Thursday, March 19, 1998

Sound Development and Personalities

Rank 1?
So who is Rank 1? Rank 1 is a Dutch Trance/Dance Music formation composed of Piet Bervoets and Benno de Goeij. Besides having Piet to represent them as DJ and producing tracks together, they are also known to do live performances of their tracks every now and then. This is the only moment that Benno is also seen on stage. Piet has always been the DJ of the duo (since Benno can't stand the hectic life of a DJ) whilst up until 2003 he was also involved with the Rank 1 productions full-time. From 2004 onward however, they changed their format. Piet would still be involved with producing but not as much as before: his main territory became the dancefloor. Benno in the meantime became the mastermind behind the productions, catching up with Piet every now and then to discuss directions to a new track. People often seem confused when first learning about Rank 1 so to clear things up:

How did they meet? In various written and recorded interviews alike they've explained that a mutual friend introduced them to each other back in 1997. Piet was already familiar with Dance Music and had already DJed and produced a couple of records before. Benno had no productions skills whatsoever but this would soon change. With his academy of music background he did have a feel for sweeping melodies, something that would reveal itself in the productions to come.

In another interview the guys explained that back in 1999 they were looking at a new label deal and were searching for a new alias to sign with it. It was then that they started joking how it would be funny to see the name "Rank 1" at the first rank in the charts. With their first two-track EP "Black Snow / The Citrus Juicer", Rank 1 introduced itself to the world. It was with their second release under this new name however, that the world embraced them: "Airwave" was their biggest, most acknowledged track ever, having appeared on nearly any compilation claiming to represent the best of Dance/Trance/Techno/etc. throughout the decades and often having been mentioned as the inspiration for many later generation (Trance) producers and DJs. With Airwave, their initial joke became reality as they topped the European dance charts. From that point onward, Rank 1 would become Piet and Benno's most successful project. Consider we are 15 years ahead of Black Snow/The Citrus Juicer and they are still going strong!

Also check
- Sound samples of all Piet and/or Benno-related release EVER:
- Meet Rank 1 on Facebook:
- Meet Rank 1 on Twitter:
- Meet Piet on Twitter:
- Meet Benno on Twitter:

The Rank 1 Sound: 1999-2003
Rank 1 fans of the first hour will mostly describe and lament how these were Rank 1's finest years. By far the most of their tracks in this period were driving, euphoric, uplifting Trance tracks, sometimes complimented by classical Strings (think "Such Is Life") or influences (think "Symsonic"). Though they experimented with Breaks and even some deeper, rawer (techy) tracks in this period (Deep Dub mixes of Superstring, Such Is Life and the track "Down From The Deep"), it cannot be denied that most of their acknowledged/beloved Classics date back from this era. If one was first introduced to their latter sounds before getting into this early part of their discography however, some of the tracks (especially the remixes from 2000) might sound extremely similar. I personally found out about the majority of these remixes after I had been following them closely from 2004-2007 and I must admit that for me their weakest productions date back from this era. That said, there were also some beautiful gems to be found among the oldies ("Reachers Of Civilization (Rank 1 Remix)", "Cry (Rank 1 Remix)" & "Underwater (Rank 1 Remix)" most notably). This era produced their first studio album "Symsonic", an album which I believe is essential to anyone calling or ever having called themselves a Trance fan: it showcased more than just Trance yet it managed to keep a Trance element in nearly all of its tracks. Rank 1's combination of Classically based melodies, string guidance and eagerness to experiment led to a very diverse yet coherent album.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[1999-2000] Rank 1 - Airwave (Original / Rank 1 vs. Dutch Force Mixes)
[2000] Cygnus X - Superstring (Rank 1 Remix)
[2000] York - Reachers Of Civilization (Rank 1 Remix)
[2000] Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fantasy (Rank 1 Remix)
[2001] Rank 1 - Such Is Life (Original / Extended Mixes)
[2001] Delirium feat. Rani - Underwater (Rank 1 Remix)
[2002] Rank 1 - Awakening (Original Version)
[2002] Rank 1 - Symsonic
[2003] Rank 1 - Breathing (Airwave 2003) (Breaks Dub)
[2003] Sensation - The Anthem 2003 (Original Mix)
[2003] Rank 1 - It's Up To You (Symsonic) (Dub Vocal Mix / Instrumental Dub)

