“Obviously, it lends itself very well to starting the show with a ‘big bang’.” Paul van Dyk is talking about the cosmic trigger that opens ‘Evolution’, his mammoth audio-visual live show that was unveiled to the world last year, which charts a visual timeline through his DJ set that starts with the universe’s creation and leads right up until the ‘Modern Media World’ in a fashion that channels the roaring energy that has always characterised his performances.
‘Evolution’ sees him adding another layer of interactive technology to his already dynamic DJ sets, which themselves have been in a constant state of flux since he abandoned the traditional two-deck set-up shortly into the new millennium. ‘Evolution’ also represents the grander concept van Dyk has cultivated as the framework behind all his artistic endeavors in 2012; most importantly, it’s the title he’s given to his fifth studio album that’s finally due to arrive in August.
It’s not uncommon to see DJs hitting the global touring circuit with an integrated thematic concept as a backdrop, but van Dyk is pitching ‘Evolution’ as something that’s a little more cerebral and far-reaching, tying in just as much with the role he’s played in politics and social justice throughout his career, as it does with the music he produces and plays.
“I’m someone who’s very interested in political settings, and the developments of societies in different parts of the world. When I travel I see so many things, and I realized that particularly in the past 15 to 20 years, we’ve seen an enormous step in humankind’s development,” van Dyk says. “And from more of a focused point of view, electronic music has emerged from its roots as a small subculture, into the biggest music culture in the world right now.”
As much as van Dyk has been looked to as a vanguard of the trance scene over the past two decades, he’s always painted himself, first and foremost, as a supporter of electronic music in all its forms. ‘Evolution’ sees him further exploring this ideology, recruiting a wide range of producers and vocal talent to help him push the outer edges of his sound. While pigeonholing has often been a sticking point for van Dyk over the years, ‘Evolution’s promo material doesn't shy away from his ties to the trance scene. Rather than a “wholesale trance devolution”, instead it’s about working new elements into the musical canvas he’s worked with for the past 20 years.
‘Evolution’s first single ‘Verano’ is one of the two collaborations with PvD favourite Austin Leeds, with tight percussion worked into van Dyk’s familiar muscular trance, and a melodic hook that borders on the orchestral. Russian studio maestro Arty also links up for a meeting of musical minds, dropping into a gentle breakbeat interlude on ‘The Sun After Heartbreak’, while also helping craft one of the album’s most memorable moments with ‘The Ocean’, which sweeps from its sinister opening into a haunting breakdown, before kicking back into a heavy bassline that wraps itself perfectly around the song’s powerful melodic motifs.
Van Dyk points to the blending of the different musical elements as the defining motif for ‘Evolution’, and it’s an approach that also continues to define his eclectic DJ sets. He says it’s less about wild genre mash-ups though, and more about a smooth, inclusive approach that emphasizes a belief that genre boundaries aren’t as well-defined as many might think.
“I’m a musician, and my favourite music, that I play, is electronic dance. I like a lot of different things, and these are what I try and combine. It still is a very straightforward line through my sets; it’s not about playing a drum & bass track, and then the next thing is house, and then the next thing is trance. It combines all of these things, it’s very organic and it flows through.”
He’s preaching a love for all things electronic, in a culture that’s often aggressively tribal and segregated into disparate camps. Van Dyk says he has witnessed the boundaries gradually breaking down over time, though in the past two years he’s seen them return with a vengeance.
“You rarely find many good DJs nowadays who are able to combine these elements and play a really creative, cool DJ set. It’s either just trance, or just dubstep, or what’s called house at the moment. For me, I have to say, it bores me to death after 30 minutes, listening to the same shit. And this is sort of what is happening right now, in a way.
“If people want only the one thing, fair enough, but that’s not really what I’m interested in. For me, electronic music is all about finding something crazy and new, or combining those disparate elements,” he says. “If you take those heavy dubstep sounds, and mash them with a straightforward techy beat, it can just be really fucking cool. Taking just one element of that, it’s like OK, it’s just another track that sounds like the one I just heard. For me, it’s about combining these elements to create something new, and being able to do it in a live setting.”
Check out the Evolution tour dates on: www.paulvandyk.com
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