Review Summary: R.I.P. Robert Miles (1969 - 2017)
There’s something about the death of musicians, particularly those who have soundtracked the formative years of your life, that hits harder than any other. The tragic death of Roberto Concina at just 47 hit me like a ton of bricks. The man more commonly known as Robert Miles was known mostly for just one song, and that song was called Children.
I can’t exactly remember the first time I heard Children. From primary school discos where my main focus was to consume as much sugar as possible and run around in a circle until I felt dizzy, to the loneliness I felt in secondary school. From the pain of my first break-up and the anxiety and depression that followed, to the ambivalence and apathy that dominates my psyche at present, Children has always been there to comfort me and to weep with me, or to smile and reminisce about younger years.
The timeless piano riff the track is built upon, the layers of atmospheric effects, the soft beat and the beautifully delicate synths all combine to create an anthem of epic proportions. Initially created from his grief for child victims of the Balkan war, the song became popular after Robert found that its ethereal and cathartic nature was helping reduce the level of car accidents caused by clubbers in Italy, whose inability to calm down after a night out gave rise to the term Saturday Night Slaughter. Soon, the song spread abroad and became an overnight worldwide hit.
For me personally, Children’s biggest attraction has always been the vast array of feelings it triggers in me, whether related to real events in my life or hypothetical ones. Over the course of my relationship with the song, my catalogue of emotional interpretations has only become larger and larger with every play. Some days I hear a sadness, a nostalgic melancholy for a loved one or a better time. Sometimes I’ll hear tears of joy, a glorious feeling of pride and hope for a future that has yet to come. Occasionally I’ll hear dancing and romance as I stare into a lover’s eyes. Whatever mood I am in, it fits, and because of that Children is perhaps the most important piece of music in my life.
Outside of Children, the other ten tracks present on Dreamland are also well worth a listen, if perhaps a bit dated and slightly underwhelming due to the opener’s pure brilliance. Subsequent singles Fable and One & One expand on the same formula by utilising dreamy female vocals synonymous with electronic music of the time, whilst closing track and other highlight Red Zone provides a slight change of pace with a harder beat reminiscent of the era’s dominant club music.
Whilst he deserves to be recognised for much more, Robert will inevitably be remembered by his magnum opus and defining moment, and that’s almost as good. He leaves behind a legacy as a man whose music touched the lives of many people.
May he rest in peace.