Various Artists - A State of Trance 2012
Thu 3rd May, 2012 Music Reviewsin
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.