Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review: Timewave – War

Timewave is one of the core group of great producers on the Mistiquemusic label who keep me coming back for more – the others being label owners Michael & Levan and Stiven Rivic (never has a production team been so badly in need of a collective alias), Kay-D and (more recently) Relaunch. But while all of these guys have released full albums in the last year or so, Timewave’s is the only one that actually seems to justify its own existence. His debut album on Mistique was the suitably spacey Solar System, still one of the best progressive trance releases of the past… ever, and on War he again shows how full length trance pieces can be integrated into an album format without it sounding fucking boring.

It’s not that Timewave is a notably better producer than Relaunch or M&L&SV (sigh). He is more overtly trancey, as his non-Mistique releases such as Supersonic and Relentless have increasingly demonstrated, but still capable of making the same kind of ethereal, superbly produced melodic progressive that the label specialises in. What sets him apart in an album context is simply his ability to get the basics right.

The funny thing is the trend has almost reversed. Ten years ago, most trance and progressive albums were still shit, but generally because producers seemed to think making an album necessitated a radical shift in their music, a need for downtempo pieces and ill-advised trip-hop pieces to showcase their “mature” side. These days the problem is that producers don’t seem to have any real reason for their albums to exist at all – they could easily be carved into three EPs without any harm being done. Somewhere between these two bumbling extremes lies a point where a dancefloor producer can stick to his strengths, but arrange his music in a thoughtful manner to actually make it interesting as a 70 minute listening experience.

War could be loosely called a concept album, themed around… well, take a wild stab in the dark. The track titles create a sense of narrative, beginning with the shock of unexpected conflict and gradually moving from resistance through to triumph. I’m not entirely convinced this journey is audibly reflected in the music, but it at least demonstrates a clear thematic unity across the album. The choice of conflict as a theme is, admittedly, an odd one – you would expect an album about war to be dark, loud and aggressive, whereas Timewave sticks pretty much to his standard brand of minor-key trancey euphoria throughout.

But while the implied theme may be dubious, the album itself at least makes sense as a journey. On Solar System he demonstrated a talent at spaced out progressive breaks, and on War he slows it down even further, into the realms of downtempo breaks that hover at 110bpm. These pieces are clearly too slow to be dance music, yet they still demonstrate all of Timewave’s strengths at building lush melodic atmospheres, and punctuate the dancefloor pieces without breaking up the overall ambience. The downtempo tracks bookend the album and also provide an interlude halfway through, essentially splitting the dancefloor tracks in half. It’s a well balanced structure – you get twenty minutes of prog, then the gears change just before things get repetitive, and then having slowed things right down for a couple of tracks he brings the hammer down for the second half, all main-room arpeggiated madness.

None of this is complicated and none of it is pretentious or overly artistic. Why can’t other good producers figure it out? Arrange your album into a clearly identifiable structure and provide a couple of moments of variety without stepping outside your strengths or fucking up the mood you’ve been building. The end result will get the best of tracks that might otherwise become dull when placed in an endless, pointless row of 128bpm swirly web-prog. In making the best of his talents, Timewave has provided an album that at least challenges Solar Fields’ lazy stroll towards the title of “Best Trance Album of 2012”.

Genre: Progressive trance
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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