Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Quality Trance Tunes

After all these years, I still enjoy trance music greatly. I got into it way back in late 1990s, when it was literally just being born – I still remember the times when modern-day superstars such as Tiesto or Ferry Corsten were playing in large tents amidst the mud in suburban Holland. Then, there were raves – underground parties when it was still under the radar. Then, trance skyrocketed into the peak of its popularity. Every self-respecting club from Ibiza to New York was playing those catchy, pulsating beats.  These days, trance is on the decline. No, there’s still plenty of followers – the main DJs are still going strong, and the new crop of producers keeps sprouting up every year. But the popularity has waned, at least in North America and Europe, mostly in favour of hip-hop – alas. Trance has become the domain of teenyboppers and Asians – at least those 2 groups of people seem to be the majority of followers.  Whenever I tell someone I like trance, people either yawn or inform me they used to like it, like, 10 years ago.

I don’t care. I love a good melody, and in trance, a good melody is a must. I love the uplifting tunes especially – they are great to listen to while in a down mood, or just to boost energy level without resorting to drugs. I listen to it while travelling long distance, while driving, while working out, sometimes in the mornings, sometimes before bed, sometimes even at work through my headphones. At any given time, about half of my music in my collection is either trance or other electronica.

The only thing I don’t like is cheesy trance. You know, the stuff everyone who is not familiar with the style things trance actually is: fist-pumping kind of beat, with “uhe-uhe” type of melody that people who accidentally find themselves in a club usually expect to hear. So, to those who care, I would like to list my all-time top 10 favourite quality trance tunes – in the hope that you would give each at least a 2-3 minutes, enjoy, and perhaps change your mind if you haven’t already.

1. Sasha - Xpander

Way back from the times when trance was nowhere near mainstream, this relic from around 1999 is an absolute classic. It remains one of the best and smartest trance tunes of all times - a great example of  what I call “intelligent” trance. I love how this is borderline progressive house, which Sasha basically co-invented in those days together with John Digweed.

2. Sunlounger - In & Out

This track made my 2-week hike in the Himalayas 5 years ago so much easier as I listened to it on those particularly steep climbs. A goosebump-inducing uplifter by Roger Shah aka Sunlounger, who went on to become one of trance's best known DJs. To me, this track just doesn't grow old.

3. Tiesto - Nyana

The Dutch pioneers have taken over trance music production in early 2000s and never looked back. This track is a great example of minimalistic, electric trance in the letter and spirit of the early Dutch producers. A lot of modern DJs trying to play “hard” trance to please the drunken audiences would do well playing something similar to this. 


 4. Mindcircus - Way out West (Gabriel and Dresden remix)

This track is long, but I love it – this is a real song put to trance, with a little bit of everything in a perfect balance: vocals, beat, subtle uplift, lyrics, melody. Great remix by homeboys from San Francisco – Gabriel and Dresden.

5. Solarstone - The Calling  + Virtual Vault feat. Orjan  - Too Late

OK, I cheated. I put 2 songs in one entry, because I cannot think of a more organic mix-up of 2 fantastic trance tunes.  The first one is a beautiful example of simply magical vocal trance, and the second one should be the definition of “uplifting” in the dictionary. Truly an amazing duo of tracks.

6. Gaia - Status Excessu D

Gaia is a creative name of one of trance greats, mr. Armin van Buuren himself, and while he has written a fair share of good tracks, this one stands out for its complex structure, controlled melody and beat. 

7. RAM - RAMsterdam

An excellent high-energy, uplifting track from a talented producer. To get to the best part, fast forward about 3 minutes. Great workout music!

8. Orjan Nilsen - Between the Rays

It’s not easy to find purely melodic trance without it sounding primitive or otherwise cheesy. Sure, some people don’t mind it, but if I am listening to trance rather than dancing to it, I prefer something more sophisticated. This track by the super-talented producer from Norway is short by the standards of the genre, but is definitely among the best of all times.

9. Andrew Rayel - Aeons of Revenge

There’s a lot of “piano” trance out there, especially coming from Russia and Eastern Europe, but this young fellow from Moldova puts up some of the best stuff. This is my favourite track from the last year, and it gives me hope there’s still plenty of future left in good ol’ trance.

10. Armin van Buuren - Burned with Desire

I will leave you with this beautiful track by Armin van Buuren that I enjoy to this day. This song was remixed countless times by various DJs, into high-energy beats and tremendous uplifting energy, but I prefer it in its original version – one of the best examples of chillout trance.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

For all the weeks-long build-up and commotion, Christmas passed almost instantly, like a stock-market bubble. Nativity scenes with donkeys are stowed away for the next year, Santa outfits are in dry cleaning after all the Santacons, and the fur trees, just a few days ago adorned in shiny decor now lay in dirt on sidewalks – abandoned and discarded, and it they would be bitterly confused about such a quick change of fortunes, I wouldn’t blame them.

The gifts are gifted, the useless ones are ready for re-gifting, the boxes are unboxed, the wraps are unwrapped and tossed, the drinks are drunk and the foods are eaten. And just like that, we are onto the last few hours of 2011.

