2008 in Retrospect - Albums and Trance Singles

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8 Feb 2009, 22:38

The year 2008 threw up a wonderful plethora of some great electronic music albums
and I, as a trance and ambient lover, didn't miss out on the pleasure of listening to quite a lot of what the genres had to offer last year. Excepting a few disappointments, most of these albums provided me countless hours of joy. Highlights of the year for me weren't only progressive psytrance, chillout or progressive trance albums, but also some excellent, high quality lush techno, dub techno and dance-pop/pop-ambient releases. And on this note, I must add that since 2007, I'm finding myself increasingly drawn towards good EDM albums not just in my usual favourite styles of progressive trance, uplifting trance or ambient, but also in a few other related styles, like techno, idm and minimal, for example. Considering the rather large number (especially compared to previous years) of electronic albums I heard last year (around 80 or so), I've decided to write this journal about my favourite albums of 2008. However, as I barely find time to write journals these days, I decided to integrate my annual top trance singles journal too with this one.

Making the list of albums was easy, but ranking them was not. A lot of thought and
deliberations went by in selecting the criteria alone by which the rankings were made. In the end I opted for entertainment factor, innovativeness, emotional appeal, subtlety and durability as the five major criteria governing the selections and rankings of the albums in my top twenty. Entertainment factor is a major criterion governing our listening habits. One can't be bothered to put an album on his/her "best of" list on critical acclaim alone if he/she didn't even remotely enjoyed the album in the first place. Innovativeness is important from the perspective of evolution of music. Creativity is certainly laudable when it is done in a smart way without sacrificing other elements like entertainment factor and emotional appeal. Speaking of emotional appeal, this is a very subjective and personal factor. It could be a beautiful melody, the atmosphere, or even events in one's personal life associated with the music. As such, this is the criterion which is open to the maximum number of interpretations. Subtlety is another important but often neglected element in a music. This is something associated with depth and intelligence inherent in a piece of music, which isn't quite apparent at first listen, but reveals itself on subsequent listens. Music open to multiple interpretations and which appeals on multiple levels would fall under this category. And this brings to the final, but no less important criterion - durability (or longevity). All good albums may not age like old wine, but they
should certainly last longer than at least three listens. Needless to say, but this is related to the entertainment factor mentioned earlier. One wouldn't listen to an album multiple times if he/she doesn't enjoy it much. That said, the best albums
must have a good balance of all these elements in them. Now, over to my top twenty.


20. Distant System - Spiral Empire [Celestial Dragon Records] (22 Feb 2008) (Downtempo, Ambient, Psybient):



- I start off with this dreamlike psybient album which has been one of the highlights of the genre from the first half of 2008. Distant System is a new project by American psytrance/psydub producer Tyler "Quasga" Smith (aka Androcell) began in 2006, mainly focusing on psychedelic ambient, downtempo and mild electronica. Stylistically, 'Spiral Empire' resembles a lot like an Ultimae Records release, with it's subtle trancey grooves amidst spacey pads and subtle melodies. This album should be experienced in a darkened room with eyes closed for best enjoyment.

Entertainment Factor: 15/20
Innovativeness: 11/20
Emotional Appeal: 10/20
Subtlety: 14/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 65/100.


19. Colourform - Visions Of Surya [Virtual Musical Reality] (Apr 2008) (Experimental, Ambient):



- An extremely blissful space ambient album, this takes you on a sonic journey
through the subconscious mind, exploring subtle soundscapes in the process.
Produced by British producers Jake Stephenson and Matthew Hillier between 2002 and 2004 (the Colourform project was first initiated in 1995 though), this got released only in 2008. With it's calm, relaxing, spacey, subtle and mysterious soundscapes, this is an essential album for any lover of high quality space ambient music.

Entertainment Factor: 14/20
Innovativeness: 10/20
Emotional Appeal: 14/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 66/100.


18. Kuba - How The Future Sounded [Chillcode Music] (13 Jun 2008) (Dub, Downtempo, Ambient):



- The third album of British psydub producer Laurence Harvey takes us on a more
experimental journey through psychedelic dub soundscapes than his previous works. The tracks feature refreshing use of subtle vocals, guitar, percussions and
mandolin, amidst relaxed psydub grooves, resulting in a kaleidoscopic array of vivid soundscapes. Definitely one of the best psydub albums of 2008.

Entertainment Factor: 14/20
Innovativeness: 12/20
Emotional Appeal: 13/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 67/100.


17. Subheim - Approach [Tympanik Audio] (17 Mar 2008) (IDM, Downtempo, Ambient):



- This is a very interesting album with a beautiful, cinematic atmosphere. The overall tone is melancholic, with haunting piano and violin melodies and a soft, minimal techno like bassline which often dissolves into the organic textures and spacey pads. The debut album of Greek producer Kostas K, 'Approach' explores the darker side of modern electronic experimental music and in the process creates the perfect soundtrack for broken lives and urban isolation. With pianos, cellos, lovely synthworks and subtle use of beautiful vocals of female vocalist Katjia, Subheim has crafted an album of exquisite beauty and emotion. A gem of an album from the idm/downtempo releases of 2008.

