Should we give trance a chance?
Thu 26th Jan, 2012 Features 14456 viewsin
So we’re now four weeks in to our five-part debate series, having already chewed over some meaty topics (you can find the rest of the debates on the final page of this article). For this Friday’s feature, we’ve turned to ITM’s resident trance guru and former Editor angy to wade into a big topic close to his heart. All this is powered by Hyundai Veloster, just like past weeks there are prizes for getting involved in the debate.
It’s a few hours after the midnight countdown that took us into 2011 at the heavily hyped Armin Only concert in Melbourne. Tonight the “concert” aspect has taken centre stage more than ever before, with Nadia Ali and Sophie Ellis Bextor helping Armin recreate live a sizeable chunk of his Mirage album’s pop-trance theatre. There’s an unsettling trend towards trance cheddar for much of the set though, and the low point comes post 3am when Armin drops a trance re-rub of Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody – which would have been great anthemic fodder, except for Caleb Followill’s vocals being replaced with those of a sickly sweet female trance singer. Armin pulls the Jesus pose gratuitously during the breakdown, the crowd sings along raucously, and I die a little inside.
It’s moments like these that offer fuel to the detractors, who insist we certainly shouldn’t give trance a chance. Why the hell would we? It’s a genre dominated by cheesy female vocals, formulaic breakdowns and generic build-ups, defined by a crowd reaching for the lasers as they chase chemically-induced highs all night long. Consider this infamous quote from techno stalwart Dave Clarke: “I think all trance DJs deep down are embarrassed by what they play. They take it on the chin! They know deep down that they’re playing watered-down techno.”
It’s a common perception of many from outside the scene, and trance has been the resident whipping boy of dance music for longer than most clubbers can remember, in spite of its enduring popularity. You can trace the sentiments back to shortly after trance’s ‘Golden Year’ of 1999 had passed, when all the explosive energy from the superclubs like Gatecrasher and Cream fizzled out, leaving trance looking like it was desperately seeming to recapture those euphoric highs.
As always though, there were quality tunes to be found if you go looking in the hidden corners. Even when trance was deep in its post-2001 dead zone, pioneers like M.I.K.E and Marco V were slyly working to inject a techno influence into the sound (what eventually came to be known as ‘tech trance’). ‘Golden Year’ survivor Ferry Corsten was dropping bombs out of leftfield like Punk and Rock Your Body, Rock, while a new wave of big-league hopefuls like Armin van Buuren and Above & Beyond were cleverly challenging the way we perceived popular club trance. Reflecting the rich tapestry of sounds that defined trance as it emerged in the ‘90s, all sorts of influences began to creep their way in – the strongest were progressive and techno, but there was plenty of representation from house music, electro and beyond.
These developments crystallised in two massive records released in 2007; Rank 1 and Alex M.O.R.P.H.’s Life Less Ordinary and Wippenberg’s remix of Needs To Feel, both which deceptively lulled the listener into a false sense of security via a traditional euphoric breakdown, before slamming them in the face with a chunky electro bassline after the drop. After that the doors were blown open, and trance experienced a true ‘comeback’ year in 2008.