"I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape.”
February 1, 2010 5:22 PM   Subscribe

"Trance music" is not a new phenomenon.  The ability for music to drive dancers into ecstatic frenzies has been known at least since Euripides.  The Shakers got their name from the ecstatic behavior they exhibited when dancing to their simple, repetitive hymns.  Voodoo rituals are built around complex, trance-inducing rhythms.  It was well known that trance-dancing can produce ecstastic states, but until the later part of the 20th century, and the invention of the 'extended dance remix', it was rare for commercial music to reach for it.

Perhaps the earliest example of modern trance music is the Donna Summer hit "I Feel Love".  The vocals an almost wordless expression of desire, the song was driven by an unrelenting, mesmerizing Giorgio Moroder bassline that Brian Eno called "the sound of the future."  Still a disco song, it had all the elements that would later be amplified by techno and house producers into the genre we call trance today -- repetitive, effects-laden synths, vocals that function more as sound than as meaning, a 4 to the floor beat and that constant, non-stop 16th-note rhythm.

Once electronic synthesizers, particularly the Roland 303, made it from the studio onto the streets, the techno and house producers of Detroit and Chicago pushed the hypnotic sound further with the invention of Acid House Phuture - Acid Tracks, Fast Eddie - Acid Thunder
From here, the story jumps back across the pond to Europe, where acid house became the standard sound of the exploding rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s.  Acid house mutated into a wide variety of styles and genres, but one particular strain was a bombastic and melodic mixture of acid house with more industrial sounds, which was already being called "Trance" by around 1990. KLF - What Time is Love, Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea, Age of Love - Age of Love

Once it became a recognized genre, trance splintered into a few different paths -- the more minimal, techno oriented sound centered in Germany Humate - Love Simulation (Paul Van Dyk remix), Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar (Cosmic Baby remix), the wildly psychedelic sound popular in Israel and the resort island of Goa in India - Man With No Name - Teleport, Hallucinogen - LSD (and introduced to the UK in Oakenfold's legendary Goa Mix of 1994), the less complex, more commercial sound briefly popularized as Dream Trance in the US -- Bt - Flaming June, Robert Miles - Children, and the more subtle 'progressive' sound popularized by djs like Sasha and Digweed in the UK. Jam and Spoon - Stella, Space Manoeuvres - Stage One.

By 1998 or 1999, a new style of trance called 'epic' erupted out of Holland, Belgium and Germany.  Faster speeds, bigger melodies, longer breakdowns, it more or less eliminated any sense of restraint in search of pure euphoria.  Rank 1 - Airwave, System F - Out of the Blue, Delirium - Silence (Tiesto mix), Belearic Bill - Destination Sunshine, Orkidea - Unity.  It began to dominate the dance music landscape, more and more divorced from the underground clubs where it started -- to the point where Tiesto played the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  And some producers continued to push the sound harder and faster, merging with the harder variants of house and techno to form the new subgenre of 'hard dance'. Yoji Biomehanika - Theme From Bangin Globe, BK - Revolution.  All of this triggered an underground backlash against any form of trance music, which has persisted.  Trance music is far from dead, but there seems to be very little innovation right now pushing the sound forward.
posted by empath (86 comments total) 152 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Done by request after the Garage post I made a few weeks ago. I oversimplified things a lot, but trance is a lot harder to trace the influences straight through than Garage was.

Having some time off from work I might do a few more of these if people have interest in other genres.)
posted by empath at 5:24 PM on February 1, 2010


I was going to BAWWW and say a different PVD song should have been picked as an exhibit of his contributions to the genre, but then I pulled my hands away from the keyboard, took off my glasses, rubbed my face and fully realized...

I've become one of those types.

Decent post. Very decent post.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:28 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I picked it because it was an example of a type.

But for the record:

Paul Van Dyk - For An Angel
Paul Van Dyk vs Tilt - Rendezvous
Paul Van Dyk vs BT - Namistai
Paul Van Dyk - Tell Me Why
posted by empath at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


And they're not even giving away a Wii this month.

Great post -- this will be in the background during work tomorrow, no doubt.
posted by nitsuj at 5:47 PM on February 1, 2010


Can't comment, busy re-living parties I danced way too much at
posted by dabitch at 5:50 PM on February 1, 2010


Paul Van Dyk - Nothing But You - I heard it on the radio one time
posted by nervousfritz at 5:54 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should probably link some recent trance from the folks currently dominating the trance charts.