Entertainment Factor: 14/20
Innovativeness: 10/20
Emotional Appeal: 17/20
Subtlety: 12/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 68/100.


16. Cell - Ketama Live [World Club Music] (17 Jul 2008) (Downtempo, Ambient):



- This outstanding album, by French ambient/downbeat producer Alexandre Scheffer
deserves to be heard on a good sound system for maximum effect. Amazing sounds and atmospheres here in all the tracks. Definitely one of the best ambient/psybient
mix-set of 2008, performed live at KETAMA, lounge place in the Center of Moscow.
From spacey ambience to complex psybient soundscapes, the tracks flow seamlessly into each other to take us on a dreamlike atmospheric glide through the vast recesses of ambient electronica.

Entertainment Factor: 15/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 14/20
Subtlety: 12/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 69/100.


15. Ferry Tayle - Carnet De Vol [Camouflage] (18 Nov 2008) (Trance, Ambient):



- French trance producer and DJ Ludovic Meyer forms half of the progressive trance
project Cape Town along with Laurent Véronnez and one fourth of the vocal trance
project Everest. With Cape Town, he was responsible for co-producing one of my
all-time favourite progressive trance track - 'Proglifter', in 2006. He is, perhaps best known for the 2006 hit 'Vol de Nuit', under his Ferry Tayle alias, co-produced with Tonks. In November 2008, his debut album 'Carnet de Vol' was released. Containing 15 tracks, including two beautiful chillout tracks, one can recognize Cape Town influences in many of the tracks and yet find something new. Most of the tracks are long and take time to buildup. Stylistically it's a classic trance album, with early to mid 90s trance motifs apparent in most of the tracks. But Ferry infuses the tracks with more modern, uplifting and progressive motifs, often within the same track. The result is something unique and makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. Featuring collaborations with Kym, Stephan R., Manuel le Saux and Lolo in five of the tracks, there's ample variety here to satisfy lovers of classic, progressive as well as uplifting trance. Oozing with quality, this is one of the better trance albums the year had to offer. Certainly well worth checking out for all trance fans.

Entertainment Factor: 17/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 13/20
Subtlety: 12/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 70/100.


14. Mirco de Govia - Iconic Path [Euphonic] (25 Apr 2008) (Trance, Breaks, Downtempo, Progressive Trance):



- After burning the dancefloors with his brilliant debut album, Chronoscale, in 2003, German trance producer and DJ Mirko Zettl is back with his second album on euphonic, titled 'Iconic Path'. This time, he takes a more breaks and downtempo
oriented approach, as opposed to the clubbier trance flavour of his earlier album.
Starting with the serene 'Sleeping Beauty', Iconic Path takes us on a relaxed journey with melodic, groovy gems like 'Quantum Reign' and 'Catching Light', two of the best melodic, uptempo chillout tracks of 2008 in my opinion. A collaboration with German progressive trance outfit Cressida results in the nice prog-trancer 'Fragile Symmetry'. After this rather chilled-out opening, the album takes on a more club-friendly vibe with the uplifting, 2006 trancer, Vital Spark. But the atmosphere changes sharply with the next two dark, techy tracks, Evolution Parts 1 and 2. The first Evolution track is a dark downbeat moodsetter for the brilliant dark prog-trancer Evolution Part 2. These two are then followed by another uplifting trancer, Asarja, produced in collaboration with German trance producer and DJ Ronski Speed back in 2005. After this, the album takes a downtempo route to the finish with the final five tracks. Overall, this is an excellent breaks/chillout album with some great melodic gems, and a refreshing diversity of styles that doesn't let the audience get bored easily. A worthwhile addition to the collection of all breaks/chillout lovers, especially those who also enjoy trance
and progressive.

Entertainment Factor: 17/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 14/20
Subtlety: 12/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 71/100.


13. Wizzy Noise - Renaissance [Harmonia Records] (Sep 2008) (Psy-Trance):



- The Greek psytrance duo Mickey Noise and Dimitris Pantelides are back with the
seventh album under their Wizzy Noise project, titled 'Renaissance'. This time we are treated with nine tracks in their trademark electro-tinged full-on psytrance style (including one remix). But where Renaissance scores over their previous works is in it's high production quality and superb lead melodies in almost all the tracks. Special mention ought to be made of the brilliant opening track 'Lost Atlantis' and the haunting eighth track 'Sea Song', arguably, two of the best psytrance tracks from the last two-three years. With it's powerful, energetic and melodic tracks, 'Renaissance' is designed for the dance-floors and is definitely a must-have album for all psytrance fans.

Entertainment Factor: 17/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 14/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 72/100.


