Oct 122008

The ever-amazing Ann clued me in a few days ago to the lineup for this year’s Freak Night.  Oh man, it’s gonna be amazing.  I mean, the three headliners are Paul van Dyk, Moby, and The Crystal Method.  Let me repeat that, just so the awesome has a chance to fully sink in.

Paul van Dyk.


The Crystal Method.

That I can’t be there has suddenly become one of my great regrets in life.  But fear not, I’ll soldier through and survive this epic disappointment.  But YOU my brilliant, hip, and beautiful readers, need to be there.  It’s in Seattle on the night of October 31st at the Wamu theater and it’s going to be absolutely brilliant.

Aug 222007

This just in from the “Miracles Never Cease” department: I almost managed to post a weekly review on the day it was supposed to go up. Also, I think in the future I’ll make an effort to diversify the genre offerings a little bit. The Paul van Dyk review I just posted was a bit of a bitch to write because I’m not nearly as familiar with Trance as I am with a lot of other genres of music.

In the meantime, picking from the paucity of votes for last week, I think I’m going to go ahead and grab the latest New Pornographer’s disc to review for next Tuesday. Of course I’ll ALSO probably be grabbing the new Rilo-Kiley because, well, I honestly can’t get enough of Jenny Lewis’ voice. (Apologies for leaving the Darren Hayes album off last week’s voting. I completely spaced that it was coming out and I know that some *cough*Ann*cough* of you are pretty stoked about it.)

Here’s hoping I don’t leave any big releases off this time around:

Aesop Rock, None Shall Pass
Ben Harper, Lifelines
Liars, Liars
Angie Mattson, Given to Sudden Panic and Noisy Retreat
Northern State, Can I Keep This Pen?

Aug 202007

Paul van Dyk, In Between

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Artist: Paul van Dyk
Album: In Between
Label: Mute Records
Release Date: Tuesday, 2007.8.14
Score: 9/10

This past week I’ve been kind of hammered with work. Not entirely from my job, but from all the various irons I tend to keep roasting away in the fire. Fortunately, I had the excellent luck of managing to get exactly the right album to soundtrack my furious slog through the week. So while my review may somewhat be colored by the fact that In Between was the right disc at the right time, the fact remains that Paul van Dyk has once again clearly demonstrated that he’s the best Trance artist in the world today.

But PvD is not the only top talent with a hand in the album. While he produced all the music, he enlisted a number of talented artists in helping him realizing the final product. Jessica Sutta (most notably of the Pussycat Dolls) lends her vocal talents to “White Lies” and Talking Heads alum David Byrne is heard on album closer “Fall With Me”. Other vocalists featured on the album include Ryan Merchant, Wayne Jackson, and Ashley Tomberlin.

This plethora of vocalists is worth noting because In Between is an unusually vocally-oriented album. Not only do most of the songs make heavy use of vocals, but the vocals take a fairly central role. And while Trance is a little less voice-shy than other EDM genres, it’s hardly on par with any of the pop-rock genres in terms of placing emphasis on vocal work. But many of the tracks off of In Between use vocals more like one would expect of a synth-pop tune than a banging Trance dance track. That the CD insert includes several pages of lyrics (alongside numerous glamor shots of the undeniably attractive van Dyk) is kind of unusual.

But not at all unwelcome. PvD displays extreme comfort and competence with lyrics, and his lines are far from the cringe-worthy melodrama one would expect from an artist just getting the feel for lyric writing. Some of the lines are, in fact, down right inspired. (“I watch the sky turn black to blush”; “when everything is soundin’ like a battle cry / no promise is good enough to take”).

PvD’s effective use of lyrics is, throughout the album, underscored by some truly excellent Trance beats. The energy is excellent across the album and the mixing is impeccable. When I first got the CD, I wasn’t aware that it was a mixed album. It wasn’t until I was 10 minutes in and thinking “man, this is a long, disjoint song” that I realized I was on track three and just hadn’t been paying close enough attention. The disc is a whole cloth of high-energy, well-produced trance.

Aside from its vocal emphasis, there isn’t too much, stylistically, that sets In Between apart in PvD’s discography. He doesn’t stray out of the Trance / Progressive trance territory but that’s not really a problem since it’s turf with which he is well familiar. This experience leads to an album that delivers an extremely solid Trance experience with the added interest of getting to hear what happens when Paul van Dyk decides to really apply himself to the world of lyrics. The result is definitely an album worth having for any Trance fan and well worth considering for anyone who likes high-quality, energetic dance music.

Aug 152007

Well kids, thanks to a potent cocktail of internet outages, shipping delays, and work overload, not only am I late with my review, but it’s not even the one I promised you! Ha! Just when you thought I couldn’t get any less reliable, I go and top you, now don’t I?

To be fair, it is a review I’ve been promising for awhile: Interpol’s Our Love to Admire. And I will be posting the Mandy Moore review sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, the votes have come in and the new Paul van Dyk album, In Between, is the winner. So I shall be ordering such post-haste.

In the meantime, voting.

