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Sunday 15th, March 2009
Markus Schulz - Toronto 09



Toronto ’09 follows on from Miami ’05, Ibiza ’06 and Amsterdam ’08 (which was nominated for and IDMA last year) and is designed to reflect Markus Schulz’s affection towards the said Canadian city. He clearly has a lot for Toronto and especially the Guvernment complex. Markus’ impressively varied sound has won him plenty of fans, always staying on the cutting edge of progressive and trance without becoming too inaccessible. His Global DJ Broadcast radio show, that airs every Thursday ahead of Armin’s A State Of Trance, is always a more cerebral experience than the guilty pleasures of ASOT – like going to the Tate Modern then going home to watch Die Hard III. Both stimulate you in different ways. Split over two discs and as usual smattered with original Markus Schulz productions and ‘Coldharbour Reworks’, this promises to be quite a journey.

CD1 opens with a dreamy ambient intro by Schulz himself, with overheard conversations sounding like he is easing you in from the outside into his world. This segues neatly into the mood-setting Backfire from Thomas Sagstad, chunky minimal beats with rumbling undertones. Claud9 follows with the flowing electro bass-driven Rain, which has cute Röyksopp-esque vocodered vocals. Sweet track. Travail from Karnak vs. Dymos has deep house vibes with low sub bass and subtle guitar riffs before an unexpected shimmering breakdown – classy stuff. The prolific Texans Tritonal appear remixed by the always excellent Moonbeam with beautiful vocals from Cristina Soto in a restrained, floaty production. Scorpion from Rex Mundi picks up the pace with a menacing bassline and the first tentative sprinklings of trance melodies before the highly rated Arnej shows his class with the first genuinely uplifting moment on CD1, Tomorrow Never Comes. The expansive synths and gently caressing female vox combine with surprising cello stings to make a stunning track.

Tim Grube’s dub of Tenishia - Everything ups a the mix a notch with a pounding bassline, superb tom-tom drum and acoustic guitar strums before Cardboard Box from Skytech shoves us firmly onto the dancefloor with swirling melodies and a huge crowd-pleasing lead melody that is one of the more memorable moments of disc 1. Mr. Pit’s The Cube has a fast paced, rattling bassline and another big melody with some fresh synth sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ferry Corsten album. Rex Mundi appear again with Nothing At All, Susana’s well rounded vocal superbly chained to the meaty bassline before building to a big melodic peak. Max Gueli - Remember The Silence has echoes of the Depeche Mode classic Enjoy The Silence, a still timeless melody that I always welcome hearing again and is done cleverly here. Adiva gives us the final vocal on CD1, How Does It Feel, a gorgeously smooth uplifter before Omnia brings the mix to an awesome pounding climax with Stick In Monday. This has it all - buzzing bassline, bright melodies, flecks of piano chopped vox, and background spoken word chatter leaving things perfectly poised for the second disc.

CD2 opens with Schulz’s tribute to Toronto’s biggest club Koolhaus. Initial ambience bursts into life with a rolling bassline and the breakdown works a wonderful melody up that is a treat when it finally attains complete clarity. Wippenberg remixing Umek & Beltek should be an intriguing prospect but results in ominously building minimal techno that has its moments but is a bit stop/start. Another Markus Schulz Dakota track follows, Sin City, a pulsating affair with a satisfyingly retro lead before Hold Control by Rowald Steyn that is awash with hypnotic tech trance vibes and a melody straight from darkside of trance. There are some nasty build ups in this one. Markus Schulz remixes Mike Foyle’s Bittersweet Nightshade that has some emotive female vox and bright melodies though I did find my attention drifting in this track. Mr. Pit brings it back with Besides Words, where aggressive basslines clash with sweet, calming Andy Moor-ish female vox and unexpected flamenco guitar. Harbour by Daniel Ecole is used briefly in the mix, with a short dream trance interlude before switching back to nasty tech.

Up next is the turning point in the mix, Markus’ remix of Power Of American Natives – one of the original trance tracks from the pioneering Dance 2 Trance. It’s great to see them on a tracklist again and Markus does this justice with a sensational remix – a mesmerizing rolling groove that comes complete with the pan pipes and unashamedly retro vocal from the original, harking back to the days when trance was about exactly that – putting you in a trance and not just big breakdowns. M.I.K.E. pops up next under the slightly dubious moniker Project MC - I don't know how he keeps coming up with new alias, the man's had so many. Bromley Ave is one of his more techy productions that gradually creeps under your skin using simple elements working together to create the ultimate tranced-out state. The mix is now finally in full flow with a radiant trancer from Michael Calderone & Christopher Reddick, Sound Of Flight before the first and only vocal of CD2, Eliana by Khaz & Boris M.D., a haunting, slightly disturbing male vocal with a tough bassline. Up next Element One, who have been putting out some quality stuff recently, with the brilliantly in-your-face South Haven that packs a wonderfully upbeat melody. Barns & Heatcliff give us the quirkily named Pyjamaparty is packed full of inventive ideas and is a very fun track before Arnej appears again with one of the hype tracks of the moment, Dust In The Wind - its beautifully arranged strings are a suitably epic closing.

Conclusion

As you would expect from Markus Schulz, this is a high-class, high quality affair from start to finish. CD1 builds superbly from subdued beginnings to a big climax with plenty of arms-in-the-air moments along the way. The well-placed, strong vocals add character to what is a well-balanced, bright, upbeat and uplifting mix. CD2 is much darker in tone and more dancefloor focused, a bit stop/start with some less than dynamic mixing up to the wonderful Power Of American Natives remix – after that it doesn’t look back and finishes strongly. This is highly intelligent, multi-layered dance music that doesn’t always grab the attention straight away yet reveals more with each listen. Markus’ intense enthusiasm for dance music shines through with his own productions and Coldharbour reworks meticulously selected to enhance the mix. If you are a keen follower of his GDJB show, you need little incentive to get this. If you are a Schulz doubter, give this a go, you could be pleasantly surprised. 4/5

Disc 1:
01. Dino - Queensquay and Jarvis
02. Thomas Sagstad - Backfire
03. clAud9 - Rain (Coldharbour Rework)
04. Karnak vs. Dymos - Travail
05. Tritonal feat. Cristina Soto - Crash Into Reason (Moonbeam Remix)
06. Rex Mundi - Scorpion
07. Arnej - Tomorrow Never Comes
08. Tenishia - Everything (Tim Grube Dub Remix)
09. Skytech - Cardboard Box
10. Mr. Pit - The Cube
11. Rex Mundi feat. Susana - Nothing at All
12. Max Gueli - Remember the Silence
13. Adiva feat. Vicky Fee - How Does it Feel
14. Omnia - Stick in Monday

Disc 2:
01. Dakota - Koolhaus
02. Umek & Beltek - Is It? (Wippenberg Remix)
03. Dakota - Sin City
04. Rowald Steyn - Hold Control
05. Mike Foyle - Bittersweet Nightshades (Markus Schulz Return to Coldharbour Remix)
06. Mr. Pit - Besides Words
07. Danilo Ercole - Harbour
08. Dance 2 Trance - Power of American Natives (Markus Schulz Return to Coldharbour Remix)
09. Project MC - Bromley Avenue
10. Calderone & Reddick - Sound of Flight
11. Khaz & Boris M.D. - Eliana
12. Element One - South Haven
13. Barnes & Heathcliff - Pyjamaparty
14. Arnej - Dust in the Wind


Written by:
Jon Nix

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