It was a strange year. Not the worst one economically – that honour belongs to the awful ’09, which at the same time was a fairly calm year otherwise. 2011 was an eventful year, with enough travel and work, but also marred with numerous tragedies, worldwide and personal. New friendships were forged, but some were lost and gone forever. I cannot forget the days of anxiety over the Japanese tragedy in March, first with the quake, then tsunami and afterwards, with the invisible lethal force of radiation, all too familiar to those of us who grew up near Chernobyl. Not since September 2001 had I been so perturbed by the news and wanted to spend 24 hours a day getting the latest tidbits of information from all over the Internet about what was going on in Tohoku.

In the meantime, life here stateside was going on, with economy still piss-poor and few scattered and weak signs of recovery. Yet little by little, the difference was being felt. Restaurants were taking reservations, bars and clubs that survived the crush of the previous years, have become full and busy again. Women in San Francisco have redirected their gazes at new overpriced shoes and handbags again, and their rich boyfriends or husbands could afford them again. Big money is being made and spent again – or so I hear.

Sure, concerns remain. But that’s something we’ll just have to get used to from now on. The times, which I consider myself fortunate to remember, when each New Year brought optimism and firm assurance that it would be better than the previous one, are probably gone. Not to be a pessimist or anything – I am content just hoping that it wouldn’t be worse.

At least the end of the world - predicted twice - did not send us all onto rapture (I never figured that one out – why were we supposed to be enraptured by it? Doesn’t matter now, I guess). So it was really not a bad year after all.

I made a short trip to Paris in spring, which is always pleasant. Paris had completely forgotten me, so it was a one-sided affair. I didn’t care – I like it that way, just as I liked having 2-hour breakfasts at midday, finding more dead celebrities at Pere Lachaise and taking pictures of unsuspecting Parisians in the world’s best metro.

Then there was the trip home, first one in 3 years. I felt guilty for not having visited my Grandma for so long. It was painful and odd seeing her on the austere hospital bed in a provincial Belarusian town, after she broke her hip again and was practically motionless and helpless. I have always known her as a strong, even matriarchal woman, always wanting to take charge and be in the center of events. Now she had to be completely taken care of, and her mind kept slipping into incoherence from all the painkillers and medications she was on. It was a different visit from all my previous ones in that regard.

She passed away 2 weeks after I left, on my birthday, when I was in Turkey. She was 91.

A few days later, a plane carrying the entire hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl went down, killing everyone on board but one, including Ruslan Salei, one of Belarus’s best player.

It was not easy to enjoy my Turkey trip. After some point, I was going almost on autopilot, circumnavigating the country clock-wise, before finally crossing the Dardanelles in late September, returning back to Istanbul and then back to San Francisco.

Life went on, jobs went on. I was fortunate or unfortunate to spend a couple of months in the great state of Oklahoma and even squeeze a weeklong trip to Mexico around Thanksgiving. With the hectic schedule that was bestowed upon me in the surrounding days and weeks, a mini-holiday on the perfectly warm late autumn Oaxaca beach was a delight.

And so that was the 2011. I’d better think of some good resolutions for 2012. Did I fulfill the ones for 2011? I don’t know – I really don’t remember them now.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Best Medicine

I think I’ve figured out why women, on average, live longer than men. One word: laughter. Women love to laugh, do it frequently and with much gusto. And yes, it is our job as men to make them laugh.

It is amazing how much a woman can laugh – providing she gets someone to make her. I’ve red polls that place a guy’s ability to make her laugh on the top of a woman’s attraction criteria for men. In other words, you can be a Jude Law or Brad Pitt himself, but if you can’t make her chuckle, she’d go for Jason Alexander look-alike who can crack her up.

And they don’t even require men to make them laugh. I mean, whenever I see a group of two or more women, they are usually just absorbed in each other’s silliness, giggling non-stop and just generally having a ball of a time.

We men are much harder to amuse. Our lives are revolving around getting women to sleep with us, and that’s hard work – not a laughing matter. In the process, we have to fend off competition, make money, have careers and are generally expected to be serious about life. We do laugh occasionally, but with our friends, we are much more serious than women – talking about sports, investments, women or cars – but not in any kind of laughing fashion. The only humorous thing we are supposed to do is entertain women around us. If we can’t get them using our looks or our money, laughter is about the only, and probably the best thing left.

I just wish we men could take lives with the same doze of light-heartedness. We have a lot to learn from women. How to walk on high heels and be graceful. How to enjoy spas, bubblebaths and manicures. How to have a truly fun time with friends. How to dance and have a good time with it. How to live well – including the extra 10 years, on average, that we don’t get to live.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Millions of Photos

There is just too much photography in the world now. Everybody and their great-grandmother has a camera now, and more and more have the equipment that just 5 years ago was considered professional. Alas, my proposal to restrict sales of digital SLR cameras only to individuals with at least 3 referrals from professional photographers fell on deaf ears...

Thankfully, to at least somehow orient oneself in this photographic barrage, I have a solid system of photo ratings, which I am, as always, happy to share. So, here it is.

