Ralph Kyau and Steven Albert have a penchant for producing synthy trance anthems and mystifying, serenading masterpieces. Their latest effort is no exception to their distinguished reputation. But as with all great masterpieces this process takes time: in this instance it took six years for Nights Awake to finally materialize. Opening track “Encounter” is a peaceful, inviting, therapeutic odyssey providing abundant auricle satisfaction. It segues nicely into “What Lovers Only Know” by getting lost in the soaring, emotional builds and the desirous poetry of breathtaking love. Scattered within are the pre-released and beloved successes of “A Night Like This,” “Another Time” and “This Love.”
“Open My Eyes,” their collaboration with trance veteran Paul van Dyk, is another triumph. While it has the familiarity of their classic “Kiksu” or “Are You Fine,” the rooted contributions of all three talents can be equally detected. (It should be noted that Van Dyk had recognized Kyau & Albert early on, playing their now classic “Outside” on his radio show in 2001.)
Historic, epic trance seeps through Nights Awake on the Ronski Speed collaboration “Euphonia.” Smooth, futuristic synths drive “Do You Still Know” and “What Will Go.” An orchestral background blended at times with a subtle island beat dictate the aerial “Nightingale.” Deviating from the traditional archetype of utilizing the vocals of Steven Albert, the duo recruited Australian singer and TV personality Adaja Black and found her unique creativity and her impassioned vocals of “Could You Fall” a fitting asset to the mix. Some of the more melodic and entrancing tracks on the collection come from “We Own The Night” and the single release “All Your Colours.” The former, with its resonating vocal echoes, was the choice track by Euphonic label mates Stoneface & Terminal when they agreed to do a track together for the album. The four label mates worked it, ran with it, nailed it and the final piece is wondrously enchanting.
The lengthy journey to Nights Awake has been worth the wait. Once traveled and embraced it’s a destination of passion and love, a utopian escape that you’ll desire to revisit again and again.
File under: Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond Group Therapy, Paul van Dyk
Not more than two years ago DJ/producers Kyau & Albert had coolly referred to themselves as “B-list artists” despite the fact that for more than 15 years they have been the eminent conductors in the production studio providing winning tracks that have brought artists like Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk and Above & Beyond to the superstardom. The duo — Ralph Kyau and Steven Moebius Albert — have been skyrocketing into their own and rightfully so promising more of the same with their latest achievement, their upcoming full album release Nights Awake. In spite of their progressing fame their affable personalities have always remained intact and they handle it like the true, unpretentious guys that they’ve always been especially to their dedicated fanbase. Their latest accomplishment is an unforced onslaught of adoration dedications that will leave you both energized and enlightened. We caught up with the modest duo at their Washington, D.C. stop at Mute at Lima Restaurant and Lounge where they have recently committed their Euphonic Records label to a well-received residency.
The name of your new album Nights Awake resonates with fans like me considering the hours we keep to attend our club and festival events. What is the meaning behind the title for you?
Steven Moebius Albert: Personally, I think the night is a very intimate thing. Most of the lyrics and the songs are also about the night just like the romantic view on the night. We had a couple of ideas to name the album and this was just one that just fits best.
One listener appropriately said of “All Your Colours,” “I love it when DJs can create a dream with sounds.” With so many superb selections to pick from was there a strategy for releasing “All Your Colours” as the first release from your new album or is that process more random?
Ralph Kyau: I wouldn’t say it’s random. I think in total we did around 40 tracks for the album, and on the final CD there were 15. And in the process we’re making tracks, we’re listening to the tracks, which are maybe a few months old and selecting the best ones. Finally when the album was almost finished we gave it to different friends and family — for example, Ronski Speed and our manager, Marco (Marberg) — and we got a good response on “All Your Colours.” But we also had “All Your Colours” in our minds because it’s a special record and it’s different to the last single, “Another Time,” so therefore we are quite happy about this track.
“Do You Still” is a more ambient, chill out, melodic trance track. It’s a little different style for you and significantly more vocal. One of your SoundCloud listeners commented, “This makes me feel in love, beautiful.” What was the inspiration for this track?
Albert: It’s actually one of the oldest tracks on the album. It was already recorded four years ago. We made some final changes. The inspiration behind the track itself is there was a movement in Germany called krautrock back in the day. It’s like ambient, electronic synthesizer sounds combined with rock elements. You have a journey within the track; it changes.
Kyau: It completely turns the mood from the beginning to the end and this is how this track works. It’s not really a proper DJ track but we liked it a lot. We were very surprised when we sent the album to Sara Cooper or to our graphic designed in New Zealand and they all said, “Wow, what a good track.” We didn’t have it on the screen in the beginning but the response was very good.
“Do You Still” has some harmonizing in there. Is that Steven on all vocals for this or is someone else introduced?
Albert: It’s all me. All the vocals come from me.
There’s a fair amount of vocal trance on Nights Awake overall and it’s not solely Steven Albert on all of it. How was it that you recruited the Adaja Black for the vocals on “Could You Fall?”
Kyau: Exactly one year ago, it was the 25th or the 26th. We were in an Australia tour and we played in Sydney on a boat in the harbor and Adaja was there, and I think she was a friend of the promoter and we were in contact.
Albert: And she was standing beside me and she was singing to the tracks and we thought, Hey, she has a really good voice. She wrote the vocals so I don’t know where her inspiration came from.
Kyau: Originally it was planned to do a second track with her but she is busy as a TV presenter in Australia and is doing live performances very often so maybe next time.
Traditionally so many of your tracks are heartwarming poetry with the perfect fit composition to accompany the words. Is there a formula for this? Does Ralph typically write the words? Does Steven typically write the music? Do you both go into the Euphonic studio and skillfully and collectively hammer out these masterpieces?
Kyau: Most of the lyrics come from him.
Albert: For example, when you make demos for the track we just use like fantasy English. We don’t really have proper lyrics.
Ralph: We’re just looking for the hook. You need to find the hook.
Albert: If it doesn’t have a hook, then the lyrics aren’t going to make sense in the beginning.
Kyau: A hook and melody and then later we check if it suits into it. It’s a different way of doing it but it works.
“We are basically absolutely independent on the musical freedom we have.”
And then there’s your track “We Own The Night” with label mates Stoneface & Terminal which is that soaring, uplifting trance that you’ve traditionally produced and are known for. One SoundCloud fan aptly called this song “dream trance.” The lyrics speak of chasing stars, forgetting to let go, the sun dawning, the night calling, and hounded by one’s heart. What can you tell us about the lyrics for this?
Steven: It’s just the attitude behind the lyrics. I just thought, It sure could be nice…. I just like the story behind it.
You’ve recently toured with them a bit and still managed to produce this ethereal gem? What were all of your roles in this process?
The album was also almost finished when we actually played for them. They’re living close to our hometown. We were talking how we were finishing the album and they said, “Hey, let’s do a track together.” We were thinking, Yeah, this might be a good idea. So we were exchanging ideas.
Kyau: We had a couple of track ideas and we played them all to them and they said “We Own The Night” would be a good pick. But from the album version I think in late February we are going all together back in the studio and doing a proper club mix. And possibly there is coming a single with a new proper club version and a video version in late April. We will also do a video clip for this.
A few years ago you produced a hauntingly mesmerizing remix of Paul van Dyk’s “Complicated.” What behind-the-scenes planning brought the powerhouses of Paul van Dyk, Ralph Kyau and Steven Albert together for “Open My Eyes?”
Albert: Paul van Dyk influenced me a lot when I started doing music so I always wanted to work with him.
Ralph: He was the big DJ who supported us first. Before we got our charted and MTV he was the first who invited us and played our track. It was re-released under the name “Be There 4 U” but he played the original version “Outside” heavily. It was in 2001, I think. Then he invited the whole Euphonic crew step-by-step to his radio show. Nobody knows, Paul van Dyk was the first to have a radio show but he never made it into this big thing like Armin or so. He had a radio show already in 1999 or 1998 and it was quite influential for all the German EDM lovers. We were always in contact with him and Vandit. We also played for his birthday party, for his 40th birthday one year ago. And then he produced his album Evolution and we were doing this track together with him but our version, the K&A mix, is only on our album.
You’re taking to the road with your latest release in the States, Canada and beyond. Most of the time you only stop in any given city to do your gig. What is some place in the world where, given enough time, you’d actually like to take time to visit a bit longer more as a tourist?
Albert: It makes sense to go somewhere in the countries that are very far away like Australia or New Zealand. Also New Zealand has really nice nature.
Kyau: Two years ago I did two weeks with the gig and then I did two weeks around New Zealand on holiday. And when we started our international career we were very off and quite long everywhere. We checked out the whole west coast of the U.S., we were somewhere in Florida and also other places. We have had such a tight schedule and especially when we were producing the album. Now it’s getting a bit less stressful, especially in the last months of finishing the album, because we had a deadline or because we set a deadline for ourselves, it was quite busy so in and out was the perfect thing.
Mute promoters and fans couldn’t be more thrilled by the recent news of your residency. What can you tell us about your recent Euphonic artists residency with Mute at Lima in Washington, D.C.?
Albert: It’s the second time we come here and it wasn’t too long along that we’ve been here. There was only one show with us in the past year other than tonight so we’ll see how it’s going but I hear it’s already good.
Kyau: It’s a cool thing and the last time we were here it was three months ago.
Albert: I like residencies because you know what to expect and everything works and it’s cool.
I don’t mean to push too much of a good thing but with the success of your Euphonic Nights back home and your recent residency with Mute, can fans hopefully expect a Euphonic Night sometime in the States? Your recent Euphonic Night was seven Euphonic artists, two dance floors.
Albert: Yeah, this is great. Nothing planned but maybe.
Do you know your plans for any of the bigger, upcoming festivals such as those surrounding the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival?
Kyau: This year especially as we are still promoting the album which is not out yet, everybody thinks it’s out but the official release date is February 25th, we are coming for a couple of days to Miami and we are doing interviews and gigs sometime around mid-March or in the 20’s.
What is one of your highlights of 2012?
Albert: It’s hard to say. There was no standout highlight but it was a good year overall.
Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to in 2013?
Albert: For us it’s pretty exciting to have a new album out. The last one was 2006.
Kyau: I’m really happy about the response right now not only from the media, but also because we can do clever releases on Euphonic because we have our own label and own vision. We are basically absolutely independent on the musical freedom we have. But right now we send it to different partners for example there’s a big partner in Latin America with many TV stations that are interested. We signed it to Eastern Europe. We signed it to South Africa. We are talking to Australia, New Zealand, now Asia. We didn’t expect this but it’s a really good response on the album. We haven’t really started planning the album tour. That’s the next point to do the album tour. We are extending our U.S. visa so there are a couple of things in the doing. And there is also coming a track soon on Anjunabeats. It’s an exclusive track for Volume 10 and it gets released later as a single. It’s a single called “Glühwürmchen.” It’s the German term for glow-worm or firefly.
The CD version of Nights Awake features lyrics to your tracks so you’re offering something more tangible.
Kyau: Many fans ask us [about] the lyrics, and maybe not for the U.S. proper English-speaker, but in other territories they want to have the lyrics. Like in Germany they ask, “Can we get the lyrics?”
Well, now we’ll all be out there singing them with you.
Kyau & Albert’s Night Awake is out February 25 on Euphonic.