It’s been a long year. No longer than any other year, but it felt long. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have much faith in trance music for this year. The rising discussion of the disappearance of trance music, or things like trance 2.0 didn’t give me much faith. But it all leveled out, and at the end of the year I’m struggling again to put together a top 20. I even struggled with putting together 4 track lists for the Infinitive 2011 World Tour. I managed, with a 100 tracks. The mixes will be available on December 25th. For now, it’s time to make a small list. Guys always love to quantify stuff, so that’s exactly what I’m doing here. I also tried to back my choices up with some motivation. Don’t know if it worked, but I tried not to overdo it some of the time. Read (and weep?). Agree or disagree.
01. Thing Called Love [Above & Beyond 2011 Club Mix]
Above & Beyond ft. Richard Bedford
Tune of the Year. We had to wait for this track for 5 years. officially. It was actually meant to go onto the Tri-State album, but due to the fact that Above & Beyond never thought it was finished, they never put it on. So finally, in 2011, ‘Thing Called Love’ was released on the long anticipated ‘Group Therapy’ album. Among the load of remixes that were released with this track (from Mat Zo, Sunny Lax, PROFF, Andrew Bayer, Arksun and Mike Shiver & Matias Lehtola), this one remains the best. While the Extended Album Mix really captures the sound of the old Above & Beyond/OceanLab tracks, I do prefer this one. This 2011 Club Mix is far more exiting to play live, and the breakdown isn’t all that bad after all. I wasn’t feeling any of this new Above & Beyond sound (also to hear on ‘You Got To Go’ and ‘Sun & Moon’), but in this case it absolutely works. Wicked track! I did feature the Extended Album Mix on the World Tour CD because that version is better to ‘listen’ to. But ‘Thing Called Love’ in Above & Beyond’s 2011 Club Mix is without doubt my number one of 2011.
02. My Enemy [Club Mix]
Super8 & Tab ft. Julie Thompson
I’ve always been a Super8 & Tab fan. Their cooperation started back in 2005 with their first release on the Anjunabeats imprint called ‘First Aid.’ From there on things only went better. Their first track together was already a bomb. But then came the following tracks: Helsinki Scorchin’ (2006), Won’t Sleep Tonight (2006), Needs To Feel (2007), Suru (2007, and first introduced us to the true Super8 & Tab sound), Elektra (2008, and their best track to date), Delusion (2008), Irufushi (2009), Black Is The New Yellow (2010, featuring Anton Sonin), Mercy (2010, featuring Jan Burton), Empire (2010, also featuring Jan Burton), their debut album ‘Empire’ and two highly anticipated remixes from ‘Irufushi’ (by Adam Nickey) and ‘Mercy’ (by Alex Kunnari). And in the beginning of this year ‘My Enemy’ featuring the beautiful vocals of Julie Thompson. These Finnish masterminds never disappoint and this is no exception. It’s a massive blend of uplifting beats, brilliant vocals and an insane climax. Everything a euphoric trance track needs. Absolutely briliant!
03. Wonderfooled [Radion 6 Remix]
SHato & Paul Rockseek
Surprise of the Year. This was a track I downloaded, burned and played a few times, never noticing how brilliant it actually is. ‘Wonderfooled’ has in my opinion some great potential of becoming an underestimated classic. The relatively small label Tool Trance (based in Switzerland) has Slovakian producer SHato and Czech producer Paul Rockseek under exclusive signing. After their Beatport no. 1 hit ‘Crypoint’ they returned with ‘Wonderfooled.’ A couple of months later the remix EP was released featuring this remix by Dutch talent Radion 6, one by Maor Levi and one from German producer Cressida. This Radion 6 remix is by far the best. The track with its euphoric break and its energetic climax have every potential of becoming a classic. Let’s not let this track get snowed under, because it’s just too good for that.
04. Alone With You [Original Mix]
Nic Chagall & Duderstadt ft. Relyk
High Contrast Recordings
When Cosmic Gate releases something, it’s pretty much never disappointing. When Nic Chagall releases something on his own, it’s never disappointing. And a collaboration with Duderstadt results in nothing else but sheer beauty. ‘Alone with you’ is a track that features the pure elements of progressive/tech trance, but also the emotion of euphoric trance. The break is absolutely magical, the vocals (by the to me unknown Relyk) are spot on, and spine-tingling. The break is full of energy, but it never gets out of hand. It restrained. The track is only 130 BPM, but it never really feels like that. There is no fury, just emotion. It’s an absolute beauty, and it’s hard for me not to play it every time I start up my decks.
