Saturday, March 12, 2016

Stephen J. Kroos - Tecktonick (Original TC Review)

Anjunabeats: 2007

(2016 Update:
See 2007 Sykonee. See 2007 Sykonee make ridiculous generalization about trance producers making breaks. Point at 2007 Sykonee. Laugh. Laugh at 2007 Sykonee. Ha ha ha. What a nob. I don't even recall what his problem was, a rant that comes totally out of nowhere. Laugh especially hard at the fact I actually like
Oxygenation now. Maybe it's that new-found appreciation for McProg's more charming attributes, but Kroos does good in bringing the grumbly low-end/twinkly high-end style to the realms of broken beats. The nu-skool leaning Elecktronick can be left well behind though.

Kroos wasn't long for the world of trance, moving onto tech-house and prog shortly after this album, releasing several singles on Anjunadeep in the process. Eventually he left Anjuna', finding a new home on Spring Tube where he continues releasing music to this day. While keeping with the tech, he's also incorporated deep house and chilled IDM into his repertoire. So a fairly well-rounded career since dropping his debut, even if significantly diminished in scene presence since.)



IN BRIEF: Bringing the past to the present.

Expectations are a dangerous thing when it comes to music. While they may be different for everyone, if an artist doesn’t reach a previous peak (much less surpass it), their subsequent releases are often met with disappointment. And this tends to hold true not just with producers, but everything from DJs, compilation series, labels, and even whole genres.

This can work other ways too. The obvious is when your expectations are so low, to hear something that is surprisingly decent can skew an objective impression. More common is coming across a release that breaks the norm of what you are used to, and impressions are no less susceptible.

The ultra-melodic trance label Anjunabeats hasn’t been known for its diversity but they seem to be showing signs of moving beyond the clichés of late. Among the artists doing so for them is Stephen J. Kroos. The Dutchman’s been producing since the late 90s, having small success when his singles found homes on compilations like Mega Trance 1.0, Ibiza Club Trance, and The House Sound Of Dance Tuning Disco (?). A few years back, Anjunabeats took Kroos on, and turned heads by providing a sound much of the epic trance brigade were unfamiliar with.

Let’s make something clear though. Despite claims to the contrary, Kroos’ music isn't revolutionary. In fact, he’s merely doing the same thing as newer producers like Paul Moelands, Sander van Doorn, and the Discovery squad are: taking trance back to its roots. A time before the Corsten clones, the overblown breakdowns, the schmaltzy lyrics, and everything else that sent the genre into Punchline Land. I can see how kids who figure trance begins and ends with Armin van Buuren’s radio show would find Kroos’ material quite different from the norm. However, folks with Pre-Dutch Explosion knowledge will find his style familiar (I’ll spare you the synth-sample trainspotting).

And this is A-OK. Although often regarded as tech-trance these days, this is more-or-less how the genre sounded when it was showing great promise as savvy party music. It builds on layers, letting the rhythms drive and the melodies subtly tickle at your mind. It was effective in the mid-90s, and it remains effective to this day. If stuff like deep house and Detroit techno are able to get away with recycling winning formulas, why not trance of this nature too?

Anyhow, let’s get to the particulars of Kroos’ album Tecktonik.

After a bit of ambient noodling opens things up (of which several others crop up throughout as interludes between tracks), Stephen wastes no time in letting his audience know this isn’t a typical Anjunabeats release. 4 Your Taperecorder is a techy banger that has only one thought in mind: working the dancefloor. Fortunately, it works fine on the homefront as well, with catchy hooks and vocal samples keeping your attention. Follow-up Sadistick is something far more familiar with the Anjuna faithful. A standard prog-house excursion, Kroos does the style justice with suitable dark grooves and moody atmosphere. Less effective is Tony McGuinness’ lyrics: unnecessary fluff. Why is the Above & Beyond man even here? As one of the label heads, did he insist on having at least one vocal number on this album. Thankfully, it’s a one-off, and we’re right back into Kroos’ winning style soon after.

And nothing over-fancy here, folks. Just simple energetic trance. The rhythms pump, the melodies work, and the breakdowns never dawdle. Hell, Innerstatistick barely has any downtime at all, with a not-a-breakdown-at-all moment lasting less than thirty seconds; and merely used to introduce one of those oh-so vintage ominous sci-fi samples no less! Kroos’ offerings tug at nostalgic strings while keeping his sound firmly in the present. I’d say I’m about ready to be converted to the Cult Of Kroos.

But then he decides to take a stab at breaks. Oh dear...

My friends, there are many constants in the cosmos, one of which is trance producers seldom make good breaks. With most of their attention paid on atmosphere and melodies, they forget the one ingredient that makes breaks good: da funk. Kroos is no exception to the rule, with his offerings blander than white bread. Oxygenate isn’t that bad when he lets the effects direct the flow of the song, but Elecktronick is far too dependent on rhythm to carry it, and the track suffers as a result. And sadly, Tecktonick ends on a limp note. Frankly, the final ambient doodle Sphecktralizm would have been a great closer had Kroos explored the psy dub possibilities an extended version of it hints at. Instead, Formalistick is the main show, but doesn’t have much going for it as such. It’s a fine track to be used in DJ sets but remains musically limited, with a lead hook that ends far too soon; just as you’re warmed up to it, we’re already heading into our perfunctory rhythmic lead-out.

This by no means makes for a weak album though. While the second half of Tecktonick doesn’t quite match the first, there’s still enough here to warrant your attention. The ‘let-trance-do-what-it-do-best’ mentality to many of these cuts shows the ol’ girl still has some life after all, and Kroos’ production suggests a promising future for his career. Well, such that he won't have to worry about being on compilations with names like Veronica’s Mega Music Dance Experience again.

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


ACE TRACKS:
Phantazmz
Innerstatistick

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