“No E – Pure PvD” is the slogan, and it serves as a nice way of advertising that Paul Van Dyk is not into the rave-fave drug Ecstasy, and the fact that there is no “E” in his last name. Paul Van Dyk was one of the first “superstar” DJs, his very name is a brand in itself. One listen to Evolution provides ample evidence as to the reasons why. I imagine he gets tired of being compared to Paul Oakenfold, but it is what it is. There is nobody else working in electronic dance music who even comes close to making the type of music Van Dyk does. The 15 tracks on Evolution take the listener on quite a journey, and prove that he has lost none of his creative juice since his debut in 1994.
Evolution is a collection of collaborations between PvD and various artists. The disc begins with “Symmetries,” which features fellow DJ Austin Leeds. Although Van Dyk prefers the term “electronic dance music” to “trance,” there is no escaping the fact that some of the material on this recording most definitely falls into the trance category. “Symmetries” is one example. I for one love this stuff, but I do understand an artist not wanting to be pigeonholed.
The first appearance of vocals comes in the second tune, a lovely piano driven piece titled “The Ocean.” The vocals are really wordless, or at least sung in a language I do not recognize. In any case, they add a great deal of atmosphere to this beautiful piece of music. The whole first half of Evolution falls into a similar category. The third song “Eternity” is a showcase for an epic vocal from Adam Young, and is the album’s first single.
A shift into high gear begins with the complex “Rock This,” the only track credited solely to PvD. This song contains all of the elements I enjoy so much about his music. We go from some very inviting piano tones in the opening, into a relatively standard techno segment, then off into the ether. “Rock This” has it all. The energy stays up for most of the rest of Evolution. I notice a sly Kraftwerk homage during “Dae Yor,” and the old-school 80’s New Beat movement gets a nod in “Lost In Berlin.”
Sue McLaren has an incredibly haunting voice, and while the music of “We Come Together” straddles the line between trance and techno, her vocals soar above it all. Finally we come to “Heart Stops Beating,” where the equally beautiful vocals of Sarah Howells are showcased.
It is hard to believe that Evolution is only Paul Van Dyk’s sixth album in 18 years. The man keeps busy with many other projects though, including the soundtrack to The Dark Knight (2008). He also very obviously puts a lot of care into his work. In any event, this is one of his finest albums.
If you have ever wondered what makes a DJ a Grammy Award winning superstar, look no further. Evolution is a fantastic example of electronic dance music, performed by a master of the form.