Paul van Dyk’s Evolution offers substance, atmosphere in dubstep-dominated genre

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DJ Paul van Dyk recently released "Evolution" which has an atomosphere of serenity. Van Dyk creates buildups without the bass drops found in dubstep, which currently dominates the electronic dance music (Photo courtesy of Paul Van Dyk).

German Grammy Award-winning DJ Paul van Dyk has been a crucial component of electronic dance music’s rise to the mainstream. Whether it be collaborating with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne or creating hit singles like “For an Angel” or “The Other Side,” the artist has paid his dues and has become one of the most respected artists in electronic dance music, or EDM. Although van Dyk has been relatively quiet since his 2007 album, In Between, he has finally returned with his latest release, Evolution.

Evolution truly is an evolution; having started off as a trance artist, van Dyk’s music has always favored atmosphere over a hard-hitting buildup. His arrangements have an orchestrality to them — one moment there are syncopated, jubilant synths ascending over thumping bass; the next, complete silence, tension growing in anticipation of van Dyk’s next move.

Take album opener “Symmetries.” The arena-sized piano melody in the intro hits like a Coldplay anthem, before diving into upbeat spurts of percussion and bubbly synths. “Symmetries” shows van Dyk’s relevance in a genre that has recently been dominated by the acceptance of more hard-hitting sub-genres like dubstep. Its dynamic energy offers satisfying melodies and buildups without having to rely on a bass drop bridge. Just like his contemporaries, van Dyk can hold his own, creating pulse-pounding tracks that shine with bravado.

Another component of van Dyk’s music is his incorporation of song lyrics. He allows his lyrics to play a main part of his tracks, rather than act as an accompaniment. Staples of most EDM hits are the leave-my-love-on-the-dance-floor lyrics; unlike other artists, van Dyk makes the lyrics the star of the show.

“When I lift off / When both my feet leave the ground / Will you be there where the skyline ends,” sings Owl City vocalist Adam Young on “Eternity.” It’s both sad and good, utilizing upbeat sounds to veil a tale of love at risk.

There’s a reason why van Dyk has yet to be imitated — his sound isn’t as straight to the point or radio friendly as those who currently dominate the EDM airwaves such as Avicii, Skrillex and Steve Aoki.

For one thing, van Dyk’s got a lot more substance; packed with 15 songs, Evolution has many moods, maintaining an atmosphere of serenity that grows with each track, the momentum building to an euphoric high by the end of it all.

It’s refreshing to see that van Dyk has not given into the pressures of what is currently popular in EDM: no wub-wub-wub robot sex sounds, just elegantly polished, trance-driven arrangements.

Published 0n Tuesday April 3, 2012 as: Grammy winning DJ releases inique album