12. Irezumi - Endurance [Snowblood] (20 Feb 2008) (Ambient):



- The debut album of the young French ambient producer Manuel Mesdag is inspired by Ernest Shackleton's tragic Antarctic expedition, and as such is a highly emotional album with a soundtrack-like feel. The ten untitled tracks takes us through the cold, desolate Antarctic landscape with it's haunting atmospheric aural ambience and also manages to portray the endurance of Shackleton and his crew with it's subtle, sad melodies and emotional vocal samples. Also noteworthy is the packaging of the album containing exquisite black and white photos in a beautiful 6-paneled digipak. Great work there by the young Eurasian label Snowblood! Stylistically reminiscent of works by Biosphere, Aphex Twin and Jochem Paap, this is a pure ambient masterpiece comparable with their best works. Certainly the best pure ambient album of 2008.

Entertainment Factor: 16/20
Innovativeness: 12/20
Emotional Appeal: 17/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 73/100.


11. Human Blue - Base Basket Buffet [Transient Records] (08 Feb 2008) (Psy-Trance, Progressive Psytrance):



- I like this album for its great sound effects and atmosphere. Swedish psytrance
producer/DJ Dag Wallins (Human Blue) is a wizard of sound. Almost all his tracks are notable for their amazing depth, complexity and subtle sound effects. Here, the
legendary Swedish psyprog master is out with his sixth artist album. Featuring eight tracks in his inimitable complex hard-edged progressive style, this album is designed for the dance floors. All the tracks have the raw power and atmosphere of
the Israeli psyprog sound but also carry the complex layers of subtle melodies found in the Swedish minimal psyprog style. The way all the little melodic elements come into a track and builds up along with multiple FXs across a powerful bassline borders on genius. Special mention must be made of the opening track 'Lone Ranger' and the fourth track 'Dragonflingz', two of the best psyprog tracks of the last two or three years. The second half of the album is more full-on in style, but infused
with lots of subtle melodies which distinguishes it from other contemporary full-on
tracks. Groovy and energetic, this is a gem of an album for all psytrance fans, be they full-on or prog lovers.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 14/20
Emotional Appeal: 13/20
Subtlety: 14/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 74/100.


10. DJ Orkidea - Metaverse [AVA Recordings] (05 Mar 2008) (Trance, Progressive Trance):



- Another memorable release from this year, this outstanding album has some stellar tracks which are pacy, refreshing and highly melodic. One of the leading lights of the Scandinavian trance scene, Finnish DJ and producer Tapio Hakanen's third artist album after a gap of three years was greeted with great anticipation from all trance fans. And he didn't disappoint. The ten tracks in this album (including two
excellent remixes) are all above average stuff. Orkidea has managed to implement
his signature melodic uplifting style in a new way here with innovative lead melodies, intelligent use of breakbeats with old-school trance influences as well as elements of modern day progressive trance. The latter is evident in the two collaborations with progressive trance masters Andy Moor and David West, apart from the opening track 'Metaverse'. The other tracks are mostly driving, exhilarating
melodic uplifting trancers, including the collaborations with Solarstone and Lowland, and ending with the stunning 12:07 minute long remix of Nightwish's 'Bye Bye Beautiful'. Summing up, this is a must have album for all lovers of melodic trance.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 12/20
Durability: 17/20

Total Score: 75/100.


09. In Progress - The Album [Trancemissio] (05 Sep 2008) (Trance / Progressive House):



- The debut album of Russian trance producer and DJ Pavel Leonidovich Radko almost went unnoticed even amongst the trance communities, which is a shame really, as this is an exceptionally well made album of great melodies, vocals, atmosphere, innovative sonic structures and diversity. Starting with a beautiful piano intro, it's a breathtaking journey to trance paradise through some great progressive tunes in the first half, with subtle vocals, blissful yet groovy atmosphere to some
highly melodic trancers in the middle. Towards the end it gets pretty uplifting and even a bit techy, but doesn't sound heavy-handed. Overall, it's a finely crafted album of great diversity of sounds and motifs, with a lush, romantic, dreamlike first half, to more club-friendly in the second half. Almost all the 11 tracks in this album are outstanding. With top-notch production quality and mixing, this is certainly one of the best trance albums of 2008, an album which can be enjoyed for a long time.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 13/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 17/20

Total Score: 76/100.


08. Hol Baumann - Human [Ultimae Records] (21 Feb 2008) (IDM, Downtempo, Ambient, Psychill):



- This was perhaps the first, truly great electronic release of the year. French psychill producer Olivier Orand has contributed some excellent tracks in various compilations since 2001, most notably in the Fahrenheit Project compilations of Ultimae Records. So it is only natural that his long-awaited debut album was released on that label. 'Human' features ten well-crafted psychill tracks (including a bonus track), which includes some of his older works along with some new ones. Most of the tracks blend Indian samples with intelligent sonic structures, atmosphere and wonderfully complex melodic textures. With it's rich, multi-layered sounds and complex, glitchy acoustics, this is, arguably, the finest psychill album of 2008.

Entertainment Factor: 16/20
Innovativeness: 16/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 15/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 77/100.


