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Ferry Corsten - 'WKND' CD Review

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Ferry Corsten - WKND

Ferry Corsten - WKND

Ultra Records
It's 2012 and Ferry Corsten is set to drop his new album, WKND. If Corsten's 2006 L.E.F. album showcased his descent into harder, house-based electro as a form of protest against your hum-drum everyday trance, and Twice In A Blue Moon was the softer side of trance due to Corsten's personal life, then WKND is the blatant acknowledgement of everything commercial about the electronic genre. There isn't a drum out of place, a synth that wasn't carefully fitted, a melody that wasn't crafted specifically for maximum impact. Even Corsten's instrumentals, about half compared to those featuring hand-picked vocalists, play as if aware of just how banal instrumentals can be, striving not to be overlooked. Basically, this is Corsten's LOOK AT ME album, his call to arms that the commercialization of electronic music is both exceptionally trite and absolutely beautiful. And played in contrast to Tiesto's 2009 Kaleidoscope, one could almost argue that Corsten is throwing down the gauntlet.

The album covers a lot of ground, musically speaking. While it does remain in trance for a comfortable majority, Corsten's not one to leave a stone unturned and he includes house, electro, and even some R&B elements. Realistically speaking, can you even have a nonstop trance album without losing your mind three songs in? Luckily, you'll probably still be paying attention at the four song mark with WKND. The first track alone is an attention-whore of an album opener, caressing you with soft beats and ethereal vocals. These aren't overwhelming beats, this isn't kitschy vocals, this is trance. Corsten is begging you to remember what trance should sound like, where those cads in the pop market got their inspiration. "A Day Without Rain," featuring Ellie Lawson (who is no stranger to the featured role in electronic music), is the kind of trance music that can make you remember that trance used to be huge across the world, not just in Europe. Sadly, this is the most understated track on the album. I say "sadly" because it's a great direction for his sound to go, not that the rest of the album fails by shoving the beat down your throat, but it does lose a few points.

When it comes to Corsten's instrumental presentation on WKND, there's a lot to take in. The album bounces back and forth, consuming influences and concepts and lines of melody with a voracious appetite and spewing them back in a truly engaging format. Take "Don't Be Afraid," where Corsten takes a note from Wolfgang Gartner, working an infectious melody into his track that then undergoes startling interpolations- from 8-bit themed video game synths to peak-of-the-hour tried-and-true trance synths. "Don't Be Afraid" appeals in a variety of ways, and it isn't the only one. Instrumental tracks "Feel It," "WKND," "Sunday" (an iTunes bonus track), "Take Me," and "Check It Out" all bring a lot to the table. He also teams up with Armin Van Buuren on the curious "Brute," which features an aggressive swing beat and an interesting slowed beat towards the end that actually turns out to be a little more interesting.
On the featured side of life, WKND does not disappoint. Giving us more than the heavenly vocals of Ellie Lawson, Corsten supplies some names many may not be familiar with- as well as a couple of "that guy" moments. Perhaps the most aggressive and commercial track on the album, "Ain't No Stoppin,'" features the Adam Levine/Maroon 5-esque vocal stylings of Ben Hague over a growling bassline. The track has "potential crossover" written all over it. Corsten again teams up with Betsie Larkin, who you may recall from his track "Made Of Love" off of his last album, on the emotional rollercoaster that is "Not Coming Down." The track dives in hard before yielding to a sad piano melody, supporting Larkin through an affecting bit of lyricism. Of course, the track dives right back in afterward and soon sweeps Larkin up in it. In a welcome "hey stranger" addition, Duane Harden (of "U Don't Know Me" by Armand Van Helden fame) comes and gives us a simple delivery over an eclectic track that spans more than a couple genres before it finishes. And of course, what is trance without the beautiful vocals of JES (who you may remember from "As The Rush Comes" or her work with Tiesto as Allure) who hops on "In Your Eyes" and takes it for a ride. With "Live Forever,", Aruna gives some smoky edge to Corsten's toned-down production, a beautiful collaboration of producer and vocalist. In a curious move, Corsten enlists the help of David Skaines, a.k.a. Pierre in the Air, a house producer from Australia to help him out on "Walk On Air." The end result, featuring vocalist Amba Sheperd, is lush and invigorating, the pairing of minds with Skaines and Corsten proving magical. Hopefully "Walk On Air" gets released as a single and remixed. I get goosebumps just thinking how well this song could do. And finally, Corsten managed to snag the incredibly talented Sarah Bettens, former singer of alt-rock group K's Choice. Her voice carries just the right amount of emotional inflection on "Let You Go" without overdoing things with singer's tricks to fill vocal space. Corsten's hard-hitting production lends strength to her proclamation of solidarity, her freedom given by her own words to "Let You Go."

Summary

Corsten's got a fantastically solid album here. While the pop side of me wishes he would drop some of the instrumental tracks in favor of more true standouts like "Let You Go" and "Ain't No Stoppin',", there's definitely merit in Corsten's instrumental work. Especially on "Don't Be Afraid." Corsten's WKND spaces things out perfectly to keep you entertained from beginning to end, not jamming too many instrumental or vocal tracks together. The listen is consistent and cohesive, and truly I have a hard time thinking of things I'd like Corsten to have done differently on the album. Perhaps the only weak link would be "Brute," but I also just don't really like swing beats. Overall, WKND is the type of album that could potentially get some of those mainstream dance fans over to take a deeper look into what's available. Kudos, Ferry!

Release February 2012 on Ultra Records.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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