Sean Tyas - Melbourne
Giuseppe Ottaviani - No More Alone
Cosmic Gate feat. Aruna - Under Your Spell (Myon & Shane 54 Monster Mix)

It's different, better produced, and with some electro influences, but not dramatically different than what was around 8 or 9 years ago.
posted by empath at 5:55 PM on February 1, 2010


"It was well known that trance-dancing can produce ecstastic states, but until the later part of the 20th century, and the invention of the 'extended dance remix', it was rare for commercial music to reach for it."
Patently bullshit, since about, oh, 1964, even in places like Rochester, NY...
"... And this guy I used to score from started inviting me to these dances. I went to like one dance in all of high school and it was a disaster. I went home early, much to my date's chagrin, and put on some Buxtehude to settle my nerves. But this was different. You'd do up a little Robitussin AC, smoke a little weed, and eventually you got into it. It was dark in that hall and all the chicks were dressed up like something out of a movie. The guys too. They would have, some of them, like powder blue tuxes and outrageous satin cummerbunds, patent-leather shoes you could comb your hair in. But you didn't laugh. You were just a guest, a tourist. You were respectful. Or you died.

And then here came the band. Who were these guys! They could really play. They could sing better than anything I was hearing on the radio. Soul, rhythm and blues. Wilson Picket. Otis Redding. Where had I been all my life? And I was only 18.

This is where I figured out about rock and roll, or whatever you call it that does that. And a whole lot else, I guess, though it's only just now sinking in, now that that world is dead as a burned out supernova ten million light years somewhere back behind yesterday. And the thing would sorta build up as the night wore on, the band getting hotter, the lovers getting hotter, the hall getting a whole lot hotter, until you were dancing your ass off, sweating like a motherfucker, stoned, exhausted and you didn't care anymore, and then the band would know they had you and they'd kick it over the edge, driving the beat like a blinded animal, the lead guitar suddenly sliding up from tasty to insistent to full-throttle roadhouse and just when you thought that was the top, the horns would come in, a whole line of them wailing blasting blowing the fucking roof off and they'd cook like that for so long you could not believe it, as it defied the very laws of God and man, shredded the fabric of space and time, and you'd find yourself shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" like a goddam madman just like everybody else, and that wall of sound, of crazy joyous noise, was all the reason you needed, all the reason you'd ever likely get, and everybody knew it. Which was the whole point. The heart and soul of rock and roll. And all the rest of it. If you didn't get it then, you never would.

I got it. And so do you, or you got no business being here. "
posted by paulsc at 6:07 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You betrayed me with that crypto-Jewel link. Now I have to pass that hurt on to the rest of the world!
posted by kid ichorous at 6:13 PM on February 1, 2010


I don't know music theory so please excuse the lack of the proper vocabulary here. One of the things that had made trance interesting to me is that part of the way through a given song the artist would subtract certain elements creating a sort of sound void. Then, little by little, some sort of addition to the rhythm would almost imperceptibly arrive from nowhere and then grow louder and louder, leading to a climax of sorts. This can be heard here from 4:10 to 5:48 (note the feint climax prior to the actual one).

Now I guess you could overlay some kind of sexual metaphor over this, but I prefer the metaphor of trance as having a narrative structure. Introduction, tension-building, climax, resolution...having this structure made the music much more interesting than, say, house which often seems too ethereal for me to actually gain any purchase on. This isn't to knock house...if anything trance is a bit more pop-oriented than other electronic music styles, in my humble opinion.

FWIW, Empath's own Space Fantasy has this build-up/blow-up dynamic going on.

Gracias, Empath, for a pretty cool post
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 6:14 PM on February 1, 2010


Then, little by little, some sort of addition to the rhythm would almost imperceptibly arrive from nowhere and then grow louder and louder, leading to a climax of sorts.

Detractors regard this as an emotionally exploitative and draining aspect of trance, but hey, folks seem to like it.
posted by Jimbob at 6:18 PM on February 1, 2010


I think Brothomstates drew in pleasantly close to the trance aesthetic in his later releases [Bleep.com] [nodata]. Man I wish that kid were still in the game.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:20 PM on February 1, 2010


The mid-90's was such a great time for trance. Non-formulaic and really trippy. Not that I don't love all the more modern stuff, but the 90's was my first exposure. My fave from back then?
Detune - Irradiation off of Rising High Productions.
posted by Hutch at 6:20 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellent post - well done! Can't wait to sort through these links when I have some time.
posted by jquinby at 6:21 PM on February 1, 2010


Fantastic post.

There may not be much innovation in trance per se these days, but I feel that some of the beauty and good vibes I associate with trance are resurfacing in surprising contexts like tech-house and minimal techno. Only without the angelic choruses.

I'll add a link to the pile: Binary Finary - 1998 (Matt Darey Remix). This track for me marks the exact final moment before epic trance went too far. In retrospect, this was probably too far already, but i was right there with it so it gets a pass.
posted by jeffj at 6:23 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the perfect place for me to spam for the tee shirt I designed for this year's Coachella where, sadly, Tiesto happens to be playing.

Also, fuck Trance. A cancer that severely hobbled dance music from the late 90s on.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:26 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is really excellent. I had sort of faded away from listening to this but an officemate of mine put it on the other day and and I was all, "Holy shit I forgot that I like this!"

