The path between DJ setup and performance stage often seems like a one-way street. Electronic musicians on the wheels of steel? Second nature. Asking a DJ or producer to make their own songs? More or less asking for trouble.Armin van Buuren wants his second studio album, Shivers, to right this creative wrong. With club backgrounds brushing up against radio friendliness, and would-be classics clashing with set transitions, the point here is to prove he can fill any role and present that work as a more traditional musician might.
The roughest spots appear when van Buuren and his singer/songwriter collaborators hear “majestic” and listeners hear “overwrought.” The title track’s lyrics, anthemic as they are, have nothing to do with shivering. “Golddigger” and “Gypsy,” meanwhile, are hamfisted, obvious attempts at singles.
The rest of Shivers resembles shuffled bits of previous van Buuren mixes. “Zocalo” lives in the album’s middle but could kick off a night. Typical high-speed electro-samba before the bassline snakes in, samples from Gabriel & Dresden eventually float above it all like a glider over a canyon.
“Serenity” and “Wall of Sound” are van Buuren’s tastiest Dutch treats, although atmospherics and Justine Suissa’s vocals might limit the latter to S&M nights. Among potential filler pieces, Nadia Ali channels young Stevie Nicks in “Who Is Watching,” fine early-morning trip-hop.
The album is generally solid yet ultimately frustrating; a better release hides in there somewhere. With reordered tracks or a dropped vocal or two, Armin van Buuren could have put Shivers not just in your CD player but up and down your spine.