Cosmic Gate’s New Studio Album Is An Absolute Treat For Trance Fans, New & Old

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“The trick isn’t so much being lucky, but more recognising luck when it happens” suggests Nic Chagall. “Nic & I could have gotten talking in the reception area of that studio in 1999 and – looking back – might have just gone our separate ways, contemplates Bossi. “That’s not what happened though, is it?!” smiles

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Illenium alchemizes inner darkness into light through stunning third studio album, ‘ASCEND’ [Review/Interview]

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Illenium alchemizes inner darkness into light through  stunning third studio album, ‘ASCEND’ [Review/Interview]Illenium

2019 has been a year of Ascen-sion indeed, for Denver-based DJ/producer, Nick Miller. Not only did he further cement his Phoenix-adorned earmark to the apex of the electronic space, but he also successfully crossed over into mainstream global markets, doing so without surrendering his established aural identity. Miller, more popularly known as Illenium, while still on the up and up in his nascent career, has already sold out venues like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center ahead of his forthcoming tour in support of his third studio album, ASCEND.

Fans of Miller’s work know to expect a well-strategized creative angle from the producer’s narrative and sonic motifs in order to achieve a polarizing soundscape within his multi-track projects and individual tracks alike. Well-known for helping propel the future-bass and chill-step genres (both intrinsically woven to the fabric of his Ashes LP) to the top of the electronic agenda, Miller has found a way to branch into dance-pop and alternative territories without compromising his sound or straying away wholly from the stylistic or tonal approaches that fans have come to crave from the producer.

ASCEND is a 17-track sonic story that follow Miller’s first and second albums, Ashes (2016) and Awake (2017) respectively. Although the artist will be embarking upon a tour that sees him headlining 20,000-person venues, the album, while accessible, has only faint hints of commercialized approaches, which would have been expected ahead of such a high-stakes tour. That is not to say that the producer doesn’t enlist catchy vocals throughout, but he does so in a way that still lets his production shine through each of the releases as opposed to relying on a solid vocal line to carry each song to its conclusion.

High profile collaborators Miller enlisted for the album include The Chainsmokers, Jon Bellion, X Ambassadors, Bipolar Sunshine, and Said the Sky. He enlists an equally diverse roster of vocalists for the releases including Anna Clendening, Bahari, and Lennon Stella among many others.

Diving into his tour, Miller will be embarking on his largest headlining shows to date. The endeavor serves as the ultimate opportunity for him to showcase his music the way he wants to play it.

“I feel the most free to express myself during my own headline tours because the majority of people who go are already fans of the music and understand it,” Miller tells Dancing Astronaut. “There will be a community of ‘Illenials’ at these shows. It’s different than playing a festival or opening up for another artist where not everyone is a fan or even into the music that much.”

Longtime fans of Miller will recognize more than a few of the songs. Preemptively released singles from the album have become hallowed fixtures in Illenium sets across the board of recent memory, including “Take You Down,” “Crashing” featuring Bahari, “Pray” featuring Kameron Alexander, “Good Things Fall Apart” with Jon Bellion, “Takeaway” with The Chainsmokers featuring Lennon Stella, and “Blood” featuring Foy Vance.

Few artists reach their full album release with a combined 120 million streams on two of the singles from the collection alone, and Miller has already reached this milestone thanks to his joint effort with The Chainsmokers, “Takeaway,” and collaboration with Jon Bellion, “Good Things Fall Apart.” While those two singles will undoubtedly prove the most hungrily streamed singles from the full body of work, there is certainly an entire world to discover past the two breakout hits.

Those taking cues from the album’s ostensibly nihilistic introduction will likely be pleasantly surprised after consuming the length of what ASCEND has to offer. Although the album begins with a 33-second vocal intro, “When you grow up, your heart dies / Who cares?” ASCEND seems to harken the opposite affect, emotive to its very core. Past collaborators, Echos, previously heard on Ashes‘ “Afterlife,” reappear by Illenium’s side for what is likely the most poignant piece of the ASCEND puzzle, “Every Piece Of Me.” ASCEND is ultimately a romantic juxtaposition of dark and light, with the light ultimately prevailing, though packaged with pain, gleaned through Echo’s tracing of a dying relationship that still fills the narrator with feeling.

