Sunday, August 25, 2013

Various - History Of Hardstyle 4 (Original TC Review)

Atlantis: 2007

(2013 Update:
So bizarre hearing Frankie Knuckles'
Your Love in that Reforced track so soon after hearing the original and the 'remake' on the previous CD. Aside from that, not much else to add to this one. I probably gave it much more attention than it ever deserved, but I had some grief to get off my shoulders over the criticisms music critics often received. Figured a hardstyle compilation was the best outlet for it, and History Of Hardstyle 4 was the first one I stumbled upon.

Oddly, upon first re-listen, I started liking this more than I expected - an almost refreshing sound compared to where popular hard dance has ended up. By the end of it though, I was bored of the repeated tropes. Oh well.)



IN BRIEF: A ‘march-a-long’ look back.

“If you don’t like it, don’t review it!”

Seen this statement before? Been tempted to write it yourself? It is one of the most common complaints any reviewer will come up against, and has become something of a hate-mail cliché along with “Let’s see you do better!” and “You’re just a hater!” Of course, such a complaint doesn’t make much sense when directed at major reviewers: they get sent items to cover either in the hopes of a glowing exposé or just for any coverage at all. It’s their job to be critical, and fanboys sure do hate them for it.

However, we here at TranceCritic usually have more discretion in what we review, as promos are still few for a young site such as ours; much of what we decide to cover tends to come out of our own pockets. So why would we review anything we don’t like in the first place? Simply put, we don’t know if we will dislike it until it goes into the player. Sure, we may have personal preferences, but we don’t feel certain styles of electronic music should be given the shaft because of them, nor do we let it affect our judgments (much). Our aim is to cover it all, as everything deserves a fair shake.

Still with me on this? Good. Now you know why, even though we haven’t been terribly kind to hardstyle in the past, we have yet another collection of hardstyle ready to go under the knife. Who knows? This could potentially be the one that gets the good grade! But until it gets the listen-over, we won’t know.

Initial impressions are in its favor. After all, anything with History in the title hints at a release containing choice cuts from the past. This being the fourth edition from Atlantis, surely they’ve managed to tap a well of hardstyle that was fresh and original when it was a new genre.

Wait just a moment. How old is hardstyle anyway? I know it sprung up when the residue of a decaying NRG scene merged with the gabber scene, but does it really have enough history behind it to start cranking out retrospective releases? Some quick sleuthing of the tracks on here reveals them to be from late 2002/early 2003. So... roughly four years then. That may seem like a short period of time but even ‘house classics’ compilations began emerging as early as the late 80s, so it isn’t much of a surprise to see Atlantis cashing in on their back-catalogue so soon. There’ll always be new kids in need of these to catch up on their scenes.

The first thing I noticed with these older hardstyle cuts is how much more sluggish they are compared to current offerings. While the tempo is still brisk, the emphasis on that trademark ‘WWWUUMMPA-WWWUUMMPA-WWWUUMMPA’ bassline drags the energy along. These are primarily interested in simple fist-pumping action, and everything is centered on that aspect. I can see why this had such appeal earlier in the decade for the hard dance massive: you don’t have to work as hard to keep pace with these tracks as you would for gabber or NRG.

The second thing I noticed is just how damned similar these all sound. The reason for this is easy to discover when you look at production credits: all but two of these tracks are by the same group of people! Cristiano Giusberti - aka: Technoboy - gets the most exposure on here, with eight out of eleven tracks having his hand in; also invited to this party are Antonio Donà, Mauro Farina, Luca Antolini, Paolino Nobile, Riccardo Tesini, and Luca Peruzzi.

Atlantic Wave, Builder, Droid, The Raiders, Hunter, Citizen, K-Traxx, Q-Zar: it’s all these guys, usually together, although sometimes a couple at a time - and Donà on his own as K-Traxx. Hardstyle has never been a terribly creative form of hard dance, typically recycling the same structures over and over, but a full disc of it when even the producers are recycled does not bode well for diversity. As for the other two acts - DJ Stardust and Tuneboy - they sound almost identical to all these Italians to render their inclusion moot if you want a little uniqueness in your hardstyle.

Differences through tracks tend to be marginal, as they all stick to the same march-a-long rhythmic structure and similar sounding gabber synths. Distinguishing characteristics between all these cuts are minute: Rave Train makes use of faux-train whistles; Sweetie gets ‘naughty’ with “bitch motherfucker” samples; Reforced sounds like it copied an old Frankie Knuckles tune for its build; Hardrive teases with tempo changes that hardly ever occur; Maori Fight uses war chants during a build, which is actually rather creative compared to the rest of these; and Tuneboy’s Demolition managed to turn my head by taking a vocal sample of 2 Unlimited’s Let The Beat Control Your Body. Most of the others use time-worn vocal samples heard in hard dance for ages (“Something for your mind...”; “So get up!”; etc.). And hooks? Riffs? Merely there to emphasize the throbbing beat, although Hardventure gets a tad more intuitive than the others.

There’s little more to discuss about History Of Hardstyle 4. This isn’t a form of music that requires much analysis, laying out its manifesto simply and bluntly. Play this at a big rave, and you’ll get the crowd enthusiastically jumping in the same spot with their fist pumping the air; listen to it at home, and you’ll tire of it quickly, as there’s frankly not enough going on here to treat it as anything but rave fodder. And while serviceable in such a setting, these are mostly rote examples, and won’t convert those who aren’t already fans.


ACE TRACKS:
Not really...

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.

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