The Rank 1 Sound: 2004-2005
"Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom" will be a track that some Rank 1 fans of the previous period dread up till this day as it marked Rank 1's radical sound shift away from the sound that made them famous. For others however, including yours truly, this track was the first acquaintance with the mighty duo. This track started their venture into deeper, harder and rawer sounds: Rank 1 had officially gone Techtrance. Though "After Me", the Breaks-driven and string-laced B-side of the Trance Energy 2005 Anthem still had a hint of the older/more melodic Rank 1 side, the follow-up EP would contain one of the craziest Techtrance records I had ever encountered. The A-side of this 2005 EP contained "Opus 17", a melancholic, tragic yet powerful Trancer which I personally find a very underrated Rank 1 production but this could be due to the fact that it was so moody and different from their usually very euphoric style. Its main lead used a slightly techy sound which seemed to have been the precursor to the leads used in Jochen Miller's "9 Minutes" and Armin van Buuren's "Tuvan" (both tracks in which Benno was involved as a co-producer). The B-side contained "Top Gear", up till this day the most unique and distinctive Techtrance record I have heard: being based on all sorts of crazy twists and bends with mechanical sounds and effects, this track must have shocked people even more than Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom did: Top Gear was devoid of any melody. In this interesting Trance Addict topic [], Benno enters the debate with people about several things including why they radically changed the Rank 1 sound. He explained how they'd always tried to experiment with things that other people hadn't done before and that they were always seeking to make a better track than their previous release: this is how the music stayed fresh and fun. Beside these techy singles, this period also saw the release of two techy remixes: Mr. Sam's "Lyteo (Rank 1 Remix)" and ATB's "Humanity (Rank 1 Remix)". Lyteo's main lead synth was a bit similar to Opus 17's though much more aggressive whilst Humanity's main lead seemed to be the proto-type sound for a bunch of productions  that followed in later years.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2004] Rank 1 - Beats At Rank-1 Dotcom (Extended Mix)
[2005] Mr. Sam - Lyteo (Rank 1 Remix)
[2005] Rank 1 - Top Gear (Original Mix)

The Rank 1 Sound: 2006-2008
With the emergence of 2006, the guys turned their sound from the hard and fast Techtrance to the slower more infectious Electro style: "Life Less Ordinary", their first official Rank 1 collaboration, with Alex M.O.R.P.H. and the Duderstadt brothers, was hailed as one of the very cornerstones of the Electro-Trance revolution of 2006-2008 that followed the Techtrance wave of 2004-2005 and was dropped by nearly any self-respecting big name in the scene at that time. They continued to develop this sound further with their second collaboration "This World Is Watching Me"; this time they teamed up with Armin van Buuren and Kush. In this video interview [], Benno explained that the collaboration was created for the Rank 1 guest performance he and Piet were to give at Armin Only 2006: having said they'd always do a track together, the gents thought now was the right time to do so. Rank 1's Electro-driven beats reached a new powerful climax with their third collaboration "And Then...": this time Jochen Miller was their partner in crime. And Then... proved to be one of their most powerful live performed tracks next to the usual favorites Airwave and Superstring (Rank 1 Remix). Being an ID track for a while, it was massively popular by the end of 2007 and continued to be a crowd-favorite during most of 2008. This was the last track they made with a distinctive Electro-based body, as late 2008 would see them adopt a so-called "nu-Trance" style. Meanwhile, their remixes showcased some great variety in this era: "This Way (Rank 1 Remix)" was their most Trance-based effort (despite being a bit of a crossover with RvG's emo-rockish breakdown), followed by the "Love Kills (Rank1 Remixes)": The Rank 1 Extended Vocal Mix was melodic and catchy whereas the Rank 1 Dub Mix was much deeper and more club-oriented. "Analog Feel (Rank 1's Digital Rehash)" saw the guys switch back to Techtrance before heading into a more Progressive sort of direction with "The Future (Rank 1 Remix)" and even a bit of a Tribal/Balearic Progressive feel through the much underrated "Touch The Sun (Rank 1 Remix)". Their own "A Less Ordinary Rank 1 Remix" for Life Less Ordinary was a further enhancement of the Electro-based original, seeking to bring a funky Trance lead together with a loud though different Electro bassline. Percussion-wise Rank 1 was reaching new heights in this era if you ask me. With "Undone (Rank 1 Remix)" they left Electro and headed into a more catchy light-hearted direction until they hit the scene with two loaded Techno-based beasts with the funniest names I've ever seen them give to their remixes so far: "And Then... (Rank 1's Minimal Progressive Techno Electro Trance Mix)" and "On Fire (Rank 1's No This Ain't Trance Like '99 Remix)". With "Embrace Me (Rank 1 Remix)" they decided to go less hard and more funky again, retaining a bit of a deep vibe in the build whilst unleashing an And Then sort of riff (though less impressive). The last remix they were to make before 2010 was "Lost Luggage (Rank 1 Remix)": it was the Tranciest remix they had made in a while and it revealed what direction their sound was to take for the coming years with all sorts of crystal clear sounds and cool melodic synthwork.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2006/2007] Alex M.O.R.P.H. vs. Rank 1 - Life Less Ordinary (Alex M.O.R.P.H. Original / A Less Ordinary Rank 1 Mixes)
[2007] Cosmic Gate - Analog Feel (Rank 1's Digital Re-hash)
[2008] Anton Sonin & AMX feat. Sari - Undone (Rank 1 Remix)
[2008] Rank 1 vs. Jochen Miller - And Then... (Original Mix)
[2008] Ronald van Gelderen - Embrace Me (Rank 1 Remix)

