Something is rotten in the province of Holland.
Let me start by saying that I am a full supporter of artists who choose to defy genres and stereotypes to experiment with music. Music cannot evolve without producers pushing boundaries and making music with people many wouldn’t expect to.
I think sometimes a line must be drawn in the sand, like in the current case of Hardwell and Armin Van Buuren. The musical grey of “trouse” has always been a sore subject – especially for trance purists – who made their distaste for acts like New World Punx, W&W, and Tritonal known throughout the past few years. Though it hasn’t completely faded away, most acts either fully crossed over to big room or reverted back to trancier sounds.
Armada has continued to not only hold on, but has broken down the genre walls altogether, reaching across the aisles to sign artists no one would ever expect to be in the same breath as Armin Van Buuren . Early this year, acts like Borgore and Tommy Trash saw their first releases on the Dutch label, which were met with nothing but jeers and heavy criticism.
Sure, it may seem hypocritical that someone who enjoys all genres would be so quick to disapprove of a collaboration between Armin and Hardwell, but I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to question the motives of a DJ and his massive label. What started off as a few missteps now looks like something closer to an identity crisis, as the label is becoming more of a catch-all for whatever’s popular rather than a place to establish new trends.
The track in question “Off the Hook” might be labelled as Progressive House, but the only word for it is Trouse, even though Armin stated during its ASOT premiere that he wanted to make a track that was more than the sum of its parts. With a big-room-esque synth build that sounds like an electric kazoo and a typical orchestral breakdown, the track doesn’t sound as cohesive as one might expect from two of the most celebrated producers in the world. There was potential here for Hardwell and Armin to bring fans together with a melodic, high energy track, but instead it misses the mark completely and falls flat.
As your parents would say, “I’m not mad, I’m just…disappointed.”
This is only the second track from Armin’s upcoming album Embrace, but things are not off to a good start so far.