As part of Beatportal’s series on the history of electronic dance music, Arjan Rietveld explores the vibrant and spiritual history of trance.

Trance sprang up as a full-blown electronic music genre in the early 1990s, combining melody, harmony, and repetition to create otherworldly, sense-awakening experiences. The history of trance is rich, spanning various eras and regions, reaching millions of people along its journey. And while at times trance has been maligned and even ridiculed, it’s once again having a moment, reaching the hearts of a new generation of clubbers. Here, Arjan Rietveld explores the history of trance in detail.

Trance History

Early History: The Birth of Goa Trance

The multi-cultural history of Goa, located on the Western coast of India and the country’s smallest state, has its place in the books of trance music. Its capital, Panaji. was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until 1961 (with brief intervals of British occupation), which is traceable in the catholic churches and monasteries across the state. After the region became de-colonised, the beaches of Goa became a prominent place for freedom seekers — mostly Europeans and Americans.

By the late sixties, Goa quickly gained a reputation as a destination for its anarchic vibe, in which psychedelic drugs — most notably LSD, also known as free acid punch — and small-scale beach parties went hand in hand. Although the music wasn’t electronic per se, the aim of DJs — who often played using DAT-tapes — was to create a trance-inducing experience amongst the crowd. Psychedelic rock bands fitted that line of thought, until the introduction of experimental electronic music from Europe changed the sound across the eighties.

Frenchman DJ Laurent was one of them. Inspired by the free spirits of Goa, Laurent initially moved to Goa for a few months in the early eighties, yet ended up staying to hone his craft. By creating extended edits of all sorts of ‘electronic’ music tracks, focusing on their synthesizer and drum machine sounds, he created a ritualistic atmosphere that suited the natural environment and spirit of Goa. These efforts ignited a more psychedelic approach to dance floors across the globe.

Dancing Goa mid-90s (Photo-by-Andreas-Wagner)

Photo: Dancing in Goa, mid-90s (by Andreas Wagner)

The global influence of German artists, record labels and venues on electronic music has been immense. Throughout the seventies, German electronic music groups like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream took their first steps in this new and exciting world of beats and bleeps. 

As the city of Berlin was divided into East and West, its citizens faced strict ruling ever since that captivated the city in a paralysed state. Regardless of these challenges, it was during this period that Edgar Froese founded Tangerine Dream in 1967. The band transformed contemporary music from something merely electric into something electronic, birthing a deeply technological art form. Froese, a sculptor who studied with Salvador Dali, was active in West Berlin’s psychedelic scene in the late sixties, but was seeking a new outlet for experimental music. Following the band’s debut album Electronic Meditation in 1970, Tangerine Dream’s second album, Phaedra, in 1973 proved to become their breakthrough. Their psychedelic soundscape brought this new sound palette to the masses, and laid the foundation for the so-called Berlin School.

One of Tangerine Dream’s early members, Klaus Schulze, decided to venture on a solo career after the band’s first album. The Berlin School pioneer concentrated on mixing minimalist music with repetitive rhythmic motifs, arpeggiated sounds, composing several albums of atmospheric space experimentality that would come to be known as kosmische. As the titles suggest, his two albums, Trancefer (1981) and En=Trance (1987), clearly referred to the induced mindset that his music was aiming to convey.

Meanwhile in France, Jean-Michel Jarre developed his own take on electronic music during the seventies. Being an avid explorer of technological possibilities while taking inspiration from musique concrète, Jarre crafted a fine balance between atmosphere, abstraction and melodic structures in his musical works. Jarre introduced his debut album, Oxygene, in 1976, which further fuelled the interest in psychedelic electronic music across the Northern hemisphere.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city unified and made way for a thriving underground scene, of which electronic music became a catalyst as much as a byproduct. Many abandoned and ownerless buildings were taken over by young crowds to organise illegal events. This led to the rise of new kinds of clubs — unregulated, temporary venues with no given legal restrictions. Power plants, bunkers, hangers and underground stations became temporary clubs. Notable early examples include Planet, Ufo Club and Walfisch, which laid the foundation for the Tresor legacy. The relief and freedom after the reunification was celebrated with nonstop parties and flourished through the strong gay, art and underground scenes.

It was around this time that the first strains of trance originated as a natural reaction to the acid trance and techno movements. In its earlier stages and impersonations, trance-inducing music attempted to emulate trance-like states themselves, translating the associated feelings of high, chills, euphoria and uplifting rush listeners would experience inwardly in the shape of sound. 

Some of the first labels that pushed the newly formed genre forward was Masterminded For Success, or MFS, which was, interestingly, run by British-born entrepreneur Mark Reeder. In 1992, the Berlin-based label released the CD that goes down in history as the first trance compilation: Tranceformed From Beyond. The tracklist featured a range of future classics, including “Perfect Day” by The Visions Of Shiva, “High On Hope” by Microglobe, as well as multiple tracks from Harald Blüchel, aka Cosmic Baby.

Although Blüchel’s productions played an elemental role in developing the sound of Berlin, it was Matthias Paul — better known as Paul van Dyk — who turned into the face of that scene. Apart from their two collaborative records as The Visions Of Shiva, Van Dyk’s first solo success came with his remix of “Love Stimulation” by Humate in 1993, a quick reminder of the beauty that lies within trance music, even to this date. Not long after, in 1994, Van Dyk’s debut album 45 RPM featured the single “For An Angel,” which would turn into a popular anthem of Berlin’s annual Love Parade event. It meant the starting point of a long-running international DJ-career for Van Dyk.

