Dash Berlin - #musicislife
Wed 27th Jun, 2012 Music Reviewsin
The Dutch know trance. The small nation of clogs, windmills and the reddest of red light districts has always been over-represented in the world of uplifting club music, with the likes of Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren dominating the scene. Recently, the elder statesman of the genre have been joined by an emerging cadre of young producers and DJs eager to follow this proud tradition. One of these is Dash Berlin, who has just dropped his second artist album #musicislife. And on the surface, Dash Berlin has learnt the lessons of the genre from his masters well: CD cover with a pensive portrait of the DJ? Check. Slightly awkward and cheesy album title? Check. Overtly Dutch sounding name? Well… two out of three ain’t bad.
This is a collaboration-heavy album, full of guest vocalists and co-productions with some of the best names in trance vocals lending their services. The likes of Sarah Howells, Kate Walsh, Emma Hewitt and Jonathan Mendelsohn all lend their pipes to tracks, while ATB and Shogun contribute their skills in the studio. And overall, the results are good.
There is no doubt that Dash Berlin’s music is polished and expertly produced. The percussion is crisp and bright, the baselines chunky and aggressive and he balances his vocals beautifully amidst typical trance lashings of reverb and delay. Emma Hewitt makes her second appearance at the midpoint of the album with one of the highlights, Like Spinning Plates. It exemplifies what Dash Berlin does best, creating some classy atmospherics before introducing a delicate melodic piano line that is contrasted by a menacing drop. Hewitt’s warm vocals are an excellent match for his clinical musical aesthetic.
Yet be warned: #musicislife is akin to an intravenous session with a sackful of sugar. This is the uplifting and occasionally cheesy side of trance that has its’ place in the genre but taken together, consecutively and over 13 tracks can begin to full like a sugar sweet overload. Ultimately, the album suffers from feeling too much like a collection of singles without any thought given to linking everything together. There are some great tracks here but their qualities are almost diminished by appearing alongside each other. There are just too many earnest vocals, sweeping filtered strings and melodic hooks based on triplet loops. Their qualities would almost certainly shine brighter when punctuating a DJ set.
Indeed it is the few non-vocal tracks that provide the thematic contrast the album desperately needs. Early in the price his collaboration with trance grandpa ATB, Apollo Road, provides a chunky grounded offering. The collaboration with Callisto towards the end of the album does the same job, providing an interlude of restraint although those triplets are back to dominate the melody.
So if you are into the uplifting end of the trance spectrum you will certainly find something you like here. There are plenty of big room tracks that you know would tear up a club but this is not an album that you will always listen to from start to finish. Put it on, pick a track, throw your hands in the air, and move on. Good times.