07. Aurosonic - Always Together [Radio Record] (16 Jun 2008) (Trance):



- This is a brilliant, above-average melodic trance album. Aurosonic, comprising Russian trance producers and DJs Evgeniy Smirnov and Sergey Klimov are masters in combining many different melodic motifs within one track, without sounding too
heavy-handed or disharmonic. They first stormed into the trance scene in 2006 with
the stunning 'Starfall' and the hauntingly beautiful 'Missing You', along with a host of other stellar tracks and remixes. 'Always Together', therefore, was a highly anticipated debut album, which got finally released in June 2008 under the Russian label Radio Record. And the album more than lived upto the high expectations of most trance fans. From the beautiful piano-laden intro to some banging uplifting trancers, the album is full of colourful melodies, vocals and atmosphere. The style is mostly progressive trance, but very driving and energetic, with intelligent usage of vocals, pianos and synthesizers, often within the same track. Almost all the 15 tracks in this album are excellent, with a great diversity of sonic motifs. Definitely a must-have album for all lovers of melodic trance.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 15/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 17/20

Total Score: 78/100.


06. Ferry Corsten - Twice In A Blue Moon [PIAS Holland] (01 Nov 2008) (Trance, Downtempo):



- I wasn't too excited initially over the release of Ferry Corsten's third artist album under his own name, as I found his previous album L.E.F. somewhat disappointing. But considering the role he played in the development of the Dutch trance style, and as I still am a fan of most of his other works pre-L.E.F. (especially System F and
Gouryella), I couldn't ignore 'Twice in a Blue Moon'. The electro-techy start of the opening track 'Shelter Me' did nothing to alleviate my fears of this being another electro-overkill album, though. However, as the track progressed I kinda liked it and overall I found it to be a decent intro to the album, nothing special, but just nice. The next track 'Black Velvet' is halfway between dance-pop and trance, but is a good one. Things start to get better from the third track 'We Belong', with it's cool 80s italo-disco motif amidst beautiful vocals of Maria Nayler. Thereafter the album gets better and better with one great track after another. What I found pleasantly surprising is how sophisticated and subdued the electro sound has become here, and how the tracks sound like no other. The album has a retro-futuristic feel, with influences from old-school trance, 80s italo-disco, modern day electro-trance and uplifting trance. Add to that, some excellent vocals and a great flow, subtle and innovative sound structures, great diversity of styles and motifs and an overall refreshing feel, and you have an album that is very exceptional, something that comes not twice, but only once in a blue moon. This is a step forward for modern trance, and hence ought to be experienced by all trancers.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 16/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 13/20
Durability: 17/20

Total Score: 79/100.


05. The Black Dog - Radio Scarecrow [Soma Quality Recordings] (31 Mar 2008) (IDM, Techno):



- The Black Dog is a British techno/idm group founded by Ken Downie, Ed Handley and Andy Turner in 1989. Their first album, Bytes, released in 1993, is an
acknowledged idm masterpiece. Since then, they have released several critically
acclaimed albums despite the lineup changing over time. Ed and Andy left the group
in 1994 to focus on Plaid, leaving Ken to work on the group on his own for a while. He was, however, soon joined by Steve Ash and Ross Knight and together they worked upto 2000. In 2001, Ken teamed up with Richard and Martin Dust, owners of the label "Dust Science Recordings". It is with this lineup, that their latest album 'Radio Scarecrow' was produced. Three years since the release of their last album,
Silenced, this was an album which was expected to be very different in style from
their last album. And so it is. Radio Scarecrow sees them going back to their techno roots, but infusing that old sound with new ideas. The seventeen, mostly short tracks in this album flow into each other seamlessly, with diverse sounds, broken melodies, ethereal ambient drones and innovative beat structures. Influences from Detroit techno and early 90s electronica are apparent in the lush first half. Thereafter the album flows through a landscape of sparkling melodies and other interesting sonic interludes, amidst a resonant techno bassline. Overall, the music is subtle and sublime, hinting at multiple interpretations. Simultaneously dreamlike and engaging, this is, without a doubt, one of the best idm albums of the past two or three years.

Entertainment Factor: 17/20
Innovativeness: 17/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 16/20
Durability: 15/20

Total Score: 80/100.


04. Affective - Unable Dreams [Tranceport Recordings] (16 Jun 2008) (Trance, Breaks):



- This is yet another highly enjoyable melodic trance album by a Russian producer
released in 2008. Alexei Kindikov is a 20 year old trance producer and DJ based in
Nizhnevartovsk, Russia. Since 2007, he has had several high-quality releases under
the Russian label, Tranceport Recordings, with his Affective moniker. On 16th June,
2008, his debut album, titled 'Unable Dreams' was released under that label. As
someone who loves the melodic Russian style of trance since the days of PPK, I
didn't hesitate to give this one a shot. And after going through the eleven tracks in this album, my belief that the future of modern melodic trance belongs to Russia was reaffirmed. This is one of those rare trance albums whose each and every track
is above-average. From the beautiful, lush progressive beginning of 'Watchin' on
Sunset' to some great club-friendly uplifting trancers, often infused with breakbeats, this is one solid trip through a myriad of melodies that can be enjoyed again and again. Special mention must be made for the beautiful opening and closing tracks where a dreamy, chillout intro is developed wonderfully to a dance floor friendly crescendo. Between them, the album flows through one melodic gem after another. Having not a single dull moment, this rich, colourful and truly remarkable album should be an essential addition to the collection of every lover of high quality melodic trance.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 15/20
Emotional Appeal: 16/20
Subtlety: 14/20
Durability: 18/20

Total Score: 81/100.