The Rank 1 Sound: 2009-2011
The infamous Rank 1-Strings saw their mighty return in their second Trance Energy Anthem "L.E.D. There Be Light": the previous periods had given them enough experimental knowledge to put down a new, slower yet euphoric and energetic type of Trance that would prove they were still relevant 10 years after Airwave.  Unlike those early days however, these new Trancers would not have long sweeping melodies like Such Is Life, Airwave, Opus 17 or Symsonic. Instead they would have short, rhythmic pounding riffs on powerful (slightly techy) synths to sweep crowds of their feet. If I said And Then... was a crowd-favorite during their live performances, then you should hear people go wild during L.E.D.! I believe that what Airwave was for the eldest generation of Trance fans, L.E.D. might just be for the newer generations. Shortly following L.E.D.'s official release in February 2009, the guys were approached to do an Anthem for Poland's Sunrise Festival which resulted in an orchestral-string based anthem with another short-yet-powerful L.E.D. sort of riff. I've always wondered whether the gentle gated saw in the epic breakdown was a wink to their older pre-2004 work? As 2010 approached the guys teamed up with Jochen Miller for the second time, leading to their fourth collaboration in general: "The Great Escape" was a massive hit in 2010 and anyone seeking to move their crowds would drop it at one point in their sets. If L.E.D. might be considered Airwave 2009, then TGE can definitely be considered Awakening 2010: a similar style main lead on massive supersaws that was a respectful wink to Rank 1's old euphoric sound whilst at the same time hailing their brand new energetic sound. And guess what? They scored their third Anthem in a row with TGE which was chosen to represent the Polish Entrance 2010 event. Much like the previous year, the next Rank 1 single followed pretty fast: in June they unleashed their fifth official Rank 1 collaboration. Nic Chagall, Wippenberg and the Rank 1 gentlemen delivered "100" to commemorate High Contrast Recordings' 100th release milestone. 100 seemed to be a fusion of the previous three releases, using Symfo-style strings in the breakdown, with a L.E.D./TGE style main lead and tech/saw synths to shake the floors. Personally I felt this track never really matched up to the epic feel of the previous three but it was a solid record nonetheless! With these singles Rank 1 proved to still have "the moves" but it wasn't just their singles that got people moving in these years: their remixes during this period might have been their most successful in a long time. Whether this had to do with the fact that three of the four remixes in this period were out on Anjunabeats, I don't know. I do know that "Safe (Rank 1 Remix)", "24 Hours (Rank 1 Remix)" and "My Enemy (Rank 1 Remix)" received much love from colleagues and appeared on many (digital) compilations. It's not surprising if you consider that these remixes were driving, euphoric and melodic and might have caused some nostalgic sentiment among a fan or two (especially that remix for 24 Hours). A bit of an oddball remix among the Anjuna-released three was the Black Hole released "Fire Wire (Rank 1 Remix)" for Cosmic Gate's "Back 2 The Future" Remixed-Classics Album: with a minimalistic, industrial, sneaky build before it turned aggressive, this track was deeper, darker and meaner than the previous three though for me it might just have been the best of all... There is something about Rank 1's mastery of dark techy sounds that I find thoroughly enjoyable, thus I rank  this remix among their underrated work. Having been introduced to them in 2004ish, I have to say that personally I've loved this 2009-2011 era of theirs the most so far. They had to leave the old euphoric Classic style Trance to re-invent themselves and in my opinion they did a great job at it too.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2009] Rank 1 - L.E.D. There Be Light (Extended Mix)
[2010] Rank 1 vs. Jochen Miller - The Great Escape (Extended)
[2010] Velvtine - Safe (Wherever You Are) (Rank 1 Remix)
[2010] Mat Zo - 24 Hours (Rank 1 Remix)
[2011] Super8 & Tab feat. Julie Thompson - My Enemy (Rank 1 Remix)