DJ Laurent Goa Trance

Photo: Goa Gil (Left) and DJ Laurent (Right)

Anjuna -Goa -1991-(Photo-by-Piers-Ciappara)

Photo: Anjuna Goa, 1991 (by Piers Ciappara)

While Berlin created an anarchic underground scene during the early 1990s, Frankfurt established itself as a steady hotbed for early trance and techno music. Frankfurt was the antithesis of Berlin’s turbulent history. Located in the mountainous southern part of the country, the city developed into the country’s financial centre across the second half of the twentieth century.

Regardless of its image, Frankfurt became a hub for musical innovation. Music venues such as Dorian Gray (located inside Frankfurt Airport since 1978), Omen (opened in 1988 with residents including Sven Väth) and Technoclub (founded in 1984) turned into Europe’s largest and most influential nightclubs of their time.

It was in 1992 when artist duo Jam & Spoon, aka Markus Löffel and Rolf Ellmer, crafted a blueprint for early German trance sound. Their first EP, Tales From A Danceographic Ocean, released on R&S Records, featured the track “Stella”, a techno-trance crossover packed with dreamy melodies. In addition, Jam & Spoon remixed “The Age Of Love” (by the eponymous act) that same year — another trippy endeavour that raised the bar for the early Frankfurt productions.

Furthermore, the sound of Frankfurt came to define itself through the output of labels such as FAX +49-69/450464, Superstition, Delirium, Suck Me Plasma, and Force Inc. These platforms further enforced the cities’ creative atmosphere by providing a platform for mostly local acts such as B-Zet, Pete Namlook and Oliver Lieb. Noteworthy tracks include “Eternal Spirit” by 4Voice, “Hearts” by L.S.G. and “We Came In Peace” by Dance 2 Trance. Over time, these imprints turned into pace-setting and highly influential institutions within the boundaries of electronic music.

Sven Vath History of Trance

Photo: Sven Väth @ Club Omen

A crucial fixture in the development of Frankfurt’s scene is Sven Väth. Being involved with club life since the early eighties, Väth became heavily influenced by the sounds he experienced during his extended trips to Goa at the time. Back in his hometown, Väth became a resident DJ at Dorian Gray, co-founded Omen and launched the Eye Q imprint together with Heinz Roth and Matthias Hoffman in 1991, followed by the Harthouse label the year after. 

Both labels became bastions for trance music across the early 1990s. Eye Q took a slightly softer approach, releasing records such as Brainchild’s “Symmetry,” Energy 52’s “Café Del Mar” and Hardfloor’s “Acperience 1.” Amongst its many popular records, Cygnus X’s “The Orange Theme” arguably created the most hype at the time of release. Harthouse, meanwhile, focused on the harder sounds with tracks like “My Name Is Barbarella” by Barbarella (aka Ralf Hildenbeutel and Sven Väth), “Spectrum” by Metal Master (aka A.C. Boutsen and, again, Väth) and “Quicksand” by Spicelab (aka Oliver Lieb).

By the end of the nineties, however, Sven Väh’s record labels had filed for bankruptcy, legendary venues Omen and Technoclub closed their doors, and the progressive appeal and influence of the city on global nightlife slowly shifted to a background role.

Trance in the UK

THE UK: Trance in the mid-‘90s

The trance reign was an intense, energetic and fascinating period in the books of British nightlife. Venues across the country turned out to become the soundtrack to many’s early adult life. How different that situation was only a decade earlier. Until the mid-eighties, British nightclubs weren’t particularly interesting places. Visitors mostly went to get drunk, fight, or hook up with someone. This all changed with the introduction of acid house, aided by the introduction of ecstasy.

British nightlife embraced acid house, together with the new drug ecstasy, with gusto. A new scene grew up around it, changing the social and cultural habits of a generation. Although the anarcho-capitalist vibe of this early rave scene was chaotic, it crafted a more solid foundation for nightlife across the country.

A track that perfectly fitted the acid-infused sound of its time was “Dream,” produced by Australian artist Christopher J. Dolan aka Quench, which came out in 1993. With its quirky bells and acid-like riffs, Dolan’s track took elements from the early amalgam of proto-trance, techno and acid, setting the tone for many British productions to come. 

Around that same time, various labels sprung up to push their own vision on electronic music. Founded in 1989, Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto made moves by taking a broad approach to sound, before taking a slightly more Goa-inspired take around the mid-nineties. In his BBC Radio 1 show, The Goa Mix, Paul Oakenfold introduced many Radio 1 listeners to the sound. A notable example from that era is “Floor Essence” by Man With No Name from 1996. 

In 1992, Simon Berry launched Platipus and incorporated the acid sound that raged around the country. Platipus started mostly as an outlet for Berry’s own productions, and his works especially turned the imprint into a hallmark for the early trance scene. “Two Full Moons And A Trout” (as Union Jack) and “Poltergeist” (as Vicious Circles), both from 1992, are essential tunes.

By the mid-nineties, the underground scene continued to exist despite the dominance of the hugely profitable clubbing industry with state-of-the-art, high-capacity superclubs. This development helped dance brands such as Cream (opened in 1992), Gatecrasher (founded in 1993) and Godskitchen (started in 1997) to make a name for themselves. These venues were eager to promote the energetic and euphoric sounds that trance music offered. It didn’t take long until Great Britain became the core of the new trance phenomenon.

By the mid-nineties, when progressive house started to gain decisive momentum, Hooj Choons jumped on the bandwagon and crafted a niche for itself. The label, set up by ‘Red’ Jerry Dickens in 1991, released a wide range of records from acts such as JX, Lustral and Solarstone, which neatly fit its era. One of the label’s commercial successes came when Hooj Choons commissioned Three ’N One to remix “Café Del Mar” by German act Energy 52. Following its release, “Café Del Mar” became one of the most remixed tracks in electronic music history, yet the version by Three ’N One remains unmatched.