M.I.A, Kala
Minus the Bear, Planet of Ice
New Pornographers, Challengers
Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight
Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter

Aug 032007

Headliner: Paul van Dyk
Opener(s): DJ Vize, DJ Dig Dug, FACTORe, Freaky Flow, DJ Taj, Rabbit in the Moon, Steve Porter
Venue: Qwest Event Center, Seattle Washington
Date: 2007.7.21

A few weeks ago, my brother Brian, who’s big into trance, techno, and other kinds of electronic music, called me up and enthusiastically informed me that Paul van Dyk would be playing USC’s 10th anniversary party in Seattle. Upon checking the lineup, I also learned that Rabbit in the Moon and Steve Porter would also be playing, two acts that I’ve had highly recommended to me, but had never heard. So I was intrigued. Unfortunately, I was also relatively broke. But then Brian offered to buy my tickets and get me a room to crash in after the gig. So major thanks and good mojo for my Brian and his wife Amy for making it possible for me to catch this show. ([Plug] I doubt any of my readers are the kinds of people who own their own yachts, but if’n you are or ever do, you should definitely check out Brian’s company, Yacht Excellence. [/Plug])

So on Saturday afternoon I hopped in my van (Rosenante) and made the trip out west. After picking up my friend Josh from the bus station, getting checked into the hotel, and meeting up with Brian and Amy for dinner, walked the half-block to the event and proceeded to wait in line. Unfortunately, we found out while waiting in line, that digital cameras weren’t allowed in the venue and, seeing as I had no place to stash mine to sneak it in, I ran it back to the hotel.

We finally managed to navigate the various lines, get our customary groping from security, and get shuffled inside the venue. After we got our bearings we made a b-line for one of the stages, getting there just as DJ Vize was turning the decks over to DJ Dig Dug. DJ Dig Dug’s set was a solid hour of great dance tunes, heavy with raeggae influence and well-sampled, trance-y vocals.

After DJ Dig Dug’s set, Josh and I headed off towards the main stage and, after running into Brian and Amy again, learned that they’d somehow lost power to said main stage. “Somehow” turned out to be some asshat pulling the fire alarm. Fortunately, USC and the Qwest Events staff had their shit pretty well together and the power wasn’t out for long and once it was restored, DJ Taj took the decks, more or less on time. He treated us to a great, pounding set, complete with some great breaks, awesome track selection, impeccable transitions and even dancing girls. It was, in short, a solid, well-crafted, well-thought out dance set. No show-boating, nothing fancy, just great dance tunes, well-spun.

I was totally unprepared for the next act. Rabbit in the Moon came on and gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my life. The music was sinister and pounding, the effects videos in the background were creepy (I actually had a freaky dream about one of them, a giant, spastic eye ball, when I finally crashed that night), and the on-stage antics were phenomenal. Rabbit in the Moon’s unique brand of psychadelic trance music makes for great dancing and it perfectly soundtracked a series of characters played by the front man, Bunny. Between duck-taping a ton of glow sticks to himself and dancing like a madman, crowd-surfing in a giant, inflatable hamster ball, dressing up in a vinyl labcoat and exhorting us to worship a giant, bloodshot eye, and rampaging around the stage in a shaggy costume equipped with hand-stilts, Bunny’s antics were far from boring. In fact, for as kitchy as they had the potential to be, they simply weren’t. He was charismatic and energetic, and he definitely sold the whole show. Meanwhile the other member of the duo, Confucius. calmly laid down, heavy, eerie beats in the background.

I felt kind of sorry for Steve Porter, whose set was sandwiched between Rabbit in the Moon and Paul van Dyk. RITM was an insanely hard act to follow, especially when everyone’s been dancing for hours and is chomping at the bit to hear and see PvD on the decks. But he put up a valiant effort. And while his set was a definite step down in the energy level, it was competent. In retrospect, it was probably every bit as energetic and well-spun as DJ Taj’s set, but DJ Taj had the distinct advantage of coming several hours earlier, when everyone was fresh and hadn’t danced through several other great artists. The net result was that Steve Porter’s set was fairly unmemorable. I suppose the most accurately thing that could be said about it is that the set competently filled the time gap between the charismatic Rabbit in the Moon performance and the main event, Paul van Dyk.

Paul van Dyk finally took the decks shortly after 2am and proceeded to lay down a two hour set of pure energy. The trance-heavy tunes were flawlessly mixed and interspersed with clever and sparse sampling. (One notable moment was PvD dropping into a great break by playing the tell-tale bass line from “Seven Nation Army” . . . exactly once. The crowd went absolutely nuts. I thought was bringing in Adam Freeland’s great remix of the tune, but alas, he was just toying with us.) PvD was his usual, affable self and fulfilled at least one request from the audience (a hastily-scrawled sign asking for “For an Angel”). He played quite a few tunes that I’d never heard before and, judging from the extent to which the videos were pimping it, I’d imagine they’re off his up-coming album, In Between. If they are, it’ll be an album to snag. They were high-energy, groovy, and managed to make me dance like a mad man.

All in all, the USC 10th Anniversary party was a solid 8 hours of excellent music and highly professional DJs and was, simply put, an amazing time. If you’re in Seattle and are looking for a great party, any of USC’s events should be a pretty safe bet. If this is your kind of thing, be sure to mark your calender for the end of October, for USC’s annual Freak Night event. I managed to catch it a few years ago and it was spectacular.

Great party, USC, and happy 10th.