The Rank 1 Sound: late 2011-2012
"It's a wild and perfect daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aa-aaaaay!" A sentence that will be amongst a new generation's favorite lyrics. "Wild And Perfect Day" was Rank 1's sixth officially released collaboration in general and their third with mr. Jochen "Killer", backed by vocals from K's Choice's Sarah Bettens. In a interview from 2008, the guys revealed that they had this collaboration planned with Bettens but that they wanted to do some club-oriented tracks first. It took them four years to finally reveal the track to the scene: and as with their previous collaborations with Miller, this track proved to be another crowd favorite. Built according to the Swedish House Maffia's infamous "Trouse" template, the track uses a constant 4x4 clap line and builds to a huge riff in a higher octave range. BPM-wise it reaches no further than 128, meaning that over the course of 13 years, Rank 1 productions have moved across a 10-12(?) BPM range. The track is loved by many but not everyone, as even fans that still loved their work post-2003 had their doubts about this one. Nevertheless, the guys themselves seem satisfied with it and so does yours truly! The track was released in February and over the course of the months it received several remixes. In March they released their seventh collaboration "Witness", out on Armind and in tandem with Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren for the latter's album "Give Me A Sound". Listing the track under this paragraph is a bit tricky as sound and melody wise it is much closer to 100/My Enemy Remix than WAPD. In fact, Witness was circulating on ASOT, Radio Rush and Rank 1 sets by the end of 2011. However, considering that with WAPD it is the guys' 2nd vocal single since 2007 (and the fact it was released after that one) I think it does belong here. Featuring the trademark emotional lyrics by Jaren, a big remix pack and a mysterious videoclip [], this track has received quite some support too. Only a month since Witness was available at the big download shops, Rank 1 surprisingly revealed that they had almost finished a new track [].

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2012] Rank 1 & Jochen Miller feat. Sarah Bettens - Wild And Perfect Day (Extended / Dub Mixes) 

The Rank 1 Sound: late 2012-2013
Over the course of summer 2012 up till late September/early October they activated the rumor machine about their new release. On October 15th they finally put a preview online and three days later, Armin van Buuren premiered their new track "7 Instead Of 8" as Tune Of The Week on A State Of Trance #583. Sound-wise it can best be described as "oldskool Trance re-invented": Yesteryear's Sentiment, with Today's Sound. The track has everything: beautiful melodic sounds, a different time signature (unusual for EDM), a sad yet hopeful sort of emotion going through it, slick mysterious background effects and a great climax. What an Instrumental Gem! Personally I am very amazed that their third 2012 track has turned out like this as I thought this new era would be characterized by Trouse-based singles. The first 2013 single "Elements Of Nature" is their eighth collaboration with none other than Belgium Trance Legend M.I.K.E. and follows closely in their last single's wake: the main lead sounds like Classic Rank 1/M.I.K.E. but the drive in it is modern, very powerful! The following single however caused a very BAR1DC-ish shock amongst the fans of especially the previous two releases. Their April-unleashed Bigroom monster "Floorlifter" saw them dive straight back into a Techy, rawer realm as this track was made 100% to rock the dancefloors. Remix-wise the guys had been quiet since January 2011 with their My Enemy remix being their last effort at re-touching other artists' tracks. But after a 27-month drought, on April 15th 2013, "Conjure One feat. Leigh Nash - Under The Gun (Rank 1 Remix)" was released on Beatport. Their first remix in a long time was strongly embraced by (Trance) fans, though perhaps just a wee bit less than their "new oldskool" Trancers. It combined a typical piercing and powerful Benno de Goeij bassline with an alluring melody line from the original which slowly moved into a bit of  a poppy breakdown before those all too familiar warm Rank 1 synths revealed themselves and built to a massive climax. Barely three weeks later, a second remix was released: "Guiseppe Ottaviani feat. Eric Lumiere - Love Will Bring It All Around (Rank 1 Remix)". This remix followed a more popular Poppy-dance template in the style of Armin van Buuren's Intense album, especially main lead wise. Before the end of the year, on November 11th 2013, they released "13.11.11" which was a stunning 13:11 minutes long, whilst running on a very unusual -get this- 131.111 BPM! The main lead sounded like the euphoric Rank 1 from the old days, whilst the track itself sounded like the logical follow-up to EON and Floorlifter. Much like those singles, this track got a lot of support by their big and middle name colleagues alike and was embraced by the fans.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2012] Rank 1 - 7 Instead Of 8 (Original Mix)
[2013] Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. - Elements Of Nature (Original Mix)
[2013] Conjure One feat. Leigh Nash - Under The Gun (Rank 1 Remix)
[2013] Rank 1 - Floorlifter (Original Mix)