05. Only Us [Original Mix]
Harmonic Breeze Recordings
Good Feeling of the Year Track. Dutch rising superstar Jordin Post a.k.a Juventa is well known for his strictly uplifting tracks. Releasing many stuff on Enhanced Recordings (Will Holland’s label) and some on Infrasonic, some of his releases also come out on the relatively new Harmonic Breeze Recordings, which was founded in 2008 by Faruk Sabanci. One of these releases was this track: ‘Only Us’. The original mix covers a full 9,5 minutes, but it never becomes boring. When I heard it the first time I already loved it. Listening to it, and finding out that it is actually an excellent track to do your workout with, it warmed its way into my heart. There is a certain balearic feel to it. When you look outside and it’s poring with rain, just put on this track and the sun will start shining instantly. It’s an absolute beauty and it deserves my “Good Feeling Of The Year” award. Jordin won’t read this, but just saying.
06. Phoenix from the Flames [Club Mix]
Boom Jinx ft. Justine Suissa
Norwegian powerhouse Boom Jinx has been in the scene longer than some people realize. He came onto the Anjunabeats imprint in 2008 with ‘Eternal Reminiscence’, featuring Key. But earlier, back in 2006, he came onto Anjunadeep with his amazing debut track ‘Come Play Perfect’ and ‘Too Free To Follow’. Since then he’s been on a roll, and this is the latest proof of his Scandinavian brilliance. ‘Phoenix from the Flames’ features the amazing vocals by OceanLab vocalist Justine Suissa and features all key elements of a euphoric progressive track. The vocals are truly beautiful, and the climax is in true trance tradition. The remix featured on the release by Omnia & The Blizzard is also worth listening. It maybe has a bit more punch, but I do think this Club Mix is the better one. Hence my choice in the top 20 to put it on place 6.
07. Champagne Dreams [2nd Mix]
High Contrast Recordings
The unmistakable sound of Marcel Woods returned at the beginning of 2011 with his Champagne Dreams EP. Some releases from the past few months before were, in my mind, a bit disappointing. But Champagne Dreams fulfills my anticipation of a return of the former sound of Woods. Sounds we used to hear on ‘Advanced’ and ‘Beautiful Mind’. This track is filled with so much energy, it’s unreal. This ‘2nd Mix’ has even more energy than the original mix. He has released more tracks over the year, but this one is by far the best one. Other tracks he released this year on High Contrast were ‘Sunrise’ (Jonas Stenberg Remix will be featured on the Infinitive World Tour), ‘BPM’, and 2011 Remixes of his classics ‘Advanced’, ‘3Stortion’, ‘Monotone’ and ‘Accelerate’. And on Musical Madness he came out with ‘Questionary’. None of those tracks ever came close to this banger. This is a tech trance bomb first class. Props to mister Woods, another great example of why I consider The Netherlands trance country number one.
08. Impressed [Original Mix]
High Contrast Nu Breed
When I heard this for the first time, I was impressed indeed. I’ve heard the name Jonathan Stone like two times before, but never really payed attention. Mister Stone himself is kind of shrouded in mystery. Not much is there to find on this mysterious producer. Not even Discogs can help me out here. But what I do know is that ‘Impressed’ is a main-event, straight-forward, hands-in-the-air big room anthem that just needs to be played. And needs to be played loud. Its synths and melodies sound familiar to some of you. Apparently, the sounds have also been used in an early Richard Durand song. But if you’re looking for a proper no-compromise big room anthem, this is your pick. Absolutely brilliant production!
09. Pieces of the Puzzle [Solarity Remix]
Boom Jinx & Soundprank
Progressive Track of the Year. As I stated before, Boom Jinx has been in the scene longer that you’d expect. A lot has happened in the time that’s passed, like his cooperation’s with American progressive and ‘out-of-the-box’ producer Andrew Bayer. Bombs have been dropped in the shape of ‘By All Means’, ‘To The Six’ and ‘Fracture’, but here he proves that not only Andrew Bayer can be a mighty companion. Teaming with rising Canadian superstar Soundprank resulted in ‘Pieces of the Puzzle.’ An absolute progressive banger. But some people in Londen (Solarity red.) thought it wasn’t enough just yet. They took this track to the next level and it resulted, in my opinion, in thé progressive track of the year. Solarity’s remix of this track re-defines all the laws that were written about progressive house music. Absolutely everything is without doubt brilliant. Nothing more needs to be said.
