Trance, that much-maligned EDM genre built around uplifting (aka “cheesy,” to its many detractors) melodies, chugging rhythms and long, slow builds, refuses to go away. After more than a decade of taking a backseat — at least here in the States — to everything from electro-house to dubstep to the bludgeoning “big room” sounds favored by most of today's festival headliners, it's making a comeback in a big way. The latest proof comes in the form of Insomniac's new all-trance brand, Dreamstate, whose inaugural event at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino just sold out in four hours.
“Our Basscon and Bassrush brands have been the epicenters for all forms of hard dance and bass music. It’s time that we brought that same level of quality, creativity and inspiration to the trance community,” Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella said via a press release. “Dreamstate will be completely dedicated to celebrating trance in all of its forms. Trance fans are some of the most passionate in electronic music, and I hope that Dreamstate will provide them with a promising new destination.”
Trance's popularity peaked in the late '90s, when such stars of the genre as Germany's Paul Van Dyk, the U.K.'s Sasha and Digweed and L.A.-based producer/composer BT pushed the sound into ever more epic, cinematic forms. Labels such as Kinetic, with its influential Tranceport DJ mix compilations, Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto and Ministry of Sound carried trance's popularity over into the 21st century, helping launch the careers of later trance superstars Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten and Above & Beyond.
But by the mid-2000s, trance had fallen so far out of fashion that even former champions of the sound like Sasha and Oakenfold began distancing themselves from the term. “Progressive house” became a more popular genre tag among fans and DJs alike, as trance came to be defined almost exclusively by what Oakenfold once called the “fluffy cheese” of the Dutch trance sound popularized by Van Buuren, Corsten and Tiësto. (Oakenfold didn't specifically single out these producers or their many imitators, but everyone knew what he was talking about.)
But despite a thousand “Is Trance Dead?” think pieces in the EDM press, the music's core fan base never really went away. Nor did trance ever really become all cheese, all the time, as some critics would have you believe. Artists like Infected Mushroom helped make the subgenre of psychedelic trance more popular than ever, and Van Dyk continued to champion the sleeker, Germanic, techno-influenced style of trance throughout those “fluffy cheese” years.
At this year's EDC Vegas, signs of a trance resurgence abounded. The airplane-hangar-like Circuit Grounds was packed beyond capacity for Van Buuren's Gaia project, and British trance group Above & Beyond scored the weekend's most talked-about moment when they brought out Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston to introduce their track “Walter White.”
Now comes Dreamstate, which will take over the NOS Events Center's Damus Building on Nov. 27 and 28. Apart from the two Pauls (Van Dyk and Oakenfold), most of the acts on the lineup don't have big followings in America — yet. But now that Insomniac is throwing its promotional weight behind the genre, that's likely to change soon.