Hooj Choons accidentally paved the way for British DJs such as Dave Seaman, John Digweed, Nick Warren and Sasha. By incorporating influences from genres such as breakbeat, house and techno, their so-called progressive sound allowed them to tell long-stretched, winding and emotive stories in their DJ-sets. Sasha’s “Xpander,” an epic, eleven-and-a-half minute journey, heralded the coming of this newly formed movement in 1999.

In these circles especially, DJing was seen as an art form, by defining track selection and mixing skills as stand out characteristics. These traits were further pushed by the popularity of the mix-CD format. Additionally, in-demand CD mix series such as Global Underground and Renaissance played a key role in promoting the phenomenon of the superstar DJ, which became especially noticeable on the island of Ibiza.

Belgian Trance

BELGIUM: From Gabber to Hardcore Trance

Having taken its inspiration from the Belgian new beat sound of the eighties, the early Frankfurt rave sound and the Dutch hardcore gabber movement, Belgium became another tastemaker for party-goers since the late eighties. Across the country, clubs like Boccaccio, Cherry Moon, Extreme and La Rocca boasted events that more than occasionally ran for entire weekends. These clubs became a bastion for the country’s harder trance sounds, which grew in conjunction with the foundation for one prominent label: Bonzai Records.

The Belgian imprint, set up in Antwerp in 1992 and recognisable by its Japanese bonsai tree design, quickly became famous by gathering a wide range of talented Belgian producers. Early on, Bonzi scored numerous hits with tracks such as Blue Alphabet’s “Cybertrance” (1994), Cherrymoon Trax’ “The House Of House” (1994), and Jones & Stephenson’s “The First Rebirth” (1993). By the late nineties, a second wave of young artists completed the legacy of the label. Exemplary tracks include Airwave’s “Above The Sky” (1999), Push’s “Universal Nation” (1998) and Yves Deruyter’s “Back To Earth” (2000).

Italian Trance

ITALY: Trance DJs like Robert Miles and Mauro Picotto

Whilst Bonzai became the flagship of the harder trance scene, another scene spurred up in Italy. Following Italy’s Italo house movement in the late eighties, dreamy trance took the lead in creating an alternative to the harder trance styles that popularised in Belgium and Germany around the mid-nineties.

The subgenre was a direct response to social pressures in the region, as the rave culture resulted in weekly deaths due to car accidents as clubbers drove across the country overnight, falling asleep at the wheel from strenuous dancing as well as alcohol and drug use. The most notable outcome from this scene became Robert Miles’ “Children” in 1995, which sold over 5 million copies sold worldwide and became the starting point for a lot slower, mostly piano-based tracks from Italian artists and labels during the rest of the nineties. Other notable examples include “Angels’ Symphony” by Mauro Picotto and Gigi D’Agostino (1996), “Moon’s Waterfalls” by Roland Brant (1996) and “Piramid” by W.P. Alex Remark (1995).

Israeli Trance

ISRAEL: Psychedelic Trance with Infected Mushroom

Following the trail of India’s Goa scene, Israel brought along the so-called psychedelic trance movement. India’s fabled Baga and Anjuna beaches became popular destinations for young Israelis freshly released from their mandatory military service in the Israeli Defense Forces in the late eighties. Upon returning home, some of these young Israelis developed their own take on the sounds of Goa trance, incorporating more alien-sounding cosmic flourishes layered on top of an energetic beat. Around the mid-nineties, Israeli acts such as Astral Projection and Infected Mushroom became internationally recognised acts, gaining a particular following across anarchist communities.

Balearic Trance

IBIZA: Balearic Trance and Café del Mar

The island of Ibiza, an autonomous region of Spain best known for its association with nightlife and hippie gatherings since the sixties, played an important role in spreading trance music across the globe. Its roots run much deeper, though. Music has played an elementary role in Ibiza for many years, and long before it became a preferred clubbing destination. And it was José Padilla (4 December 1955 – 18 October 2020) who is widely credited for introducing and popularising the island’s Balearic sound since the mid-eighties. 

Before taking up a residency at the infamous Ibiza lounge club Café Del Mar in 1991, Padilla used to sell bootleg mixtapes of his DJ sets to make ends meet. These tapes featured an eclectic range of styles, and their popularity only grew. And not long after Padilla’s residency started, Café Del Mar — which has run in San Antonio since 1980 — pushed his interpretation of chill-out (known as Balearic beat) beyond the club through its acclaimed mix CDs since 1994, placing itself on the global music map during the early nineties. The sound of Ibiza was born.

Around that time, trance music made its way into the hearts and minds of Northern European clubbers. While the popularised trance sound turned harder and faster, the need for an alternative sound was evident. Ambient-inspired trance soon filled that void, taking the soothing sounds and meditative elements of the early ambient vibes, while incorporating rhythm and melodies that matched the ears of trance-minded audiences. 

Initially, releases that were labeled ambient trance were mostly chill-out remixes of four-to-the-floor trance productions, making them perfect for chill-out rooms. The works of British producer Michael Woods and his home label Lost Language — a sub-label of British powerhouse Hooj Choons — played a major role in crafting the direction of ambient trance. Woods’ pitched-down reworks of tracks such as “Seven Cities” by Solarstone, “Eugina” by Salt Tank and “Peace” by Saints & Sinners created a fresh breeze that fit the newly sought, summer-like trance sound on the Balearic trance party island of Ibiza.

