The House of Armada brings downtempo and acoustic mixes on RELAXED, a timely compilation of thirty Armin originals touched in new ways!
Given the world’s strangeness over the past few months, color me surprised when a new track stumbled into my YouTube subscriptions from Armada Music. Anjunadeep veteran Marsh suddenly appears with a new touch on the Armin van Buuren classic “Shivers.” Something was undoubtedly afoot to have such a rework pop out of thin air. But there it was, RELAXED, a new compilation of mellow vibes featuring a mix of original acoustic renditions of Armin’s top tunes and a bevy of remixes from the world of downtempo, deeper progressive house artists and a smattering of well-established names.
RELAXED is a departure from the norm – it offers a moment to release ourselves from the stress of every day in a way I did not expect to capture me. This is different than Above & Beyond’s famed Acoustic albums – or from the vibes of Flow State. The focus here is in reinterpretations of what Armin’s back catalog offers musically. It is not about stripping it down to any one thing – it is not rewritten from the man himself. It is a love story to the timeless mood Armin’s music effortlessly opens us all up to.
With that in mind, it’s tough to nail down this review to a top-five tracklist or to sum it up in a simple package. As such, let’s wander the soundscape together (which feels more important than ever these days) and examine each piece of the thirty-track affair in quick order. I promise to keep the discussion brief, but man, losing time to these renditions is just too easy. If you want something infectious without the stomping beats of the main stage or wherever you enjoy consuming the 138 BPM madness, let’s take this boat onto the still waters and just enjoy the pace.
Purchase or download RELAXED on all platforms now, stream it on Spotify below, and keep reading for a breakdown of each track!
Stream Armin van Buuren – RELAXED on Spotify:
Armin van Buuren – RELAXED – Track By Track Review:
01 – “Blue Fear (Eelke Kleijn Day Mix)”
The first of two mixes from Eelke Kleijn is one of Armin’s first hits and signals the deeper vibes the album has throughout. “Blue Fears” has big melody elements that shine through beautifully, and the cuts in Eelke Kleijn’s mix showcase the deep bass groove that drives the track. The “Day Mix” effortlessly crafts the poolside vibes at a hotel or resort under the sun anywhere in the world.
02 – “This Is What It Feels Like (Koelle Remix)”
Armin’s sing-along crowd favorite gets the slower treatment here. The vocals still take center stage but drawn-out synthesizer stabs and plucky sub-leads capture the ear’s attention. The chord progressions feel familiar, and that guitar lead during the second break still captures the memories of many festivals around the world. The slower tempo aids in just getting lost into the depths of the vibe.
03 – “All On Me (Acoustic Version)”
In a surprise twist, Armin’s latest single with hard dance’s melody man, Brennan Heart, takes the third slot in an Acoustic mix. The heartfelt vocals clearly feel like the inner workings of a studio session here with just some soft backing and the guitar to guide us. Not a whole lot else to discuss, but I have to say, this version definitely captures my emotions more than the original did. Bravo to the performance from Andreas Moe.
04 – “All Comes Down (Just Her Remix)”
The stripped back progressive house of Just Her stuns on “All Comes Down.” As someone who wasn’t really captured by the workings of Armin’s latest album Balance, I am captivated by this remix. The deft soft piano work in the breakdown, the looped vocals faded into the forest of sound, and the subtle groove all divide my attention in the right way.
05 – “Shivers (Marsh Remix)”
Taking on a classic track is scary work – if you mess it up, fans are out to get you for touching their favorite. Thankfully, Marsh does an excellent job leaving the mood of the original version of “Shivers” in the right place while still giving it a touch of his own. This was the song that spurred my initial interest, so there’s no doubt over how it captures my ears. Soft percussive elements blend with the bass groove and dreamy vocals. The tempo, while pitched down from the 2004 original, feels so at home with everything that’s happening right now. Marsh’s remix provides a structure for some self-reflection on where we head going forward after this worldwide pandemic, and boy, there is something here that shines with hope!
06 – “Unlove You (KOLIDESCOPES Remix)”
For those ready for some deeper seaside vibes – ala CRSSD Festival – KOLIDESCOPES has you covered with his very interesting touch on “Unlove You.” I can easily admit I’ve never heard Ne-Yo sound so stunning in a package like this. Pushing his vocals a bit deeper into the mix definitely allows the lead synths to drive what the ear focuses on, and the progressive house beats will make your head bob back and forth with the groove. A surprise twist in the depths of RELAXED.
07 – “Make It Right (Trinix Remix)”
Trinix conjures forth the beauty of artists like Odesza in their touch on “Make it Right.” Angel Taylor’s vocals are given the Lana del Rey treatment, and the back-beat kick drum is the only thing that follows common convention. All of the other elements percolate through each build, break, and verse. Don’t take that as a negative though – the remix captures in its unexpected flourishes and cuts. Feel the summer breeze during sunset in an open field on this one!