10. Reverie [Dash Berlin Remix]
First State ft. Sarah Howells
Dash Berlin has always been a standard of excellence ever since he came into the trance world with the unforgettable ‘Till The Sky Falls Down’. That was back in 2007 on the Captivating Sounds label. After that the brilliant tracks kept on coming. ‘Waiting’, ‘Man on the Run’ and ‘Never Cry Again’ are example of that excellence. Remix-wise he’s also delivered quite some quality work. His remix of ‘You Never Said’ by Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren is the most memorable. And now ‘Reverie’ from fellow dutch producer First State. Supported with vocals from the lovely Sarah Howells. This (together with Dash’s remix of ‘This Night’ by Filo & Peri) capture that essential Dash Berlin sound. The vocals are absolutely stunning and the breakdown is even more spine-tingling. Brilliance among the brilliant!
11. Promises [Myon & Shane 54 Summer of Love Mix]
Black Hole Recordings
Andain only ever released three singles. That was ‘Summer Calling’ in 2002, ‘Beautiful Things’ in 2003, and now, in 2011, they return with the very… ehm… promising ‘Promises.’ Why it took them (including one half of Gabriel & Dresden; take a guess who) 8 years to get back on track I have no idea, but I’m glad they did. ‘Beautiful Things’ was already re-invented back in 2008 by Roger Shah, and many others. And this release also features many remixes, including ones from Soundprank, Kris O’Neil, Marco V, Richard Durand and Hungarian magicians Myon & Shane 54. Their remix has all the bases covered when it comes to groundbreaking/-stomping quality. Hands in the air is a definite guarantee, and people singing along maybe even more. It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of remix work. The Intro Mix also gets your set going quickly. Magic!
12. Morning Star [Original Club Mix]
Roger Shah ft. Moya Brennan
Magic Island Recordings
Emotion of the Year. Trance music is always filled with emotion. To me personally, that is just a fact. You don’t shake your booty to trance music. We have house music for that. With trance music, it’s just that little bit different. You raise your hands, you close your eyes and you let the melodies flow into your mind. Sounds all very ‘yoga-ish’ and like I’ve smoked a ton of weed, but it’s very true. And if there is one record that fulfills that ‘Hands In The Air’ need, it’s this one: ‘Morning Star’ by the master of Balearic trance himself: Roger Shah. Featuring the incredible voice of Moya Brennan (who also did Chicane’s classic ‘Saltwater’). It’s an absolute stunner and while the break may take half an hour, it’s still a stunner. It never fades away. If you close your eyes during this track, you can picture yourself on a tropical island, without doubt. Give it a try, especially during a rainy day. It works. A true masterpiece.
13. Soul Searchin’ [Original Mix]
There is no doubt: Mister Kandi always delivers. In all the years that this Danish powerhouse has been putting out releases, be has never missed a beat. His debut single ‘Breathe’ in 2006 on the Anjunabeats imprint already pushed all the right buttons. My personal favorite is still ‘Child’ from 2007, also on the Anjunabeats label, released together with ‘Nova’. His most successful cooperation in my mind is that with Robert Nickson with whom he created ‘Rewire’ and the stunning track ‘Liberate’. But this year he hit the spot with the illusive track ‘Soul Searchin’. There is actually no explanation needed, because Daniel Kandi doesn’t need one. It’s self-explanatory. Just listen.
14. Simple Things [Original Mix]
Foyle & Zo
Break of the Year. There were many great breakdowns over the year. The two tracks I described before this one (‘Morning Star’ and ‘Soul Searchin’) both feature amazing breaks, but the one that caught my eye (or ear) the most, was this celebratory release on Soundpiercing (its 100th release) from Mike Foyle & Mat Zo. ‘Simple Things’ isn’t just a ‘simple’ track. It features many key elements needed for a successful progressive track. But the break is the most amazing one. Featuring a true piano sound, coupled with something that sounds like falling rain, it turns it into a true spine-tingler. A successful cooperation one might say, and rightly so. I hope mister Foyle and mister Zohar decide to sit behind the computer once again in 2012 for a follow-up to this amazing track.
15. Everything To Me [Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix]
Sly One vs. Jurrane
Italian superstar Giuseppe Ottaviani never fails to disappoint. And London based production duo Sly One vs. Jurrane neither. So when I ran into this release on the British Discover label, I knew nothing could go wrong. And so it happened. The original of ‘Everything To Me’ was already released in 2010, but revised in 2011 by Giuseppe Ottaviani and released together with ‘Open Roads’. The typical UK trance sound is still here, but now with added Italian trance sounds. Which turn this track into one of the most energetic uplifting tracks of 2011. It’s very hard not to jump around on the insane melodies and beats that rush out of your speakers. Energy of the year? Yes, there is no doubt about that.
