ATB - Addicted to Bass, or All-new Tech Beats?

The DJ World's left-field man is back.

This is certainly a departure from Andre Tanneberger's previous efforts. Let's get that out of the way first.

The German DJ, widely considered to be one of the best in the world having been ranked at number 11 by DJ Magazine for the past 3 years, is best known for hits such as his debut 9p.m(Till I come) and trance anthems such as Ecstasy. However, those that are looking for similar musical stylings from this album, his latest album since 2009's Future Memories, will be left disappointed.

Persevere though, and the listening experience becomes a pleasurable one, if slightly jarring along the way.

ATB - Distant Earth (Minimix HD)

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Disc 1

Let's get loud.

Disc 1 sounds as though it is intended to be a blend of trance and house, with tracks seemingly covering the penumbra between these two genres. Is it chillout? Is it dance? That seems to be a question of personal interpretation, although it has to be said that there are elements of both in almost all tracks.

Whilst this writer does indeed recognise the peaks and troughs of typical trance music (4/4 timings, 130bpm, characteristic 'drops' / climaxes), these sorts of musical staples are used sparingly throughout, and only seem very obvious on songs with a wider spectrum of sound, such as Apollo Road, All I Need is You, and Move On. Apollo Road (a colllaboration with Dash Berlin) deserves a special mention however, as it is the only song on the entire album that bears any relation to ATB's previous trance anthems, with its grandeur-filled climaxes, consistent beat, and beautifully laid out arrangements of various electronica instruments.

Truth be told, there is a lot of variety on this part of the album, and in some places, it flows extremely well, with most tracks obviously related to a thematic sound that ATB has seemingly put together. However, there are tracks that seemingly do not fit in at all with the overall musical theme of the 1st disc. The biggest offender is clearly This is Your Life, with Fuldner failing to impress with his pseudo rap, followed by poor vocal work by JanSoon and a lack of polish from ATB himself on the rather risible Gold.

Standout tracks? Apart from the afore-mentioned Apollo Road, nods go to Twisted Love featuring Christina Soto,  as well as HeartBeat with Amurai and Melissa Loretta. Both Melissa and Christina recall the beauty of the vocal stylings by Tiff Lacey on Ecstasy (2004), yet have their own unique sound.

Disc 2

Let's get comfy.

Disc 2 is far more consistently paced compared to Disc 1. Unfortunately for most people, it will be paced far too slowly. The bpm is a lot lower, there is no track that anyone could conceivably dance to. It is, for lack of a better word, a Chillout session on a disc. It is this slower pace that undoubtedly helps it along.

How so? Because musical flow is far more pronounced on Disc 2 than Disc 1, with no tracks really standing out as party poopers. And it is on this Disc that ATB really shines. You will find some of the most beautifully emotive electronica music ever made on this part of the album, with standouts being Vice-Versa (with Armin Van Buuren), Magnetic Girl and Moments in Peace.

A nod has to be thrown in the direction of the rather delightful Moving Backwards, featuring Kate Louise Smith. It is not the best song on the album, but it is one that this writer keeps on coming back to. Simple lyrics with a simple yet elegant electronic arrangement are indicative of ATB's talent for massaging beauty out of what most laymen consider random beats and beeps.

The titular track Distant Earth is another triumph of simplicity and elegance. However, the disc is not without missteps. Trinity, whilst a beautiful track in itself, sounds more like an orchestral composition than a thematically linked song with the rest of the Disc. City of Hope hopes to achieve the same levels of elegance and simplicity as other tracks, but falls short due to what seems to be formulaic and filler-style arrangements. Strenwanderer never seems to make any sort of momentum whatsoever, with the diminished sound coming off as banal.

Disc 2 is clearly meant as an excuse to whack up the hifi system and just bathe in the sounds of a clearly relaxed and matured ATB. It has some of his most brilliant work yet.

ATB's Distant Earth

So should you?

Is ATB worth your time?

Undoubtedly, he is. This isn't the bombastic trance fest that could conceivably be expected by someone who has grown up listening to ATB's Ecstasy (still his biggest hit to date), but it is an accomplished effort that warrants space on your music shelf. Even if you are not an electronica fan.

Yes, there are missteps and jarring additions that do not belong on this album's musical canvas, but they are not dealbreakers. From the soaring efforts of Apollo Road to the studied miasma of Magnetic Girl, it is a triumph of brilliance and clearly shows the work of a settled, confident artiste at the top of his game.