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Album review: Paul Van Dyk's 'Evolution'

April 3, 2012 |  4:00 am

For a good half-decade now, Top 40 pop has been leaning toward the proudly synthetic, inexorably propulsive sound of European club music. On "Evolution," his first album of new material since 2007, the German DJ-producer Paul Van Dyk leans back. As its title suggests, the record is a progression, not an about-face: This A-list trance kingpin has long studded his whooshing beats with catchy vocal hooks delivered by guest singers; "In Between," Van Dyk’s previous studio set, contained collaborations with David Byrne and one of the Pussycat Dolls. But "Evolution" drives deeper into songfulness; it seems fully aware of the moment.

The album’s best track is also its most audacious: "Eternity," featuring Adam Young of Owl City, whose "Fireflies," from 2009, made a No. 1 pop hit out of the raw materials of cloistered bedroom electronica. Van Dyk’s partnership with Young here -- in a tune that more or less duplicates the sparkly wistfulness of "Fireflies" -- could be an appealing riposte to dance music’s purity squad. So, too, might "I Don’t Deserve You," in which the singer Plumb channels the airy defiance of Kelly Clarkson.

Not everything on "Evolution" is so sharply focused; the album’s middle section especially, feels larded with the kind of big-room sound-scaping Van Dyk can probably punch up in his sleep at this point. But this moment looks to be a long one. Maybe he’s leaving himself somewhere to go next time.


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 -- Mikael Wood

Paul Van Dyk
Two and a half stars