Illenium’s music doesn’t simply offer dramatic, tempestuous narrative for spectacle; Miller really did ASCEND from a seemingly hopeless state. Miller spoke to Dancing Astronaut about his influences for the album, and more specifically spoke to whether his past or present shapes his music more.

“It’s a combination of the two,” he explains. “A lot of my songs are emotional but also uplifting in a way. I’ve gone through some dark times that definitely influence my music, but it’s paralleled with a hopefulness and beauty that things will get better. That’s why I love the imagery of a Phoenix. It symbolizes rising from the ashes and how even the worst struggles can become opportunities for growth that make you stronger. That was my journey so I end up drawing pretty equally from both my past and present to reflect that.”

X Ambassadors collaboration “In Your Arms” sees Miller bring rock elements, hopeful imagery, and airy electronic production together, laying the framework for the vocals to really stay at the forefront of the release. While this is one of the more commercial-leaning tracks of the album, the whistling drop is bound to provide welcomed momentary respite for listeners within Miller’s live bass-driven performances of the album.

“That’s Why” featuring GOLDN is the quintessential ASCEND release. The track embodies the ethereal bass-laced sound that initially garnered the producer his cult-like following. The smooth guitar strums and tick-of-the-clock samples float delicately into the far-off-vocal-filled drop, making for a song that is subtly punchy and calming all at once.

The unmistakably danceable “Gorgeous,” featuring Bipolar Sunshine, seems to be created as the perfect crescendo piece in Illenium’s explosive live performances, with a glitchy dubstep drop that creeps up on the listener from behind pensive vocals and sweetly melodic chords, landing with authority. Bipolar Sunshine’s highly potent vocals clue the listener in that a heavy crux of the song may be yet to come, but a mellow interludes assuages the tension and leaves the listener at peace.

When asked which single track from the album Miller would choose to embody the entire compilation, should he have to choose, he delineated the voraciously streamed, “Take You Down,” known for its reverberating, almost flute-like vocal chop.

“I would choose ‘Take You Down’ because it’s such a personal track and represents the emotion I try to have in my music. I think it’s a song that people can relate to and identify with, and it’s indicative of what the rest of the album is like.”

Ultimately, ASCEND is an album, riddled with paradox and lyrical depth, that leaves a lot to be anticipated when it comes to the live tour that Miller will be embarking upon this fall. Those who have come to revel in Illenium’s glimmering melodicism and often heart-wrenching motifs doused in momentous bass, as well as those not yet acclimated to the electronic space simply looking for a potent dose of easily digestible dance music, would be remiss not to take in the rich crests and falls of ASCEND.

Photo credit: Rukes

Bensley Releases Glimmering Tribute to ‘Muskoka’ With Sophomore Album

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It’s good news for fans of Bensley today, as he releases his long-awaited sophomore album ‘Muskoka’. Four years have passed since Bensley released his debut album ‘Next Generation’ on Andy C’s RAM Records, which catapulted the Canadian producer in to the limelight and secured his position as one of electronic music’s most innovative young creators.

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Giuseppe Ottaviani Releases Hands Down The Best Trance Album Of The Year With ‘Evolver’

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‘The producer’s producer’, as he’s often referred, are really just words until you’ve empirically witnessed how trance mastermind Giuseppe Ottaviani does that thing he does. The divide that separates what the audience hears and how it came to be however has been one Giuseppe Ottaviani’s been chipping away at for time. From audience-inspired idea-kernel to

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Blasterjaxx Release Debut Album ‘Perspective’

