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Orlando Voorn - Forcefield (Transient Nature, 2022)

The ever impressive Transient Nature imprint brings the legendary Dutch producer Orlando Voorn into the mix for an EP that simply dazzles on every level, from the impressive rhythms through to the euphoric melodic sequences - this one has the lot.

We talk a lot about musical journeys here on Endless Grooves, and they don't get as meteoric or iconic as the career of Dutch producer Orlando Voorn, who's story has seen him rise to the very top of the Dance Music pantheon, and if you look back over his extraordinary career its easy to see how this has been achieved. Widely considered one of the first producers to really craft a distinctive European Techno style, Voorn's early works created an important bridge between the continent and the Motor City, and this title is afforded not just because of a single stream of releases under one name, but under - quite simply - a whole family of aliases. Voorn certainly explored the very 90s tradition of releasing music under multiple names, but in his case this notion was doubled, even tripled really, to help feature a network of names that helped characterise his musical universe as a massively in-depth one. Voorn in many ways captured the explosion of styles and influences that were injected into Dance Music during the decade, his music morphing constantly as a means to keep himself always absorbing and always moving the template forward, his music always beautifully produced and seemingly having that extra sharp edge to it. Although widely known for his Techno productions, of which he seemed to create every single conceivable strand of the genre, from the heavy hitting through to the elegantly sublime, to merely pigeon hole Voorn into one genre would be a disservice to the other records he released under different genres. Other genres touched upon slamming house, deep soulful house, Breakbeat, Hardcore, Electro, IDM, and pretty much everything inbetween, and there's a feeling that there isn't much he isn't capable of. Despite having so many of these streams going on, Voorn has been able to weave them all together beautifully and seamlessly, finding a sweet spot within each record that helps everything to feel interconnected, a network of feeling and thought that binds the universe together through melodic flourishes and rhythmical progressions. It has been what has made Voorn's discography so revered, not only is it diverse but also it feels concise, as if his visions have been deliberately set out to write new phases with each passing record, and as a flow of concepts it has worked very well indeed. There's plenty of goodness to be found within his discography, starting off with the excellent 'Relaxation' record from the Balance name, which was released in 2006; the beautifully original 'Play It Loud' and 'The Lost Funk' EPs from the Baruka alias, which arrived in 1994; the early self titled Basic Bastard Volumes 1-4, which landed between the years of 1993 to 1996; the 'Midi Mage' EP from the Complex name, which arrived in 1993; the future leaning 'Travelling' EP, which was released as Defence back in 1994; the slamming 'Keep House Unda'Ground' EP, which arrived in 1995 under the Dope Dog alias; one of our favourites, 'Diligent' by Fix, which came out in 2003; the sharp grooves of '3', which was released as Format in 1992; the mad hardcore notions of 'Hardcore will never die', which was released under Hammerhead in 1993; the gorgeous 'The Light/Ocean Flow' two tracker, which arrived in 1992; the sublimeness of the 'Love Feelings' record, which arrived in 1996; the heavy set electro vibes found on the 'Bite Before U Bark/Electric' release, which came out in 2004; the utterly mesmerising 'Roomservice' LP, which was released under The Living Room alias back in 1994; the hot and heavy 'Tone Exploitation' record, which was released in 1992 under the Nighttripper name; the varied and introspective 'The Riderman' LP, which was released under The Stalker name in 1999; and finally, 'In My World' (2016) and 'Moments In Magic' (2020), both of which were released under the Orlando Voorn name, are well worth checking out. In all, Voorn's work transcends across many genres, fuelling many a deep experience with the music's' thought provoking nature, a guiding light that takes us on journeys through to some very exciting places. His productions are second to none, and his approach to music making has ensured that the tunes continually provide fresh insights into an ever expanding universe, feeding our desires and our thoughts with an enormity of possibilities.

And now we arrive at the focus of today's review, 'Forcefield', which lands on the ever impressive Transient Nature imprint. On this four tracker, Voorn continues to impress with a beautifully balanced EP that is always big on rhythm but very varied in terms of the emotional layers that appear up top. The keys are tonally outstanding, moving from clear cut stabs and pads through to almost melting like sequences that see all the layers merge into one, crafting a journey that feels alive and organically put together. The genres mostly stick with House and Techno, but even then Voorn makes the variations feel like anything could happen, with plenty of poise and purpose injected into every stanza. Like with much of his music, there's plenty to delve deep within and enjoy, with each passage serving up a lovely differential to get lost within, showcasing that Voorn remains so deeply embedded within his sound and his craft. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this little beauty, and all the goodness it has to offer.....

