Dutch DJ Tiësto is like clubland's equivalent to J.R.R. Tolkien's one ring. The recipient of multiple DJ awards from DJ Magazine and other publications, this arena-sized attraction is the one who rules them all.
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There are also plenty of antitrance advocates, of course, who would love to see Tiësto thrown into the heart of Mount Doom. But Tiësto has gathered a band of unlikely associates to try to bring balance to the Force. OK, mixed metaphor, but Tiësto's latest album, Kaleidoscope, is a disorienting concept, an odd 17-track beast that brings together big-room instrumentation with indie-rock vocalists, and as a result, it confuses and amuses equally.
There is an aspect of Tiësto that is comparable to Star Wars, however. The spectacle he compiles has facets of religious experience mixed with both alien and antiquated technology. And his fans, who throw their eyes and spindly arms like antennae toward the heavens in their herald's presence, are fiercely loyal. To date, Tiësto doesn't appear to have made his Episode One misstep, though his latest may be a shock for those searching out manic abandon.
What is surprising is that with Kaleidoscope, his fourth full-length artist album, Tiësto has added something new to his bag of tricks: a little restraint. Vocalists, no matter how atypical for the genre, are reserved a reasonable amount of sonic real estate so they don't have to chew the trance scenery. That isn't to say there aren't swells or ping-ponging melodies. Most tracks head toward blow-up prog territory in their second half. Perhaps it's to make up for the lack of compelling instrumentals, a style previously one of Tiësto's strengths.
Really, what Kaleidoscope brings to mind is Paul Oakenfold's Bunkka album from 2002. There comes a point in every DJ's career where he or she seems to want to go full-on producer and try for pop-chart placement. Where Kaleidoscope and Bunkka differ, however, is that whereas Bunkka was Oakenfold watering things down to go full-on commercial, Kaleidoscope is more Tiësto mixing things up. There's less of a stench of desperation and more of a seeming quest for indie cred (tracks with Nelly Furtado and Cary Brothers aside). There's a touch of Moby-style widescreen bliss, some ambient beds, as well as the occasional buildup. But there are no anthems. Only time will tell whether Kaleidoscope will earn Tiësto another gold ring. But the album, semisuccessful as it is, certainly is a fascinating fellowship.