Paul Van Dyke continues techno tradition

Paul Van Dyke

Reflections Mute Records

3 / 4 stars

Paul Van Dyk said on his Web site that he wants people to get lost in his music. That is certainly easy to do with his latest release, "Reflections." The album has a natural flow in which songs move in and out of each other seamlessly.

It opens with "Crush," which is somewhat more aggressive than the songs that follow, but is nevertheless one that could be easily talked over in a trendy lounge somewhere in TriBeCa. That being said, "Crush" is equally easy to dance to and could hold center stage in most trance clubs. Its other advantage is that it's free of the ever-annoying vocals of Jan Johnson, who inflicts her "talent" upon five of the album's 13 songs. Johnson crows in a Madonna-like sloppiness that takes away from what otherwise would be pretty good songs. Her voice is awkwardly placed over Van Dyk's arrangements, and it sounds like she's failing to keep pace. These misplaced vocals manage to ruin the sweet lyrics of "Homage," where Johnson really sounds like a dead ringer for the "Material Girl's" own failed techno foray. Not all vocal crimes are Johnson's however, as John McDaid's contribution to "Time of Our Lives" is also less than desired. The lesson here is that if you have a DJ as talented as Paul Van Dyk and beats as good as those on "Reflections," don't mess up a good thing with pretentious European singers. The strongest songs are the ones sans vocals, most significantly "Crush," "Buenaventura" and "Connected." Van Dyk doesn't like labeling his music, as he states on his Web site: "I don't create 'Trance Music,' I really don't like to give my music a name, I don't like to categorize it. If I had to, I'd call it 'Electronic Dance Music.' For me, this is my language."

That being said, the tracks do have different personalities and fall in different places on the techno spectrum. The songs range from very ambient and trance-y, like, "That's Life" and "Nothing But You," to more of what the DJ himself prefers to call electronic dance music in the vein of Fatboy Slim and Paul Oakenfold, like "Crush" and "Spellbound." Most club kids with glow sticks prefer the more energetic tracks they can dance to. All in all, "Reflections" is a mixed bag. While it's a fairly good album that could definitely be thrown on when hosting your own soir?e, it's not the caliber one would expect from a DJ who has won as many accolades in the past three years as Paul Van Dyk. Van Dyk is a huge hit in Germany and the United Kingdom, where he has won international DJ of the Year awards from several magazines, including the British magazine Muzic. Then again, the Germans also think that David Haselhoff is a fantastic musical entertainer. Van Dyk's talent in spinning, in and of itself, is more than adequate to make his music noteworthy; however, his penchant for including trite lyrics and less than talented singers isn't much in line with American tastes.

"Reflections" would have been much better had Van Dyk limited the use of other artists and let his music stand on its own. However, if you're a big fan of electronica, you might not care as much about the annoying Jan Johnson. You may, as Van Dyk wishes, just get lost in his music.

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