The chill-out versions of Woods coincided with the rise of a more soothing vein of relaxing trance that was able to capture the mood of a soft, Mediterranean sunset perfectly: Balearic trance. Featuring a mix of string instruments, like Spanish guitars and mandolins, Balearic trance combined with diverse sonic tropes commonly associated with Mediterranean seascapes, such as the ocean and birds. Laying further emphasis on the atmosphere through the layering of stretched-out, spacious pads, Balearic trance bears a close resemblance to, and borrowed elements from, the earlier ambient movements.

Superclubs such as Amnesia, Eden, Es Paradis, Ku and Space started to host huge trance nights during their opening seasons, featuring major British progressive acts as well as the more popularised trance sounds. When played in the lavish settings of Ibiza, winding tracks with Mediterranean instruments and recognisable melodic hooks — think “Beachball” by Nalin & Kane, “Greece 2000” by Three Drives On A Vinyl and “Seven Cities” by Solarstone — stole the hearts of clubbers across Ibiza’s epicentre, San Antonio. It didn’t take long until Ibiza became the centre point of attention for clubbers worldwide.

Dutch Trance

THE NETHERLANDS: From Armin van Buuren to Tiësto

Ever since trance dominated international charts and stages, a multitude of Dutch artists were part of it. While artists in Germany and the United Kingdom heavily explored with the concept of trance music in the early and mid-nineties, Dutch artists initially seemed more directed to electronic music genres such as deep house or gabber, a subgenre of hardcore. When the popular appeal of those genres fell apart, the sound of trance was quickly absorbed by Dutch nightlife in the late nineties. While domestic clubs and festivals were openly promoting the sound, electronic music producers started to feed those market demands. 

The international character of the Dutch trance market was largely formed and shaped by the efforts of large-scale event organisations. The Amsterdam Dance Event conference was founded in 1995, while the first edition of Dance Valley — proudly labeled “The Woodstock of Dance” — was organised by UDC that same year. ID&T, however, proved to become the most eye-catching and successful example of the Dutch success.

Founded in 1992, ID&T took its name from the initials of founders Irfan, Duncan and Theo. The organisation initially only operated within the Dutch market, and was responsible for the commercially successful rollout of large-scale hardcore and gabber events in the early nineties. When hardcore and gabber music became less popular, ID&T decided to abandon these sounds. 

By then, a handful of Dutch artists had picked up on the thriving trance scene from neighbouring countries like Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Ferry Corsten was the first Dutchman to make fame. After two modest hits under his moniker Moonman in 1996 (“Don’t Be Afraid” and “Galaxia”), Corsten hit it big with the release of “Out Of The Blue” as System F two years later. “Out Of The Blue” was built around the then-brand-new Roland JP-8000 synthesizer, which brought the anthem sound of trance to another level — and became common practice within the genre ever since.

It didn’t take long until two other Dutch artists, Armin van Buuren and Tijs Verwest, aka Tiësto, followed in Corsten’s slipstream. Verwest’s most acknowledged early work became his remix of “Silence”, a pop track from Canadian band Delirium. By 1999, Gouryella — a collaboration project between Corsten and Verwest — was turning heads around the world. The energy and euphoria of their first singles, “Gouryella”, “Walhalla” and “Tenshi” set the tone for the more anthemic trance that would dominate the naughties market.

Ferry Corsten Tiesto Armin van Buuren

Photo: Ferry Corsten, Tiësto, & Armin van Buuren (1999)

The so-called three musketeers — Corsten, Van Buuren and Verwest — also embraced DJing in addition to their studio efforts. This turned to become an important addition to their career, as ID&T launched entire events around trance around the turn of the century, such as Innercity, Sensation and Trance Energy, and it didn’t take long until the trio were caught up in the global trance craze. In addition to their heavy international gig schedule, the trio also, separately, ran independent record labels (Armada, Black Hole and Tsunami), hence forming strong ties with other artists while gaining a powerful position within the international market.

When the Dutch sound — euphoric, fast and melodic — became recognised, these close-knit connections paved the way for the Dutch trance wave, bringing artists such as Johan Gielen, Matthew Dekay, Rank 1, Signum and Vincent de Moor to an international stage.

By 2003, ID&T hosted the first single-DJ event with DJ Tiësto in Dutch football stadium GelreDome in Arnhem. In subsequent years, the company moved abroad and hosted some of its most successful concepts, such as Sensation and Tomorrowland, in cities all over the world. Henceforth, it didn’t take long until the American and Eastern European markets absorbed the trance sound that once seemed to be a frenetic European affair only.

Global Trance

GOING GLOBAL: Trance DJs Around the World

By the turn of the new millennium, a string of highly regarded trance artists — think ATB, Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk and Sasha — traveled the world every weekend to share their own takes on trance music. Youngsters the world over were eager to absorb these new sounds on the dance floor, and the sound of trance became a prominent genre across clubbing scenes in cities like Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Medellin, Mexico City, Moscow, Sydney and São Paulo.

Around the same time, the rise of the internet allowed for digital music distribution opportunities that both lowered production costs as well as increased the visibility of new music on a global scale. Northern European labels like A State Of Trance, Anjunabeats, In Trance We Trust, Vandit, and Xtravaganza eagerly seized these opportunities and increased their output, while taking the trance sound towards more widely appealing territories. 

Meanwhile, major labels such as EMI quickly entered the market through new sublabels to take a piece of the seemingly ever-increasing trance pie. These new developments led to vocals becoming an important element in new productions. If a record had hit potential, you could bet that a vocal version would be added to the original mix. That vocal version would then most likely get airplay on radio and television. 