03. Vibrasphere - Lungs of life [Tribal Vision] (Dec 2008) (Tech House, Downtempo, Progressive Trance, Minimal):



- Swedish progressive psytrance act Vibrasphere are one of the most influential acts in the progressive scene, having been one of the early pioneers of the genre along with fellow Swedes Son Kite and Noma in the late 90s. For almost a decade, Rickard Berglöf and Robert Elster have consistently evolved their sound and in the
process helped shape the sound of today's minimal psyprog style. Their first album,
Echo, established their own unique sound back in 2001. Emerging from the roots of
Goa trance and acid techno, their's was a new style of trance - a stripped down,
FX-laden minimalist progressive sound. Side by side, they also composed some
beautiful dubby chillout pieces. Their second album, Lime Structure, released in 2003 reaffirmed their place on the top of the progressive psytrance scene. This was
the height of their early style. Their third album, Archipelago, released in 2006, saw them moving away from their early minimalist psyprog style to more trancier territories. This is where they began to blur the lines between progressive psytrance and progressive trance for the first time. This led to the release of their fourth artist album, Exploring the Tributaries, in 2007. This is where they merged the boundaries between modern progressive trance, house, minimal and ambient, resulting in an album which is as innovative as it is beautiful - a masterpiece of modern electronic music. After such a great album, expectations were naturally pretty high over the release of their fifth artist album, Lungs of Life. I was pretty curious to know in what direction they would go after exploring the various tributaries of modern progressive EDM. Starting with the majestic ambience of the opening track 'Decade', the album flows through the beautiful guitar-laden chillout track 'Breathing Place' to reach a warm, progressive trance version of their 2007 chillout gem 'Ensueño'. Things start to get more upbeat thereafter with the acidic tech house stunner 'Waveguide', followed by the 303 acid driven 'Analog Marinade', which is sort of a homage to early 90s acid techno tracks. I like the way the initial randomness of the acid synth line morphs into the main melody. Brilliant work there! 'Follow Me' blurs the line between tech house and progressive trance featuring subtle vocals and a hypnotic energetic rhythm. Thereafter the album gets an electro flavour with the collaboration with Ticon, Dewdrops. Two remixes conclude the album in an upbeat fashion. The Erosion Remix, by Canadian prog-house/trance producers/DJs Glenn Morrison and Bruce Aisher trades the subtlety and grace of the original for a more club-friendly vibe. A weaker track compared to the original, but still is a fine remix by any standards. The final track of the album is a remix of their 2007 track '102 Miles from Here' by French tech-house duo Solead. This is an above-average dance-floor friendly tech house version of the original with excellent use of the melodies. Overall, the album could have got better by keeping the remixes separate and adding a few more original tracks. But what we got here is a fine blend of their rich past, the present sound and an indication of the direction they would take in the near future. With a wide range of styles and sounds, and high production quality, this is an album which can be enjoyed for a long time. While not being a masterpiece, this still is a highly enjoyable album brimming with life and optimism and doesn't have a single average track.

Entertainment Factor: 19/20
Innovativeness: 15/20
Emotional Appeal: 17/20
Subtlety: 14/20
Durability: 18/20

Total Score: 83/100.


02. Evan Marc + Steve Hillage - Dreamtime Submersible [Somnia] (2008) (Dub Techno, Ambient):



- Evan Marc is the name used by American electronic music producer Evan Mark
Bartholomew (better known as Bluetech) for his techno/tech house project. Under this alias, he has released several EPs and an album titled 'Emotional Ecology',
which was released under the San Francisco, USA based label 'PsyBooty' in July
2007. The year 2008 saw him team up with UK-based guitarist Stephen Simpson
Hillage, who is best known for his work as half of ambient/techno duo System 7 and
as a frequent collaborator with The Orb. Dreamtime Submersible is the fruit of this
collaboration, and the fourth release under Evan's own label, Somnia. The new album takes us on a sonic voyage far removed from the deep house and tech house terrains of his previous album. This time we flow through the ambience of a lush, dub techno-esque aquatic dreamscape, through seven stages of sub-conscious aural realms. Starting with the nearly 11 minute long opening dub techno sedative,
Intention Craft, we explore the sonic imagery of various semi-awakened states of
sleep through deep reverbs, subtle sound quirks amidst a flowing bassline and
sparse but sublime melodies. My favourite part comes in the middle - Theta Phase.
This is where the relaxed and reflecting deep techno reverberations of Alpha Phase
begin to take on a psybient character. The hypnotic, trance-like psybient groove of
Theta Phase and the quirky sounds amidst a flowing, pulsating, subdued bassline
creates a drowsy, dreamlike feeling. Absolutely stunning! Thereafter we enter the
slow wave sleep state of the Delta Phase and the album flows into more ambient
realms thereafter. Needless to say, this is an album best enjoyed in a semi-alert,
relaxed state of mind, with closed eyes. One of the most subtle and dreamlike
albums I've ever heard, this novel take on the dub techno paradigm is undoubtedly
the best album of it's kind.

