In interviews, Van Buuren revels in technical jargon, software packages and digital keyboards. His personal account of how he got into producing is more a list of what equipment he discovered and when. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing - he is one of the most gifted producers of dance music, or any other music type. But as with all music, you can't produce the intangible essence that makes a great melody - it just has to come naturally.
Listening to 76, you can see why Van Buuren is so widely admired within his own industry. With every beat perfectly in place, every transition flawless, every channel in perfect synch his technical performance verges on virtuoso. But lying among all this perfection are the ruins of several beautiful tunes, all cut to ribbons by the cold steel of the mixing desk.
That said "76" does have several very nice dance floor pleasers. The driving build-up-break down velocity of "Precious" is sweetened with a topping of glorious warm synth, while "Astronauts" positively cuddles up to you as it trips gently through a delicately filigreed soundscape. With "Yet Another Day" Van Buuren successfully twins Ray Wilson's (ex Genesis) gravely vocals with a solid platform of dark beats and sweeping cymbals.
There a few howlers as well. "Never Wanted This" meanders pointlessly, sounding like an LP being played at the wrong speed. And in "Wait for You" Van Buuren borrows far too freely from Paul Van Dyk's classic "For An Angel" for him to call it his own tune.
This is not to say that "Van Buuren is a lost cause, on the contrary "76" is largely excellent. But, like a violin maker whose understanding of the instrument allows him to play it very well, Van Buuren is still not really a musician, he is a technician. He will not fulfil his obvious great potential until he grasps his music with both hands and forgets the technical tricks.- Alistair FairweatherWHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:
Fans of trance music will love this cd, it satisfied every desirable element of a trance album for me. If you're not the biggest trancehead, 76 will give you a taste of the best trance music being produced today. Check out the samples and enjoy listening to the cd, I did!- Hudson Alexander for About.com, who rated it *****
A valuable a CD for aspiring DJs, and an equally as enjoyable record for lounge room dancers, Armin's first album is pretty much a necessity for dedicated trance fans.- Ministry of Sound, Australia
I hate Armin van Buuren's new "artist debut" album, 76, the way I hate bad hangovers, L.A. traffic and Donald Rumsfeld. I hate it so much that the thought of having to listen to it again is actually making me queasy- Andy Hermann for Pop Matters
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