I must admit, trance is a much different beast nowadays. Today, it's all about the thickest pads, the most pounding beats, and the battle for the "Most Heartfelt Vocals" trophy. Some critics say that trance has lost its way while others are considering modern trance to be at its prime. We are definitely in a different generation of the genre and it's very difficult to compare the two. But trance (and the many genres of electronic music) of the early-to-mid-1990s had other goals in mind that simply to evoke emotion: they just wanted you to move and feel good as a whole. I would say that putting you in an unyielding state of trance is pretty much the goal of "Hypermetrical", the debut (and only) full-length original album by Cygnus X, a German group from the 1990s initially consisting of Ralf Hildenbeutel and Matthias Hoffmann before the former left early on. It's a shame the project didn't continue past a few remixes here and there because this album makes it clear that Cygnus X had some real spunk.
The album starts off in a bit of an eerie fashion with Kinderlied Part 1. "Kinderlied", which is German for "children's song", starts off with a young girl (known only as "Dana") singing in German in what appears to be a lullaby, though I'm afraid I do not understand them. But we're quickly drawn to a more energetic beat with some gruff, jittery bass synths, not unlike something slightly malicious like The Prodigy would invoke, to keep our feet moving before the lullaby returns again. Kinderlied Part 1 is fairly short, clocking at only two and a half minutes, but things really pick up in Kinderlied Part 2 when the tempo rises significantly and we get into a real club thumper. Essentially using the foundation from Part 1, this new track slowly morphs over time to include additional synths to keep it just slightly ahead of becoming dry. A break in the middle also assists in maintaining that level of freshness. Definitely a powerful way to start off the album.
We switch gears almost completely with Hypermetrical, the album's title track. From the introductory squiggly synth, we're soon treated to some breakbeats and gritty bass. In comes the main hook: standard synth stabs and a strange chant that, again, I cannot identify or understand. It is the chant that brings flavour to an otherwise average song. Still, I'm pretty confident that it made for good raving music in the mid-1990s; it's a bit of a psychedelic trip, as are many songs on this album, including the track to follow, Deliberation. At just over 12 minutes, it's definitely the longest song here. Beginning with a relaxing introduction, Deliberation moves us into acid trance territory soon enough with the sweeping power of the 303 leading the way. Trance pads return, but it sure takes a while for any major changes to the song to occur. The ambience of the introduction meld with the acid funk to form something certainly unique, although the acid eventually takes full control again. For fans of music by acid trancers like Kai Tracid, Art of Trance, or Union Jack, this is the song for you.
Of all the songs on this album, Turn Around is the only one written by former Cygnus X member Ralf Hildenbeutel before he left the duo. Turn Around is another long track, and admittedly it can be repetitive to those who don't love the trance genre. With some acid phased bass underneath, the focus is clearly on the foreground on the very simple melody that plays repeatedly, subtly changing over time and increasing in strength. For some reason, even though the track is fairly stretched out (just over 10 minutes in length), I can't seem to tire of it easily! There's definitely some magic going on here. Synchronism drops us straight into wobbly bass and some tribal noises and beats for a while, though it eventually straightens itself out and becomes more of an average tune. Weak acid synths make another appearance, eventually crossing paths with stronger ones, and finally clashing with more unintelligible chants. It's not bad overall (and a tad creepy), but it wasn't quite as endearing as other songs so far.
Next up is The Orange Theme (Remix). The Orange Theme borrowed the melody from "Music For The Funeral of Queen Mary" by Henry Purcell, which was subsequently used as the theme song for the Stanley Kubrick movie, "A Clockwork Orange". Cygnus X released their original mix the previous year, and it was fairly atmospheric. Unfortunately, they opted to plop a less-than-stellar remix here instead. This remix is less interesting than the original, looking for a more club-friendly approach but losing its former mystical essence. To conclude, we have Indakasa, the most ambient piece on the release. In the same vein as Hypermetrical, Indakasa mixes pads, smooth synths, and vocal cries to form relaxing moments. The break offers some rougher bass that doesn't fully belong, but it ends up making its way into the background and adding an extra layer to the cosmic journey that closes the experience.
Interestingly enough, two of their most popular tracks, "Superstring" and "Positron", are surprisingly absent. It would have been helped to better paint a complete portrait of Cygnus X's abilities had they been included. Altogether, however, this is a fairly solid album that holds up rather well despite its age. Not every song is perfect, but this is indeed a case where the entire album is greater than the sum of its parts. Those interested in hearing some quality trance of the past would benefit from checking out Hypermetrical.