This more accessible variant of trance that dominated the charts strayed away from the actual sound that was then being played in underground trance clubs. Flagship tracks of this so-called “Euro” sound were “Toca’s Miracle” by Fragma, “Castles In The Sky” by Ian Van Dahl and “Something” by Lasgo.

Still, the newly formed trance sound kept appealing to a more mainstream audience during those first years of the new millennium. During those years, various new acts emerged and managed to craft a sustainable career that holds to this date. 

Hailing from Great Britain, Above & Beyond’s single “Far From In Love” (2002) kickstarted the trio’s international careers, as well as their label Anjunabeats. Fellow countryman Andy Moor broke through with “The Whiteroom” (2004), and so did Gareth Emery with “Mistral” (2002, as GTR). Similarly in Germany, Cosmic Gate became a mainstay in the domain of trance since their release “Exploration Of Space” (2000).

Anjunabeats-Trance

Photo: Above & Beyond (by Luke Dyson)

It also didn’t take long until American acts such as Gabriel & Dresden, Markus Schulz and Sean Tyas broke through on an international level. Meanwhile, new labels still managed to position themselves within the then-saturated trance market. Honourable mentions include Coldharbour (set up by Markus Schulz), JOOF (John Fleming), Flashover (Ferry Corsten), Future Sound Of Egypt (Aly & Fila) and Pure Trance (Solarstone).

By the late noughties, trance had inevitably become a victim of its own success. Its formula was predictive and productions became just harder and louder — not more creative. At the same time, other electronic music genres such as electro house and EDM caught the ears of (especially younger) listeners. 

One of the first big names in trance to make the leap into these new musical territories was Tiësto, moving away from his signature sound towards a more energetic and epic approach. By then, it was time for trance to take a step back from the main stage to reinvent itself.

Current Trance Scene

CURRENT SCENE: Trance Music Festivals, and the Future of Trance

While trance moved into the background of the electronic music spectrum, the genre always kept its most dedicated following — known across the web as the #TranceFamily. Whilst trance didn’t reach top charts, the genre kept alive and well through the efforts of established artists such as Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold and Solarstone, plus young producers such as Allen Watts, Ilan Bluestone, Jody 6, Kriess Guyte and Colombia’s Steve Dekay

One of today’s most successful acts is Egyptian duo Aly & Fila, whose recent tracks “Gravity” (2019) and “Somebody Loves You”(2020) released on their label Future Sound Of Egypt, turn heads across the globe. In 2021, veteran Italian producer Giuseppe Ottaviani hit the charts with “Be The Angel” and “Magico“, and so did German duo Cosmic Gate with “Nothing To Hide” and “Feel It“.

Meanwhile, old trance tracks have proven ripe for remixing by contemporary producers in various musical domains. French producer Malibu incorporates chillout versions of trance tracks in her ambient DJ sets; Dinamarca crafted a dancehall album based on trance samples; and various techno artists recently remixed trance classics, such as Joyhauser’s remix of “Strange World” by Push. Popular techno DJs like Nina Kraviz and Courtesy have woven old-school trance tracks from Bonzai and other labels into their sets over the last few years, and Charlotte de Witte — arguably the most famous techno artists in the world right now — remixed trance classic “The Age Of Love” with fellow techno star Enrico Sangiuliano. The fast techno scene is rife with trance overtones, proving the genre’s popularity with gen z. Even popular trance acts try their luck, as proven by Tinlicker’s remix of “Children” by Robert Miles and Paul Van Dyk’s rework of one of the most remixed electronic music tracks ever, “Café Del Mar” by Energy 52.

Moreover, large-scale annual trance festivals have continued ever since. Notable examples include Beyond Wonderland (Mexico), Boom (Portugal), Dreamstate (United States), Luminoscity (The Netherlands), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Rebirth (Japan), Tomorrowland (Belgium) and Transmission (Czech Republic).

Regardless of its destiny, the future of trance looks bright and full of potential — a suitable metaphor for the positive, emotive and energetic sound that trance really is.

Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Tech House here.

Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Drum & Bass here.

Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Techno here.

Read Beatport’s Definitive History of House here.

Listen to Beatport’s Definitive History of Trance Playlist below.

Dutch writer Arjan Rietveld is the author behind the book ‘Hypnotised: A Journey Through Trance Music (1990-2005)’. Pick up a copy of the book here.

