April 4, 2003

Uniting the dope beat at a time

In the film One Perfect Day, the main character states that clubs "are the new cathedrals." There is no better proof of this statement than Paul Van Dyk's new CD/DVD Global. Included in this two-disc set is a CD of 13 re-recorded tracks of Van Dyk's most popular works of the last decade, a 74-minute film featuring the newly released tracks, extra footage of Van Dyk interviews, and trailers for the films One Perfect Day and Zurdo, whose music was composed by Van Dyk. The film surveys not only Van Dyk's musical career, but also his participation in the global movement of electronic dance music.

Dance music has evolved into a musical force that has taken over the club scene around the world. A decade ago, when Van Dyk was just starting his career as a DJ in East Berlin, not many people had heard of electronic music, raves, or house DJs. Global is Van Dyk's attempt to show how dance music has connected people of all nations. "Everyone wants the same thing; to feel good about living," said Van Dyk in a recent interview, and they can achieve this through dance music. The music has turned into a global youth culture that unites people from around the world through a common love of the music. "They are all listening to the same music, no matter where they are, and through their shared listening experiences, they feel connected towards a more global event," Van Dyk stated. The culture does not only include the musical event, but an entire experience that often includes anti-war sentiments and other political affiliations. The film documents the global movement of electronic dance music by setting the newly released tracks to footage of Van Dyk touring around the world.

The film's first scenes set in San Fransisco and Miami to "We Are Alive," the most successful track from Van Dyk's third album Out There and Back. An indoor dance club in San Fransisco sets the stage for one of the best songs on the album. Although many more vocals were added to the re-mastered version, the track remains a clear example of why Van Dyk has attained such huge popularity worldwide. The mix of hardcore trance beats, along with ambient melodies and soothing vocals creates a balanced intensity that is rare for club DJs. He does not simply keep the beat alive, but uses careful dynamics and accents to take the listener on a diverse and multi-layered musical journey.

Those who are accustomed to the constant thud of house beats and non-stop trance might not appreciate Van Dyk's work. At times it is mellow, soothing, and anything but danceable. However, his technical proficiency is evident. Unlike most DJs, Van Dyk re-mixes and produces all of his music. "We Are Alive" is easily one of the most powerful songs on the album, and it is well suited to introduce the film.

The second track, "Seven Ways," from the album of the same name, is set in a variety of locations worldwide. Divided into nine different sections, this portion of the film portrays different cultures and attempts to show that while miles apart, we all live very similar lives. The sections "Transport" and "Movement" show how people travel in different styles. The sections "Recreation," "Life Forms," "Individuals," and "Masses" profile people of different backgrounds in fast-paced urban environments. The track is equally paced and well suited to the scenes that flash by as it is playing. However, like many trance tracks, the song is often dull, repetitive, and uninteresting. Thankfully, it is also very short.

The next stop on Van Dyk's magical tour is Tokyo, and the segment is set to the song "Forbidden Fruit" from the album Seven Ways. The profile of Japanese culture, everyday life, and club scenes are almost formulaic by this point in the film. However, the scene does have some hidden surprises. It gives the viewer a genuine glimpse at the man behind the music. Van Dyk is shown as an energetic, happy, optimistic individual, who seriously believes in the unifying power of music. He is passionately motivated to change the world, one song at a time. His upbringing in war-torn East Berlin heavily impacted his views today. "I grew up in a system which was a dictatorship. It made me a bit of a fighter. It made me realize that everyone has a responsibility to help one another," Van Dyk said. His music is not just for dancing; it has a much greater purpose behind it. Whether the fans realize it or not, Van Dyk believes that electronic dance music brings people together peacefully in an atmosphere of compassion that often does not exist in the outside world. The correlation between electronic music and anti-war sentiments is seen on Van Dyk's Web site, where the opening page reads " STOP THE WAR." While the club scene has a notorious reputation for substance abuse and violence, Van Dyk sees such behavior as "not typical of electronic music." When asked about his reaction to the recent tragedy at the nightclub E2 in Chicago, Van Dyk emphatically stated, "It is very sad when something like this happens; packed venues must be kept safe." Van Dyk has also been a long-time advocate of keeping drugs out of the club scene. A bonus to the CD/DVD compilation includes an anti-drug advertisement set to music by Van Dyk.

The song "Tell Me Why" is set in a club in Berlin, Germany. The scenes change between a Berlin nightclub and the song's music video, which can be seen in its entirety as a bonus track on the DVD. Again, Van Dyk added more vocals to the song, which increases the ambience and warmth of an already beautiful tune. The shots of Berlin are numerous, and much of the rest of the film is shot in Germany. Unlike many of the other tracks on Global the re-mix of "Tell me Why" is powerful, effective, and a genuine improvement on the original. Other tracks such as "Words" and "A Magical Moment," while maintaining their original brilliance, are not a significant improvement on the original tracks. Although a great deal of work went into re-recording every track, the best songs are those that needed very few additions.

Even though a majority of Van Dyk's success came from the album Out There and Back, his best composition is undoubtably "For an Angel," from the album 1998. The song was an instant club hit upon its release, and it remains one of the most widely sampled trance recordings. This song, and the tracks "Tell Me Why" and "Together We Will Conquer" from Out There and Back are highlights. All three tracks are greatly enhanced by female vocals, a style that is very familiar to Van Dyk. Unlike many trance DJs, Van Dyk has mastered the art of balancing the enchanting sound of the female voice with the harsh beats of dance music.

One of the greatest benefits of the DVD is that the viewer is able to see Van Dyk in his best live moments, and the viewer can truly appreciate DJs who are often heard but not always seen. Van Dyk believes strongly in the power of live music; in every scene he feeds off the energy of the audience and shows true passion for his music. Said Van Dyk, "You can't put a club onto a CD." Electronic music is an entire experience that can only be truly appreciated at a live venue. Since electronic music fans under 21 can not often get the club experience, films such as Global provide the next best thing to experiencing electronic music live.

Van Dyk's next project is already in motion. His next album will be released in late September of 2003. It will include several collaborations with renowned artists such as Jennifer Brown, Jan Johnsten and the U.K. rock band Vega 4. There will also be other surprise guests of various musical backgrounds, in what promises to be his most diverse album to date. If Global is any indication of Van Dyk's contribution to electronic music's widespread popularity, then his next release is guaranteed to push the music even further.