Much has changed since Paul van Dyk’s last artist album, 2007’s In Between. Trance is no longer EDM’s prevailing ideology. The Swedish House Mafia is now the biggest act in the game. Dance music is popular in the United States. Dubstep exists. The scene has clearly changed. But we shouldn’t forget that much of the groundwork for dance music’s current global success was laid long ago, by legends like Paul van Dyk.
In PvD’s latest offering, Evolution, the iconic German shows that he’s uninterested in recreating the glory of his storied past. He’s got his sights set on the future — and the future, it appears, is trance music for the radio. While this may disappoint the fans who were hoping for a return to the sweeping majesty of 2000’s Out There and Back, it’s a simple necessity. The noughties, great as they were, are over. PvD has clearly learned from the success of David Guetta. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is completely up to you.
It would be confusing to categorize Evolution as trance music. Leave your preconceptions at the door, keep your ears open, and give Paul van Dyk the chance to take your breath away.
Paul van Dyk – Symmetries
“Symmetries” is eerily reminiscent of deadmau5’s “Brazil” (Second Edit) — both tracks construct classic progressive melodies atop a deep and reassuring bassline. But while “Brazil” wowed us with its simplicity, “Symmetries” doesn’t try to be subtle. Featuring intricate midrange frequencies and an brazenly epic synth, this one’s just begging to be reverberated.
Paul van Dyk feat. Arty – The Ocean
Trance’s past and future team up to give us “The Ocean,” a gorgeous, operatic trance banger that emphatically proves that beauty and bass can happily coexist. The best trance tracks makes you feel weightless. This is one of them.
Editor’s note: Listen to “The Ocean” while watching “Frozen Planet” on the Discovery Channel. It’s an irresistible combination.
Paul van Dyk – I Don’t Deserve You
Before clicking play on “I Don’t Deserve You,” here’s a bit of quick advice. Get up from your computer. Take a deep breath. Shake the tiredness from your feet. Wash your face. Slap your cheeks a couple of times. While you’re prepping yourself, turn your speakers up to full, and pump out the most aggressive big-room banger in your iTunes library. Whether it’s “Flash” (Nicky Romero Remix) or “Bazinga” or “Blow Up” or “Devotion” or “Quasar” or “Around the World” or “Paradise Poltergeist” (LA Riots Remix), find the track that fires you up, then fire yourself up.
Excited yet? Now turn your subwoofer to its deepest, fullest setting. Apologize to it, give it a kiss, and then force it to pump out more bass than it ever has before. Now hit play on “I Don’t Deserve You,” and allow yourself to be swept away by the legend we know as Paul van Dyk — a man who’s been making beautiful big-room dance music since Avicii was in grade school. Think of your life. Think of the moments, the faces, and the people that have made you smile. If you’re alone, shed a tear. If you’re not, pretend there’s something in your eye.
Paul van Dyk feat. Adam Young – Eternity
“Eternity” will inevitably be the most polarizing track from this album. If you’re an Owl City fan, this is the introduction you’ve been waiting for — the perfect segue between sugar-pop and dance music. If you’re not an Owl City fan, you might find Adam Young’s voice, well, nauseating. But before we rush to judge or criticize, we should remember that Young is a certified platinum recording artist whose fans adore him. Young is one of the world’s most distinctive vocalists, and his unerring ability for perfect pitch makes him sound autotuned even when he isn’t. Brace yourselves, folks. Whether you like it or not, this is a radio smash just waiting to happen. Twelve year-old girls are about to ride the trance wave for the first time.
Paul van Dyk feat. Sue McLaren & Arty – The Sun After Heartbreak
This might be the best track of them all. Paul van Dyk’s at his soothing best, Arty shows us how easy it is to feel good inside, Sue McLaren sings gently and comfortingly. Trance meets trip-hop meets drum n bass meets love meets joy meets happiness. When PvD, Armin, Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, ATB, Markus Schulz and their peers finally hang up their headphones,we’ll be heartbroken. But the future will still look bright. Because we’ll still have Arty.
Paul van Dyk feat. Austin Leeds – Verano
Paul van Dyk feat. Sue McLaren – We Come Together
“Verano” and “We Come Together” show us that PvD hasn’t lost the ability to put together a furious fist-pumper (or two). Violently bassy and infectiously energetic, these tracks were clearly built for festival soundystems.
So is Evolution as a whole worth your time and money? If you’ve got Paul van Dyk’s face tattooed to your chest, then the answer is yes. Buy the whole thing. But if you’re a more casual fan, we’d suggest spending your cash on any of the tracks we’ve featured here. “I Don’t Deserve You,” “The Ocean,” and “The Sun After Heartbreak” show that the German can still tell a moving story. This is the kind of unashamedly beautiful electronic music that demands attention and stirs emotion. It’s my happy music.
Dance music is continually evolving. The only way for an artist to enjoy continued success is to embrace change. David Guetta and Tiesto understood this, creating the blueprint that allowed others to capitalize on the huge (and at that point, untapped) American club market. By predicting — perhaps even deciding — what would be popular, they exposed a whole new generation to dance culture.
Some long-time fans have criticized DG and Tiesto for abandoning the styles that made them famous (going “commercial,” as it were). But it’s worth mentioning that even trance icons like Armin van Buuren and Above & Beyond have refashioned their respective sounds over the years. “Never be a prisoner of your own style,” Armin has famously said. In other words, don’t be afraid to evolve. Paul van Dyk has clearly taken this to heart.
Evolution shows us that the dance floor can still be a place to recall fond memories and make new ones. And that will never change, no matter which subgenre is on top.
Dancing Astronaut is also giving away a signed poster and copy of PvD’s album. To enter, simply “like” this post on Facebook, and we’ll contact a lucky winner within the next few days with followup information.