Category Archives: Music

Dakota’s Nine Skies At Dreamstate SF


Since the release of Thoughts Become Things (2009) and Thoughts Become Things ll (2011), fans of Markus Schulz’s experiment with the darker, progressive side of electronic music have been yearning for a Dakota performance. Those who were at Dreamstate San Francisco 2017 had the privilege of witnessing the reemergence of Schulz’s Dakota alias and the debut of his Nine Skies project.

Schulz told Angus Thomas Paterson in an interview for Insomniac that the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and the “turbulent political developments” of 2016 were some of the events that motivated the Miami-based artist to resurrect his techno infused trance. 

Schulz said about the upcoming project:

“What I’m doing with the Dakota show, it’s almost like a dark dancefloor musical. It’s called Nine Skies, and it’s the nine steps we go through in our quest for enlightenment . . . The live show has big moments . . . But it’s essentially a deeper, more thoughtful affair, and definitely not one of the shows where we’re shooting off fireworks at every drop.”

When the lights finally turned off Saturday night for Dakota, all of the chattering conversations turned into a roar as the screen behind Schulz was filled with bright stars mapping out a constellation of Earth and then of a (trance) baby. An ominous voice introduced us to the first “sky” as hymns filled the room. Everyone’s eyes glistened like the constellations on the screen, reflecting the LED lights projected from behind the man of the hour.

“I have been listening to Markus Schulz for years, and I love his Dakota stuff,” David Lopez, 28, Marin, told me before the set started. “To be honest, I never thought that we would even see a Dakota set. At least not in America.”

Fans were hypnotized by the beautiful visuals composed of vivid color and eliciting images that ranged from political strife to vast landscapes, to lustful bodies falling into carnal temptation. Schulz used symbolic images like the All-Seeing Eye (representing the physical, spiritual, and mental aspect of enlightenment) and the Power Fist to further highlight the message of a “sky” .

Dreamers heard a range of music from the familiar horns of “Mota-Mota”, a new production from Dakota, to classic tunes like “Cafe del Mar”. Schulz set was flawlessly strung together by powerful percussion and heavy synths. The crowd’s bodies became puppets to the string of beats from Dakota’s turntables. Aggressive kickdrums determined the intensity of one’s dance moves while euphoric melodies encompassed lovers to sway back-and-forth.   

Schulz also used lighting as a means to reflect the tone of the “skies”. When the theme contained pain, anger, and lust, shades of red and orange were used on the LED screen and shot through as lasers. Washes of blue and white illuminated the Civic Center during times of happiness and euphoria. A prime example was during Dakota’s recent release “Running Up That Hill” (featuring the angelic vocals of Bev Wild).

Emotions ran high during Sky Five: The Activist, the path of change in humanity. Fans saluted their middle fingers to the screen when a video of President Donald Trump’s inauguration played in black and white. The audio recording of Trump being sworn in was met with thundering anger from the fans. All of the rage in the room was soon soothed by images of Dr. King, Tupac, and the famous Tank Man at Tiananmen Square. Along with the iconic chords of “The Way It Is”, the duality of hate and peace was perfectly put together.

This was the moment in Schulz’s Nine Skies where I felt a connection with Dakota. A connection that I have not felt before in my ten years of festival attendance.

To be honest, I felt nervous during the first red-tinted video of CGI soldiers marching under a red sun. This feeling during a music festival was foreign to me, a little uncomfortable. I’m sure many others were in the same situation. But I realized this uneasy feeling was what Schulz wanted to evoke out of us, something that connects us to his artwork that transcends cliches of DJs and festivals. At the end of the whole journey, I was glad I was able to feel a rollercoaster of emotions at a music festival. Experiences like this are what makes a performance memorable.  

Before Schulz finished his time with Paterson, he spoke of his legacy and what he wanted to leave behind. “I want to create something that will endure for many, many years to come,” he said. “Something that people can look back at whenever they have hard times to listen to, watch it, and hopefully be enlightened by it as well.” It’s hard to not dwell on your own legacy when a man who has traveled the world and achieved many accomplishments in his life leaves you with pondering words.

The audiovisual experience of the Nine Skies sets a new benchmark of storytelling at a music festival. Trance Family SF will remember this masterpiece in their hearts as they reflect on Schulz’s legacy. With promises of a unique Nine Skies experience every show, I can only hope to see what Dakota has in store for the Electric Daisy Carnival.



