After seven years, the mix-centered approach of Solarstone’s Electronic Architecture series returns for its fourth volume!
Glory be the broken beat with progressive melodies layered on top! Solarstone’s return to his IDMA-nominated Electronic Architecture series is nothing less than exactly what the industry needed to invigorate the experience-first side of compilations. Sure, each year we get an A State Of Trance, maybe an Anjunabeats or Anjunadeep entry, or maybe a Pure Trance entry, but these mixes are music first, not experience first affairs.
For the unfamiliar, Electronic Architecture represents a different style of compilation from the trance music legend. We discussed the artistic intent of the compilations during our announcement post (which can provide greater background than we will go into here) but it’s worth restating the second volume PR line: “Accept no gimmicks, contrivances or devices; this music is pure of essence, sound of mind, and again ready to redesign dance music’s skyline.”
In that, let’s talk about the current mix at the looking back level. The 30 track compilation spans two CDs or a roughly two-and-a-half hour-long sonic journey. The basic river we sojourn down features an array of bumps in the shallows guiding us ever onward and offers fun rapids to ride in the energetic snatches. It also, of course, lays down moments to breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.
The series oozes some of the greatest energy of compilations lost to yesteryear – see the back catalog of Renaissance or take the dive into the Northern Exposure series. The zeitgeist of those early year series may be lost, but the vibe rolls on in Electronic Architecture. So grab your own copy and dive into the tracks on the latest in the series from Solarstone!
Stream Solarstone – Electronic Architecture 4 on Spotify:
Wave goodbye to the norm as we set sail on the sonic sea of Solarstone’s creation.
When exploring the Electronic Architecture series one thing instantly becomes clear – Solarstone has a deep affection for the break-beats out there. He fills the first mix with sublime moments driven by broken beats. Take Nick Silvestri’s “Little Things,” with the cooing vocal of “It’s all about the little things in life” and its ever-elusive piano melody just heightens the break-beat patterns that drive the track’s progression.
Another excursion into the broken beat world early on is Xabiso’s “Children of the Night.” Cut from the same joyous spring of Solarstone’s The Morning Show feature “Coffee Break,” Xabiso’s retooled yet haunting and beautiful vocal fills paint with the colors of star-filled nights, twilight sunsets, and raindrops upon the canopy of a rain-forest. This is how you exude blissfulness.
This mix evolves into a more familiar range of progressive house – driven by four-to-the-floor beat patterns but washed in the warmth of pads to emphasize the groove. There is a familiar talent for Solarstone fans that drop into the mix as we move onward – Forerunners returns with “Sunreturn,” Basil O’Glue teams up with Nomas for “Untold,” and Lostly grabs the ears with “We’re Descending.”
Speaking of that Lostly tune – boy is it ever one! Stripped back to only essentials, the melody is a single layer of acid synthesizer that plays out in a motif that would make Richie Hawtin proud. The bassline churns with deep energy, a small vocal plays along each percussion loop, and each evolution is a subtle affair that plays along with the acid lead. The arpeggio-driven melody recalls years of trance history while remaining unique on its own. Get stuck in this one!
Solarstone does not shrug off duties either during the first half. His own productions include the Carl Sagan sampling “Pale Blue Dot” and “When I Dream,” a slice off his last album island, but remixed thanks to Kryder. Also included is the sixth iteration of his collaborative work with Orkidea in the form of “Slowmotion VI.” “Slowmotion” is a project that began in 2010 and looked complete after their fifth iteration, but another version now lays forth for fans to enjoy.
The ending of the first half, as well as the beginning of the second half mix, actually does something rather unique in today’s market. Instead of ending on a track, Solarstone keeps the vibe by splitting a single track across the mix breakpoint. It is a welcome inclusion as it keeps the vibe growing. I’ve heard this on a few other mixes recently (such as the ASOT 1000 Celebration Mix) and I hope more artists embrace the continued mix to help the audience really enjoy their skills as track selectors.
Discovering new horizons on the swell of an uplifting tide on the second mix!
Crashing into the second half Solarstone keeps the drive going. New names continue to pour into the sea of sonic vibrations: Men-D, MK8, Gary Afterlife, and Martin LeBlanc. One of these newcomers shows just how much a DJ can influence the mood and progression of a mix. Men-D’s “Dropped By The Gods” gets a full reconstruction thanks to Solarstone. In addition, our DJ layers a brilliantly blended acapella of “Shattered Skies” by Stowers & Cooper with Brooke Woods. This deftly mixed mashup stuns in how it pulls you right back into the depths of the dancefloor and the mood of the crowd when you close your eyes. The beat pattern even plays well with broken beats earlier in the mix.
Extending into the back catalog of Solarstone associated acts is the return of Alucard with “Midway” – a playful excursion on both break-beat music and trance. Other acts like Solarstone’s friend Super-Frog Saves Tokyo or the venerable Stoneface & Terminal also join in the second half of Electronic Architecture 4.