Entertainment Factor: 18/20
Innovativeness: 17/20
Emotional Appeal: 15/20
Subtlety: 18/20
Durability: 17/20

Total Score: 85/100.


01. Schiller - Sehnsucht (Limited Super Deluxe Edition) [Universal Music Domestic Division] (22 Feb 2008) (Trance, Downtempo, Ambient, Pop):



- Starting out as a two-member German dream trance project of Christopher von
Deylen and Mirko von Schlieffen's in 1998, the sound of Schiller have moved beyond
the Enigma-like grooves and beats with oldschool German trance flavours of their
Zeitgeist days to evolve into a sonic language of their own. Weltreise in 2001 developed and perfected this early style further with it's fine blend of trance and new age elements with haunting melodies and vocals. After parting ways with Mirko von Schlieffen post Weltreise, Schiller became Christopher von Deylen's solo project. His third album, Leben, released in 2003, featured more guest vocalists than his earlier albums. With great, memorable songs and it's fine blend of electronic, symphonic and club-friendly trance/house elements, Leben established the modern sound of Schiller - a style like no other. Following in the same vein, his fourth album, Tag und Nacht, released in 2005, enriched this unique Schiller sound with even more grandeur. With cinematic soundscapes, great instrumentations, excellent vocals and haunting melodies, it was one of the better electronic pop/instrumental albums in years. So it is with great anticipation, that we Schiller fans awaited the release of his latest album, Sehnsucht. The 'Limited Super Deluxe Edition' came in two CDs and a DVD containing videos of some of the tracks of the album, his Berlin to Calcutta road trip, an interview and a live recording of his performance in Kiew (apart from the booklet). The two CDs contain 31 compositions, all but one new. This time, the vocals are provided by German actress Anna Maria Mühe, Xavier Naidoo, Ben Becker, Kim Sanders, Jette von Roth, Jaël, Isis Gee, Ana Torroja, Helen Boulding, Stephenie Coker, September, Despina Vandi and Damae. Besides the rich diversity of vocal styles on offer here, the instrumentations are also quite innovative and fascinating. The haunting cello solo of Christian Kretschmar in 'Denn Wer Liebt' and the cinematic orchestral score of Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg in 'In Der Weite' provide perfect counterpoints to Anna Maria Mühe's haunting voice. In both the CDs, downtempo and uptempo tracks intertwine which robs the album of a coherent flow, but makes up for it with a fantastic richness of sounds, vocals and instrumentation that is extremely rare these days. Schiller complements the excellent vocals with music that is subtle, unforced, harmonic and haunting. Special mention must be made of the dreamlike 'Lichtung', with it's blend of dance grooves and an ethereal atmosphere over the haunting vocals (a re-interpretation of 'The Willow's Song' from 'The Wicker Man'). In CD2 we also find his collaboration with one of electronic music's pioneer Klaus Schulze - the nearly 13 minute long hypnotic composition 'Zenit (Ausschnitt)'. Overall, this album is like a breath of fresh air in the commercial world of today's electronic pop music. With it's high production quality, classy songs, rich instrumentation, innovative electronic styling and wonderful diversity, this is an album which is not easy to get bored of despite several listens, and hence deserves it's place as no less than numero uno in my list.

Entertainment Factor: 19/20
Innovativeness: 17/20
Emotional Appeal: 17/20
Subtlety: 16/20
Durability: 18/20

Total Score: 87/100.


Honourable mentions:

21. Kettel - Myam James Part 1 [Sending Orbs] (15 Apr 2008) (IDM, Downtempo, Acid)
22. Liquid Soul - Love In Stereo [Iboga Records] (Psy-Trance, Progressive Trance, Ambient)
23. Perfect Stranger - Free Cloud [Iboga Records] (Progressive Trance, Minimal)
24. SCSI-9 - Easy As Down [Kompakt] (Deep House, Tech House, Minimal)
25. Ott - Skylon [Twisted records] (Dub, Experimental, Ambient)
26. Atmos - Tour de Trance [Spiral Trax] (Progressive Trance)
27. Minilogue - Animals [cocoon recordings] (Minimal, Tech House, Ambient)
28. ISAAK HYPNOTIZER - 1 Freedom [Space Tepee Music] (Downtempo, Ambient)
29. M-Sphere - Floating [Yellow Sunshine Explosion] (Downtempo, Ambient)
30. Oceanlab - Sirens of the Sea [Anjunabeats] (Progressive House, Trance, Downtempo, Progressive Trance).