So yeah, thanks for posting. I can't wait to listen to this.
posted by scrutiny at 6:26 PM on February 1, 2010


Epic post--great info and links and I am enjoying listening!

Also, fuck Trance. A cancer that severely hobbled dance music from the late 90s on.
Could be. I just assumed that I got too old to enjoy being in the clubs anymore.
posted by njbradburn at 6:34 PM on February 1, 2010


One of the things that had made trance interesting to me is that part of the way through a given song the artist would subtract certain elements creating a sort of sound void.

It's called a breakdown, and it was what got me hooked on dance music myself, except I thought the DJ was doing it the first time I heard it. Unfortuately, after you've heard it a million times it gets a bit boring.

Generally, the structure of a formulaic trance song is the first part introduces the main synth elements, generally without too much overt melody, then you have the breakdown, where you introduce the main hook, then the build and the beat comes back, and you play the main hook with the synth's introduced in the beginning of the track, then sometimes you just repeat all of it a second time, or in a really good track, you introduce a completely new melody in the bridge before coming back to the original melody.

I like tracks that play around with the model a little bit -- such as Mat Zo - Lucky Strike (I linked a video of tiesto playing it so you can see the crowd reaction. Mat does a big melodic breakdown and a build, except where typically it would build up to the beat coming back WITH the melody, he comes back to a beat by itself, which surprises the crowd (at 40 seconds) and gets a big reaction. It's a fun track. (full track)

Another one of my favorite examples of someone toying with the formula a little bit is my friend's remix -- John 00 Fleming - Rasa Lila (Jay Selway remix) - where Jay takes the stereotypical drumroll at the end of a breakdown to absurd lengths. (starting at around 5 minutes in)
posted by empath at 6:34 PM on February 1, 2010


This track for me marks the exact final moment before epic trance went too far.

The Tiesto remix of Barber's Adagio for Strings (nooo) would be where Epic Trance felt you up at the apex of the ferris wheel, then vomited cotton candy on your shoes.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:36 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW, Empath's own Space Fantasy has this build-up/blow-up dynamic going on.

Yeah, that's a DJ set from this past NYE :) Other people's music. It's almost impossible to get trance that DOESN'T have it, and I try to limit it when I play it as much as I can. Unless you're playing to a dance floor full of people on E, every time the music stops like that people walk off the dance floor.
posted by empath at 6:37 PM on February 1, 2010


Senor Cardgage, Fred would like to speak with you.

Sorry, grumpy before my time, been on 313 too long, I guess.
posted by mkb at 6:39 PM on February 1, 2010


Trance music is far from dead, but there seems to be very little innovation right now pushing the sound forward.

Put a donk on it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:39 PM on February 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Love it. Students are gonna be confused when they walk into my office while I'm rocking out to trance music posted here.

Also, fuck Trance. A cancer that severely hobbled dance music from the late 90s on.

Blame that on your DJ or club, not the music.
posted by jmd82 at 6:41 PM on February 1, 2010


The Meanads are totally into Gaga now.
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Put a donk on it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great post. Great responses. Thanks for this. My evening has been dominated by flashbacks of smoke machines, plasma glass, and laser storms. (Now where did i put my drink....)
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 6:52 PM on February 1, 2010


Btw, and I don't think I can emphasize this enough. These songs are not meant to be listened to by themselves. They're meant to be heard at an incredibly loud volume, mixed by a dj, in a room full of people.

If you've never heard a real trance DJ play trance at a crowded trance night, you've never properly heard it.
posted by empath at 6:52 PM on February 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Done by request after the Garage post I made a few weeks ago.

Any chance you could do Scouse House next?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:53 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I take it, spin class doesn't count?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:55 PM on February 1, 2010


I can't say I've ever had an ecstatic experience while dancing to trance, but I can say that I nearly have had a couple accidents while listening to trance/techno while driving. I wasn't even tired at those times, and I thought that what seemed like high-energy music would be good to keep me a wake. But each time I found myself zoning out to the rhythm, and I finally had to make the rule of no trance music while driving.

Anyway, nice little history lesson there.
posted by happyroach at 6:57 PM on February 1, 2010


the techno and house producers of Detroit and Chicago pushed the hypnotic sound further with the invention of Acid House Phuture - Acid Tracks , Fast Eddie - Acid Thunder
From here, the story jumps back across the pond to Europe, where acid house became the standard sound of the exploding rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s.


Allow me to fill in gap here with a comment I made in a thread last summer.

The story (as I remember hearing it) is Genesis P Orridge and his Psychic TV crew were on tour in Chicago, circa 1986 or thereabouts, killing time in a record store when they noticed a section devoted to ACID HOUSE. Being committed psychedelicists, they promptly bought a bunch of the records (mostly white label type stuff) gobbled lots of acid and proceeded to see (and feel) what happened.

