A Brief History Of Trance (2014 Edition)

(This is a repost/expansion of a post I did last year at EDMTunes. Give them some love & help me thank them for giving me the opportunity to yell in long form on the internet about music people don’t listen to anymore)

As fans of Armin Van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten and others can tell you, Trance has been around, but it’s been a while since it’s been at the forefront of the dance music consciousness. But how long has it been around for, and how did it get here? I’d like to take you on a brief trip, from Trance’s humble beginnings, through its boom around the millenium & all the way up to New Years 2014.

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Album of the Month: Trance Essentials 2013, Volume 1


Armada Music has been an institution for a decade now, bringing the best in trance, tech trance & progressive to the people. While keeping up with the 20+ hours of podcasts your favorite DJs put out each week can be exhausting, there are a number of tracks in these sets that always stand out. Armada took 50 of the best trance tracks from late last year, early this year and fired them off, ready to land in your lap and explode in an orgy of sparkle, vocals, chromatic chords, uplifting, massive & progressive bass. The first CD launches with huge tracks, with Nehalennia, The Spiritual Gateway, Kudawudashuda &  the MaRLo edit of “Perfectly” hitting your ears one after another. The Love Comes again remix, the Pure Mix edit of Seven Cities by Solarstone & the radio edit of Andrew Rayel’s Musa are gorgeous mixes of recent crowd favorites that have blown up dance floors from Dublin to Dubai & Sao Paulo to Shanghai. They keep the energy going along with a half a dozen tracks in between that you’ve probably not heard but probably should. Superfly by Jorn van Deynhoven is a spectacular hard trance track that pushes the party to a higher level, buy anyone that’s a fan of my writing can tell you that Jorn van Deynhoven can do no wrong in my eyes. The tune is one of 2 dozen that are exactly what trance needs to be right now. Anthemic, big room and explosive with the energy to push back against the forces of trouse and top 40 infused commercial chomp-back that true trance fanatics shake their heads at. New York City by Alex M.O.R.P.H. is of course a favorite and the mix that’s offered at the end of the CD is a great choice for just putting on and leaving on while you dance around in your underwear in your bedroom before hitting the town.

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A State of Trance Triumphs at Madison Square Garden

“You see this guy, this is the smartest motherf*cker in this whole building, out of all y’all.” 

The ticket taker was pointing at my ear-plugs and reminding the younger, hipper crowd that ears were not invincible things. As I plan on going to shows like these for decades to come, I chuckled and moved along. There was an over-priced beer and a seat with my name on it. Alex M.O.R.P.H was cutting loose on the decks and while I didn’t catch his whole set, it was quite enjoyable.

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Mix of the Week – A State of Trance 592 – Top 20 of 2012

This is more of a public service announcement than anything else. This week, Armin’s ASOT podcast counted down the top 20 trance (progressive, epic & uplifting) tracks for the year. This 2 hour compilation is a round up of the favorites that were voted on. And because it’s Armin, the votes number in the 5-6 digits from people around the world. I still cannot imagine that this guy has been putting out 120 minutes of Trance weekly for the last…592 weeks. I’m a huge fan of Armin, here’s a track you probably haven’t heard by him:

10 years of trance. And people still assume that the genre is encapsulated by Sandstorm, Children and that one time they saw/heard Oakenfold back in the late 90’s. Armin’s track recommendations have become a staple of the trance community, influencing dozens of weekly/monthly podcasts by other EDM artists, from Ferry Corsten (Corsten’s Countdown) to Tiesto (Club Life) to Paul Oakenfold’s wonderful Fluoro series. The proliferation of regular music/mixes being put out by the best (and the newest) artists regularly is something that we would have killed for back in the days of sharing music over AIM, Napster, NewsGroups and trading beats/midis with floppy disks.

The track selection is definitely a great representation of trance in 2012, with huge favorites like “I’ll Listen” by AvB & Ana Criado, multiple tracks by Andrew Rayel, who almost seems genetically engineered to produce tracks for ASOT. W&W, Markus Schultz, Solarstone and Aly & Fila also made the list with some stunning tracks, plus a new favorite for me, Giuseppie Ottaviani, an Italian trance producer I’d just never heard of before. Definitely someone I’ll have to keep my eye on.

Great mix of tracks for traveling, cleaning up the house before relatives arrive or just celebrating the season.

This is Terry Gotham.
Peace on Earth & Good Will Towards Men.

Ferry Corsten, Deuce Stenstrom & the Obliteration of Dance Floors

ImageThe two break-dancing gentlemen right in front of the DJ booth at Sullivan room had amassed quite a crowd considering it was only 11:30 PM. Deuce Stenstrom was spinning another one of his infectious “funhouse” sets (as his girlfriend lovingly refers to them), and the rapidly growing crowd was loving every second of it. As I sipped my Amstel Light, the deep bass & creeping melodies pulled person after person out of their seats, away from the bar and onto the dance floor. Deuce, opening another one of the Friday night SOUP parties, is one of the few DJs in the city I bust my ass to never miss. We go back years, and his work never disappoints. The wobbly,jolly sound, infused with old school house & techno tracks, is unique among the DJs I know in NYC. It reminds me of Falstaff because of its gregarious, bouncy, bubbly feel. But, back to the breakdancers.

Two smartly dressed black guys were popping, locking & breaking back and forth, turning the floor over to each other after they pushed out routines of increasingly complex & ridiculous moves. They kept tempting each other, baiting each other into doing crazier shit, and before long, the front third of the dance floor was devoted to people standing around in awe of the twin Nubian cyclones of fashion & footwork. Deuce kept the energy building so eventually, exhausted and to thunderous applause, they stopped, took a bow, and headed to the bar to get some congratulatory drinks a few people rushed to offer to purchase for them. As the dance floor repopulated and Deuce’s set finished up, I headed to the door after congratulating my boy on crushing it for the dance floor before midnight, a skill in serious demand these days in the Gotham Underground. I had a date with Ferry Corsten, and my only concern was whether the club he was spinning at (PACHA NYC) would let him work his magic on the decks without interference.

Pacha generates very strong opinions among clubbers in NYC. A long standing institution in Ibiza, the NYC off-shoot on the west side in midtown is generally treated harshly in the eyes of the community, especially those in the lower-income brackets. The main room turns into a stifling, churning amalgam of sweat, alcohol and stays that way until sunrise. Despite this, Pacha devotees swear by the sound system, the lighting and the imported talent that creates parties that approximate the bastardized love child of Ultra Music Festival & the Meatpacking District, crammed into a not-quite-large-enough warehouse a few blocks from the Hudson river. Thousands of Gothamites have sworn to never set foot in the club, due to the fact that it’s usually a total clusterfuck by 1 AM. While I usually don’t inflict that kind of environment on myself, tonight I was on the VIP Press list.

ImageAfter skipping the regular line and being treated wonderfully by Pacha’s front of house staff, I picked up a jack and coke and found a spot on one of the comfy leather couches that ringed each of the absurdly priced tables next to the railings. The tables allowed for a birds eye view of the main dance floor, the DJ booth, and provided a handy way to empty your bank account in under 6 hours. While I had no intention of spending upwards of three to five hundred dollars on a bottle of champagne or vodka, others were snapping the tables up like a cheap HDTV at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. The openers for Ferry were doing a tag-team set, switching off between big room house and some mildly interesting trance that kept the (already packed way past capacity) dance floor throbbing in preparation for Ferry. The names of the duo escape me at the moment, but they were competent enough that I managed to stay entertained until Ferry hit the decks right around 1:15.

He broke into some of his bigger anthems immediately, with his track “Feel It” reminding everyone in the club that he was now in control and serving up a serious dose progressive & uplifting trance. I was delighted to see Ferry had been given free reign on the decks, and wasn’t pressured by the Pacha management to modify his sound to fit the feel of the club. After seeing Ferry spin electro and house at Electric Zoo and being severely disappointed, I could not have been more pleased as the trance continued, occasionally accenting the set with a more poppy crowd favorite, such as “Language” by Porter Robinson, or “The Force of Gravity” by BT.

While the set was building I started chatting with a gentleman who was dancing to the sweet-ass trance music that was oozing out of the speakers, and he invited me back to his VIP table. Apparently he’d purchased “six or seven” bottles of champagne (he couldn’t remember which) and needed some help consuming them all. Never oneto be impolite, I graciously accepted his offer and introduced myself to the Brazilian soccer players that shared the table with him. I sipped my champagne, leaned back on the couch, felt the bass and listened to drunk Brazilian guys aggressively hit on every girl that walked past them in their exceptional Portuguese (and total lack of English).

The epic set continued for hours, with most people not moving off the floor, especially when a personal favorite of mine “One Thousand Suns” ft. Chicane, hit. Girls screaming, people dragging their friends up and down stairs in heels, racing to make sure they didn’t miss the drop. “Trigger” by Marcel Woods & W&W could not have come at a better time, and “Live Forever” (another of Ferry’s tunes featuring Aruna on vocals) ensured that the entire first floor of the club reached face-melting status. The track absolutely killed and even the VIP peeps stopped hitting on things for 5 seconds while the beat and trancey breakdowns had them shaking like Beyonce. Around 3:30 AM he managed to tear himself away from the decks and we beat a hasty retreat before the proletariat downstairs realized that there wasn’t going to be another encore. After many glasses of gratis champagne, I bid my new friends adieu and disappeared into the night, high on bubbly and the fact that Ferry absolutely killed it. Can’t wait to see what he has in store if he comes back for A State of Trance 600 with Armin Van Buuren.

This is Terry Gotham, see you on the dance floor.