Top 10 Pure Trance Albums:

10. Perfect Stranger - Free Cloud [Iboga Records]
09. Liquid Soul - Love in Stereo [Iboga Records]
08. Ferry Tayle - Carnet de Vol [Camouflage]
07. Wizzy Noise - Renaissance [Harmonia Records]
06. Human Blue - Base Basket Buffet [Transient Records]
05. DJ Orkidea - Metaverse [AVA Recordings]
04. In Progress - The Album [Trancemissio]
03. Aurosonic - Always Together [Radio Record]
02. Ferry Corsten - Twice in a Blue Moon [PIAS Holland]
01. Affective - Unable Dreams [Tranceport Recordings].


Electronic producer of the year 2008: Christopher von Deylen (Schiller).


Release of the year:

Gas - Nah Und Fern
[Kompakt] (05 Jun 2008) (Techno, Minimal, Ambient):

- Collection of four classic Gas albums previously released on Mille Plateaux
between 1996 and 2000. These seminal works of German techno/minimal artist Wolfgang Voigt are now available as a 4 CD box set. Bridging the boundaries between lush techno and minimal ambient, these masterpieces are a worthy collection to any lover of the minimal techno/ambient genre of electronic music.


******************************************************************************************


My favourite 50 trance tunes of 2008:


50. In Progress & Omnia - Air Flower (Original Mix) [Fraction Zero]

49. Tempo Giusto - One Among Others (Original Mix) [Echelon Records]

48. Wizzy Noise - Sea Song [Harmonia Records]

47. Cramp - Out Of Your System (Original Mix) [Conspiracy Limited]

46. Solesystem - Waxoil [Morphosis Records]

45. Robert Vadney - A Day In Heaven (Rozza's Deeper Remix) [Emalodic]

44. Andrelli & Blue feat. Hila - Imagine (Mike Nichol Remix) [Infrasonic Recordings]

43. Sindre Eide - Only When I Sleep (Original Mix) [Enhanced Recordings]

42. Sphinx vs. Plexland - Milenia (Aurosonic Remix)

41. Mr. Pit feat. Vicky Fee - Back For More (Funabashi Remix Dub) [Coldharbour Holland]

40. Tenthu - Purple Sands (Original Mix) [Moonrising Records]

39. Algarve vs. Cold Blue - Sakura (Jonathan Martin Remix) [Tranceflo Records]

38. Michael Badal - Silk Road (Allende Remix) [Sedna Recordings]

37. Andy Moor feat. Carrie Skipper - So Much More (Original Mix) [AVA Recordings]

36. Stowers & Young - The Second Coming (Gareth Emery Remix) [Insight Recordings]

35. Andy Moor - Fake Awake (The Blizzard Remix) [Anjunabeats]

34. Ben Gold - Life (Sean Tyas Remix) [Discover]

33. Simon Patterson - Us (Original Mix) [Reset Records (Spinnin')]

32. Hawk pres. Air Breeze - Butterfly (Ljungqvist Remix) [Enhanced Progressive]

31. Robert Vadney - Lullaby For A Ghost [Perfecto Digital]

30. Black Pearl - Java [armada music]

29. Leon Bolier - Offshore [2 Play Records]

28. Julian Vincent feat. Cathy Burton - Certainty (Mark Otten Dub) [Armind]

27. Manvel Ter-Pogosyan - Tears of Armenia (Original Mix) [Deepblue Digital]

26. Sasha - Xpander (David Newsum Remix)

25. Tritonal feat. Christina Soto - Walk With Me (Original Mix) [Coldharbour Recordings]

24. Mr. Pit- Shana (Plastic Angel vs. Duderstadt Vocal Remix) [Coldharbour Recordings]

23. Klems - The Cube [Club Elite]

22. Jonathan Martin - Illuminous [Coldharbour Recordings]

21. Cold Blue - Oasis (Sequentia Remix) [DJ Shah Music]

20. Marninx pres. Monogato - Calling You [Ava Blue]

19. Rapha - Pandora (Daniel Kandi's Emotional Mix) [Sensate Recordings]

18. Mike Mikhjian - Air Chords (Beetseekers Remix) [Real Deep]

17. Der Mystik & Alex Reliic pres. Perplexity - Bahia [armada music]

16. Headstrong Feat. Shelley Harland - Helpless (Paul Miller Remix) [Sola Records]

15. C-Systems - Close My Eyes (Lemon & Einar K remix) [Apocalypse]

14. Push - Strange World (Astral Projection Remix) [Bonzai Music]

13. Airbase feat. Floria Ambra - Denial (Airbase Remix) [In Trance We Trust]

12. Sensitize - If only we could try [Fraction Zero]

11. Dj Tatana - Spring Breeze (Martin Roth SummerStyle Remix) [Sirup Records]

10. Anton Sonin & Amx feat. Sari - Undone (Original Mix) [High Contrast Nubreed Holland]

09. Orjan - Soulflayer [Intuition Recordings]

08. Lemon & Einar K - Anticipation [Flashover Recordings]

07. Adam Nickey - Shift (Tom Cloud Remix) [Anjunabeats]

06. Luke Terry & Kopi Luwak feat. Tiff Lacey - Fall Into The Moon (Original Mix) [Alter Ego Pure]

05. Airbase - Tangerine [Intuition Recordings]

04. Allende - Tricky Waters [AVA Blue Recordings]

03. Purple Mood - Chinese Theatre (DJ Shah & DJ Cosmo's Original Mix) [Shah-Music Digital]

02. Mental Infusion - Mind Prison [DeepBlue Records]