It turns out that "ACID" in the local Chicago slang just meant freshly pressed vinyl, so what Genesis P and his crowd were listening to whilst thwacked out of their gourds was just good ole deep groove disco house music ... but it changed the world anyway, because they took it back to Britain with them, endeavored to build their new sound around it and voila unleashed their version of ACID HOUSE upon the world (ie: the first genuine fusion of psychedelia and disco). Thus was rave culture born.

And if it didn't happen that way, it should have.

posted by philip-random at 6:59 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you going to the club? Are you going to see Oakenfold?

When I need to get a lot of work done, I put on a shuffle of Psytrance, Trance & Goa, push the sub rather past flat response, and let my cortex and subcortex deorbit into a glorious frenzy. Some really fabulous code, and imagery, has come of this.

Good thing I live in a single family detached...
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


By that I mean, a lot of trance aren't really meant to be listened to in isolation, but most of them have a specific purpose in terms of manipulating a crowd full of dancers.

For example, there are a lot of songs that are just a minimal driving beat with no long breakdown and only a subtle melody, which are really meant as filler (or if you want to look at another way, as the meat of the set). There are songs with huge builds that are meant to drive people into a frenzy, there are songs that are 'end of night' songs to bring down the energy, there are songs that are kind of low key that are meant to be used to warm up the night, there are remixes of 'classic' songs meant to trigger a nostalgia rush, etc, there are druggy, meandering tracks that are meant to confuse and disorient, and so on.

The ones that get all the attention are the big 'anthemic' songs with noticeable melody or vocals, and if those are all you know about trance, and the only time you've heard them has been from either bad djs that play anthems all night, or your 'raver' coworker that plays "NOW That's What I Call Trance! Part 20" all day long, then it's easy to see why you'd dislike trance.

In their proper context (ie, 1 or 2 anthems at the peak of the set after leading up to it with hours of more subtle, sophisticated stuff), they can be amazing. Out of context, they're just cheese.

Paul Van Dyk's - Tell Me Why is a lovely song by itself, but the extended club remix actually played near the end of a set by the man himself can be absolutely breathtaking.
posted by empath at 7:04 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


And if it didn't happen that way, it should have.

Yeah, it didn't happen that way.

Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and Nicky Halloway started a party called Shoom in London after spending a summer in Ibiza rolling their faces off, which ended up kicking off the Summer of Love, etc.
posted by empath at 7:08 PM on February 1, 2010


So, I take it, spin class doesn't count?

The judges award you 7/10 for that. If it's a continuous mix and really loud..
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on February 1, 2010


Any chance you could do Scouse House next?

I think booty house/ghetto techno next, but I said that last time.
posted by empath at 7:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find trance is great for programming and writing. Seems to activate some good neuronal pathways for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:14 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love electronic music but pretty much can't stand trance (just due to an overload of cheese-trance like "Castles In The Sky" and "Sandstorm"), but this is a really well done post and I'm going to check most of it out (so many links!).
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:24 PM on February 1, 2010


And if it didn't happen that way, it should have.

Yeah, it didn't happen that way. Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and Nicky Halloway started a party called Shoom in London


A quick trip to wikipedia has Shoom opening in toward the end of 1987. My anecdote (which I'm pretty sure I picked up from a Mondo 2000 article many years ago) has Psychic TV going "Acid House" in 1986. I think it's entirely conceivable that they could have found some time to influence the Shoom crowd in the ensuing year.
posted by philip-random at 7:34 PM on February 1, 2010


A couple of other classic tracks from Goa back then:

Jam and Spoon's 'Watch out for Stella' remix of the Age of Love
Bassheads - Is There Anybody Out There?

That big spacey track near the start of Oakenfold's Goa mix? Li Kwan - Point Zero

Nice post!
posted by carter at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2010


This track for me marks the exact final moment before epic trance went too far.

Trance (epic or otherwise) went too far for me at a house party one rainy February night in Vancouver, 1994. A cool crowd of music loving people, a kick ass sound system, three or four DJs "selecting" back and forth through a gumbo of beautiful sounds and genres (dub, rare groove 70s funk, the Stones, Can, Prince, Public Enemy, Primal Scream, Aphex Twin, Stone Roses, Miles Davis). There were no rules, no boundaries, just whatever kept things grooving positively onward ...

And then the Trance Crowd showed up with their ONE DJ and his white labels (and a whack of white powder too), and so much for the gumbo. It was all resolutely one way from there. If you didn't want to commit to the infinite groove, you had no business being there. Needless to say, roughly three-quarters of the crowd split.

And the crazy thing is, I saw much the same thing happen this New Years. Cool crowd, multiple DJs ... until the Trance Division showed up (late, of course, drugged to the gills) and defined an extremely committed but VERY LIMITED trajectory.

Even the host ended up retreating to his room.
posted by philip-random at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2010


Any chance you could do Scouse House next?

I think booty house/ghetto techno next, but I said that last time.


If someone would do one like this on the whole evolution of ragga/jungle/breaks/breakcore I would be really happy. I would kind of try but I'm way too lazy to find that many links and I don't know a lot of the early history of jungle.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2010


Again, Sandstorm was actually a really good song in the proper context.

