[30 April 2009]
The result of a contest given by Beatport and Paul van Dyk himself, Hands on in Between is a double-disc set of the trance producer’s admirers putting their hands all over his 2007 comeback album In Between. It isn’t a new idea—Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails beat him to the punch—but the intentions are good, and as solid as In Between turned out to be, its surface was so blank that injecting some new juice into it was practically a necessity. It’s also refreshing to hear from producers far outside the sphere of stardom, especially since most of those who listen to Mr. van Dyk regularly aren’t apt to pay attention to anyone less famous than, say, DJ Rap.
So how do these mixes stack up? Obviously the quality varies from track to track, as is the case with remix albums in general. For example, Super8 & Tab’s reworking of “New York City” is just the ticket, with a gripping fade-in, a lot more protein in the synthesizers, and an awesomely glittery dénouement. Then there’s the Tyler Michaud remix of “Haunted”, which excises the Insides-style beat that made the original so sexy and replaces it with a dumb trance thud. But the biggest sticking point with Hands on in Between isn’t that there are too many losers; it’s that the producers sound deathly afraid of doing anything unique with the material. That could be because they’re fans who would rather pay homage to their hero’s music than risk screwing it up, but still, why would anyone pay $11.99 to hear “Castaway” with slightly higher compression, or “Complicated” with a bit less melody, or “Detournement” a half-step too slow, other than to support the artists personally? Van Dyk has taken commendable measures to move away from trance as we know it on his last couple of records, but his remixers are setting him back with overdrive clichés and stale mixer tricks van Dyk himself patented over a decade ago. The concept behind Hands on in Between is excellent; the actual music is not. Completists, you have been warned.