The Ultimate DJ Mixes Website

Trance; Then and Now

Trance; Then and Now
  • SumoMe

Once upon a time, the trance scene was thriving; when each week city centres across Europe would be full to the brim with ravers wanting to dance into the early hours. Though it wasn’t only about dancing, meeting friends and generally having a good time for the party goers, but it also gave people a chance to listen to the latest in high energy, trance music. Of course it wasn’t all high BPM, a lot of the music wasn’t made just for clubs, but it still had that distinctive trance sound.

Music back then, when all felt right with the world, was made with hardware and over a longer period of time, with effort having to be put into the music made as back then you couldn’t simply start your own label and sell your tracks via Beatport, TrackItDown, iTunes and the likes. You had to make music good enough to warrant being signed to a label and then pressed onto CD and Vinyl (and in some cases cassette!).

In the short space of 10 short years, the effort and skill needed to make a track worthy of being signed has passed. Today, anyone who’s anyone can start up a label and release a track, and more than likely there’ll be someone out there who will buy it, regardless of its quality. It’s not just that that’s changed either, trance music of 2011 is almost unrecognisable to that of 2001, which itself was quite different trance from 1991 – when trance started to become a fascinating and popular genre.

The state of the scene in 2011 quite frankly leaves a lot to be desired. Back in the early nineties trance was harder, mixing it up with techno with the odd acid influence. In the early noughties trance stayed hard and unique but at the same time a commercial sound started to creep in. In 2011, it feels like the majority of the good stuff has been lost and for the most part of what artists and labels release as trance is in fact house, progressive house, pop with a very small trance influence, or plain and simple dance music.

It could be said that so called ‘real trance’ died years ago. Though saying that, perhaps “died” is the wrong word. Perhaps it’s better to say that true trance has simply gone out of fashion with a lot of DJs and producers having changed their style to satisfy the masses, despite preaching their love for the genre. Though that’s easy to do when something’s popular, isn’t it?

Quantity over quality seems to be the direction the scene is heading, which isn’t working. There’s a seemingly endless list of classic trance tracks that are still popular now and they were all released between 1996-2005 (ish). Why are they so popular? Well, they’re unique. Listening to them you don’t get the sense of “I’ve heard this before” as you do with a shocking amount of tracks in today’s scene. That’s not to say there aren’t any classics post-2005 and certainly not all of today’s trance is bad. It does feel like most of trance’s true talent is being snubbed and left to the, for lack of a better word, lesser labels and not reaching many ears.

It’s not just the music that’s changed though. There seems to be a worrying growing amount of DJs whom now seem obsessed with becoming pop stars rather than DJs. Messages behind the DJ, flags and banners in the crowd, love hearts being exchanged between the fans and performers; this isn’t how the scene used to be. Yes, things change and evolution isn’t always a bad thing, but how can you rave to music when you’re busy making adoring gestures at the posing DJ? The fanaticism of fans now is another factor in the current demise of trance. If music fans spent more time in enjoying music no matter who it was made by rather than rely on a select few to give them their fix then the whole scene would be a healthier place.

There’s also a trend for mislabelling everything. Just because it has a synthesiser doesn’t automatically make it trance. Innovation is great, but being different to the extent that the roots of trance are lost, is not.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are more than enough DJs and producers out there making true trance tracks and mixing true trance sets, and they’re also not afraid to voice their opinion, so it’s not surprising these guys are popular with older heads. Those harder, pure trance tracks and sets still exist, they’re just that bit harder to find than they used to be.


  1. Absolutely brilliant article! A lot of people seem to think all change is evolution, when in fact change can be devolution. Also, I was talking to my grandad, and something he said really stuck with me (its not exactly what he said, but its the point he was driving across): Think of music as a tree, it grows, it expands, it changes over the seasons and years… but if you change it so much as to uproot the tree… well then the tree… the music… dies.

    Demand proper trance music, and proper trance music will be delivered.

  2. Excellent article mate. Fully agreeing with you!

  3. Great article and really true words, Ben!

  4. Though the subject is Trance music, maybe the article could be extended to cover other styles of music too.

    Some little time ago I’ve been discussing the matter with a friend here in Brazil, he is someone who adores oldskool music, 70s, 80s and 90s, and much of the current music does not appeal to him the same way. I’ve lost count of how many people say that classic Trance is a lot better than the current counterparts, as well as I listen to the same comment about other genres of electronic music.

    Well, I’m coming to present another point of view regarding THE CLASSICS vs THE NEW, what in general I see that accounts for massive preference of the old music.

    I agree with what’s stated about the massive amount of music so easily made available nowadays, readily made in comparison with the hardware fashionable way of doing things and tremendously accessible through the internet, either through legal or illegal access at different web sites.