For one, that breakdown is fucking awesome. Even real dancers used to like it, and they used to hate breakdowns. And it was almost impossible not to start dancing after the drum roll in that breakdown. That was the main reason that DJ's played it out so much. Like I said above, songs are first and foremost FUNCTIONAL, and if a song like Sandstorm fills dance floors every time you play it, you are going to play it at every one of your gigs. Not every dj is big or popular enough that people will dance to whatever they play.

Also, the main synth was awesome and innovative at the time. One thing about dance music is if someone invents a new synth that people love, you're going to own the clubs for for the next 6 months until people figure out how to copy it. The whole song is pure energy from beginning to end.

The problem is, that like all dance music, it was meant to be a disposable single that came and went in 6 months. It's not Darude's fault that it ended up on wedding DJ playlists.

In my mind, that song is always tied into these songs:

The Shrink - Nervous Breakdown
Lock N Load - Blow Ya Mind
Zombie Nation - Kernkraft 400

And a particular club in DC that had hardcore raves on saturdays. Sandstorm was like A FUCKING CHOON, but nobody took it that seriously. I was so weirded out when Sandstorm and Kernkraft 400 both hit the mainstream that year. To me it was raver music and hearing 50,000 people chant along with zombie nation at a stadium was so surreal.
posted by empath at 7:49 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


until the Trance Division showed up (late, of course, drugged to the gills) and defined an extremely committed but VERY LIMITED trajectory.

If you mix trance with anything else, you're doing it wrong. If you're thinking about having trance at a party, you better make at least a two hour commitment to it or not do it at all. When I play at house parties, I almost never play trance, tbh. One, nobody wants to get out of their heads at most house parties, and two, after about 2 songs some other dj wants to play something or tag team or whatever, and that's sucks if you're not both playing the same genre.
posted by empath at 7:58 PM on February 1, 2010


@philip-random

I was going to post that I saw Psychic TV in 87 or so, just before they released the acid-house stuff, and was they were up to at that time seemed to be designed to put folks in a trance, the sound was so loud and intrusive that it seemed your breathing was bound to obey their rhythms by sonic pounding of the diaphragm. It was nuts, really remarkable. Then I split to go see Naked Raygun and regain a sense of control over my limbic system.

I was very sad to hear the ACID stuff that came after that. It was almost as Genesis assumed everyone would just take drugs as a direct shortcut, and he ceased all that environmental scaffolding that made it possible to feel what the artist was trying to get out there.
posted by drowsy at 8:02 PM on February 1, 2010


I came in here for a Binary Finary youtube link and was not disappointed.

some hardcore nostalgia in this thread; thanks empath (and everyone else)!
posted by xbonesgt at 8:03 PM on February 1, 2010


I was going to post that I saw Psychic TV in 87 or so, just before they released the acid-house stuff

I saw them just post the Trance conversion, arrived at least an hour late and discovered a very strange scene. Maybe a hundred people in the room, all dancing like mad, at least half of them jammed onto the stage. Genesis P Orridge and at least one other band member were on the dance floor, cutting loose. The vibe was beautiful and infectious, entirely NOT what I was expecting.

Summer of Love indeed.
posted by philip-random at 8:36 PM on February 1, 2010


This is an excellent post. Really, it is. I favorited it. But:

there seems to be very little innovation right now pushing the sound forward.

Are you insane? There's all kinds of new stuff happening in trance.

If you take "trance" to mean "the club/rave music that was coming out of western Europe in the 90s", well, yeah—that stuff is certainly stale, and has been for years.

But the lineage that began with Goa trance in the 90s, and later became known as psytrance, is very much alive and innovating. The big things right now are suomisaundi (aka forest trance, which is big in northern Europe) and dark psy (at which the Russians are masters). Classic Goa is still going strong in Macedonia, Greece, and other odd corners of the globe.

Check out Penta, Trold, Yudhisthira, Para Halu, Ocelot, Fungus Funk, Ianuaria, Khetzal, Rawar, Mubali...
posted by ixohoxi at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2010


If you mix trance with anything else, you're doing it wrong. If you're thinking about having trance at a party, you better make at least a two hour commitment to it or not do it at all.

On one level, I agree with this entirely having had any number of transcendent trance-on-the-dancefloor experiences (not always drug-related) that clearly had as much to do with the focused and repetitive (dare I say "scientific"?) approach to the setting of mood as the music itself.

On the other hand, I've experienced this inflexible NEED for "at least a two hour commitment" as sadly divisive on way too many occasions. Ultimately, I think I blame the drugs (Ecstasy to be specific) more than anything else. That is, certain people's chemical NEED for 3.5 hours of BOOMF-BOOMF-BOOMF suddenly supersedes all other interests in the sonic environment.
posted by philip-random at 8:57 PM on February 1, 2010


For some reason, Prana has always captivated me. The groove is so solid and in ways subtle that many aren't. Nothing boomy or overstated, just unrelenting beats and wonderfully orchestrated themes.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:57 PM on February 1, 2010


But the lineage that began with Goa trance in the 90s, and later became known as psytrance, is very much alive and innovating.