16. Synapse Dynamics [Arty Remix]
That London based Ukrainian talent Mat Zo has been in a bit of a precarious mood proofs his many releases over the year, but never one that really stuck on. But when fellow talent Arty took hold of his classic Synapse Dynamics, it all turned around. Arty has also been in a changeable mood in 2011, but this remix is one hell of a track. The complete opposite of his useless remix of ‘This Night’ by Filo & Peri. But also Arty’s solo releases have been doubtful some of the time. ‘Kate’ was pretty solid, ‘Around The World’ is only good for 2 minutes and I also wasn’t very sure about’Rebound’ and ‘Mozart’ (both together with Mat Zo). But this teaming resulted in a very solid product and I’m glad they both still got it.
17. Relic [Original Mix]
At first, Paul Keeley said he was going on a sabbatical and wouldn’t be releasing anything over the greater part of 2011, or maybe even the whole year. That was all good by me, as long as he would come back with a bang. But being a true producer at heart, he couldn’t stay away from the music and on the annual Anjunadeep compilation he returned with the amazing track ‘Relic.’ Sounds that go back to the old sounds of the Anjunadeep imprint, thinking of Keeley’s own tracks ‘Life Aquatic’, ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘Disco Belle’. And absolute stunner which works perfectly at the beginning of any set. The remix included on the EP by Seb Dhajje was also pretty solid, but didn’t match the quality of the original. I hope Paul Keeley has some other beauties for us in stall for 2012. First class producer.
18. Delphi [Original Mix]
Leaving First State hasn’t made his life any worse. Ralphie B already had a solid reputation in the trance scene after releasing the insane classic ‘Massive’ back in 2002. And returning to solo production in 2011 resulted in ‘Bullfrog’ at first, and later this track called ‘Delphi.’ There is a certain energy around this track that I can’t really put my finger on. The beautiful sounds, the mid-tempo (136 bpm red.) and the insertion of more sounds throughout the track make it an insane track. In many ways better than ‘Bullfrog’ but I was too late to include it in the Yearmix. Because after finishing compiling the list for this year’s World Tour, ‘Delphi’ was released. But nonetheless a very very good track.
19. Skyfire [Original Mix]
American born producer Shogun has been on a roll in 2011. Releasing many tracks over the year, spread across the biggest labels in the business. But the one that stayed with me the longest was this one: ‘Skyfire’. But unfortunately at some point I heard a bit too much. Not meaning that it turned into a commercial ‘hit’, far from that, but I stopped listening to it for a while. And hearing it again on the inaugural edition of Electronic Family in The Netherlands, it was back on my list. Amazing vocals (by whom I have no idea) and a massive breakdown. He also took a shot at producing the anthem for the upcoming A State Of Trance 550 event, but that track sounded so much like a dub version of ‘Skyfire’ it was a bit of a shame. Let’s see what Shogun has in stall for us for next year.
20. Still [Jorn van Deynhoven Remix]
Aly & Fila ft. Sue McLaren
Future Sound of Egypt
The future sound of Egypt has been with us for quite some time now, and I’m wondering to what future they refer. If the future sounds like this: bring it on. The already amazing original was taken back to the drawing board by Dutch/German superstar Jorn van Deynhoven and he came back with an absolute stunner. The vocals by Sue McLaren are amazing, and the consistency of the whole track make it a perfect ‘listening’ track. But make no mistake; I’m pretty sure that when I hear this live on a massive event, it’ll still get my feet of the floor and hands in the air. No doubt.
Top 5 favorite record labels:
02. Silent Shore Records / Silent Shore White
04. Enhanced Recordings
Top 5 favorite producers of 2011:
01. Daniel Kandi
02. Super8 & Tab
03. Above & Beyond
04. Norin & Rad
05. Kyau & Albert
Top 5 busiest producers:
01. Kyau & Albert
02. Above & Beyond
04. Mat Zo
05. Bart Claessen
Top 5 most disappointing tracks:
01. Arty – Around The World (Tonka’s Afro-Trance Remix) [Anjunabeats]
02. Nitrous Oxide – Gr8! (Original Mix) [Anjunabeats]
03. Marcel Woods – Monotone (Jordy Lishious Tmao Remix) [High Contrast Recordings]
04. W&W & Mark Sixma – Twist (Rick Mitchells & Bas van Essen Remix) [Captivating Sounds]
05. Estiva – Next Level (Maor Levi Remix) [Enhanced Recordings]