Words: Arjan Rietveld
Photos: Andreas Wagner, Piers Ciappara, Luke Dyson

Trance sprang up as a full-blown electronic music genre in the early 1990s, combining melody, harmony, and repetition to create otherworldly, sense-awakening experiences. The history of trance is rich, spanning various eras and regions, reaching millions of people along its journey. And while at times trance has been maligned and even ridiculed, it’s once again having a moment, reaching the hearts of a new generation of clubbers. Here, Arjan Rietveld explores the history of trance in detail.
Check out Beatport’s Top 100 All-Time Best-Selling Trance Tracks.
The multi-cultural history of Goa, located on the Western coast of India and the country’s smallest state, has its place in the books of trance music. Its capital, Panaji. was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until 1961 (with brief intervals of British occupation), which is traceable in the catholic churches and monasteries across the state. After the region became de-colonised, the beaches of Goa became a prominent place for freedom seekers — mostly Europeans and Americans.
By the late sixties, Goa quickly gained a reputation as a destination for its anarchic vibe, in which psychedelic drugs — most notably LSD, also known as free acid punch — and small-scale beach parties went hand in hand. Although the music wasn’t electronic per se, the aim of DJs — who often played using DAT-tapes — was to create a trance-inducing experience amongst the crowd. Psychedelic rock bands fitted that line of thought, until the introduction of experimental electronic music from Europe changed the sound across the eighties.
Frenchman DJ Laurent was one of them. Inspired by the free spirits of Goa, Laurent initially moved to Goa for a few months in the early eighties, yet ended up staying to hone his craft. By creating extended edits of all sorts of ‘electronic’ music tracks, focusing on their synthesizer and drum machine sounds, he created a ritualistic atmosphere that suited the natural environment and spirit of Goa. These efforts ignited a more psychedelic approach to dance floors across the globe.
Photo: Dancing in Goa, mid-90s (by Andreas Wagner)
The global influence of German artists, record labels and venues on electronic music has been immense. Throughout the seventies, German electronic music groups like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream took their first steps in this new and exciting world of beats and bleeps. 
As the city of Berlin was divided into East and West, its citizens faced strict ruling ever since that captivated the city in a paralysed state. Regardless of these challenges, it was during this period that Edgar Froese founded Tangerine Dream in 1967. The band transformed contemporary music from something merely electric into something electronic, birthing a deeply technological art form. Froese, a sculptor who studied with Salvador Dali, was active in West Berlin’s psychedelic scene in the late sixties, but was seeking a new outlet for experimental music. Following the band’s debut album Electronic Meditation in 1970, Tangerine Dream’s second album, Phaedra, in 1973 proved to become their breakthrough. Their psychedelic soundscape brought this new sound palette to the masses, and laid the foundation for the so-called Berlin School.
One of Tangerine Dream’s early members, Klaus Schulze, decided to venture on a solo career after the band’s first album. The Berlin School pioneer concentrated on mixing minimalist music with repetitive rhythmic motifs, arpeggiated sounds, composing several albums of atmospheric space experimentality that would come to be known as kosmische. As the titles suggest, his two albums, Trancefer (1981) and En=Trance (1987), clearly referred to the induced mindset that his music was aiming to convey.
Meanwhile in France, Jean-Michel Jarre developed his own take on electronic music during the seventies. Being an avid explorer of technological possibilities while taking inspiration from musique concrète, Jarre crafted a fine balance between atmosphere, abstraction and melodic structures in his musical works. Jarre introduced his debut album, Oxygene, in 1976, which further fuelled the interest in psychedelic electronic music across the Northern hemisphere.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city unified and made way for a thriving underground scene, of which electronic music became a catalyst as much as a byproduct. Many abandoned and ownerless buildings were taken over by young crowds to organise illegal events. This led to the rise of new kinds of clubs — unregulated, temporary venues with no given legal restrictions. Power plants, bunkers, hangers and underground stations became temporary clubs. Notable early examples include Planet, Ufo Club and Walfisch, which laid the foundation for the Tresor legacy. The relief and freedom after the reunification was celebrated with nonstop parties and flourished through the strong gay, art and underground scenes.
It was around this time that the first strains of trance originated as a natural reaction to the acid trance and techno movements. In its earlier stages and impersonations, trance-inducing music attempted to emulate trance-like states themselves, translating the associated feelings of high, chills, euphoria and uplifting rush listeners would experience inwardly in the shape of sound. 
Some of the first labels that pushed the newly formed genre forward was Masterminded For Success, or MFS, which was, interestingly, run by British-born entrepreneur Mark Reeder. In 1992, the Berlin-based label released the CD that goes down in history as the first trance compilation: Tranceformed From Beyond. The tracklist featured a range of future classics, including “Perfect Day” by The Visions Of Shiva, “High On Hope” by Microglobe, as well as multiple tracks from Harald Blüchel, aka Cosmic Baby.

Although Blüchel’s productions played an elemental role in developing the sound of Berlin, it was Matthias Paul — better known as Paul van Dyk — who turned into the face of that scene. Apart from their two collaborative records as The Visions Of Shiva, Van Dyk’s first solo success came with his remix of “Love Stimulation” by Humate in 1993, a quick reminder of the beauty that lies within trance music, even to this date. Not long after, in 1994, Van Dyk’s debut album 45 RPM featured the single “For An Angel,” which would turn into a popular anthem of Berlin’s annual Love Parade event. It meant the starting point of a long-running international DJ-career for Van Dyk.
Check out Beatport’s Definitive History of Trance Playlist.
Photo: Goa Gil (Left) and DJ Laurent (Right)
Photo: Anjuna Goa, 1991 (by Piers Ciappara)
While Berlin created an anarchic underground scene during the early 1990s, Frankfurt established itself as a steady hotbed for early trance and techno music. Frankfurt was the antithesis of Berlin’s turbulent history. Located in the mountainous southern part of the country, the city developed into the country’s financial centre across the second half of the twentieth century.
Regardless of its image, Frankfurt became a hub for musical innovation. Music venues such as Dorian Gray (located inside Frankfurt Airport since 1978), Omen (opened in 1988 with residents including Sven Väth) and Technoclub (founded in 1984) turned into Europe’s largest and most influential nightclubs of their time.
It was in 1992 when artist duo Jam & Spoon, aka Markus Löffel and Rolf Ellmer, crafted a blueprint for early German trance sound. Their first EP, Tales From A Danceographic Ocean, released on R&S Records, featured the track “Stella”, a techno-trance crossover packed with dreamy melodies. In addition, Jam & Spoon remixed “The Age Of Love” (by the eponymous act) that same year — another trippy endeavour that raised the bar for the early Frankfurt productions.

