Trance; Then and Now
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.