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Trance Forum  Forum  Music Reviews - Zen Mechanics - Holy Cities (Neurobiotic, April 2008)

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Zen Mechanics - Holy Cities (Neurobiotic, April 2008)


Started Topics :  418
Posts :  3816
Posted : Apr 11, 2008 17:14:22
Artist: Zen Mechanics
Title: Holy Cities
Label: Neurobiotic
Format: CD
Released: April 2008


If you've been a guest at one of the major psychedelic trance festivals in the last couple of years, chances are pretty good that you've encountered a liveset from Zen Mechanics. Zen Mechanics is the solo project of Wouter Thomassen, the most well known Dutch psytrance artist at the moment, and a name in high demand world wide. His first release was back in 2004, and since then he has been made quite an impact on the scene, with releases ranging from blissful chillout on Aleph Zero, progressive psytrance on Iboga and Flow to high tech full on on some of the major players like Neurobiotic, Nano and Alchemy.

Now, over 4 years after his first release, and after having performed on some of the world's hot spot dancefloors like Boom, Universo Paralello, Glade, Sonica, Solstice and Rainbow Serpent, he is ready with the debut album "Holy Cities", released on Edoardos label Neurobiotic Records.

01. Zen Mechanics - Modified [140 BPM]
The album starts out with the 10 minute long "Modified". As expected there is a rather long and very nice intro, before a female voice-sample says "Hello" and the bassline kicks in. A bit harder and more serious track than I had imagined to start out the album, but nevertheless a really good one - will undoubtedly be one of the most played tracks of the album.

02. Zen Mechanics & Allaby - Immerse [140 BPM]
Up next is a collaboration with one of my absolute favourite full on producers in later years, Matt Allaby. "Immerse" is a nice mixture between Allabys subtle, underplayed melodic universe and Zen Mechanics more crowd-pleasing full on style, and the result is among the best on the entire album. Despite the pounding bassline it never feels in your face obnoxious, and the overall atmosphere is very dreamy in an almost melancholic way. This in some way reminds of misty outdoor parties, when the sun is just about to break through for the first time. Lovely and elegant tune.

03. Zen Mechanics - Mecha [140 BPM]
The intensity is kicked back up a notch on "Mecha". It's a typical high tech Zen Mechanics tune, with clever break-arrangements and a beautiful almost oldschool psytrance-style melodic breakdown that'll do wonders when played at the first rays of sunlight on an outdoor dancefloor.

04. Zen Mechanics - Off The Grid [142 BPM]
I believe the original title for the album was "Off The Grid", and this aptly titled tune could have been a good title-track. The atmosphere is sort of metallic or industrial, with some excellent floating pads thrown in for good measure. The best part in the track though is the main breakdown, where Wouter shows some proper breakbeat-talent.

05. Zen Mechanics - Industry Of Love [144 BPM]
The most distinct feature about "Industry Of Love" is the voice-sample (heard before in Talamascas "Speaking Robot" if I'm not mistaken) towards the end. The melodies aren't quite as deep and subtle as some of the previous tracks, and the track generally has more groove, take-offs and stomping dancefloor appeal. Not the strongest track on the album, but still good.

06. Zen Mechanics & Headroom - CBR [144 BPM]
South African producer Adam Metcalfe aka Headroom joins Zen Mechanics on "CBR", and for most part it is a massive combo. The groove in this one goes straight to your feet and the voice-samples are very well-chosen, but unfortunately the melodies become a bit too stressful along the way for my taste. Could have been among my favourites - it loses me a couple of times, but I can imagine it'll be one of the DJ-favourites this summer.

07. Zen Mechanics - Vale De Lua
As an interlude before the last few dancefloor tracks, the feet are given a rest with the chillout track "Vale De Lua". This is neither his first or last encounter with downbeat, as he has previously released on Aleph Zero, and he has a new purely downbeat project called Transmissions in Bloom. Judging by this track and the release on Aleph Zero we can expect some great things - lovely sort-of-ethnic-sort-of-modern chillout with a nice rainforest atmosphere and some great breakbeat grooves.