01. Vibrasphere - Autumn Lights (Jay Selway & Magnus Remix) [JOOF Recordings].


*********************************************************************************************



1) Best Trance Producers of 2008:

3. Tobias Schuh (Cold Blue)
2. Jezper Söderlund (Airbase)
1. Roger Pierre Shah (as part of Purple Mood and Black Pearl).


2) Best Newcomer of 2008: Alexei Kindikov (Алексей Киндиков) (Affective).


3) Best Remixers of 2008:

3. Martin Roth
2. Tom Cloud
1. Jay Selway & Magnus.


4) Best Trance Labels of 2008:

3. Intuition Recordings
2. AVA Blue Recordings
1. Coldharbour Recordings.


5) Label to watch out for in the future: JOOF Recordings.


6) Best Trance Compilations of 2008:

3. Roger Shah - Magic Island, Music For Balearic People [Armada Digital]
2. Abbott & Chambers - Alter Ego Sessions Volume 02 [Alter Ego Records]
1. Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 2008 [armada music].


********************************************************************************************


10 Non-trance gems of 2008:



10. SCSI-9 - Together [Kompakt]

09. Mirco de Govia - Catching Light [Euphonic]

08. Mirco de Govia - Quantum Reign [Euphonic]

07. Schiller - Lichtung [Universal Music Domestic Division]

06. Evan Marc & Steve Hillage - Theta Phase [Somnia]

05. Subheim - Away [Tympanik Audio]

04. Signalrunners - Meet Me In Montauk (Original Mix) [Anjunabeats]

03. Style Clash - Lullaby (Reprise Mix) [FeralCode Records]

02. Carbon Based Lifeforms - Endospore [Spiral Trax]

01. Vibrasphere feat. Irina Mikhailova - Meander [Spiral Trax].


And with that, another excellent year of music ends. Overall, I found a certain decline in quality in the trance productions in comparison to previous few years. There were many good tracks, but no masterpieces. However, the albums I mentioned in this journal more than made up for it with some truly memorable, colourful music which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here's then, looking forward to 2009!

Comentarios

  • Addicted2Melody

    Excellent journal here, mate. Some of it is very familar to me, some of it not so familar. Twice In A Blue Moon, Metaverse and Renaissance were all big big albums for me last year, so it's nice to see you chart them here too. How The Future Sounded, Iconic Path, Skylon, Free Cloud, Base Basket Buffet and Love In Stereo are all albums I enjoyed a lot myself and all worthy mentions. And Animals is an album that was recommended to me in the comments section of my review journal and having listened to it, I love it. But I do still disagree with you about Lungs Of Life. Again, I don't dislike it, but it did feel a bit average for me. After listening a couple of times I wasn't really drawn back to it. Suppose that's something we'll never agree on. I will certainly have a look at some of the albums I'm less familar with. Would certainly be interested to see what kind of album In Progress produced. Anyway, thanks for the journal, mate. Interesting read and a nicely rounded review.

    9 Feb 2009, 18:52
  • Shponglation

    Nice journal man,i enjoyed reading and keeping some of those albums in my head for future pleasure.

    13 Feb 2009, 23:04
  • sp0623

    @Addicted2Melody: Thanks for your comment, mate. I'm glad we have more in common than I previously thought. And about Lungs of Life, well, let's agree to disagree with that one. :) I'm sure you'll like In Progress' album, as well as Affective's album. They both have a lot of excellent melodic trancers.

    24 Feb 2009, 13:22
  • sp0623

    @irezumi_snow: You're welcome. Thanks for your comment. You're right about the packaging part. I guess I missed mentioning it in haste. However, I've added a few words about it now.

    24 Feb 2009, 13:24
  • sp0623

    @Shponglation: Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed reading it and hope you like the music mentioned here. Let me know of your own picks from '08, too.

    24 Feb 2009, 13:27
  • ElArte8723

    Yet another amazing journal! I'll have o read them all sometime! I appreictae you taking the time to write this for us as well as yourself. Cheers!

    18 May 2009, 3:50
  • sp0623

    Thanks for the comment, ElArte8723. Hope you liked some of the albums mentioned. :)

    14 Jun 2009, 18:30
  • almerindo_lana

    Many thanks for this one. I still need to check some of this stuff.

    6 Sep 2011, 23:14
  • sp0623

    You're welcome, Almerindo.

    14 Sep 2011, 6:02
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