Tiesto really went for it on this album. After leaving his last label and creating his own Musical Freedom label to house his evolving sound, he has enlisted an alarming amount of established talent for his fourth studio album, Kaleidoscope. And what an apt name Kaleidoscope is; not only a reference to his own stylistic changes but also a nod to the fact that each track features a different and unique sound. Like the images that are fractured and restructured via the lens of a kaleidoscope, Tiesto's talent and style fracture and restructure with every offering.
Branching With Others To New Directions
The most notable example of this is the lead single "I Will Be Here," featuring Australian dance punk group Sneaky Sound System. From the first chugging note, you know this is something different. Don't be afraid, trance lovers, for Tiesto does not abandon the sound that made him what he is today. The album is littered with trance infusions, along with plenty of other influences. What makes Kaleidoscope
such an intriguing listen is that the guest vocalists really seem to impact the final outcome of the sound. I can't say whether the tracks were written in tandem or if they were written without the vocalists' input, but it sounds like a group effort. For instance, twins/indie darlings Tegan & Sara provide vocals for "Feel It In My Bones," and it would be very simple for Tiesto to bulldoze right over their signature vocal style, but the track features a lot of intimate moments interspersed between growling bass and sentimental guitar work. It feels like a proper collaboration between the two.
Conversely, Calvin Harris' "Century" feels out of place for both artists. It lacks any of the quirk that comes along with Harris productions, and lacks the drive associated with Tiesto productions. It is decent, but not nearly good enough for either name involved.
Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke sings on the dreamy "It's Not the Things You Say," and once again the singer is given his due by Tiesto. The track is superbly introspective, a forlorn piano melody haunting the edges of the breakbeat that supports Okereke's well-known and moving voice. After hearing some of Bloc Party's newer material, this doesn't sound entirely out of place, comparably. Even Sigur Ros lends their vocalist, Jonsi, to grant his strengths to the title track, an epic journey through a landscape of sound that starts calm and progresses to happy electro with that vocal prowess we're used to from the Icelandic band.
Sticking With What Works Never Felt So Freeing
Not all of Kaleidoscope dwells in familiarity. Yes, Metric's Emily Haines sings just like herself on "Knock You Out," but the collaboration with Tiesto yields a surprising result. She makes an excellent partner with Tiesto, and the track has breakaway appeal, much the same as "I Will Be Here." Despite some of the guest pairings on Kaleidoscope being top notch, not all have that hit quality that oozes out of "I Will Be Here," "Knock You Out," and especially Nelly Furtado's "Who Wants To Be Alone." Tiesto provides Furtado with some glorious moments for her utterly recognizable voice, especially two-thirds of the way in when the beat drops away and a simple synth supports her fragile instrument as she sings "I'm out of my head."
Despite the quality of those three tracks possibly overshadowing other tracks, it is impossible to ignore the endearing and heartbreaking "I Am Strong" voiced by Priscilla Ahn. The progressive-house-goes-trance sound is simply beautiful and captivating, and will have you singing along in no time. Dropping the trance and going strictly progressive house, "Here On Earth" features Nashville indie-rock singer Cary Brothers. The cut is sincere and heartfelt, and both performers amp the emotion as it progresses. Kianna, the lead singer of Tilly & The Wall (a band that features tap dancing instead of drumming!), also delivers a fantastic performance in the anthemic "You Are My Diamond," showing that even at a lower BPM, Tiesto can still rock trance. Out of all the guest vocalists, the biggest misses are Calvin Harris, and C.C. Sheffield. Sheffield guests on the dance rock "Escape Me," a song that dabbles in mimicking 8-bit noises while the singer tries her best to mimic Emily Haines. It is enjoyable enough, but doesn't compare to the other guest vocalists.
To Please His Fans
Tiesto wouldn't be Tiesto if there weren't strictly instrumental
tracks, and these are kind of fun. The most entertaining thing about
instrumental tracks are their titles. Nothing about the track "Fresh
Fruit" implies actual freshness or fruityness, but you can bop along
and have a good time regardless. "Always Near" sounds distant and
dreamy; "LA Ride" sounds like sitting at the longest stoplight ever
and listening to someone play a keyboard outside of your car; and
"Bend It Like You Don't Care" definitely only elicits images of the
Bend & Snap because of the title. The fast-paced and grungy trance
instrumental is anything but sexy and flirtatious. "Louder Than Boom"
continues the grueling pace of "Bend It" but throws in more of those
8-bit noises we heard suggestions of in "Escape Me." And finally,
"Surrounded By Light" features a lack of beats, a lot of distortion,
some sympathetic piano, and a feeling of mystery more than light.
Misnomers aside, I enjoyed just about all of the instrumental tracks.
I really tried hard to find things I didn't like about
Kaleidoscope. Tiesto really made this stuff look easy, not only
incorporating a slew of different talents and meshing them
effortlessly into the dance fold, but also sticking true to himself
while expanding and evolving his sound. I can say that there were a
few sore spots and some moments that dragged when they could have
driven, but overall this is quite a solid offering. Listen and love
at your leisure.
Released October 2009 on Ultra Records.