Darren Styles

Feel the Pressure

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As one half of Styles & Breeze, and with a gold solo debut album under his belt, DJ Darren Styles has undoubtedly been instrumental in the hard house scene's breakthrough into the mainstream. Indeed, thanks to his association with the hugely successful Clubland brand (a genre that has very rarely ventured outside its Scottish club roots) which Styles helped became a national radio staple; he's even helped Scooter, the forgotten '90s German techno outfit, claim a number one album, knocking Madonna out of the position in the process. Unlike the previous Styles' album Skydivin' -- which contained several radio-friendly anthems -- its follow-up, Feel the Pressure, ignores any commercial sensibilities, sticking rigidly to the thumping bass, hi-NRG synths and breakneck-beats formula of the hard house sound. It's a move that will certainly please fans who feel his more recent work pandered to the masses, but with 25 tracks spread over two discs, this new effort will pretty much alienate everyone else. It's a frustrating move, as there are several songs which show initial promise before veering off into his all-too-familiar signature sound. "Holding On" starts off as an early Human League-style '80s electro-pop number; the opening minute of "Universe" could be a Paul Van Dyk-esque ethereal trance anthem; while "Take You Down," "Take Me Away," and "Amigos" are all soulful, vocal-led drum'n'bass which are just as convincing as Chase & Status' Top 20 singles. The exception is the gorgeous "Light Up the Sky," a soaring acoustic ballad, surprisingly reminiscent of the re-formed Take That, which provides a welcome change of pace. Styles, who wrote Ultrabeat's number two hit "Pretty Green Eyes," obviously knows his way around a pop melody, but here, they are smothered by repetitive beats, heavily Auto-Tuned vocals, and chaotic production. Feel the Pressure will find an audience amongst the happy hardcore crowd, but Styles, who's capable of so much more, has certainly failed to cement both his early potential and his continuing chart presence.

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