1. Shit Photos

95% of photos out there. Some of these pictures are just total shit not worth a second look, others are of some interest to small groups of people because they have their friends or family in them, but are still shit to everyone else. Some photos were shot as shit right away; others were actually supposed to come out OK but turned out shit. Regardless, this is the absolute majority of photographs in the world - shit.

Porta moñera de Sarah key

2. Gallery Shit

These are the shit photos that somehow got recognition. Usually, they are taken by already established photographers, who may or may not have intended to display them, but the gallery or even museum curators like to go gaga over these guys, so they just take whatever they bring. A typical Gallery Shit photo is shot with film, sometimes even medium or large format, but I am seeing more and more Gallery Shit shot on digital hanging out there, confusing visitors into thinking that it is, in fact, photography. A lot of Gallery Shit is hanging just because it's old, and that seems to be merit enough for some curators. To see Gallery Shit, just visit any "conceptual" or pretentious photo gallery in any large city. Thankfully, Gallery Shit is a very small percentage of all photos.

3. Nice Photos.

Most of the rest of the pictures taken by the world out there. These are the photos that make people look for more than a second, and sometimes even go, "Nice!". A lot of nice photos are nice because they are technically well-executed, but they, of course, need to have a composition as well. Posters, calendars, magazine photos are all examples of nice photos. Even well-done wedding photos can be considered Nice rather than Shit if they are done well enough that you may want to look at them even if you don't know the people on them.

Misty Forest

4. Great Photos

These are photos that are nicer than Nice and comprise less than 1% of all pictures out there. In other words, these are examples of beautiful work in any genre - fashion, photojournalism, portraiture, landscape, even street. This is the stuff that wins awards, although not always. This is also the stuff I'd like to see in museums and galleries, although, again, it doesn't always happen (see Gallery Shit). You want to look at these photos and, if you have the money, even consider buying them.


5. Wow Photos

Even rarer than Great photos, these are literally one of a kind shots. Typically, they need to be accompanied by photographer's luck, such as a picture of a lightning crashing a tree, for example, but also, they can be a result of careful and meticulous planning and preparation, such as a close-up picture of rare snow leopard in Himalaya. Obviously, they make people go, "Wow!" or "How the hell did he do it?" These are the pictures that make others want to take up photography, although in reality, they should discourage people to do so, because almost none of them out there will ever take a Wow photo.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ze Eugenus is back!

I thought I lost this blog a long time ago, but amazingly, I was able to log on from the first attempt. Even though my readership was low, I thoroughly enjoyed re-living the moments when I wrote my previous entries, especially since I do not keep a real journal or a blog elsewhere where actually post anything other than photos.

So perhaps it's time to start writing a bit more - stay tuned (this is mostly an address to myself), and yes, I am back!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Random pictures from Guatemala

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ode to N

I met N when I was nineteen. I was a naïve wide-eyed freshman foreign student in college, and she – well, she was an exotic European, who sneaked into the house I was living under the cover of night, with a German exchange student that was living on one of the bedrooms.

Somehow, she was left lingering in the kitchen, and I walked in on her accidentally. I still remember an almost instant intoxication with her presence, her fragrance, her beauty. It was late, and our initial encounter was brief, but it left my head spinning and my senses tingly. Was it love at first sight? If there ever was one, this was it.

N vanished from our house as suddenly as she appeared, and I never got a chance for a second encounter. There was no trace anywhere in out small college town, and I could not bring myself to ask around about her. Thus passed three years.

When I graduated and moved to a big city, I almost forgotten about N, yet deep inside, her sweet tenderness was still in my heart. Then, one day, I was buying groceries and suddenly, there she was. Just like at first encounter, she appeared out of nowhere, stunning and desirable as I remembered her. At first gently, then with all my passion, I squeezed her, as if never to let her slip out of my life again. And slip she did not…We consummated our newly found love as soon as we got home. Her curves, her aroma and her taste were all I ever needed for complete happiness. It was a powerful and mutual bond, the one that was to last for many years.

N immediately moved into my place, where she fit in so seamlessly it felt as if my years without her had been empty. She was the first one to great me in the morning and the last one to wish me goodnight. We were almost inseparable. Many of my friends did not understand the connection we had. They were wondering whether it was serious and truly mutual. Some of them thought we were too obsessed with each other and even tried to introduce me to others. And, to my shame, I have even indulged them on a couple of occasions, in moments of weakness I am not proud of. But those moments only reassured me that there were no substitutes for what I had with N and never would be. My passion grew only stronger, and when I confessed to N. about my side “affairs”, she wholeheartedly forgave me. I promised that no woman will ever step between N and I, and have kept that promise since.

Sure, there were a few difficult periods in our relationship. I had to travel a lot for my work, and could not always take N with me. Many times, I was without her for days, even weeks. But as soon we reunited, it was as joyful and beautiful as the first time we met, when I was a skinny college lad. We grew to know each other like nobody else, and even though there are few surprises in our union, we still find ways to better and spice up our love for each other.

And for those moments that we are not together, I have this
picture of her that I carry close to my heart.