I first heard Robert Miles’ “Children” as an 11-year-old attending sleepaway camp for the first time.
The camp had its own magic-teaching program led by Ricky, a gregarious but slightly mysterious counselor, who set all of his campers’ magic routines – performed to easily wowed parents every two weeks on visiting day – to the elegant thump of “Children.” The performance would’ve been impressive on its own – Ricky’s pupils were impressively disciplined for a bunch of arty young teens – but performed in smoky darkness with Miles’ signature trance smash as accompaniment, it became a silent ballet of swallowed fire and disappearing scarves.
“Children,” released in 1995, became an international chart-topper and something else increasingly rare the following year: an entirely instrumental U.S. top 40 hit, peaking at no.
Comb the Hot 100 from the week when Robert Miles – who we sadly learned on Tuesday night had died of an unspecified illness at age 47 – hit his apex, and you can find hits by La Bouche, Amber, Billie Ray Martin and many more that match that general description.
It’s the “Children” melody that ended up the real time machine, as short a trip back to 1996 as Cuba Gooding Jr. shouting at Tom Cruise through his cell phone.
Though the oontz-oontz beat and infinite echo of Miles’ biggest hit have mostly been phased out of the contemporary EDM toolkit, the lessons it provided continued to reverberate – not only in the similarly chiming piano hooks to ’10s hits like Alesso’s “Years,” but in the central idea that you don’t need more than one gigantic instrumental riff to take over not just the clubs, but the entire world.
It’s telling that Finiish DJ Darude was one of the loudest voices mourning Robert Miles’ passing on Tuesday: The synth triggers of “Sandstorm,” one of the most unkillable instrumental dance hits of the 21st century, can be traced back to Miles’ twinkling club-slayers pretty easily.
The line between dated and timeless – just like the line between clubland and dreamland – is thinner than we think, and Robert Miles’ smash will endure for how gracefully it twirled back and forth across it.