, 2010

So far I've only listened to previews of the new album & will wait until the extended remix one arrives


JulesPLees said on the 7th Oct, 2010

an album full of attempted chart toppers that wont get close to getting into the charts.

i ask you - what is the point?


breezeonin said on the 20th Oct, 2010

Tiesto's change of direction for a new album is and was so much better !!!!


jad_rossi said on the 18th Dec, 2010

the one that this review is a shit he know nothing about trance, go listen to lady gaga, i'm sure you like it


System_J said on the 19th Dec, 2010

Yeah angy, you chinstroker.



angy said on the 20th Dec, 2010

lol awesome... Learn how to construct a sentence before you attempt to engage, lil n00b


pomrocks said on the 20th Dec, 2010

Listening gaga music like to nobodies ears something maybe deaf mother said is no good for making babies.