It has been almost 3 years since Markus Schulz rocked the electronic dance planet to its core with 'Progression' - his critically-acclaimed sophomore album. Since its 2007 release he has smashed countless clubs with his kinetic, captivating DJ sets (breaking into the world's top 10 ranks in the process), examined the musical make-up of cities with his compilation series and explored his darker, housier side with Dakota.
Now, in mid-2010, after 18 months of studio production sessions and an unrelenting pursuit of the perfect 'Progression' follow-up, he returns with 'Do You Dream?'
Since the earliest days of his Coldharbour label, fans and critics alike have seen Schulz as both the leading-light pioneer and ultimate standard-bearer of trance's new wave. The album instantly absorbs the listener back into that world, delivering a masterful start-to-finish audio experience.
Inducing the trancelike condition Markus wanted to stimulate for the album, D.Y.D. overtures with the beatless shimmered finery of 'Alpha State' (the phase the brain enters in order to dream). From that start-point it charts a tightly-plotted and uniquely Schulz course, embracing housey percussion, swirling atmospheric prog, drum & bass-ish b-lines, stunningly-cultivated vibrant trance riffs and a myriad of other sounds, effects and minutiae styles.
Vocals form just as much of a key constituent to Markus' music as ever… Sir Adrian - who was first introduced to the electronic dance world when he lent the massive Schulz-created mash-up 'The Perspective Space' its vocal - is back to bestow 'Away' with addictive, hook-laden lyrics & vocals. Once heard, near impossible to forget, the production's deeper, techier tangent continues paving the album multifarious feel.
During 'Do You Dream's production, Markus spent many in-studio and on-flight hours listening through show-reels to find the right singers to balance the production tracks. In two key cases though, they were camped out remarkably close to home. Showing a diverse, adaptable range, Khaz (who first appeared on the radar in early-2009 as a Coldharbour artist) positively blazes on two of its tracks. Bringing (the most recent single) 'Dark Heart Waiting' a transfixing, uplifting edge, he also radiates the poignancy of 'Last Man Standing's slow-motion, piano-tinged drama. Likewise Angelique Bergere was discovered in home-base Miami and makes her EDM debut on the chilled, echoing serenity to 'Lightwave' and adds mesmerizing pathos to 'Lifted'.
Elsewhere at the female end, the multitalented all-singing, all-spinning Jennifer Rene imbues 'Not The Same' with its melancholic, yet subtly purposeful vocal tone. Backed by a Schulz's star-gazing soundscape, Dutch singer Ana Criado adds yet more celestial transcendence to 'Surreal'. Whilst on 'Unsaid', Susana (who broke through vocalling Coldharbour release 'Nothing At All') creates one of the most vocally uplifting (not to mention infectiously catchy) moments on the album.
If indeed they are needed, those seeking instant jump-in/recognition points for the album won't have to look or listen far. Released over the last 12 months, the singles 'The New World' and title track 'Do You Dream?' have had nitrous-injection-like impacts on Schulz's career, mushrooming the fan-base further and have acted as anticipation-level igniters for the long-player itself.
The same can very much be said for 'Perception - a track that to the card-carrying Schulz fans needs little in the way of introduction to... In its original Cass & Slide version, it's a tune he turned into his Gallery residency anthem, and one whose impact on him that stretches as far back as his days as a clubber on the floors of Turnmills. Having his own version to spin has been on his mind ever since it became a standout moment (and a talking point) of his 2008 Essential Mix. To do it justice he enlisted one of the scene's greatest vocalists, Justine Suissa who delivers a perfectly judged, dazzlingly-executed vocal performance to set off Markus' 'Perception' remap.
Bringing 'Do You Dream' to both its creative and very real climax is the only collaboration on the album. Markus' and Max Graham had long discussed teaming up in the studio… When the time came they drafted in Texan singer/songwriter Jessica Riddle (whose 'I Know You're Gone' previously featured on his Miami '05 compilation) for the fittingly-titled album closer, 'Goodbye'.
Those looking for real range in an electronic dance album will find that, from the ultra-chilled beat-free transcendence of 'Lightwave' to all-consuming, speaker-pounding '65.4hz', D.Y.D. has each and every angle covered. It's a sixteen-strong, padding-free artist long-player that will, once again, underscore Schulz's position as one of the foremost trance province producers.