08. Zen Mechanics - Ground Control V.2 [136 BPM]
Back in 2005 Zen Mechanics released his first progressive track - the track was called "Ground Control", it was released on Iboga, and it turned out to become a small hit and afterwards also licensed to labels like Yellow Sunshine Explosion and Waldfrieden Events. Now here's a new, updated version. The main features are still the same, with the characteristic voice-sample playing a big role once again, but overall the production is much more up to todays standards, and the semi-full on bassline and drive has been given a bit more punch. Great track.

09. Zen Mechanics - Holy Cities [136 BPM]
Finishing the album is the title-track "Holy Cities". I had it some time prior to the release, and have used it for great effect at a couple of occasions - the style is again semi full on, semi progressive trance - the fact that the speed is lowered to 136 BPM makes it more suitable for the midday, and I consider it something of a nice, uplifting outdoor anthem. Great closer for the album.

Bottom line:

In today's over flooded market of full on music, it's rare to see artists waiting four years after their debut to release their first album. Maybe more should follow Wouter's example - compared to most new albums on the morning full on market, "Holy Cities" is a very mature album, with very high quality crisp production, a well-composed flow and enough variety to even appeal to some of the most picky progressive psytrance heads.

Make no mistake though - this is dancefloor music, and this album isn't going to change the world, but it certainly has more potential than the average full on album, which contains a couple of good or decent tracks, while the rest are fillers. The quality is consistent here, and this is much more than just DJ material. Well done.

Recommended release.


1, 2(!!), 3, 4, 8(!!), 9




          DJ pr0fane (Iboga Records) | Multiphase | |
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  104
Posts :  1047
Posted : Apr 14, 2008 20:26
Holy *hit!

Its hard to describe my thoughts, cause Im amazed here. I will follow pr0fanes great track by track review.

Lets say I was expecting the usual "high tech full on with superb sounds"(maybe the cause of my little disapoint at the preview samples), but it just "full on". The music here is not so high tech, without many "zips-zaps", "stop-start", strutter fx.... No overuse of big reverses/hit for climax buildups. The flow here is less dancefloor, but trippier. No instant hit track imo(for me Immerse is an instant hit, but I just love this easy jumpy spacey music ).

But this album deliver pure full on pleasure for me! It has many(not to say all) hight tech elements, but used in a clever way. Saying "high tech music" I think about Sub6, Domestic, Pixel, B&W... But listening to the tracks it reminds me much older music!!! Kind of deep and mysterious ones... Old logic Bomb(like "Off the Grid"), old "first tracks from Alien Project"(like "Immerse", but here in a much deeper way), old Space Cat/Wizzy Noise melodies, and even old progressive tunes with the "Ground Control v.2" and "Holy Cities". U can still listen to more regular high tech like "Modified", but again with clear structure(no insane reverse, or "the climax must": kick/snare fill). "Mecha" is another example of clean biuldup!

So, the conclusion: this album rocks big big time for me!!!! This is pure gold full on!

Favourites: 2(!!!!!), 3(!), 4(!!), 9.

Freakulizer / Khainz

Started Topics :  115
Posts :  932
Posted : Apr 15, 2008 21:20
a light in the dark ... great Album ! 

Started Topics :  3
Posts :  61
Posted : Apr 16, 2008 21:31
great album indeed
nice review
my favorites : 1(!!!), 2(!!!), 3, 8(!!), 9.

Started Topics :  0
Posts :  23
Posted : Apr 17, 2008 17:52
great review bro
i'd say my opinions match yours a lot at some point here

My Favorites:

1 - Off the Grid - awesome track, the bassline is just incredible. could've sounded boring but the driven atmosphere leaded by it makes u feel inside some kind of time tunnel

2 - Modified - this track was already known by most people but the album edit sounds a lot more EVIL. plus, its longer. the new sample on it is nice too, MODIFIED is gonna be a true psytrance classic from now on

3 - Mecha - this is a dancefloor 'playground' track for me, the kind of track that will make everybody smile like a young kid while dancing it. it gets real fun on the last part of it. pretty original too.