Furthermore, the sound of Frankfurt came to define itself through the output of labels such as FAX +49-69/450464, Superstition, Delirium, Suck Me Plasma, and Force Inc. These platforms further enforced the cities’ creative atmosphere by providing a platform for mostly local acts such as B-Zet, Pete Namlook and Oliver Lieb. Noteworthy tracks include “Eternal Spirit” by 4Voice, “Hearts” by L.S.G. and “We Came In Peace” by Dance 2 Trance. Over time, these imprints turned into pace-setting and highly influential institutions within the boundaries of electronic music.
Photo: Sven Väth @ Club Omen
A crucial fixture in the development of Frankfurt’s scene is Sven Väth. Being involved with club life since the early eighties, Väth became heavily influenced by the sounds he experienced during his extended trips to Goa at the time. Back in his hometown, Väth became a resident DJ at Dorian Gray, co-founded Omen and launched the Eye Q imprint together with Heinz Roth and Matthias Hoffman in 1991, followed by the Harthouse label the year after. 
Both labels became bastions for trance music across the early 1990s. Eye Q took a slightly softer approach, releasing records such as Brainchild’s “Symmetry,” Energy 52’s “Café Del Mar” and Hardfloor’s “Acperience 1.” Amongst its many popular records, Cygnus X’s “The Orange Theme” arguably created the most hype at the time of release. Harthouse, meanwhile, focused on the harder sounds with tracks like “My Name Is Barbarella” by Barbarella (aka Ralf Hildenbeutel and Sven Väth), “Spectrum” by Metal Master (aka A.C. Boutsen and, again, Väth) and “Quicksand” by Spicelab (aka Oliver Lieb).

By the end of the nineties, however, Sven Väh’s record labels had filed for bankruptcy, legendary venues Omen and Technoclub closed their doors, and the progressive appeal and influence of the city on global nightlife slowly shifted to a background role.
The trance reign was an intense, energetic and fascinating period in the books of British nightlife. Venues across the country turned out to become the soundtrack to many’s early adult life. How different that situation was only a decade earlier. Until the mid-eighties, British nightclubs weren’t particularly interesting places. Visitors mostly went to get drunk, fight, or hook up with someone. This all changed with the introduction of acid house, aided by the introduction of ecstasy.
British nightlife embraced acid house, together with the new drug ecstasy, with gusto. A new scene grew up around it, changing the social and cultural habits of a generation. Although the anarcho-capitalist vibe of this early rave scene was chaotic, it crafted a more solid foundation for nightlife across the country.
Read: Beatport’s Definitive History of House
A track that perfectly fitted the acid-infused sound of its time was “Dream,” produced by Australian artist Christopher J. Dolan aka Quench, which came out in 1993. With its quirky bells and acid-like riffs, Dolan’s track took elements from the early amalgam of proto-trance, techno and acid, setting the tone for many British productions to come. 
Around that same time, various labels sprung up to push their own vision on electronic music. Founded in 1989, Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto made moves by taking a broad approach to sound, before taking a slightly more Goa-inspired take around the mid-nineties. In his BBC Radio 1 show, The Goa Mix, Paul Oakenfold introduced many Radio 1 listeners to the sound. A notable example from that era is “Floor Essence” by Man With No Name from 1996. 

In 1992, Simon Berry launched Platipus and incorporated the acid sound that raged around the country. Platipus started mostly as an outlet for Berry’s own productions, and his works especially turned the imprint into a hallmark for the early trance scene. “Two Full Moons And A Trout” (as Union Jack) and “Poltergeist” (as Vicious Circles), both from 1992, are essential tunes.
By the mid-nineties, the underground scene continued to exist despite the dominance of the hugely profitable clubbing industry with state-of-the-art, high-capacity superclubs. This development helped dance brands such as Cream (opened in 1992), Gatecrasher (founded in 1993) and Godskitchen (started in 1997) to make a name for themselves. These venues were eager to promote the energetic and euphoric sounds that trance music offered. It didn’t take long until Great Britain became the core of the new trance phenomenon.
By the mid-nineties, when progressive house started to gain decisive momentum, Hooj Choons jumped on the bandwagon and crafted a niche for itself. The label, set up by ‘Red’ Jerry Dickens in 1991, released a wide range of records from acts such as JX, Lustral and Solarstone, which neatly fit its era. One of the label’s commercial successes came when Hooj Choons commissioned Three ’N One to remix “Café Del Mar” by German act Energy 52. Following its release, “Café Del Mar” became one of the most remixed tracks in electronic music history, yet the version by Three ’N One remains unmatched.

Hooj Choons accidentally paved the way for British DJs such as Dave Seaman, John Digweed, Nick Warren and Sasha. By incorporating influences from genres such as breakbeat, house and techno, their so-called progressive sound allowed them to tell long-stretched, winding and emotive stories in their DJ-sets. Sasha’s “Xpander,” an epic, eleven-and-a-half minute journey, heralded the coming of this newly formed movement in 1999.
In these circles especially, DJing was seen as an art form, by defining track selection and mixing skills as stand out characteristics. These traits were further pushed by the popularity of the mix-CD format. Additionally, in-demand CD mix series such as Global Underground and Renaissance played a key role in promoting the phenomenon of the superstar DJ, which became especially noticeable on the island of Ibiza.
Having taken its inspiration from the Belgian new beat sound of the eighties, the early Frankfurt rave sound and the Dutch hardcore gabber movement, Belgium became another tastemaker for party-goers since the late eighties. Across the country, clubs like Boccaccio, Cherry Moon, Extreme and La Rocca boasted events that more than occasionally ran for entire weekends. These clubs became a bastion for the country’s harder trance sounds, which grew in conjunction with the foundation for one prominent label: Bonzai Records.