Still, for me, the atmosphere of Electronic Architecture 4 shines brilliantly in the strings of Gary Afterlife’s “Wavering Light” or in the plucked melody of Zoya’s “Bright Star.” We also get to tap into the inherent dark broodiness of Shadow Realm’s “Other Side Of The Sky.” All of that swirls into a pot of awesomeness!
Yet, the splendor of Glynn Alan’s “Limitless” lives up to its name as well. One of the closest to true trance tracks on the album, not only does it capitalize on a stunning atmosphere, it retains all the dance floor sensibility – deep growling bass, groovy kick, percussion line, and a melody equal parts haunting and evolving. The switch in melodic elements in the mid-break tantalizes the senses – and there is this almost video-game-like bit that feels like old-school Donkey Kong.
When closing out the compilation, Solarstone offers two reconstructions of some back catalog fun – Super-Frog Saves Tokyo’s “Kyoto” and Stoneface & Terminal’s “Lose My Need.” He taps old stablemate Alucard to close it out completely with “Phoenix” and looks to Simon Bostock’s remix of Macker’s “Lost In Space.” That one is a space-aged joy that, if were energy unlimited, satellites would likely use to keep their systems churning in the great beyond.
The creative whirlwind of Solarstone is not content to leave the closing with simple reconstructions and solely in the hands of others. No, instead, he crafts a stunning work with Dreams of Wires for one final unique piece. Their combined output – the “Equilibrium” – grew from the flames of a software demo track that Solarstone loved and now catapulted the catchy name of Dreams of Wires into a spotlight moment full of broken beats, percussion, wicked synth lines, and some soft sexy guitar riffs!
Electronic Architecture 4 resolves that a thinking series is not dead!
The latest compilation from Solarstone easily shines above many I enjoyed over the past year. If it winds up at the top of my list at the end of the year, I will not be surprised. There is not a moment I find I am not entertained by what I am hearing. Sure – I may not dance away to every track, but I love how the compilation lets me breathe, finds moments to be subtle before striking up the band again to get my feet shuffling to the groove and the melody. That said, the compilation also reaffirms that we are at a deciding point as fans thanks to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on dance music and our consumption of it.
There’s little evidence that shows either the island album or Electronic Architecture 4 would have existed without the unique circumstances that led to their creation. This moment freed the artists to create what they loved without worrying directly about commercial fallout. By all immediate indicators, Electronic Architecture 4 is a success beyond just the underground market. It charted in the UK, Canada, and the US on the iTunes stores and we know from social media posts the physical copies are nearly completely sold out. Clearly, there is a fan base that loves the journey still.
Can this translate over to shows at venues and nightclubs, or better yet festivals? Time will tell, but think about this – what could the talents you love create with longer sets? Could they craft greater artistic journeys? Could you dance into the wee hours of the morning as perhaps, the DJs take back the performance aspect of the music? Or will we settle for quick cuts and energetic moments that do not breathe, that keep us at a fever-pitch always fearful of when the balloon might burst, or when we might crash?
If you look forward to the journey, you owe a listen to Electronic Architecture 4, and perhaps, you should vote with the wallet telling the industry what matters most to you. Support the artists that matter and reinvigorate the roots of DJing by investing more in those that want to craft experiences for you.
Solarstone – Electronic Architecture 4 – Tracklist:
- Super-Frog Saves Tokyo – Lament
- Nick Silvestri – Little Things
- Vincent Lewis – Pulse Train
- Xabiso – Children of the Night (Reconstruction)
- Andrei Zinca – Wildflower (Reconstruction)
- V-Ti – Space Dogs (Reconstruction)
- Passive Progressive ft. Sentient Mullet – Fluke (Reconstruction)
- Forerunners – Sunreturn
- Solarstone – When I Dream (Kryder Remix)
- Basil O’Glue & Nomas – Untold
- Solarstone & Bill McGruddy – Take Me On Your Flight (Acapella)
- DISCO19 – Sea of Stars (Reconstruction)
- Solarstone – Pale Blue Dot
- Lostly – We’re Descending (Reconstruction)
- Solarstone & Orkidea – Slowmotion VI
- Coredata – 94 (Reconstruction)
- MK8 – Breathe
- Men-D – Dropped By The Gods (Reconstruction)
- Stowers & Cooper ft Brooke Woods – Shattered Skies (Acapella)
- Alucard – Midway
- Gary Afterlife – Wavering Light (Reconstruction)
- ZOYA – Bright Star (Reconstruction)
- Shadow Realm – Other Side of the Sky
- Martin LeBlanc – Lagom
- Glynn Alan – Limitless
- Super-Frog Saves Tokyo – Kyoto (Reconstruction)
- Macker – Lost In Space (Simon Bostock Remix)
- Stoneface & Terminal – Lose My Need (Reconstruction)
- Solarstone & Dreams of Wires – Equilibrium
- Alucard – Phoenix