With a talent for crafting powerful soundscapes that blur genre boundaries, Astara‘s unique sonic signature has captured the attention of music enthusiasts worldwide. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the mind of this skillful DJ and producer as he curates his selection of the top 10 tracks that have profoundly influenced him.
Astara shares the tracks that have not only left a mark on his artistic trajectory but also continue to inspire him as an artist. Astara provides insightful commentary on each chosen track, shedding light on the reasons behind his selections; as we navigate through his musical choices, we gain a deeper understanding of the I web of influences that have shaped his one-of-a-kind sound.
So, join us as we embark on this auditory journey with Astara, exploring the tracks that have both defined and refined his Electronic music voyage.
10. Everything but the Girl – Missing (Todd Terry mix)
Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt formed Everything but the Girl at the University of Hull in 1982 and went on to pen some iconic records, “Missing” standing at the very top of the list. Tracey Thorn’s wistful hook underscored by an infectious rhythm section and gentle acoustic guitar from Watt are what make this one a classic for me! But we can’t forget Todd Terry’s keen ear and acumen that made this beautiful lyrical composition a dancefloor anthem in 1995.
9. Faithless – Insomnia
This song sits nicely next to “Café Del Mar.” Both records are iconic Ibiza anthems, but don’t be deceived: “Insomnia” stands on its own legs. Of course, the organ riff at the center of the record is how we all recognize this song, but for me, what really does it is Maxi Jazz’s vocal. Maxi’s haunting, meandering narrative (the dialogue of an insomniac in a barren apartment) pulls me into this song’s universe. There’s something otherworldly about Maxi’s delivery and phrasing. Indeed, this is a song that works on more than the body but touches some place in your soul, perhaps in a slightly unnerving way—but ultimately, that strangeness is what makes it stand above so many compositions of its era and win a place on this list.
8. Energy 52 – Café Del Mar (Three ’N One edit)
This is the quintessential Ibiza sunset (or sunrise) anthem, but it traces back to an era before the commercialism of the 2000s, a time when the music truly connected with the island. “Café Del Mar,” taking after one of Ibiza’s most famous establishments, captures the essence of those magical moments on the beach: where time seemed to stand still, the lines between day and night blurred, and the beauty of the island found an echo in the transcendent melodies that emanated from its beach-side restaurants.
7. York – On The Beach (Mauro Picotto’s CRW mix)
York’s “On the Beach” is another famous instance of the classic Italo-bassline (Juno-106, seeing a trend here?), but this time it’s paired with an incredibly catchy guitar hook, easily winning it a place in my top ten. This song just reminds me of summer—perhaps because the sample of Chris Rea’s 1986 song of the same name hits you with the vocal tagline “On the Beach” about a dozen times—but I think there’s more to it than that. The sun-soaked electric guitar is what does it for me. It places me somewhere in the Mediterranean with a cool drink in hand.
6. Deadmau5 – Faxing Berlin
Deadmau5 had secured a place on this list before I even started writing it; his continuing legacy is that powerful. However, the question was, which song would I include? “I Remember,” “Alone With You,” “Strobe?” Ultimately, “Faxing Berlin” jumped out at me as the one. But not simply because this was the song that has defined modern progressive house, and more specifically, the “progressive house pluck” for nearly twenty years now. The song’s uniquely hypnotic and moody atmosphere is really something special if you listen to it. The chord progression is also unusual for dance music. There’s a rich complexity, with two seventh chords (Bbmaj7, and Gm7) creating the “dreamlike feel,” then a regular old G-minor, and finally a dominant 7th (F7) acting as an ominous cadence, bringing us back into the beginning of the sequence. Even though it’s really just these four chords across the entire eight minutes, the song holds our attention. It evolves beautifully overtime with Deadmau5 perfectly executing filter-automation, envelope decay modulation, and resonant boosts throughout the track to hold our attention.
5. Sasha – Xpander
I am tremendously inspired by Sasha, but “Xpander,” his quintessential track, goes beyond his greatest hits and in my mind secures itself in the top ten dance songs ever written. The intro has a very industrial, futuristic sound, but the song soon dissolves this energy and transports us into a strange netherworld—to me, reminiscent of Cyberpunk 2077 or Blade Runner. We are then met with this incredible bassline around 3:20 that just brings everything together in this melancholic trance-like mood. It makes me feel like I’ve entered an alternate universe 400 years in the future! It’s absolutely beautiful and eerie at the same time. The bells that come in around 4:20 and ebb and flow around the main motif throughout the song are also hauntingly alluring. And sure enough, it’s another extremely long song by streaming-era standards, but every listen just flies by.
4. Delline Bass, Reflekt – Need to Feel Loved (Adam K & Soha mix)
I remember hearing this for the first time on Ferry Corsten’s radio show when I was only twelve or thirteen years old, but this song struck me immediately as a masterful composition. Of course, the strings are the linchpin of the track, but I’d be remiss to say they were the source of its success. Delline Bass—who performs the vocals—channels the emotions we feel as dance music artists perfectly in her performance. The break that comes in at 3:15 is (in my opinion) the most marvelous moment in the song. Nowadays, we write tight 2-3 minute compositions for the streaming economy, so we don’t get to appreciate moments like that often enough! “Need To Feel Loved” is a real anomaly in that it runs nearly seven minutes and tells an incredible story across that time. I can listen to it on loop 4-5 times before I realize half an hour has gone by!
3. Inner City – Good Life
Tracing back to house and Techno’s roots, we have “Good Life” from Kevin Saunderson’s Inner City. The rhythm section of this song ebbs and flows with Paris Grey’s vocals, occasionally punctuated by rich 9th and 13th organ chords—elements that are emblematic of Detroit’s groundbreaking sound. It’s no wonder Saunderson’s sound would take the world by storm!
2. Robert Miles – Children
Speaking of iconic motifs, “Children” from Robert Miles jumps out at me and takes the #2 slot easily. The Trance piano combined with the sun-soaked acoustic—reminiscent of the Balearic islands at the turn of the millennium—is something that can bring a touch of emotion to even the most stoic among us. Everything about this production feels impeccable: the Italo bass combined with the sumptuous bed of strings overtop… The cascading acid arps, and then the heavy trance leads that hit you at the end. This song represents the pinnacle of electronic music craftmanship.
1. Frankie Knuckles – Your Love
When I was making this list, my first thought was: what’s 2-10? Why? #1 is simply a lock with “Your Love.” The godfather of House launched a global movement with one single track. The Juno-106 arp at the onset of the track is still mesmerizing nearly four decades after it hit dancefloors, and to this day, I get goosebumps when that bass motif comes in!