    Yesterday, to have an LP was like owing treasure. During the 80s and 90s, to buy music was a lot more difficult and costly, and I make the following comparison, taking Brazil as reference:


    1) To have an LP was treasure;
    2) Songs used to be heard on radio stations for much longer times and with more radio stations broadcasting dance music;
    3) We would buy one or two LPs, with limited amount of music which we’d listen so much and appreciate a lot;
    4) Due to the high number of times we used to listen to the same song, we had the opportunity to develop affinity for them, developing a feeling that’d later be called nostalgia;
    5) The current generation that rates current music as something of low quality knows what nostalgia is in most cases.


    1) To have a CD is becoming old-fashioned;
    2) Songs go live and after a month or a bit more disappear completely, besides less radio stations dedicated to dance music;
    3) We download hundreds of songs which we’ll barely listen and appreciate them one by one properly;
    4) Due to low number of times we listen to a given song because there are hundreds more to dedicate ourselves too, it’s impossible to develop affinity, so the thrill a current song causes would never be compared with a oldskool one;
    5) The current generation that does not have the chance to appreciate music properly maybe won’t have any nostalgia or similar feeling to delight in their future times.

    Yesterday, a given song would be much more appreciated than today, we’d develop love for a dozen tracks, a record or an artist, we did it, and they were made so much special to us that we will continue listening to them till death.

    Today, we have a lot to cover, everything turns out to be more generic, and given the tremendous high amount of production and easy access, everything seems too common and generic, easily discardable.

    Summarizing this point, feelings are what make music special and unique, something possible to foster in the past, but too hard to cultivate nowadays. I do think that a lot of people say the yesterday’s music was better because of that feeling called nostalgia, songs were allowed to enter our lives and become a milestone to be delightfully remembered on and on and on and on…. and on.

    Another point is, focusing exclusively on Trance music, is it really easy to think of devolution taking place? Some of the good producers of today’s day are the same ones of the past such as Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, ATB, Ferry Corsten, etc. Would it be easy to believe that they’ve forgotten what they were doing, they unlearned how to make music? If all of them do not produce music as yesterday, there must be something to blame, but probably not their intellectual potential.

    What could have changed or happened to them (some possibilities)?

    – There are a lot more software than hardware-based producers, if any of the former, and hardware makes better music;
    – They have changed focus, they want to be starts instead of DJs and good producers, live for the fame as opposed to becoming a real DJ and producer (the parameters of what defines a real DJ today may be different from yesterday too);
    – They’ve really unlearned how to make good music;
    – They don’t count on better technology than yesterday;
    – etc.

    It’s really difficult for me to believe that they’ve no longer known how to create what they were so good at before, so I ask myself and everybody: “Are they unable or uninterested to create music of quality or are we once again victims of nostalgia?”

    This question may not apply to every single reader or even the creator of the post, but I’m certain that there is a lot of people to whom this question is very appropriate, they don’t even listen today’s Trance music, or if they do it, it’s nothing comparable with what they did in the past due to the circumstances and characteristics of the 90s where music were allowed to be part of our lives.

    My intention with this reply is to point out 2 things:

    1) to rule out nostalgia when drawing comparisons between the old and the new Trance music (or other genres). If nostalgia comes into play, it will be impossible to defeat the classics, they will always remain the best, there will always be the ones who listen to classics only or complain about the lack of thrills of current music.

    2) if today’s artists, a good number of them the same old ones, are indeed not producing music of similar quality, there must be reasons beyond the limitations of nostalgia, there has to be conceivable and realistic motives for that which can potentially be unfolded and covered by this thread and made clear to everyone, I just cited some of them above, people can elaborate on those or provide more clues.

    Lastly, my opinion is, to me, the old music was wonderful due to the aforementioned reasons. The new music can potentially be as good if I allow that to happen as I would do in the past. I don’t believe award-winning artists are less skilful today, that they’ve unlearned their jobs. It may be just internet and technology as a whole that creates the sense of generic, commonness, simplicity, making most tunes ordinary ones, but that does not mean they aren’t necessarily special, it’s just a sense of so in the air, and when it unites forces with nostalgia, new music becomes doomed, what could be quite unfair.

    I think most people here remember Pet Shop Boys thanks to their great successes of the 80s and 90s, but maybe there are lots of people unaware of the fact that they still produce music (here in Brazil I can guarantee that), however, without becoming outstanding hits as before. Have they unlearned how to make good music? I don’t think so, there has to be other facts contributing to the sense of commonness their new hits have, and some possible reasons are stated above, there may be others, all subject to discussion here.

    I also love nostalgia, but I’m aware this must be pushed aside when judgment is in question, again informing this only to those who deserve to listen to it.