Arkham Knights’ “Odyssey” Towards Stardom

As we enter a new year, we cannot help but reflect on the rising stars of 2016. No other trance DJs have had a better year than Arkham Knights. Fans quickly took a liking to Ben and Stuart’s genre-breaking style that incorporates euphoric melodies with the dark progression of electro and house. Since signing with the Schulz Music Group earlier this year, the two have been bombarding music sites -like SoundCloud- with groovy Afterhours mixes and live sets. The Turner brothers capped off their year with the same fiery momentum that sparked their ascension to fame with a release that pays tribute to their “Odyssey” so far.

Their recent production carries the legacy of the AKs’ sound. A heavy percussion starts off this musical voyage that immediately bangs on the eardrums, leading into the main melody that washes in. Sharp chords establish the rhythm of the track with a continuous loop. A rolling snare kicks-off the drop into an aggressive bassline that pushes the climax to euphoric boundaries, while a reiterating kick drum and tapping hi-hats cycle in the background. There isn’t a lot of bells and whistles to this track, allowing the perfectly orchestrated melody to shine with such sharp precision, leaving a yearning for more.

Although the single was formally released on the 5th of December, fans were first capsized by it’s hypnotizing timbre by Mr. Coldharbour himself at Transmission in Prague. Audiences around the world got an opportunity to hear the track on the Nov. 10th episode of Global DJ Broadcast. Since then, “Odyssey” was heard throughout the Coldharbour families sets. Paul van Dyk also supported AKs’ new hit on his VONYC Session 529, and Armin van Buuren played it on A State Of Trance 793. The fan’s of GDJB showed their love for the track by voting it as the Global Selection (Track of the Week) two consecutive times.

With Ben and Stuart’s freshmen CHRL hit, “Knightfall,” surpassing over 100K plays on Spotify on Dec. 13th, there is no denying that the electronic music world has noticed the two men from the former wool capital of England. Leeds name originally derives from ‘Ladenses,’ an old Brythonic word that translates to “people of the fast-flowing river,” perfectly describing Ben and Stuart’s rise on the trance charts. Insomniac Events, the powerhouse behind the iconic Electric Daisy Carnival, eventually caught wind of the two and featured them in the August episode of Metronome.

Stuart’s visit to the iconic Avalon in Hollywood last April was the start of AKs’ presence in the US. His visit was the start of many world tours in dark nightclubs and on festival stages around the world. The growing list includes the Transmission “The Lost Oracle” Pre-Party in October, sharing the main stage with fellow CHRL DJ Fisherman & Hawkins at the iconic Club Mecca and a gig right in their backyard at Mint Club Leeds. The two showed their hometown some love with a three hour set at the Leeds Trance Family event Trance Awakenings Part 2.

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AKs’ most recent conquest was taking the stage with fellow CHRL mate Dave Neven and Solid Stone this past January. Despite missing Ben on the stage, the lineup was stacked in Montreal as those three warmed up the cold Canadian night for the Boss Man, readying the crowd for some good-ole-fashioned unicorn slaying. Pictures from the January event looked massive as dance music fans covered two floors and over 40,000 square feet of the old coal factory. Lively fans danced the night away inside an old industrial building that contrasted the modern technology of pulsing speakers and futuristic strobe lights.

Odyssey is an epic word that describes a long wandering but fulfilling journey. For many, the word odyssey is synonymous with Homer’s epic poem. The word loses no value here as Ben and Stuart chose it to title their latest hymn. The timing of this release could not have been more perfect as we prepare for new music in 2017. “Odyssey” firmly makes a statement for everyone in the EDM community and TranceFamilies across the world: Arkham Knights are here and are a force to watch out for as they continue their quest to stardom.

You can stream “Odyssey” on Spotify or SoundCloud or download it at Beatport.

Review: ‘Watch The World’ Acoustic Tracks

News of a new artist album by Markus Schulz has been brewing for quite some time now. If you have had a chance to attend one of his sets in this past couple of years, you have been paying attention to the IDs. Not to mention the ID teases in the Global DJ Broadcast. Once the date of April 29th, 2016 was announced, and the release of the acoustic versions of the album on YouTube, the anticipation of the album was upon us.

The ability to get all of the acoustic versions with a Pre-Order on iTunes as well as access on Spotify has been great. Other than the normal interview or article about the album, the Unicorn Slayer has been gracious enough to share back stories of the tracks via Facebook Live videos.  From his passion through creative writing to the ideas shared with vocalists and co-writers, you can tell Markus has put his heart and soul into the album.

For all of us who enjoy trance and the melodies, it makes complete sense to start with acoustic versions of the tracks. “In the Night” featuring Brooke Tomlinson tells a beautiful story of a relationship struggles highlighted beautifully by Brooke’s vocals.  “Love Me Like You Never Did” featuring Ethan Thompson continues the story telling, but the journey through the vocals as well as the music itself keeps you compelled.

It was nice to listen to the acoustic version of “Destiny” after loving the trance version released over a year ago. This different version gives you a new perspective on the track entirely. Without becoming a broken record, the vocals from everybody on this album are fantastic. Please take the time to listen and digest the acoustic versions before you find yourself engrossed in the trance versions.


Review: Fisherman & Hawkins Feat. Sir Adrian “Never The Same”

Having cemented themselves as an established piece of the Coldharbour Recordings furniture, Fisherman & Hawkins’ trailblazing journey continues into 2016 with a new adventure, making a foray into the world of vocal trance, and aided by one of its finest exponents.

Ever since chiseled anthem “Apache” broke barriers, the Dutch duo of Isaac Vissers & Rob Koopmans has impressed worldwide attendants with the approach of melodic power and panache; becoming staple performers of the ascending Coldharbour Nights.

Fisherman & Hawkins

“Never The Same” starts off with the familiar 131 bpm of a Fisherman & Hawkins produced track along with nice slow hard-hitting mids that start to pick up with the trademark dark tuned sound that has come to be synonymous with their name.

When the breakdown of the song is reached we are in for a surprise with original vocal lyrics provided by Sir Adrian. Who lends a haunting voice that will be etched in minds for years to come as he leads the song back into a head bobbing, energy filled melody to round out the track.

Fisherman & Hawkins feat. Sir Adrian - Never The Same

The one word used to sum this song up would be shattering in the way it has combined the sound of Fisherman & Hawkins with original lyrics that has me waiting on the edge of my seat for the next lyrical track Isaac & Rob will crank out. We will without a doubt be hearing plenty of this song in the coming year in many of Coldharbour DJ sets, that will have us singing along.

“Never The Same” is available on Beatport: Fisherman & Hawkins feat. Sir Adrian – Never The Same

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Lyrics to “Never The Same” by Fisherman & Hawkins Featuring Sir Adrian 

We are born into the day
A ray of light
Break of dawn inside
The echoes of the night
A trade what’s left to right,
I won’t go wrong
And from the start it won’t be long,
You are where I belong
I hear your name
Never the same
I feel the flame
Never the same


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Review: Dan Thompson & Ron Alperin “The Punisher”

Englishman Dan Thompson is surely an artist which has been making his own ripples in the wild rapids of dance music. Here we see him teaming up with newcomer to the scene Israeli Ron Alperin. Ron can be joyous indeed as he already has had a nice string of releases on labels such as Coldharbour and AEZ Recordings. It was only logical that these two had to get together in the music lab and create a monster. This is the honest truth as “The Punisher” is a track that will be talked about amongst dance music enthusiasts for quite some time! Combining their musical cores and influences as one, the result is nothing short of amazing. ”The Punisher” delivers some serious punishment on the dance floor, infused with raw energy and a lead that remains intact in one’s memory. The eerie vocal snippets combined with the dark atmosphere prepare us for what lays ahead. Once the break arrives and the epic melody takes over, the temperature begins to rise, as the soaring lead infiltrates our mind and we feel ourselves being taken over by an invisible force urging us to dance frantically to the beat. Open your ears and let “The Punisher” enforce you to dance!

Dan Thompson & Ron Alperin “The Punisher” is available now on Coldharbour Recordings as part of the EP ‘Markus Schulz Presents Coldharbour Selections: Part 39 – Trance Nation Edition’.  Additional tracks on the EP include Danilo Ercole “Format” and Artisan “World’s Apart”.


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Review: Arkham Knights “Knightfall”

Arkham Knights is rapidly gaining the attention of dark, progressive trance lovers everywhere after only exploding into the scene a year ago on Infrasonic and Interstate Recordings. Stuart and Ben Turner are the two brothers under the vigilant name that strikes fear into the hearts of villains that haunts the Dark Knight’s world in the DC Universe. Their success was quickly recognized with hits like “Tomorrow’s World” and “Jedi”, a collaboration with Harry Square. Markus Schulz is also a witness to their achievements as Coldharbour Recordings releases their recent production under their mantel.


With the shadow of their Cowl to live up to, “Knightfall” starts off as powerful as the name. Within the first few seconds, a pounding bass starts the march as a looping electro synth and an escalating jingle ignites the light of war. Once the sharp taps of a snare drums are present, the intensity of the song is heightened. The allied cymbals and kick-drums starts to bang with more conviction, fighting together towards the much anticipated climax. However, there is a calm before the storm as a washout breakdown provides a peaceful break with its beautiful chords that omits an uplifting melody that allows one to survey the dance floor before engaging into combat. The euphoric calm comes to the end with the return of rhythmic tom toms and snares. The drop releases a cavalry composed of instruments and electronic synths that have been built up from the fury of pounding percussions and ravishing melodies of strings and pads produced chords. Once the battle is over, an aggressive drum-roll and a victorious bass leads us off the battlefield.

“Knightfall” is an amazing and energetic track. The Turner brothers does a great job using effective percussions with quick short taps and looping synths that emulates the heated passion of war and victory. At first, the track begins with such raw emotion from different sounds, but as the battle paves way on the dance floor, everything finds its place and forms a synergy of music with a duality of beauty and aggression that makes you want to clinch your fist and scream out your allegiance to these new heroes. Like their release on Infrasonic and Interstate, the track combines elements of techno and progressive perfectly that’s energetic and fun for those who attempts to conquer the dance floor. This track lives up to its predecessors as it is still on Beatport’s Trance Top 10 after its debut four weeks ago. There’s no losing steam for these two. As the battle for The Cowl continues by DJs throughout the world, the Arkham Knights are going to be strong players in that battle as we fall victim to their might on their path to be the best.

“Knightfall” is available on Beatport: Arkham Knights – Knightfall. The track is also available now on Spotify.


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Review: Markus Schulz & Nifra “The Creation (Prague) [Transmission Theme 2015]”

In a few days will take place one of the biggest indoor trance event in Europe, The amazing Transmission in Prague. Markus, who is always saying this event is part of the most important one to him, is considered as the Transmission resident DJ. So it is really not a surprise he will be Saturday for the 11th time on the magical O2 Arena stage.

To me, Transmission is really the event “not to be missed” too.   Everything contributes to make this party a perfect one: the city, the iconic venue, the show with all these lasers & lights, the line-up and, of course, the epic Czech crowd! it’s also probably the event with the most of my friends and familiar faces around, coming from more than 60 countries.

As he promised months ago, Markus wrote, for the 7th time, an anthem track dedicated to this event, which will also be the November track of his upcoming City Series album.  But, the big surprise is that he didn’t do it alone.  Indeed, this track, named “The Creation”, is also his first collaboration with the Slovakian Trance queen and Coldharbour artist, Nifra.

The result is a 7:27 minutes long incredible but unusual track, very different from previous Transmission Anthems. I have to admit I was a bit worry when Markus posted a few seconds extracts of the track on Snapchat, but it didn’t last long! What a good surprise, last October, in Amsterdam, when I heard Markus playing it for the first time! After the breakdown, a strong and powerful lead sound is used to build a long and progressive journey till the climax, that I’m sure will make people becoming crazy with all the Transmission Lasers in action! For sure, this moment will be one of the highlights of this new unforgettable night in the Czech Republic capital.

Transmission tracks written by Markus Schulz:

Markus Schulz & Nifra “The Creation (Prague)” (2015)

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Markus Schulz – Seven Sins (2014)

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Markus Schulz & Elevation – The Machine of Transformation (2013)

Markus Schulz – The Spiritual Gateway (2013)

Markus Schulz – Digital Madness (2011)

Markus Schulz – Future Cities (2010)

Markus Schulz – The New World (2008)

Review: James De Torres “Poseidon”

Age is nothing but a number when it comes to Spanish DJ James (Borja) De Torres. The Madrid native makes his sophomore production debut on M.I.K.E. Push Studios, a sub-label of Coldharbour Recordings. After spending 10 years mastering the musical strings of the violin, Torres love for awe-inspiring music eventually lead him to develop an ear for the sounds of trance.

Following his first release, “Monumental”, “Poseidon” displays Torres ability to create beautiful melodies that encompass the rhythm of the drum. The track starts off with quick rudiments that are soon engulfed by a revving synth. This creates a series of musical tides that crashes beautifully on the shores of our ears, as the cries of the sea howls in the background. It doesn’t take long for the track to pick up speed as it nears the breakdown. The driving momentum of the song, however, comes from the fluctuating percussions and sharp taps of the cymbal instead of electronic pads and keyboards. Despite all the heavy drum strokes that accumulates towards the climax, the percussions are not overpowering and perfectly compliments the euphoric tones. And unlike most songs with a powerful bass, the release does not lose its momentum after the drop. Instead of a basic banger drop, the snares and tom-tom gracefully transcends the drop into a groovy beat that is sure to get the dance floor moving. The electronic chords are the beautiful like magnificent sea, while the drums are the ripples that create violent waves, crashing with the wrath of Poseidon, emulating a musical tsunami.