08 – “Drowning (Módl Remix)”
Módl brings the tempo up with his touch on “Drowning” but in a varied manner. A hip hop beat drives the remix, but the vocals stay uptempo while elements atop the mix keep the feet dancing. A blend of Future Bass and Chillhop exudes freshness from Módl. There’s something captivating I cannot describe on this one. Just give it a listen.
09 – “Heading Up High (IHF Remix)”
Bringing depth to big tunes is not an easy feat, yet IHF does so admirably. Deepening the vocals of Kensington, slowing the timbre to really project the vocals into the forefront shows a deft ability hiding underneath the general polish of this remix. Then there is the use of vocal chanting throughout the track – given it an almost tribal sound that appeals to the depths of our communal heritage from our ancestors. Captivating, brilliant work here.
10 – “Youtopia (Lev Remix)”
There’s a throwback here I cannot place – but dropping Adam Young’s vocals to their most ethereal makes this remix of “Youtopia” feel as both a throwback and fresh. Deep bass lines and growling synthesizer work catapult the remix to new heights. Not having familiarity with the work of Lev prior to this remix, I can’t help but be ecstatic to find more.
11 – “I Need You (Aquadrop Remix)”
Aquadrop brings back the vibes of lower tempo tropical house in this retouch of “I Need You.” Deep powerful bass joins with the soft overture of plucked strings and softly echoed vocals from Olaf Blackwood. Sunlit beach mode is on with this one! That hook-laden whistled melody – too cute!
12 – “Going Wrong (Modd Remix)”
Modd brings us a new mood for Armin’s match-up with DJ Shah from the Imagine era. “Going Wrong” feels modern and fresh in this progressive house tinged package. A full kick drives the swaying hips on this one – but its the guitar chords that really cement the track’s sound. The familiar vocals are broken into segments instead of flowing as we are used to. The vibe is here, but the track never seems to grow beyond its starting state.
13 – “Fine Without You (Other Remix)”
Other deepens the vocals of Jennifer Rene on his remix of “Fine Without You” – showcasing his broken-beat percussion and plucked synth leads. That said, there’s plenty of familiar moods in this one: the finalist of “giving you everything,” the melodic elements rising and falling, the atmosphere of letting go and releasing.
14 – “All Comes Down (Acoustic Version)”
Flipping the script to another acoustic variant off Armin’s Balance album, “All Comes Down” drops the guitar for a piano and vocal affair. Cimo Fränkel’s vocal performance captivates, and it’s clear how much studio time led to the vocals and piano intertwining. There’s a power here – uplifting yet saddened as well.
15 – “Blue Fear (Eelke Kleijn Night Mix)”
Closing out Side 1 is Eelke Kleijn’s Night Mix of “Blue Fear.” There’s a ton that is familiar to the “Day Mix” which opened this affair, but the drive here is undoubtedly kicked up. The synth work feels darker overall – leaving the lead just as gritty but with the trapping of the night wrapped around it. Fans of Deadmau5’s or Adam K & Soha’s style of progressive house ought to really enjoy this one!
01 – “This Is What It Feels Like (John Ewbank Classical Remix)”
What was undoubtedly written for that special “The Very Best of Armin Only” show, the John Ewbank classical touch on Armin’s famous sing-along oozes emotion. Trevor Guthrie’s performance on this version sparkles with the tragic story of the lyrics (regarding his neighbor who was diagnosed with brain tumor.) The string performance in this remix, while not new, helps capitalize how meaningful this song remains for Armin and his fans around the world.
02 – “Another You (Pretty Pink Remix)”
The beach vibes return with Pretty Pink’s remix of “Another You.” Guitars join the vocals of Mr. Probz along with a deep growling bass line and a muted kick to drive this deep house track forward. The production method here makes the vocals almost melancholic as one reflects on the losses of yesterday. Regardless, if you desire sunsets on a Balearic island, you will find them here!
03 – “Looking For Your Name” with Gavin DeGraw
Not a new mix by any means, but Armin’s surprise collaboration with pop music star Gavin DeGraw from the Embrace era still remains a touching song. “Looking For Your Name” is a standout in Armin’s album works as its uniquely focused on the blend of piano and vocals. This was never a dance music focused song, but a love letter to Armin’s musical passion. Can Armin produce a ballad? He most certainly can, and the closing track from Embrace is a splendid example.
04 – “Feels So Good (LTN Sunrise Remix)”
Indonesian progressive house and trance producer Louis Tan, aka LTN, is a familiar name to the broader community and his inclusion here is no surprise. Rising synth pads, accented with plucky keys, and the seductive vocals of the queen of clubs – Nadia Ali – captures the moody atmosphere of the earliest hours at the club or the wee hours when the sun rises off the horizon. The droning pads in the later half of the track really elevate it above the rest. Oh, and those sexy echoes of the lyrics on certain words evoke Stevie Nicks at her most sensual. Beautiful package!
05 – “Sex, Love & Water (Melosense Remix)”
I still recall the first time I heard Armin’s “Sex, Love & Water”, and I always felt the package did not match the mood of the lyrics. Enter Melosense with his touch. Here a two-step, almost R&B sensibility takes over the production. There’s a bit of tropical house in the percussion and it flourishes, but the deep basslines and muted kick really drive the sensual elements of the track.