[2013] Rank 1 - 13.11.11 (Original Mix)

The Rank 1 Sound: 2014-now
This phase in the Rank 1 Sound Development has been a curious one so far. It seems to be a 50-50 division between a Retro Trance sound and a boundary-blind one. It's interesting to hear the genre-unpredictability of their 2006-2008 remixes seeping into their singles. Considering Piet & Benno 'don't like to eat potatoes everyday' though, that keeps things fun for all of us. So for 2014, Rank 1 and Dennis Sheperd finally shed some light on the collaboration they revealed to be in the works back in September 2012. On March 17th, "Freudenrausch" was released and unlike previous releases, the two collaborating High Contrast powers sought to mix Housey grooves, with a rich Trance-chords feel-good breakdown and a techy afterkill, all built-on a very Daft Punk-ish sounding Electro alead! A typical Rank 1 release in the sense of its boundary-cutting edge! So far it has been supported on both ASOT and Group Therapy. In August Airwave celebrated its 15 year anniversary through a funky restyle called the "21st Century Mix" that seems to build on Freudenrausch' funky edges whilst retaining much of the structure, length and minimalism of the 1999 original. Chosen as ASOT #675's Tune Of The Week, it ended up being a late summer favorite! 2015 saw the boys focus on two collaborations with M.I.K.E. (now going by the name M.I.K.E. Push): "Juno" was released over the summer period whilst "Zenith" followed in Autumn. Both sought to combine the retro-Trance vibe of Elements Of Nature with some modern influences here and there making both less nostalgic than EoN without failing to feel like a continuation of that massive first collab. Juno was slightly more superior to Zenith in its range of support though for the GDJB family, Zenith was the preferred of the collabs with Markus playing it week after week! Both did well as follow-ups and have left the option for a future collab wide-open. 2016 saw another string of tracks quickly following up each other. In June Rank 1 released another rework, this time for their Legendary Superstring (Rank 1 Remix). It somewhat continued in the vein of the Airwave rework from 2014, albeit less focus on Electro-ish glitches and bigroom synths: they kept the original supersaw intact, and managed to make it sound full without losing the essence of that iconic main melody. The addition of a piano solo inbetween the main part and reprise added to the charm of this rework. Armin crowned it as 'Tune Of The Week' on ASOT #766. In early July York released his new album "Traveller", a two-disc album of which the first was dedicated to that delightful Chill-out sound with hints of Balearic Trance. The seventh track was a collab with none other than Rank 1 in which trademark York guitars were combined with some great euphoric Trance pads and a typical Rank 1 lead! This exotic collab appeared out of nowhere and was the first time the guys played with downtempo goodness again since their timeless Symsonic album.

Most popular (other artists' remixes not included)
[2014] Rank 1 & Dennis Sheperd - Freudenrausch (Original Mix)
[2014] Rank 1 - Airwave (21st Century Mix)
[2015] Rank 1 vs. M.I.K.E. Push - Juno (Original Mix)
[2015] M.I.K.E. Push vs. Rank 1 - Zenith (Original Mix)
[2016] Rank 1 - Superstring (Extended Mix)

Despite their successes, Piet & Benno have never been the type of artists to act as if they are better than others. They have always said that they are ordinary guys. Their modesty might be one of the reasons they don't like to give interviews: they just want to make and play music that people will like, their music should do all the talking. In the Youtube comments on the ASOT #450 interview Armin did with Piet a few people thought he came across as distant or perhaps even arrogant. If you consider that 1) they've never been keen on doing interviews and 2) they always get the same questions (When did you meet? When's that second studio album coming out? Will we ever hear a "new Airwave"?), it can't be called arrogance. He was still doing the interview whilst he could have told Armin that he wasn't in the mood for it at all, right? In Dutch they call this down-to-earth loof attitude "Hollandse nuchterheid", meaning the person in question doesn't do glorification of any sorts in regards to anything and the person in question remains him/herself. An arrogant artist does not take pictures with his/her fans and doesn't interact with them through social media. I would say that through their Twitter/Facebook updates they have continued to prove that they are really down-to-earth. They have other interests than music too though: Watching a good TV-series/movie, playing some squash against their A&R manager, gaming (Call Of Duty & God Of War) or doing a car-trip through Poland... They are like the rest of us, human beings of flesh and blood with better and worse days. Though unlike a LOT of us they have an extremely lot of musical talent, knowledge and experience and they are Legends of the Trance scene. They'll never admit it, but that's okay, we'll do it for them. ;)

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