Paul Van Dyk | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Paul Van Dyk 

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Nobody will ever accuse Berlin DJ and producer Paul van Dyk of changing the face of anything but the people occupying his dancefloors. Though his style is generally categorized as progressive trance (which differs from regular trance by tempering its punishing piston drive with sweeping synths, lush melodic refrains, and airy diva vocals), van Dyk's a bit too softheaded to take seriously as any sort of groundbreaker. He's a pop musician, basically, and he's as rooted in the soundtrack schlock of Vangelis and John Williams as in the lean, astringent club classics of Derrick May and Juan Atkins. But at his best, van Dyk does what all good trance artists do: gathers a steady, unblinking momentum that engages your most primal, machinelike impulses. Even when they come bearing godawful titles like "I'm Comin' (to Take You Away)," from his 1994 album, 45 RPM, or relatively innocuous ones, like "Seven Ways" (a nod to Chicago house pioneer Adonis's early house classic, "Seven Ways to Jack") or "Heaven" (both from 1996's Seven Ways), van Dyk's tracks get their systems working overtime: they're so clean and efficient they'll never overheat, though you might. His apex remains "For an Angel," from 1998, whose spangly textures and volcanic breakdown and crescendo qualify it as the all-time cheese-trance anthem. Last year's Out There and Back (Mute) continues the same formula--what did you expect, a detour into hardcore punk?--with some minor tweaks, from the breakbeat-driven "Vegas" to the sly nod to Josh Wink's classic "Higher State of Consciousness" on "Together We Will Conquer" to the wispy singsong of Saint Etienne vocalist Sarah Cracknell on "Tell Me Why (the Riddle)." DAY TK, August TK, TK PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carlos Amoedo.

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