06 – “Going Wrong (Acoustic Version)”
Longtime fans of Armin will already be familiar with the acoustic treatment that’s been around for years of “Going Wrong.” That guitar line that became a characteristic of Sunlounger/Roger Shah tracks for years still hits as beautiful as it had in the past. The strong vocal performance by Chris Jones still stirs the heart. Its a well aged classic rendition of a hit from Armin’s back catalog.
07 – “Burned With Desire (Chill Out Mix)”
In the annuls of dance music history, one would be foolish to leave out the classic “Burned With Desire.” In this chill out mix, Armin takes us back to the days of yore – the initial swing of his career with the release of 76. Despite being a sign of his early success, the chill out mix represents a completely different side of Armin – one where the influences of trip-hop and new age music still called out to the wider audiences.
08 – “Therapy (Sebastian Davidson Remix)”
Sebastian Davidson was a discovery I made a few years ago thanks to the Armada release of his album Atlas of Adventure (which we featured in this post.) This mix is perhaps one of the more creative uses of vocals I’ve heard in years. Pitched up to sound like a female, James Newman’s original voice is nowhere to be heard. That said – it gives a beautiful flip to the original that sounds sublime with the soft plucks Sebastian lays over the jazzy drum and chord selections.
09 – “Waiting For The Night (Rodg Chill Mix)”
Bringing the tempo way down is Rodg for his touch on “Waiting For The Night.” A bouncing bassline provides the deep end here while drawn atmospheric pads provide the movement. Rodg sprinkles in a synth line playing the key notes of the melody and blends the vocals in a thin manner to really hone the mind’s eye into just the atmosphere of the mix.
10 – “This Light Between Us (Orchestral Version)”
Enter the second big classical styling of an Armin tune with “This Light Between Us (Orchestral Version).” The vocals here retain the style and trappings of the original dance mix, but this mix, hailing all the way back to Mirage – The Remixes, pulls back the beats and glides on the strings and brass elements to provide the ebb and flow.
11 – “Alone (Manu Zain Remix)”
In one of the biggest story songs in Armin’s catalog, “Alone” tells the story of disconnection in today’s world we face in the era of technology. Manu Zain retains the emotional performance from Lauren Evans, but strips the rest back to basics. Percussion choices are slotted in with precision, while the deep end is filtered to a simple slow kick drum and mellow muted bass line. The melancholy of loneliness is palpable, but this mix shines so brilliantly.
12 – “Mirage (Martijn Ten Velden Remix)”
Deep house vibes penetrate in Martijn Ten Velden’s take on Armin’s fourth album’s title track. Heavy on a stabbed groove, it drives when compared to many others on this compilation. The stabs eventually give way to the growing swell of the main melody of “Mirage” and an ethereal vocal haunts the background of the track. An interesting slice of something different for the album.
13 – “In And Out Of Love (Lost Frequencies Remix)”
Lost Frequencies is no stranger to the Armada brand and the fame that can come from its talented roster of individuals. Here, tackling another Armin favorite from Imagine, Felix shows his chops at retaining the beauty of an original while still touching it in his own style. While I could personally do without the piano trills that accent the piece in a spastic manner, overall the production works for both his and Armin’s style.
14 – “Turn It Up (Clément Leroux Remix)”
In one of his more “family-man” songs, Armin plays with the whimsy of his fans in “Turn It Up.” An anthem to loud raves everywhere, Clément Leroux turns the tune all the way around to a house-centered piece with all the trimmings. The sing-a-long lyrics are still there, but the mix filters them into thinner elements to instead focus on piano chords, a four-to-the-floor beat, and ultimately a surprise twist that offers fans of house and Armin to fall into a groove on the dance floor.
15 – “Gotta Be Love (Aeris Remix)”
To close out the Side 2 and the compilation as a whole, Armin grabbed Aeris’ remix of “Gotta Be Love” from Embrace. Sensual vocals still retain their strength in the chorus but give way to effervescent beats and smooth chords in the mid-lead. Again the tempo rises at the end, likely providing the perfect launch pad to the next item to grace your playlist and get a party started, even when its all in your head.
RELAXED is not the album we expected, but it is what we need right now!
Look, if you are all about dance floor grooves and energy, then RELAXED will be a hard departure for you. However, if you are looking into the deeper reaches of one of the biggest independent music label’s artist catalog and are open to just lounging with songs you know, RELAXED offers a fantastic look at the beauty of Armin van Buuren and his historic accomplishments.
This is the album we need to just remain calm in the face of adversity. It is an album that opens the blinds to a soon-to-be brighter day, one that can be excitedly shared by those you love, even if they don’t love or enjoy dance music all that much. This is an album to help guide the heart from the darker frustrations of the past few months and give us plenty to bond over in the months going forward. So look, let’s just get RELAXED out there, because we will find our solutions.
Don’t take my word for it, just see what Armin has to say himself below: