Timo Maas rose from obscurity to godhead status with his remix of Azzido Da Bass' "Dooms Night," a wildly praised genre mash-up that was adopted as an anthem by movements as far afield as trance and two-step garage. Appealing to fist-pumpers and chin-strokers alike, Maas's 1999 mix swept the contentious dance world into an unusual show of unity. The bigger miracle, though, has been Maas' enduring campaign to lend credibility to trance (or "progressive house"), a genre generally written off as a laughingstock, even as it remains dance music's most likely candidate for sweeping chart success. As popularized by Paul Oakenfold, Sasha & John Digweed, and Paul Van Dyk, trance is bland and uninteresting by design, a style dictated by the functional necessities of streamlined DJ sets and populist super-club environments. The off-center groove and airy clangs of his "Dooms Night" mix notwithstanding, Maas indulges in many of trance's overproduced excesses. But with Loud, his first album of original tracks, he invests the form's anthemic, buffed-to-shine languor with restless energy and a distinctive air of gloom and doom. "Help Me" colors Maas' self-proclaimed "percussive wet funk" with haunted vocals by Neptunes muse Kelis and a theremin/horn score worthy of an epic '50s science-fiction film, while "Manga" follows with a massive groove that rushes forward like the most brow-furrowing techno. Maas' huge production style begs for a big-room sound system, but Loud is loaded with artful nuances that elude most producers with even tenuous ties to trance. "Hash Driven" takes a mid-tempo jaunt through a skittery dub-scape, while relentless floor-movers (the ragga-tinged "Shifter," the acid-freaking "Old School Vibes") meander through uncommonly inventive breakdowns and interludes. Overflowing with steely highs and the "Dooms Night"-style vacuum warps that have become dance music's weightiest signifier, Loud is a rare trance album with both energy to burn and secrets to hide.

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