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LABEL: Kontor Records RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2004 GENRE: Hardstyle, Hard Dance
// review by SoyBomb

Hard to listen to this style.

Okay, it's time to stretch back to 2004 for this one. Though they've seemingly faded into obscurity, the duo of Charly Lownoise and Franky Tunes, collectively known as Starsplash, were pretty popular in the early 2000s in the dance scene. With their cheerful hands-up/hard dance style, they cranked out a series of chipper hits including "Free", "Travel Time", and "Wonderfull Days". (Yes, I spelled that last one correctly.) I always thought their tunes were cheesy, even when I listened heavily to the genre, but it was harmless enough. And into 2004, they kept that spirit alive with "Hardstyle".

There are three tracks on this single, starting with the Radio Mix. Immediately we get a little piano ditty and some chipmunk high-pitched vocals that are far more corny than anything Scooter ever produced. Without warning, we're immediately switched over to standard bass & synth vibes as more — dare I say — "hardstyle" beats overlay the new scene. The beat isn't really that hard, honestly. Scratchier metal jabs enter the fray over time and present a stronger argument for the "Hardstyle" title (hearkening to Charly's earlier forays into gabber and hardcore), but eventually, the piano and cringeworthy vocals return for a second round and it remains a standard cornball dance track.

The Club Mix features pretty much everything from the Radio Mix, but the intro and outro feature more of the ACTUAL hardstyle from the middle that I actually enjoyed. Well, at least the intro does. Starsplash also provides a B-side, Encoded/Decoded, which is composed of two halves: the first half is a slow buildup sounding more like you're in a digital submarine that's about to crash into a reef or something (blended a bit with a cool acid quiver) before a computer voices says "ENCODED. DECODED." The second half is basically a monotone escape sequence as some hard beats drive you along. Though it's not exactly a varied track, I do see a bit of neat value in this one.

I still think the Hardstyle title track is corny and squinch-worthy. Hardstyle is listenable, but only once. And it's too bad it's not really hardstyle. More like... cornstyle.

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