Dance stalwart Tiesto has released his latest artist album, Kaleidoscope. Where some of his previous efforts had featured long-breathed trance anthems, this new record puts its focus on both more and shorter cuts (seventeen, in the physical format), and a wider collection of guest vocalists. There were hints of this trend from his prior album, Elements Of Life, but that balance seems to have now fully swung over to a new chapter for the former #1 DJ in the World.
The album starts off with the title track, a collaboration featuring Jonsi (lead singer of Sigur Ros). Although it might seem an odd pairing, it works surprisingly well. The track builds from Jonsi's strengths of haunting, falsetto vocals matched against an organically fractured but highly melodic background; and eventually transforms into Tiesto's world with a strong beat and enhanced sonics. It ends up being both a great album beginning, and a unique collaboration that hopefully can be explored more in the future.
Things take a sharp turn from there. "Escape Me" is an indie-rock-meets-dance track featuring vocals by C.C. Sheffield. Collaborations such as this form the core of the album. In albums past, Tiesto included a few select featured vocalists on tracks, but now that has become the bread and butter. The track is catchy enough on its own, but sounds like one of any number of crossover dance attempts already out there.
"You Are My Diamond" begins a decline in quality, sounding every bit like a generic club track. While fine for trying on pants at Hot Topic, it's less impressive as a musical statement. "I Will Be Here" adds a bit of grime and dirty beats, but ends up much like its predecessor, striving for a grating electro-house sound instead of aiming any higher. "I Am Strong" is yet another collaboration, although it's a worthy mid-tempo offering and helps bolster the front part of the record.
But this constantly shared stylistic direction with an ever-rotating cast of accomplices makes the album sound like something more removed from Tiesto as an artist than as a behind-the-scenes beat doctor. It sounds less and less like Tiesto and more and more like any number of dance compilations already on the market. Some collaborations work better than others, but after a while the guests come across more as a crutch for putting together a quick album than a necessity that helps make it a stronger whole.
In the better category, we have the Cary Brothers track "Here On Earth", which continues the nicely symbiotic pairing that started with Tiesto's remix of his track "Ride." "Feel It In My Bones" is a strong cut featuring Tegan & Sara, which will probably also yield some nice remix opportunities down the road. Not working quite as well is "It's Not The Things You Say." And "Century" highlights a brief but grating vocal and nonsensical lyrics.
Although there aren't many, there are a few instrumental cuts on the record. The all-too-brief "Always Near" is only near for a minute and a half (but is quite nice). "Fresh Fruit" is a decent track, leaning on more electro-house roots, while "LA Ride" offers a nice, bouncy groove. By the time "Bend It Like You Don't Care" comes on, you firmly have the feeling that Tiesto is trying everything he can to not include any obvious trance cuts. Which would be fine if he were able to make these new sounds as interesting as his roots.
Tiesto sounds like he either phoned this one in, or tried to branch out beyond his strengths, and either way it's a disappointing listen. It's not just that the style has changed, that in itself would be fine. But the quality of the tracks went down, and that's less forgivable. On Kaleidoscope we're treated to a string of pop-house collaborations that mostly do little to distinguish themselves from any other dance album already out. And the dizzying amount of collaborations come across as a desperate bid to find something that will break open in the mainstream instead of a bunch of inspired pairings. There are highlights on the album, to be sure. But they are far outweighed by middle of the road filler.