Yeah, but it's still psytrance. It's not really dramatically innovating, mostly just coloring in the lines, and advancing production techniques, etc. There aren't really any dramatic new scenes blowing up. Trance of all kinds has been pretty stagnant for the past 5-6 years, imo.

The interesting psy stuff to me is the minimalish tech-y stuff that's on the boundary between techno and trance -- like Interactive Noise. There's even psy drum & bass now.

Personally, I think 'psy' as a movement is bigger than trance and it's its own thing.

I'd love to see someone do a psychedelic roundup post that encapsulates all the genres and scenes. I don't know much about it other than a few songs that I love like Astral Projection's God is a DJ remix.

On the other hand, I've experienced this inflexible NEED for "at least a two hour commitment" as sadly divisive on way too many occasions.

What I meant by that is that playing one or two trance songs sucks. I'm really picky about party music and I like consistency. If you're going to play a bunch of mashups or rock and hip-hop or whatever, then don't play trance. Nobody's going to like it unless you're playing commercial stuff like Sandstorm that everybody else is going to hate.

If you're DJing and you're going to play a variety of stuff, in general you don't want to play 10 minute long techno records. And if you're going to be playing dance music, then you want consistency and you don't want to be switching up genres every few minutes.

I dunno. I've played sets where I've mixed up a bunch of genres -- i'm doing a set at a bar next where where i'm gonna play a pretty big variety -- stuff like prince, the flaming lips, the smashing pumpkins, but also some techno and dubstep in the same set-- but I always tend to do a lot of work ahead of time to make sure it'll all flow and the tempo stays and vibe stays more or less consistent. I can definitely put together a varied set that includes only a little trance that wouldn't be a disaster, but I'd have to think about it, and I'd still probably need two hours to make it work :)

Randomly jumping on the decks and dropping two trance records and then saying 'here, now go back to playing hip-hop' is awful, it just wrecks any kind of vibe you had going.

Of course, none of this applies if you're not talking about DJs and you just have your itunes on shuffle or something, then anything goes.
posted by empath at 9:20 PM on February 1, 2010


'psy' as a movement is bigger than trance and it's its own thing.

I agree. It's definitely rooted in trance, though.

Yeah, but it's still psytrance. It's not really dramatically innovating, mostly just coloring in the lines...

I don't know much about it other than a few songs that I love

This second statement explains a lot about the first :)

There's even psy drum & bass now.

Okay, I need to hear this. Immediately. Please.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:44 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the first time that going through a Metafilter post's every single link while at work has actually increased my productivity.

Fingers dancing on the keyboard, beautiful code flowing on the screen.

Like any good trance party, let's see how many bugs QA find tomorrow.
posted by dirty lies at 10:00 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I spent six months in Nigeria, West Africa, back in 1980-81. I was learning some traditional drumming from a group of musicians based in Benin City. Their main gig was funerals. Funerals, of course, being big blowouts, extended, all-night (sometimes multiple-night) affairs where music (drumming and singing) and dancing were in full effect. I had the good fortune of attending two such functions while I was there, and did a little drumming with the group at both events. At those events I saw numerous people go into bona fide trance states: eyes rolled into their heads, shaking and trembling like you wouldn't believe, passing out (falling into the waiting arms of the watchful co-celebrants around them). THAT was some trance, I'm telling you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:03 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, I need to hear this. Immediately. Please.

Seconded.
posted by Moistener at 10:12 PM on February 1, 2010


(psy drum n bass)
posted by Moistener at 10:14 PM on February 1, 2010


My sets generally cross a few genres, and I often make a point of bringing out the unexpected, but it's a pretty rare occasion that I will delve into trance. It's got the be the right crowd in the right space (physical and mental) at the right time of night.

There's even psy drum & bass now.

It's definitely not psy drum and bass, but I played this fantastic trance/electro/drum and bass crossover as my last track at a (largely techno) party a couple months ago, and it was just a lovely moment. :)
posted by jeffj at 10:16 PM on February 1, 2010


Okay, I need to hear this. Immediately. Please.

Man, I wish I knew track titles, a friend of mind played some at his most recent gig, though.

Noisia is the only thing I can think off of the top of my head.
posted by empath at 10:19 PM on February 1, 2010


Still love psytrance (sometimes), but can't stand the non-psychedelic stuff anymore... I'll contribute this...

MFG - Sunshine

and this...

Ishkur's guide to electronic music
posted by coust at 10:30 PM on February 1, 2010


The interesting psy stuff to me is the minimalish tech-y stuff that's on the boundary between techno and trance -- like Interactive Noise.

