Last trance saloon: why is music's cheesiest genre making a comeback?

Once maligned for its naff image and sugary euphoria, trance is being embraced by DJs such as Evian Christ and Rustie. Time to break out the confetti canons

In the fickle world of dance music, trance has long been ridiculed. While still undeniably big business around the world, it conjures club scenes of hands in the air, outstretched to DJs in all-white ensembles and Oakleys. It’s hardly fashion-conscious or “cool”. But 26-year-old producer Evian Christ had a different experience when he first heard its aspartame melodies. “I remember being 11 and listening to Suburban Train by Tiësto, and it moved me to tears,” he says.

Christ (AKA Josh Leary) is an electronic hip-hop producer with credits on Kanye West’s Yeezus. But most recently his childhood love of trance has been his focus. For the past few years he’s been organising a series of confetti cannon-firing events called Trance Party, including a UK tour last month. These nights feature artists such as Björk collaborator Arca and US DJs Total Freedom and Venus X, and mix trance with its high-energy cousins happy hardcore, rave, rap and diva house into a propulsive, original whole. While most music-makers might stop there, Leary has also collaborated with artist David Rudnick for an installation at London’s ICA dubbed The Trance War.

Leary is not alone. Another producer whose sound owes much to trance is his Warp labelmate Rustie, whose new album, released two weeks ago, is drenched in arpeggiated synths. “Everything I’ve done has trance elements in it; I get a buzz from making music so euphoric,” he explains. Like Leary, his enjoyment of trance goes back to his early years. He remembers listening to an Essential Mix by Gatecrasher’s Scott Bond in 1999 and being “totally in love with it”.

Rustie. Photograph: Other

Perhaps the things that made trance untenable at the time make it so necessary in 2015. The genre’s template was laid down by DJs such as Paul van Dyk and Tiësto in the mid 1990s at the height of the superclub era. These 1,000-plus capacity monoliths, such as Liverpool’s Cream, Sheffield’s Gatecrasher and Ibiza’s Amnesia, were by turns futuristic, hedonistic and bland, a commercial answer to rave’s DIY utopianism.

For the generation that was born in or grew up during its 90s and early 2000s heyday, and through the most recent recession, these, as Leary puts it, “boring, problematic” aspects of the bygone trance scene are less relevant. You might suspect traces of irony in that he will happily wear a Tiësto T-shirt, or that Rustie’s maximal tunes echo the cavernous drops of peak-time trance hits. But while the genre’s aesthetics can be ludicrous, trance appeals to young people today because of its overwhelming energy, populism and optimism. In short, it’s the sonic opposite of austerity.

“I really, really do wish I was in Amnesia in 1998, covered in foam,” says Leary, with no trace of sarcasm. Sounds like the next Trance Party might have some other added extras.

Rustie’s EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE is out now on Warp


Charlie Jones

The GuardianTramp

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