    Yes, I must confess certain types of Trance which I did like are rare to see nowadays, such as the ones produced by Mauro Picotto around the year 2000, with strong kicks and remarkable melodies, his Tech-Trance was different from most today’s Tech-Trance which moderately appeals to me. Picotto managed to produce Trance strong and beautiful all at once, and most of what I see today choose either aspect, but never both. Also, today I notice what I’ll call Tech elements in much Progressive Trance tunes, at least it’s my impression. I’m far from an expert in production, but that is something that did not exist before, it seems that Trance comes with more drums to my ears nowadays and that does not appeal much to me, I like the heavy kick instead, such as Picotto’s, Robert Miles’s, sometimes System F, and lots of Hard and Tech-Trance between 135 and 145 BPM around the year 2000, I’ve got lots of them, with strong beats and without that annoying excess of drums (just as it sounds to my ears). Fortunately, I don’t notice that frequently in my preferred style, Uplifting Trance. Moreover, I miss the amount of Acid Trance we had before, as well as Dream Trance, my favorite style together with the Uplifting one.

    Despite what I’ve just said above, I still see wonderful productions around from Aly & Fila, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Arctic Moon, Dash Berlin and others, and with some of them, I allow them to get into my life as I would do before and I guarantee I listen to them as many times as I do with classics, thus making them as special. It may be simplistic thinking, but I do see that amount of exposure and the way it is carried out through clubs, radio stations, magazines, etc. drastically contributes to our relationship with music, after all, by doing it we have plenty of time to foster love for them. That is much the same of going to a party, finding a girl of interest and dedicating time to her so as to foster higher feelings instead of going to the same party aimed at kissing the highest number possible of girls. In the end, the first guy would go on happy and with good memories to be always remembered with delight whereas the second one would just have the sensation “there isn’t anyone special, they are all the same”.

    I’ve added this thread to my blog and there is more info on it, check it out, and welcome to participate:

  5. Thats a huge comment mars :) Nostalgia is definitely a bit of a bias. No they haven’t forgotten, they have become jaded. After a while, the excitement of producing something new wears off, this goes for the business world too… the excitement turns to popularity and money. The only reason they can do this is because what was mentioned in the post, about fans relying on just the most popular djs for their fix… when in fact its the unknown djs and producers usually create more exciting productions and mixes… simply because their excitement and fresh minds are reflected in what they create.

    Im going to make a post for a song that this reminds me of right now.

    • Imagine that I’ve said what I think a lot of people should hear, that feelings disturb proper judgment, either for Trance or not.

      You’ve said something quite relevant again when you mentioned they lack the same enthusiasm and things wear off, and I was led to think that the problem has to focus:

      1) on the audience who does not dedicate themselves to music as before and lots remain blinded by nostalgia

      2) on the producers who are jaded

      Organizing the ideas, I see that those 2 perspectives should be observed since they play their roles in the sense of ordinariness current music have.

      Regarding the fresh minds of unknown DJs, that is something of utter importance, and reminds me of Brazilian soccer players. The youth have the fresh minds and are tremendously dedicated to obtaining fame, money and their chances in the national team and abroad, yielding wonderful football. After they achieved that, it’s just what we see today with Robinho, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Elano and others, after some time, they never again mesmerize the public, they turn out to be as any ordinary players, the starts fall down to earth.

      Let’s take proper care of the fresh minds, identifying them and bringing them to prominence, they’re going to make up the next generation of music, and I wish TranceMix and DJMixes success in that intent.

      • Go to an event for the big name djs, leave with memories of djs you never knew of :)

        Here’s an example of talent that is relatively “unknown”:

        • Hey Ben, that is 100% Roll Deep, do you know this band? They’re very famous and have been at #1 at the UK charts at least twice, they’ve been producing music in that style for a couple of years already (at least 2005 as I recall).

          If you don’t tell me they’re “Unknown Prophets”, I swear, I’d call them Roll Deep, because that song is greatly the same in terms of quality, also his voice. There are too many Roll Deep’s songs out there, but check out these 2:

          Good Times:

          Green Light:

  6. Thanks for the comments guys! It’s nice to get feedback on something you’ve done (good or bad!).

    Very interesting comments. It seems we have some knowledgeable folk here!

    • Just the same impression I have on you Dagger, owner of considerable knowledge :) I just wanted to add an extra point that I think deeply influences the mere listener when saying classics are better, taking Brazil as reference :)

  7. One more thing that has led to the change is technology in music creation, with so many software’s, equipment that have come into the scene, melody has somewhere lost its way or reduced. At the same time it has become easier to produce tracks, we hear atleast 20-30 new tracks being produced every week! Wow. Having said that I think its a great time for EDM in general, so much variety for all genres

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *