Music

Paul van Dyk: Reflections

Alison Wong

Paul Van Dyk

Reflections

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2003-10-07
UK Release Date: 2003-10-20
Amazon
iTunes

We have just waited three years for the release of Paul van Dyk's latest album, Reflections. I feel strongly about using this statement as my opening for this review. Three years is a long time for any artist and, for the ones who are known to be groundbreakers, three years can equate to a lifetime's worth of work to others. I have heard people say that they don't like what van Dyk has done on this album because "it doesn't sound like van Dyk" (now there's an argument if ever I heard one), but to that my answer would be that I would be disappointed if it did. After all, isn't he is revered for his forward-thinking attitude? Ah, the irony. That said, let's take a look at what he's done.

This new album is different and there's no denying it. There are but remnants left from the early techno days and paradigmatic club sets. There are noticeably fewer club mixes and, where you would potentially expect one, instead there is a more contemplative and chilled version. Probably the biggest change worth pointing out is that this album mirrors, more than any of the previous three, the inner voice of van Dyk. From "Like a Friend", derived from the poverty he witnessed whilst on a tour of India, to "Time of Our Lives", about living together in harmony, these personal statements are reflected in music that is introspective with more of an edge to it.

The opening track, "Crush", opens a lot like Underworld's "Born Slippy" with its slow and eerie, watery ambient sound created by synthesizers. The structure of the track is a tried and tested one: an epic build up that develops as the opening beats suck you into a trance while the foreplay melody holds back and sits on the explosive power kick for a good five minutes into the track. The tension swells and just when van Dyk knows you can't take it anymore, the lyrics "I know you want me" unleash like water bursting through a dam and the track shifts into high gear. Formulaic, yes, but who doesn't fall for it every time?

"Time of Our Lives" is a joint collaboration between van Dyk and British rock band Vega-4. It's heavy on the vocals, but even with the tasteful remix in the background, it's more than a stone's throw from what you'd expect. The result is altogether more like pop music trying to sound chilled. Johnny McDaid's (from Vega-4) voice bears a striking resemblance to Robbie Williams, and this track actually sounds more like something Williams would come up with on an inspired day. The lyrics seem to be implying that, in light of recent events, we must seize the moment ("Oh this is the time / Of our lives") and try to change the world to make it a better place. Deep stuff; it's a shame about the lightweight music. "Like a Friend" spins out in the opposite direction. Taking female vocals as the central focus this time, the ambience is meditative with pulsing, muted beats. It's the perfect setting for Jan Johnston's earthy vocals, matching the lyrics, "Be aware of the world and be true to your conscience / Be aware of its need like a friend you can hold", that message van Dyk's reaction to poverty in India.

The middle section of the album contains a mix of tracks of varying styles and standards. "Nothing But You" is vintage van Dyk, consisting of superior remix quality music with heavy beats and stirring Norwegian lyrics. "Buenaventura", taken from his original score for the movie Zurdo and again featuring vocals from Jan Johnston, though energetic enough, consists of pulsating house music that lacks substance, with equally thin lyrics: "There's only you I could love / Forever / That's why I'm so lonely in a crowd / And all I think about / Is coming home to you".

The album winds up to a crescendo of a finish. "Knowledge" is easily the most experimental of all the tracks, a collaborative effort with hip-hop artist DJ Tomekk that's impressive in its efforts and results. The rhythmic rapping is intricately woven into a heavy bass line and topped with short, synthesized melodic statements. The track segues into "That's Life", a bottom-heavy track that fares less well in the remix treatment. The unimaginative melody is no match for the thumping bass line and overall there is a lack of direction. Fast-paced, energetic, cohesive, and with vocals by Johnston, the remaining two tracks, "Spellbound" and "Kaleidoscope", are amongst the best to round out the album.

There has been some heavy-duty Moby-style marketing surrounding the release of this album. This will undoubtedly become known to the masses as the one with the track (that would be "Connected") from the cell phone (that would be Motorola) commercial. For those unfamiliar with his work, Reflections is an accessible starting point housing some of his best and most progressive work to date. Across the album the quality of the music is not overly consistent, but none of it is comes close to being bad. Where it's good, it's fantastic.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image