Firstly I have to clear something up. I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of techno, trance, dance, hard dance, gabba or anything similar to the aforementioned. The intense ch and ts that doesn’t let up is boring and somewhat irritating and I find the repetitive hooks, bass and ‘melodies’ to be a touch unimaginative. So you can imagine my initial thoughts when receiving Magikal Journey, a 2 disc release from Tiësto.
Disc One – 17 originals.
Disc Two – 11 remixes of and by Tiësto.
I consider myself quite open-minded, objective and willing to give most things a go and I’m glad I didn’t simply reject Magikal Journey as a result of my prejudice toward dance music. Turns out I like a lot of the tracks Tiësto has on offer. At first, it was a bit of a laugh. My prejudice was being supported, the stereotype I’d created in my head was building and I wasn’t enjoying it. I skipped through the 28 tracks and didn’t have a clue what had happened. Rather than writing it off completely I concluded my bedroom was the wrong context and got I ready for round 2, 3, 4 and beyond. In the spirit of dance music I deprived myself from sleep, acquired a certain level of artificial enthusiasm, and cranked up the beats. Completely worth it.
Something I’ve never liked about, let’s call it dance electronica, is that the songs are far too long. However, for the most part, Magikal Journey has tracks in the 3 minute range. This avoids the excessively repetitive, drawn-out routine that forms part of my changing stereotype of dance music. The beats are still pretty intense and there is a lot of snare and hi-hat action happening, ts! ts! ts! ts! ts! ts! ts! ts! There’s even glimpses of the glitchy 90s techno synth you may remember from old school Need For Speed and other racing games.
The high pitch synth stabs and sequences are grown-up and ready for business but the vocals, once again, don’t get along with my brain. I’m all for getting trashy with some heavy beats and having a dance. What I’m not for is sooky vocals over the top; enter “Love Comes Again”, “Just Be”, “Break My Fall” and a few others. Don’t get me wrong, vocals have a place in electronica. Sort of. But the only vocal track I really liked was “Dance4Life”. Not so much a song with vocals, more like spoken word with a melody, good bass and solid beat. Plus it has a bonus public service health warning at the end for all uninformed people out there, “HIV AIDS is Lethal!” Remember that kids.
Maybe I’m not the right one to be judging the album. I haven’t been to a bush doof, never crashed through a fence to have a warehouse rave, never even hit up Home Nightclub for some commercial techno dance electronica love. Yet, as an outsider to the ‘scene’ I have a fresh perspective. Stand out tracks for me are “Adagio For Strings” with its epic wind up and engaging layers. “Dance4Life” for its character, low bass and simplicity. “Magikal Circus” for taking my stupid stereotyping face, turning it inside out, reverberating my spine with bass and offering something all together different. And “Forever Today”, for being exactly what I disliked about this music and simultaneously oh so enjoyable.
Disc two – briefly. Track 9, “Flight 643” reworked by Laidback Luke is the standout of disc two (for me). It has some length to it, but also a touch of extra ingredients. More drums, extra bass and a few little sequencer lines to bring a new life to the track. The rest are pretty standard dance tracks really. Remixes for the dance floor of songs made for the dance floor. Almost unnecessary.
In summation, I don’t really know how to sum up. All that may have sounded harsh, but the truth is Magikal Journey has transformed my perspective of dance music and opened that crack in my mind just a little bit more.
It stays true to the genre, plenty of snare and hi-hat, high pitch synths and some funky arse bass lines that make your feet want to skip around. But it also offers more. Tiësto has thrown in subtle layers, changing things throughout to break the repetition and come up with an intriguing collection of tunes.
The variety of tracks is impressive and it makes me want to delve into the world of dance and explore other possibilities. Mostly at home on the chemical covered dance floors of early morning clubs, a few tracks from Magikal Journey might make it into a day time listening. But that’s irrelevant. It’s electronica, dance, techno, whatever you want to call it, and it belongs in a dark room with futuristic lasers, a heavy-bass-handling sound system and happy, happy people!
Review Score: 7/10.