It’s been a couple of years now since we had another studio album by the world’s biggest DJ, Armin van Buuren. There are plenty of reasons to be excited for this–from his 9+ hour DJ sets to his incredible weekly radio show A State of Trance that reaches over 35 million listeners weekly (effectively making it the biggest radio show in the world), everyone is always wondering what else Armin is going to pull out of his sleeve.
So let’s dive right in and see what this legendary trance icon has produced for us in his latest album Mirage. I must say that at first I didn’t have very high expectations. The first singles, Full Focus and Not Giving Up On Love, caught my attention but didn’t quite wow me in the way that I hoped they would, although their subsequent remix releases were much more enjoyable. Be on the lookout for a post or two about those tracks in the near future.
That being said, when the entire album dropped today, my perspective changed quite a bit. Mirage is more similar to Armin’s older and more classic trance productions than his last studio album Imagine, which I’m sure many of his die-hards will be happy to hear. The album begins with an epic two minute hymn sung by Susana called Desiderium 207, which means “a longing for something lost” in Latin. Similarities to his tracks released under his Gaia moniker abound. It also reminds me of his intro track to the compilation A State Of Trance 2007 called Miserere. This leads into the title track Mirage, which features some epic acoustic instrumentation not often used outside of Armin trance.
The first track that I truly first appreciated is I Don’t Own You. This track opens so well that it would have made a great intro to the album itself even. It encompasses some of the best trance elements with touching female vocals and many classic trance chords. I also took an immediate liking to Armin’s collaboration with Josh Gabriel’s Winter Kills Take A Moment. It stands out on this album as a more progressive track and its vocals, sung by Meredith Call, blend very well with the beats.
The longest track on Mirage is named Virtual Friend and bolsters has some very interesting vocals that begin with Autumn leaves we treat as litter…. At this moment I realized that this song had awesome potential. At about 3:40 there’s a terrific vocal effect right before a massive climax. Virtual Friend is truly one of the better tracks on this album. Drowning is very promising and I prefer it over the other more pop-sounding track Not Giving Up On Love . However, it is a terrible tease–it lasts only 2 minutes and 44 seconds! Nearing the end of his the album, Armin’s tracks grow increasingly more uplifting. Down To Love has a particularly lovely build from start to finish. Admittedly the track is a bit plain, but it fits well in terms of the where its placed on the album. I would definitely look forward to a remix of this track simply for the vocals alone.
So which track is the most memorable? Ladies and gentlemen, I have to say that Coming Home is the most engaging and perhaps the best track on Mirage. It definitely has that signature Armin uplifting touch to it. It’s the kind of track I can totally picture Armin’s brother playing the guitar solo live on stage. I enjoy this track far more than the title track as far as guitar-laden tracks on the album go, and I would encourage Armin to produce more tracks like this.
Now we arrive at Orbion and what I consider the third succession of Armin’s Gaia project that has produced Tuvan and more recently Aisha. This track reminds me of what Enya would sound like if she or other new age artists were sampled in trance. Orbion is definitely made for the big stages, where tens of thousands of fans can throw their hands in the air during a euphoric set.
Youtopia is unfortunately a somewhat weak closer to the album. Although I was surprised to learn that Adam Young aka Owl City sang this final track (Adam cites Armin as one of his biggest influences), his voice seems a bit out of place. I’m not sure exactly who this track was designed to appeal to because the sound is neither trance-y nor poppy enough.
It is evident that Armin has certainly put a lot of effort into this album, and has achieved something quite different from Imagine. While the album seems to lack a common thread at times, my prediction is that the weaker tracks are going to shine as soon as they are remixed, so we certainly have something to look forward to when Mirage Remixed is released.
UPDATE: Check out the video interview with Armin where he talks about the making of Mirage!