I like that. Any other suggestions along the same lines?
posted by juv3nal at 1:32 AM on February 2, 2010


As mentioned upthread, trance is far from dead, but that's not really due to any major advancements within the core trance/psytrance genres. It's more that a lot of the minimal techno & tech-house producers moved towards a more melodic sound, with the sort of trance-like chord progressions that you would have heard back in the early Age of Love days. A lot of the time this just gets called "Minimal" and hence is largely ignored by the mainstream trance crowd, but I've heard a few people start to refer to is as neo-trance. If anything, it's a return to what trance used to sound like before it became all epic synth washes and off-beat basses.

It's all good stuff as it goes, taking that really old school trance feel of long building chord progressions, lots of repetition in the basic riffs (i.e. no huge breakdowns), somewhat meloncholic melodies, and combining them with the crisp modern minimal feel.

From a minimal perspective:
Minilogue - The Leopard (Extrawelt remix)
Nathan Fake - The Sky Was Pink (James Holden remix)
Gui Boratto - Take My Breath Away

Mininal has moved on a bit since being big into that sound, but that minimal sound has filtered back into mainstream trance, with something like this:
Robbie Rivera - Closer To The Sun (Inpetto remix)

or Deadmau5 who's success has come from straddling the minimal-trance divide (at least in terms of fanbase):
Deadmau5 - I Remember
posted by iivix at 2:18 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


In other words, despite appearances, trance is a very adaptable genre, and will survive as ever by borrowing from any other genre with a kick drum (historically progressive house, breaks, electrohouse, and now minimal).
posted by iivix at 2:21 AM on February 2, 2010


trance is a very adaptable genre

Indeed; witness the proliferation of trance sub-subgenres over the years: psychill (Dub Trees, Bluetech, Ott), psybient (Shpongle, Entheogenic), and so on.

I certainly agree that most forms of psytrance work well for coding. Some of my best work was with the assistance of Simon Posford (Hallucinogen, Shpongle, Nomads of Dub, Younger Brother).
posted by nonspecialist at 3:57 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like that. Any other suggestions along the same lines?

If you go to beatport and look at the psytrance charts, there's tons of it.
posted by empath at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2010


If anything, it's a return to what trance used to sound like before it became all epic synth washes and off-beat basses.

For a prime example of what iivix is talking about, compare:

Fragma - Toca Me (original epic trance remix)
Fragma - Toca Me (Inpetto 2008 remix)
posted by empath at 9:06 AM on February 2, 2010


I've no interest in this type of music but wanted to say how impressive this post was. A+
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2010


Every time Ishkur's guide gets referenced, I have to point out it's not designed to be accurate ("Its purpose is to entertain before it informs"), and the first edition was made in about 2 weeks. It's a good starting point, but don't cite it in any research papers.

With that out of the way, thanks for the abridged history of trance. It's great fun to look back at my past obsession, which is now something I return to in bouts of nostalgia. At one point, I consumed all the trance tracks I found, but I only had a hoard of tracks, no experience at live events. I was hooked on Digitally Imported, which provided a constant stream of new sounds. Eventually it all sounded too similar, and Drum'n'Bass became my new addiction. But I still love Oakey's Goa Mix, and Castles in the Sky still makes me smile.

DecemberBoy - I've been hashing out an epic Drum'n'Bass post for a while, and I'll get back on it, with the goal of getting it up on Friday (I think I've said that about some past Fridays, but it's time to get on with it). I'm not too familiar with Breakcore, but I recently got a fantastic breakcore CD, so I might throw in something to that (or save it for it's own post).

My favorite new project featuring old trance is Benzi and Diplo's Paper Route Gangsters remixtape thing, Fear and Loathing Hunts Vegas. It was one of those pay what you want experiments (also available on CD), which got a Pitchfork rating of 7.8.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 AM on February 2, 2010


empath: pleasepleaseplease do one on booty/ghetto house. I will love you for evar. I have never gotten that DJ Funk "Shake that shit to the left" track out of my head.
posted by LMGM at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2010


Goddamn it, I miss dancing. Thanks for the nostalgia, empath. Seriously.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2010


Not sure about the psy'n'bass, but John B's Trance'n'Bass is all swoopy and drummy (album found in parts here), including one of my favorite John B tracks: Blue Eyeshadow. Then there's Ben Sage's stuff, more DnB and less trancy, but still very melodic.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:20 PM on February 2, 2010


I certainly agree that most forms of psytrance work well for coding. Some of my best work was with the assistance of Simon Posford (Hallucinogen, Shpongle, Nomads of Dub, Younger Brother).

Seconded, emphatically.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:34 PM on February 2, 2010


This is the first time that going through a Metafilter post's every single link while at work has actually increased my productivity.
I'm a philistine. That's all I ever use trance for anyway. I put it on when I need to buckle down and work on something, because it's good for killing background distractions without being excessively distracting itself.

