CD Review of In Between by Paul van Dyk
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Paul van Dyk: In Between

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


f there’s one thing to be said about electronic music it’s that it is forever changing and not the most easily definable genre on the planet. Sure, there are broad labels for the whole shebang, such as “techno,” “house,” “ambient,” etc., but often all of those styles and a baker’s dozen extra can be found within one DJ’s album. Whereas a genre like rock and roll is pretty much set in its ways and easy to describe, electronic music tends to embrace all other genres and spit them out into something new, sometimes recognizable, other times in ways that bring about their own new labels.

Paul van Dyk has been on the scene for a long time now, splitting the difference between ambient-based work and more “viable” commercial-sounding tracks. His latest effort, In Between, seeks to bridge the gap, offering up a staggering 17 tracks that attempt to bottle van Dyk’s work into a shiny pop offering – and it succeeds, more often than not. The opening tune, “Haunted,” featuring guest vocalist Lo-Fi Sugar, kicks things off on a quiet, sensuous note, giving the listener the feeling that this outing is going to be dreamy.

That idea is soon dashed when the fantastic “White Lies” kicks in. This is good old reliable four-on-the-floor dance music featuring vocals by Jessica Sutta. The core of the groove sounds like it could have come straight from 1994 and is easily accessible even to those who may thumb their noses at this style of music. Yet those same people may have room to do such a thing when “Sabotage” rolls around. It’s an instrumental ditty that unfortunately builds to its peak way too early and doesn’t manage to go anywhere fast for the next three minutes.

However, “Complicated” gets things back on the good foot and features Ashley Tomberlin. This one sounds a bit like classic Crystal Method circa Vegas and/or the soundtrack for the video game “Nitrous Oxide.” It’s smooth and goes down easy, to paraphrase an ancient beer ad. Tomberlin also guests on “Get Back,” which unfortunately lets the wind out of the sails of the previous groove. It’s as if van Dyk tries too hard in spots at times on this album, scoring gold with a certain sound and then trying to mine it some more and having it all cave in on him.

Yet the instrumental “Far Away” scores wonderfully where “Sabotage” failed. Perhaps it’s because Giuseppe Ottaviani helped out with the mix. Whatever the reason, it cooks like crazy. A couple tracks later, “Talk in Grey,” featuring Ryan Merchant, also hits the mark effortlessly. This is one of those rare dance tunes featuring a male vocalist that doesn’t manage to suck. In fact, the tune may be the highlight of the album next to “White Lies.”

“New York City” is trance-minimalism at its best and “La Dolce Vita” is one of those epic-sounding instrumentals that sounds like it could be a dance floor favorite for a long time to come. Simply put, Paul van Dyk has attempted to create a little something for everyone here. With minor exceptions, he has pretty much succeeded. Old fans will eat this stuff up completely, and those normally averse to this style of music should be able to find a lot to enjoy here as well. If anything, In Between proves that electronic music remains and shall remain a viable commodity when it comes to listening for pleasure. It may very well stand as the final “alternative” long after the rock and roll music that was labeled as such is dead and gone.

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