James (Borja) De Torres

Torres unleashes a musical arsenal in his second track; there are a plethora of instruments and synths that are integrated into the song. The combined melodies feels like a musical ocean that washes over you. He does an excellent job using percussions as the backbone of the song that is perfectly balanced. Throughout the track, you can hear, and feel, a drummer working his artful craft on a drum kit, tapping the hi hats and kicking the kick drum. As he sets a high bar after his second release, the trance world is going to have to wait anxiously for his third production as Torres continues to grow into an international DJ.

“Poseidon” is available on Beatport:  James De Torres – Poseidon



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Klauss Goulart - Bashert

Review: Klauss Goulart – Bashert (We’ll Meet Again)

In addition to his recent success with progressive house, i.e. his track “Young, Wild, and Free”, Brazilian DJ Klauss Goulart still continues to produce beautiful trance with powerful melodies. His new single, “Bashert”, has recently been a frequent flyer in Mr. Coldharbour’s sets. For fans who haven’t had the opportunity to see Schulz live, the folks at Coldharbour have provided plenty of opportunities to hear it on their weekly Global DJ Broadcast.

Bashert is a Yiddish word that means destined to be in-love with, or being with your one true soulmate. Thus explaining the immense level of emotions throughout this love story. That intensity can be felt in the beginning as the track immediately conjures up a warm emotion with its potent notes that’s pushed by a strong kick drum, accompanied by light horns. Then, a cymbal sweeps in for a washout breakdown that’s filled with a perfect combination of electronic sounds that generates an alluring reverberation of echoes. The smooth, airy synths provides an atmospheric feel where you cannot help but close your eyes while Goulart plays with your emotions through your ears. When we are ready to reach the climax of this musical romance, rapid chords starts to fire like a beating heart as quick riding cymbals, joined by a strong bassline, thrusts us towards love. After emotions are felt and released, everything comes together once more as the pads continues to create a spirited, progressive synth before the harmony fades into the beating of a drum.

With a subtitle like “We’ll Meet Again”, you can’t help but picture a Hollywood montage where you’re reunited into an old lover’s arms. This track doesn’t tell just one story, but everyone’s story who has ever felt love. Like his previous hit, “Absolute Chaos”, “Bashert” doesn’t depend on heavy drops for its energy and hooks fans with its consistent progression of euphoric melodies that builds up for an explosive release. I can see why Schulz has been so fond of this track. If you don’t want to wait for its release on Coldharbour Recordings, you can catch Goulart’s new track on the Ministry of Sound’s ‘Trance Nation’ compilation, which is also mixed by yours truly, Markus Schulz.

Trance Nation

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Facecdown Markus Schulz

Review: Markus Schulz Featuring Soundland “Facedown”

Markus Schulz has partnered with Kazibo on his latest track “Facedown” which features Soundland. The song is a remarkably ambitious musical turn for Schulz featuring an anthem indie art rock theme showing off yet another impressive side to his talent as a fresh and relevant modern songwriter. There are two versions of the song.

The acoustic version of the song begins with a hooky, catchy, jangly acoustic guitar riff surprisingly reminiscent of something you would hear an indie band playing at a coffee shop. A kick drum propels the song along at a head bobbing pace and then drops into a chill indie feel as vocals skillfully guide the track along on a journey that appears to tell the tale of a couple’s shattered dreams and unrealized ambitions. The main jackpot of the song is the subtle synth keyboards propelling it underneath which takes the listener on a beautiful emotional ride the sound of which reminds you of times riding unicorns and horses on a merry-go-round as a child.

The club mix of “Facedown” is even more ambitious. Once again the song begins with the same indie guitar riff but underneath it is Schulz’s synth keys out of the gate beginning to build the song soaring upward. A short time later the indie vocals kick in and the song soars higher but without any drums. And then the vocals stop and the keyboards shatter through the song building it higher and higher with bass and rising tension until a thick kick drum pulsates throughout the song making it irresistibly danceable. As it builds into a frenzy the song goes to a drop until once again it is just guitar, keys and the vocals which builds it up all over again. After the song builds for a while the song quite suddenly explodes once again into drums and a full orchestra of both real instruments and DJ beat magic. Only an artist of Schulz’s stature could have attempted something so musically innovative and unlike the character’s in his lyrics he has exceeded expectations quite handily.

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