Up first comes 'Locked In', and this one begins with a furious breakbeat and some funky undertones to get things going. Light, textured hats slide into view, their presence helping to quietly elevate the groove, as further wee melodic blemishes find their way into the mix, as the listener is moved onwards into the flow. The sharp melodic elements that permeated through occasionally now have a solid form, and what a form it is, as a series of melting, trance inducing chords flow together through the top layer, their lack of structure providing such a feeling within the dance. The track then breaks down to reveal more of this looseness, as flickering arpeggios meander through the underbelly, leading into a climax where the chords come back into view in the most mesmerising of ways. When this track is in full flow, its quite a sight, and as the track progresses we see further variations begin to occur, with the keys really pushed to their limit in terms of tone and application. The densities then mix it up to draw further focus to the groove and the lead melody, and here all we can do is nod along to the rhythm, our heart happy also with the additional key lines that come through to create one final connection to proceedings. The final phase sees Voorn pushing his focus towards the percussion, with a repeating rhythmic feeling note doing the business in holding things down, as everything else starts to jump around, this outro really showcasing the concept of squeezing tracks for all they are worth. Wondrous stuff. 'Forcefield Energy' comes next, and this one starts with the kicks and looping key lines to get things going. The pulse is immediate and forthcoming, and as time passes the melodics start to filter through, taking up the spaces between the kicks and underpinning the momentum perfectly, and the balance in terms of sequences is deftly handled. The bass line pounds along underneath, and soon enough a chiming lead synth sequence floats into view, its tone impeccably placed within the emerging backdrop pads that swell along the horizon line. The melodics drop away to draw focus to the relationship between the drums and bass notes, with the background pads doing much to add focus and scale to proceedings. The way in which the track drifts through multiple phases of being does much to help the mind wonder, with the track taking a dip in energy that then introduces a glorious little key line that chimes along to the groove. The track then shifts its focus toward the final third, with plenty of elements added into the mix here to give the listener a fond farewell wave, a last chance saloon where everyone is invited and the goodbyes last for a long while, and like with the opener there is plenty here to sink your teeth into, as Voorn continues to mesmerise right up until the last second.

And now we arrive at the other side of the coin, in the form of 'Pokerface', which immediately shifts the tempo into the outer stratosphere. The form of this one is powerful techno, with the drumming pattern indicating as such, and as we pass through the gears we see a bass line emerges that simply confirms the fact, and we are very much in heaven. The track remains content to take its time, allowing the listener to soak up all of the goodness before unleashing its next phase, which comes along in the form of a key line that largely mirrors the bass line. The cymbals arrive next to continue the flow onwards, and by this point we are firmly locked in, our minds placed within a dark room, as strobes pound our senses from all sides. A subtle hand is used to apply further elements into the mix, which come along in the form of a buzz like bass note and the lightest of swirling, robotic harmonies, along with additional razor sharp drumming elements that filter through the structure with such a flawless feel. The cymbals then make a welcome return for one final foray, as our souls feel lifted by such a boundless energy that persists within this excellent track. One for the 4am crew, such power. To wrap things up, we have 'Apolonia', which features Sol Resol, and this one continues the vibrations that persisted in the previous track. This one begins with a powerful thrust like drumming line, which features filtered elements that create a spacey feel, and before long we are joined by the light bass lines and soon enough the melodics come into the picture in their totality. The aquatic like pads do much to send signals to the back of the mind, with additional string like keys merging within the melting pot, as we drift beautifully along to the rhythm and the chords. The track takes a little dip in energy before adding in a delicately balanced arpeggio line, that strikes right through the middle of proceedings with gusto and flair, helping to hold down the pulse and keep things ticking over. The strings come back into view soon after, their presence helping to add depth and emotional engagement, and as ever there is plenty of time for further variations to occur throughout the mix, as flawlessly delivered melodic features continue to add up within the structures. Its a fitting end to a record that has always grabbed our attention, keeping the blood pumping as we feverishly meander from left to right, being guided through a meandering series of spaces that showcase techno and house at their very finest. And that is what we have come to expect from an absolute master of the craft.

Journeys within Dance Music are often mutational in feel, with ever changing perspectives and experiments a normality for many artists as they look to expand their world view and keep things fresh, invigorating and engaging. Orlando Voorn is as well known for his distinctive style as he is for his constant evolutions as a producer, with his plethora of releases showcasing a person very much concerned with the artform of tethering everything together but keeping enough space within the grooves for new elements to flourish. This new EP of his sees him in sparkling form, as gorgeous melodic flavours unravel within a sea of deftly balanced and absorbing rhythmic structures, with variations of style moving from hard hitting techno through to beautiful progressive house numbers. We for one cannot recommend the experience enough, with the tunes hitting very hard indeed in the club but also containing so much depth as to be a pleasant deep listen at home, and in the end that's what great dance music is all about. An absolute gem from a truly iconic producer.

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