Michael Andresen's site and he's giving away his music for free! FREE! Even though it's still available to buy in online shops! What an absolute hero. The three albums on there are all excellent, and the two ambient albums as Healer deserve reviews of their own, so let's focus on the one I've been listening to this morning: Solid State under his trance alias 12 Moons.
If you're into the psy/goa scene you probably recognise the 12 Moons moniker from his releases on the seminal Flying Rhino stable (that means record label). This isn't really a psy album though, certainly not in the conventional sense. I would personally call this progressive trance, in the old, accurate sense of the word, rather than the current uplifting-trance-at-130bpm-Anjuna-shit incorrect definition of progressive trance that has basically ruined online listening for me.
[What's this, a progressive trance mix? I'll definitely give that a listen. Oh no, wait, it's just a shit fluff trance mix, the DJ just doesn't know what "progressive trance" means. Repeat ad nauseam. And believe me, the nauseam sets in very quickly.]
Anyway, this is essentially progressive trance, although some of the tracks are a lot faster than you'd expect from prog trance, which generally chugs along at 135bpm (which, to be fair, is still pretty damn speedy in modern dance music). Some of the tracks here bang at north of 140bpm - Pilot in particular gallops at an eye-watering 144bpm, although it never feels hell-for-leather. In the psy scene they call this stuff "morning trance", which basically means the floaty, melodic but deep stuff you play at the end of an all-night party as the sun is rising and everyone gets tired and mellow.
I don't tend to play this very often, because the production/mastering isn't brilliant and so the tracks just don't sound quite punchy enough to mix in with other trance. However, having listened to it again, this is actually a brilliant trance album. I'd even go as far as calling it one of the best I've ever heard. Granted, the list of great trance albums is relatively short (and interestingly, most of them have come out of the '00s prog-psy scene) but there are still enough crackers out there to make this worthy praise. Andresen has a real ear for a melody and he manages to craft interesting and memorable arrangements without necessarily being a great producer. He's just a fantastic, old-fashioned musician basically, one who luckily enough decided to turn his talents to electronic music. The flow of the album is also incredibly sweet, with the tempo rising and falling smoothly across the running time rather than embarking on the kind of dull linear energy builds most trance albums, even the good ones, opt for. There's also a lovely ambient interlude right near the end of the album, which tees up the pulsating closer Flair nicely.
I could bang on about this one at length, but since you can go download it for free and listen to it yourself I won't over-complicate this review. Suffice to say that this is trance as it should be, a world removed from the cheesy pap most people associate with the term. And please don't be put off by the pace of these tracks, dull house heads. Just because it's at 140bpm doesn't automatically invalidate the quality of the music. The only thing that holds this album back from 10/10 legendary status is the lack of one of two really killer tracks. It's a narrow thing, though. Think of this as a 9.4999999/10 album.
Genre: Deep progressive psychedelic morning trancey trance-trance.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10