Wild horses could not drag me to the kind of dance scene folks describe in this thread. Granted, I would probably wind up in an altered state that takes hours to come down from, but claustrophobia-induced panic isn't really the sort of thing I like to induce on purpose.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:50 PM on February 2, 2010


When I need to get a lot of work done, I put on a shuffle of Psytrance, Trance & Goa, push the sub rather past flat response, and let my cortex and subcortex deorbit into a glorious frenzy. Some really fabulous code, and imagery, has come of this.

In my case, there's just something about drinking simultaneously drinking coffee, working with gigantic excel data sheets, and listening to very loud psytrance. Its like an adrenaline fueled cyberpunk fantasy thrill ride or something. Yeehaw!
posted by captain cosine at 1:55 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and that paul oakenfold mix is excellent, thanks so much for sharing!
posted by captain cosine at 2:03 PM on February 2, 2010


Hot snap, that Orkidea cut in the FPP is built almost entirely out of a Dead Can Dance track (The Host of Seraphim, off of Serpent's Egg)... no change whatsoever from the original until almost 2 minutes in.
posted by FatherDagon at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2010


BT's These Hopeful Machines came out today and it is totally awesome.
posted by hellphish at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2010


Such an amazing post! Empath...thank you!

Electronic is my favorite genre of music but unfortunately I came late to the game, while my sister was out raving at that particular club in DC mentioned in an earlier post (Buzz, at Nation), I was home sleeping. I missed out on it in its infancy and raves today don't seem to be what they used to (although the occasional wharehouse rave still knocks!)

While breaks is really my thang, I think trance is great. I still don't get why so many people hate on it. Nothing brings out a few liters of Haterade like discussing trance. Go to Ishkurs electronic music guide and they guy acts like Trance music killed his mother. Even this thread has the requisite bunch of electronic music fans talking about how "trance killed dance music" or how it totally sucks or blah blah blah negativity. Is electronic music really something people need to get all pretentious about? Really?

I think Sandstorm is awesome (blasphemer!), and I think you do to.

If you can't resonate with something like that you may be effectively dead as a human...or at the very least no fun. No fun at all.

As far as recent trance...I'm LOVING this right now: Someday by Edu

I suppose its melodic trance? I've been trying to find more like it.

Can't wait for your post on Ghetto Tech...hello DJ Godfather!
posted by jnnla at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


jnnla -- "Someday" is kind of along the lines of the minimal style that iivix was talking about upthread, which got popular after Deadmau5 released Faxing Berlin. Pretty much ever since Pete Tong debuted that track on his show, it's more or less been the standard sound for mainstream commercial trance.

The primary difference between that style and classic trance is the 8th note patterns for the melody rather than 16th notes, and also the complete absence of what had been a major signifier for trance, the acid bassline.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2010


I think Sandstorm is awesome (blasphemer!), and I think you do to.

Hating Sandstorm is like hating AVATAR. It sets you apart from the uncool, unhip, unworthy mob ... and you're wrong.
posted by philip-random at 5:10 PM on February 2, 2010


I don't hate sandstorm. I just hate on djs that still play it ;)
posted by flaterik at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2010


This thread is gonna send me to Itunes later tonight!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:53 PM on February 2, 2010


st alia: I highly recommend buying mix cds rather than singles, if you're going to pay money for trance.

Look for the following series (i didn't find a lot of these on iTunes, you may have to amazon them)

Tiesto - In Search of Sunrise
Armin Van Buuren - A State of Trance
Ministry of Sound/Trance Nation
Any of the Gatecrasher compilations

Also, any of the following Paul Oakenfold CD's -- Global Underground New York and Global Underground: Oslo, Resident: 2 Years at Cream, Tranceport (this is probably as good as trance got, IMO), Another World.

You really want a continuous mix, if only so you don't have to hear the boring parts at the beginnings and ends of the tracks..
posted by empath at 6:37 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty fond of Sasha & Digweed, nearly anything in the Journeys By DJ series, and Oakenfold, Tiesto, Junior Vasquez (is he really trance?)... The DJ mixes put out by Orbital and Chemical Brothers are also quite good, as is the one Pet Shop Boys DJ set that I have. I totally agree with empath on this -- buy the entire mix, so you're getting the ride rather than just selected tracks. It's the ride that makes this kind of music (and a quality DJ) worth the time to seek out. For me, anyway.
posted by hippybear at 12:21 AM on February 3, 2010


Oh man, amazing things to play with and listen to in this post. Empath, you are my favorite person of today. Thanks for some fond reminiscing; all I want to do is go out for a dance now.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:21 AM on February 3, 2010


Perhaps this is a good place to ask: I was at an outdoor party a little while ago, and at one point the non-straight-hardcore-psychedelic-trance floor was playing something trancey, but very organic and minimal. When I say "organic" I mean wood sounds, struck reeds, that sort of thing. Anyone got a classification for that?
posted by bryn at 1:19 AM on February 4, 2010


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