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World famed DJ/producer duo Blasterjaxx have finally unleashed their long anticipated debut album ‘Perspective’. Preceded by several highly acclaimed singles (including hit tunes like ‘Children Of Today’, ‘Never Be Lonely’ and ‘Super Friends’) the full, 23 tracks counting album is available now – released on the duo’s own Maxximize Records, under the wings of Spinnin’

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Kai Wachi Drops Divine Debut Album DEMIGOD

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Kai Wachi has long been one of the most promising bass producers out there. For years he has dropped next level tracks that prove why he’s one of the best songwriters and sound designers around. When I heard he was dropping an album, I had no idea what to think. Expectations were high and he

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Stereo Underground evokes stoicism in debut LP, ‘The Art of Silence’

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Stereo Underground evokes stoicism in debut LP, ‘The Art of Silence’The Art Of Silence Artwork Cover

Stereo Underground, born Yariv Etzion, has always been somewhat of an enigmatic talent despite his far-reaching influence. A co-founder of Israel’s BPM College, now one of the country’s premier musical institutions, Etzion and echoes of his expertise are already present among the thousands of students he’s taught over the years. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that he began shining a light on his productions under his current alias.

Now, a decade-long track record of excellence in the house arena has led to the mysterious artist’s most expressive project to date: The Art of Silence. The album marks his first foray into longform composition, and unveils Etzion’s stoic pedagogy across its 11 tracks.

The Art of Silence lands on the distinguished Australian imprint, Balance, setting expectations high for the unencumbered debut. Stereo Underground demonstrates he’s here to rise to the challenge, offering up a spacey, cinematic record meant to be savored, to be paid attention to. Its haunting, ambient opener “Flying Glow” toys with empty space, as the title suggests. Sparse soundscapes are punctured by dissonant notes that hit the ears at different angles, making for quite a textured piece despite its minimalism. It catalyzes a deeply contemplative mindframe—a theme that persists through the considerable length of the album. The Art of Silence is certainly evocative of the lonesome, countryside setting within which it was written.

Etzion’s penchant for precise aural architecture enters as the album builds in intensity. No element feels jarring; emotions swirl. “Above the Sea of Fog,” for example, feels a bit wistful and nostalgic, perhaps bearing images of young love or carefree childhood reverie. According to Etzion himself, the track was inspired by a painting of a similar name, created at the height of the Romanticism movement. Its warm, analog synths and cinematic arrangement feel fitting in any case. “Echoes,” inspired by Pink Floyd, is psychedelic doused in subtle melancholy, illustrated through its minor key and undulating, legato notation. “Wanderlust” feels like an adventure, taking listeners on a 7-minute ride that emulates the excitement one gets when traveling to new places.

Ultimately, the album is an introspective, aural meditation. Stereo Underground takes his audience with him as he reflects on his own life and place in the world. In doing so, The Art of Silence urges his fans to do the same.

Order a copy of ‘The Art of Silence,’ out on Balance, here

Andrew Bayer Once Again Demonstrates His Mastery Of Electronic Music With His ‘In My Next Life’ LP [Review]

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Andrew Bayer has always been, and will most likely continue to be one of my favorite producers. In fact, reviewing his track ‘Once Lydian’ was the article I submitted to EDM Sauce with my resume in hopes of starting to write about dance music…the rest is history. Now, nearly 6 years later, I find myself

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GRiZ Beautifully Blends Music & Culture With 5th Studio Album ‘Ride Waves’

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Multi-instrumentalist producer and performer GRiZ has released his fifth studio album, Ride Waves and it does NOT disappoint. Drenched in the creative passion and cultural connectivity of the artist, the LP sees GRiZ immerse himself into the soundscapes of his influences and the causes of today. Everything that GRiZ does encapsulates a feeling. Whether it be

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Super8 & Tab Time Travel In Their Compilation “Past, Present & Future”

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One of the oldest traditions in DJ culture, mixtapes have given listeners a consistent window into the musical thought process of countless of the planet’s top electronic artists. Super8 & Tab are continuing this tradition with their new compilation album, “Past, Present & Future”. As you might pick up from the title, the album reflects

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