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A history of trance music

1990s - music - EDM - dance progressive music

Kraftwerk and electro

"The 'soul' of the machines has always been a part of our music. Trance always belongs to repetition, and everybody is looking for trance in life... in sex, in the emotional, in pleasure, in anything... so, the machines produce an absolutely perfect trance."
--(Ralf Hütter, 1991)


Trance music is a subgenre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s. Perhaps the most ambiguous genre in the realm of electronic dance music (EDM), trance could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music derived from a combination of techno and house. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance_music [Sept 2005]


Perhaps the most ambiguous genre in the realm of electronic dance music , trance could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music derived from techno. Or house. Maybe both. Regardless, to many club-goers, party-throwers, and EDM adherents, trance is held as a significant development within the greater sphere of (post-)modern dance music.--http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance_music [2004]

The Early Nineties

As a genre, trance is said to have begun as an off-shoot of techno in German clubs during the early 1990s. The name derived in 1991 from a project of Dag Lerner (DJ Dag) and Rolf Ellmer (Jam El Mar) called Dance2Trance. Their song "We Came In Peace" also set the original definition of trance music, a drawn out and monotonous pattern with a short but repeating voice sample. The sound was meant to work hypnotic to the listeners. Arguably a fusion of techno and house, early trance shared much with techno in terms of the tempo and rythmic structures but also added more melodic overtones which were appropriated from the style of house popular in Europe's club scene at that time. (Interestingly enough, that style of house was referred to as "club" or "Euro.") However, the melodies in trance differed from Euro/club in that although they tended to be emotional and uplifting, they did not "bounce around" in the same way that house did. This early trance tended to be characterized by the anthemic qualities described above, and typically involved a break-down portion of the song in which the beat was dropped for a few bars to focus on the melody before bringing the beat back with a renewed intensity. The sounds used in trance tended to be produced by analog synthesizers (or recently, digital simulations of analog synthesizers, often called virtual analog synthesizers, with lush "strings" providing the basis for the melodies and pads, while similar analog equipment was used to produce basic bass notes and the regimented "four-on-the-floor" drum loops. This style became instantly popular in Europe and spread very quickly. Before long, trance was spawning sub-genres such as dream trance, acid trance, hard trance, and goa. (NOTE: Goa and psy-trance are arguably older, with their characteristic sounds purportedly emerging in Israel as far back as 1991.)

--http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance_music [2004]

The Mid Nineties

By the mid-1990s, trance had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of dance music. Immensely popular, trance found itself filling a niche as edgier than house, more soothing than drum-n-bass, and more accessible than techno. By this time, trance had become synonymous with progressive house and both genres essentially subsumed each other under the commercial banner of "progressive." Artists like Brian Transeau (BT), Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten Art Of Trance and Underworld came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, "epic" feel of the style. Meanwhile, DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, and John Digweed were championing the sound in the clubs and through the sale of pre-recorded mixes. By the end of the 1990s, trance remained commercially huge but had fractured into an extremely diverse genre. Some of the artists that had helped create the trance sound in the early and mid-1990s were, by the end of the decade, branching out with more experimental work (artists of particular note here are BT and Underworld, the latter of which was defunct by 1998). Perhaps as a consequence, similar things were happening with the DJs as well; for example, Sasha and Digweed, who together had helped bring the progressive sound to the forefront, all but abandoned it by 2000, instead spinning a darker mix of the rising "deep trance" style (as marked by the duo's 2000 release, "Communicate").

--http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance_music [2004]

The Present

At present (and as alluded to earlier), trance is as much about who plays the music as it is about what it sounds like. Many artists described as producing a very powerful trance sound (e.g., Underworld's "Cowgirl" from 1994 remains a floor-filler) have most recently released tracks more suggestive of techno (Underworld's "Moaner" from 1998); DJs like John Digweed, known for spinning scintillating trance anthems in 1996, turn to a darker, housier sound in 2000. All the while, new artists and DJs enter the fold, either taking over the vacancies left in the anthemic, "progressive" arena (e.g., Tïesto and ATB), or else introducing new forms, modes, and themes (e.g., Sander Kleinenberg and Steve Lawler).
For more concrete examples, check out any number of purported trance compilations; perhaps the most highly recommendable source would be the Global Underground series (http://www.globalunderground.co.uk), including its "Nubreed" sub-series, because it captures the diversity of the genre as expressed through many of its brightest DJ talents. Also recommended as source material would be the Tranceport/Perfecto Presents... series, any of Sasha & Digweed's Northern Exposure mixes, and any of the mixes in the Renaissance series. Labels to reference would include 3Beat, Bedrock, Devolution, Fluid, Fragrant, Hooj Choons (http://www.hoojchoons.co.uk/), Hook, Perfecto, Positiva, and Yoshi Toshi(http://www.yoshitoshi.com). --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance_music [2004]


  1. Global (Bonus Dvd) - Paul Van Dyk [1 CD, Amazon US]
    A combination CD-DVD set, Global acts as a handy greatest hits collection of Paul van Dyk's wildly popular brand of shiny trance, featuring two previously unreleased tracks along with a mix of his best-known work. While he's justifiably famous as a DJ, it's really van Dyk's production, filled with shimmering electronics and relentlessly upbeat rhythms, that sets his recorded work apart from the pack. His knack for catchy hooks turns songs like "Another Way" from 2000's Out There and Back into swirling epics designed for jolting the dance floor into glowstick overdrive. Of the record's two previously unreleased tracks, "Animacion" sounds more like Van Dyk's recent work. The other, "My World," with its speedy, early-trance-house feel, may have sat in the back of Van Dyk's record crate for years. The DVD includes live footage, interview snippets, fan testimonials, and a 5.1 surround-sound mix. --Matthew Cooke for amazon;com

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