Monday, 2 January 2012

Review: Orkidea - 20

Orkidea - 20
Orkidea is one of the few people out there still doing uplifting trance well in 2011, and like the others he barely fits into what we'd call uplifting/epic/unicorn trance these days. The only other guys I can think of who does hands-in-the-air fluff so entertainingly are the Anjunadeep crew, most notably Jaytech, and those guys bring a definite electro-house genre-meld to the table. Likewise, Orkidea sprinkles his music with some chunky basslines and also more than a few retro '90s progressive trance influences.

I didn't enjoy his previous albums too much, but I saw him DJ recently I had a good time, and he was playing a lot of the material from this album, so I gave it a listen. 20 is a landmark in that it celebrates 20 years of Orkidea career, and thus is a retro-themed album consistently primarily of remixes and remakes of old material. Some of these are updates of his own hits - Beautiful and Unity most notably - and most are of other acts. The more famous tracks, such as Tilt and PVD's enduring trance anthem Rendezvous, are credited as Orkidea remixes, but the more obscure ones, such as the remakes of Sven Vath's Sun Down and early '90s rarity Hot Trigger by the shittily named Trax Beyond Subconsciousness (yeah, really) are credited under his own name. This is most convoluted in the case of Art Of Trance - Chung Kuo (Orkidea Remix), which is actually a remix of a remake of the classic piece of Vangelis synth nonsense from his 1979 album China. The only new track, to my knowledge, is the Solarstone collaboration Slow Motion II, which as the name suggests is already a sequel to a track from a couple of years ago and so is a bit retro in itself anyway.

All this might sound like an incredibly rag-tag and disjointed collection of material, but it works surprisingly well. There's a real mixture of track types here, from supermassive anthems like Beautiful to heads-down bangers like Hot Trigger. What makes Orkidea's take on uplifting trance so enjoyable is not necessarily that his melodies are any better (most of these ones are second-hand anyway) or that his ecstasy-gush is any less cheesy, but simply that:

1.His production is much more restrained and efficient that the grotesque gigantomania of most epic trance productions. There aren't 1000 layers of reverb and hi-hat turning every track into an ear-tiring wall of sound-spam.

2. His tracks actually some variety of formula and structure. They don't all build and break down in the exact same ways at the exact same intervals. There are tracks here that can be used in different ways in different places in different sets. He doesn't write every single fucking track to be the pay-load anthem of the night.

Nowhere is this quality more evident than in the Chung Kuo remix. I actually own the original Vangelis album, because I'm cooler than you, and the original isn't very good at all. This version is superb - the old '70s synth melody makes for quite a nice trance hook, especially spaced out across clubby beats as it is here, and there's not a single breakdown in the entire tune. It just cruises along with these exhultant synth chords flaring out every now and then. It really is a classy remix and without doubt it will be the enduring hit from this album. The other stand-out for me is definitely Hot Trigger, which is similarly devoid of momentum-killing halts, albeit in a far more banging mould than Chung Kuo. This is a perfect track for injecting some exhilirating melody into a dark and driving set, or conversely adding some momentum to a hands-in-the-air epic set.

There are a couple of tracks that stray a little far into eye-rolling rainbow unicorn glowstick territory. I love the ferocious bassline and synth explosions of Blackbird, but the lead melody is pretty simplistic and more than a little corny. I kind of hope someone does a dub mix of this, something to cut out the euphoric beats while retaining the driving beats. But while this album occasionally goes over the line, but even when it's not totally enjoyable it's never boring. You've got 12 full length club cuts here, but the 80 minutes absolutely flew by. It's the variety of tracks, the different listening experiences you get from each track, and also the sheer quantity of ideas - of melodies, of basslines, of structures - that constantly bombard you, never giving you chance to get tired of anything. Producers, take note: if you're going to do an album of pure dancefloor cuts, that's fine. Just make sure you know how to make three or four different kinds of dancefloor cut. A lot of people are probably going to shut this tab in disgust if I rate this album more highly than Sandwell District, but I genuinely enjoyed this one more.

Genre: Trance
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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