4 - Immerse - real atmospheric. nothing else to declare, amazing work they did together

5 - ground control v2 - real nice remake, as profane said, the semi-full-on bassline works real nice on this progressive tune. i really enjoy the sample echoing in the background but sometimes i feel the track gets a little repetitive. still very nice.

6 - holy cities - real good progressive track. im not sure if its the right track to be the name of the album though, once ZM is more of a fullon project. maybe mecha or off the grid would've been better.

7 - vale de lua - at first i was little disappointed by the fact that one of the spots on the album was taken by an ambient tune.... but now i think this was a real good choice. vale de lua is just amazing for chilling

8 - CBR - cyberspace becomes reality..... i liked the bassline a lot in the beginning, and some of the effects on it... but the melodies are a bit too much. sounds like a good track for a road trip though

9 - industry of love - nice track, its some kind of remake of another unreleased ZM track called inner space program. im not sure which one is better though, and sometimes i think they're both "too happy", but still enjoy them

overall = 9/10
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  61
Posts :  749
Posted : Apr 18, 2008 03:23
Just got this one today and I'm on my third listen. I've found it smooth and enjoyable so far. Very high-quality production and detail poured into a fairly standard full-on format. More later!

Started Topics :  0
Posts :  2
Posted : Apr 18, 2008 07:49
4. off the grid.
best track on the release.
its perfect to define todays psychedelic atmosphere trance.

Anyways i expected more from this release.

Started Topics :  1
Posts :  603
Posted : Apr 25, 2008 00:39
Zen Mechanics & Allaby - Immerse
Zen Mechanics - Off The Grid
these trackS are killers.. !!!

"this album isn't going to change the world, but it certainly has more potential than the average full on album"           LIFE Is Just The Choice Between FEAR and LOVE.
Voice of All
IsraTrance Junior Member

Started Topics :  48
Posts :  762
Posted : Apr 29, 2008 23:17
this is what i call the very very good release and especially minding all that crap that is out nowaday. heard it only once yet but truly impressed! nice stuff without doubt!           Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate awareness, empathy, and wisdom.
Inactive User

Started Topics :  118
Posts :  4444
Posted : May 1, 2008 07:31
great stuff .. tight , lower bpm fullon , good music .. cheers : )
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  61
Posts :  749
Posted : May 2, 2008 16:18
Great music for mountain biking, working out at the gym, the dancefloor. I'll enjoy listening to it over the summer. 7.5 / 10.
Ace Ventura

Started Topics :  21
Posts :  1088
Posted : May 3, 2008 14:44
Hands down the best psy release in a very long while...

its tempting to crown it as the "messiah of Full-on" - a scene that needed a fresh sound and boost since a while - But that would be underestimating this album,as it has a cross over sound that almost every trancer would like....alot of progressive elements(and even full prog trax like the new version of ground control + Holy cities),MASSIVE phat-ass crystal clear production,grooves that sit together like a glove and one dancefloor smasher after the other.

Not mucn more to say than a big fuckin' congrads and respect to the Woutsker for pulling it off!

rumble pack / motion drive
Rumble Pack

Started Topics :  23
Posts :  270
Posted : May 5, 2008 12:38
i can only repead what was allready said...

the best psy release since years...reminds me alot to the feelings i had when "Cosma - non stop" was released.

This stuff is deep as fuck!

congrats to wouter and neurobiotic for this milestone release 

Started Topics :  74
Posts :  498
Posted : May 5, 2008 13:49
indeed verry nice album...good work! 
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  193
Posts :  3858
Posted : May 5, 2008 18:01
Future classic...

Is rox!!
Trance Forum  Forum  Music Reviews - Zen Mechanics - Holy Cities (Neurobiotic, April 2008)

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