The Belgian imprint, set up in Antwerp in 1992 and recognisable by its Japanese bonsai tree design, quickly became famous by gathering a wide range of talented Belgian producers. Early on, Bonzi scored numerous hits with tracks such as Blue Alphabet’s “Cybertrance” (1994), Cherrymoon Trax’ “The House Of House” (1994), and Jones & Stephenson’s “The First Rebirth” (1993). By the late nineties, a second wave of young artists completed the legacy of the label. Exemplary tracks include Airwave’s “Above The Sky” (1999), Push’s “Universal Nation” (1998) and Yves Deruyter’s “Back To Earth” (2000).
Whilst Bonzai became the flagship of the harder trance scene, another scene spurred up in Italy. Following Italy’s Italo house movement in the late eighties, dreamy trance took the lead in creating an alternative to the harder trance styles that popularised in Belgium and Germany around the mid-nineties.

The subgenre was a direct response to social pressures in the region, as the rave culture resulted in weekly deaths due to car accidents as clubbers drove across the country overnight, falling asleep at the wheel from strenuous dancing as well as alcohol and drug use. The most notable outcome from this scene became Robert Miles’ “Children” in 1995, which sold over 5 million copies sold worldwide and became the starting point for a lot slower, mostly piano-based tracks from Italian artists and labels during the rest of the nineties. Other notable examples include “Angels’ Symphony” by Mauro Picotto and Gigi D’Agostino (1996), “Moon’s Waterfalls” by Roland Brant (1996) and “Piramid” by W.P. Alex Remark (1995).
Following the trail of India’s Goa scene, Israel brought along the so-called psychedelic trance movement. India’s fabled Baga and Anjuna beaches became popular destinations for young Israelis freshly released from their mandatory military service in the Israeli Defense Forces in the late eighties. Upon returning home, some of these young Israelis developed their own take on the sounds of Goa trance, incorporating more alien-sounding cosmic flourishes layered on top of an energetic beat. Around the mid-nineties, Israeli acts such as Astral Projection and Infected Mushroom became internationally recognised acts, gaining a particular following across anarchist communities.
The island of Ibiza, an autonomous region of Spain best known for its association with nightlife and hippie gatherings since the sixties, played an important role in spreading trance music across the globe. Its roots run much deeper, though. Music has played an elementary role in Ibiza for many years, and long before it became a preferred clubbing destination. And it was José Padilla (4 December 1955 – 18 October 2020) who is widely credited for introducing and popularising the island’s Balearic sound since the mid-eighties. 
Before taking up a residency at the infamous Ibiza lounge club Café Del Mar in 1991, Padilla used to sell bootleg mixtapes of his DJ sets to make ends meet. These tapes featured an eclectic range of styles, and their popularity only grew. And not long after Padilla’s residency started, Café Del Mar — which has run in San Antonio since 1980 — pushed his interpretation of chill-out (known as Balearic beat) beyond the club through its acclaimed mix CDs since 1994, placing itself on the global music map during the early nineties. The sound of Ibiza was born.
Around that time, trance music made its way into the hearts and minds of Northern European clubbers. While the popularised trance sound turned harder and faster, the need for an alternative sound was evident. Ambient-inspired trance soon filled that void, taking the soothing sounds and meditative elements of the early ambient vibes, while incorporating rhythm and melodies that matched the ears of trance-minded audiences. 
Initially, releases that were labeled ambient trance were mostly chill-out remixes of four-to-the-floor trance productions, making them perfect for chill-out rooms. The works of British producer Michael Woods and his home label Lost Language — a sub-label of British powerhouse Hooj Choons — played a major role in crafting the direction of ambient trance. Woods’ pitched-down reworks of tracks such as “Seven Cities” by Solarstone, “Eugina” by Salt Tank and “Peace” by Saints & Sinners created a fresh breeze that fit the newly sought, summer-like trance sound on the Balearic trance party island of Ibiza.

The chill-out versions of Woods coincided with the rise of a more soothing vein of relaxing trance that was able to capture the mood of a soft, Mediterranean sunset perfectly: Balearic trance. Featuring a mix of string instruments, like Spanish guitars and mandolins, Balearic trance combined with diverse sonic tropes commonly associated with Mediterranean seascapes, such as the ocean and birds. Laying further emphasis on the atmosphere through the layering of stretched-out, spacious pads, Balearic trance bears a close resemblance to, and borrowed elements from, the earlier ambient movements.
Superclubs such as Amnesia, Eden, Es Paradis, Ku and Space started to host huge trance nights during their opening seasons, featuring major British progressive acts as well as the more popularised trance sounds. When played in the lavish settings of Ibiza, winding tracks with Mediterranean instruments and recognisable melodic hooks — think “Beachball” by Nalin & Kane, “Greece 2000” by Three Drives On A Vinyl and “Seven Cities” by Solarstone — stole the hearts of clubbers across Ibiza’s epicentre, San Antonio. It didn’t take long until Ibiza became the centre point of attention for clubbers worldwide.
Ever since trance dominated international charts and stages, a multitude of Dutch artists were part of it. While artists in Germany and the United Kingdom heavily explored with the concept of trance music in the early and mid-nineties, Dutch artists initially seemed more directed to electronic music genres such as deep house or gabber, a subgenre of hardcore. When the popular appeal of those genres fell apart, the sound of trance was quickly absorbed by Dutch nightlife in the late nineties. While domestic clubs and festivals were openly promoting the sound, electronic music producers started to feed those market demands. 
The international character of the Dutch trance market was largely formed and shaped by the efforts of large-scale event organisations. The Amsterdam Dance Event conference was founded in 1995, while the first edition of Dance Valley — proudly labeled “The Woodstock of Dance” — was organised by UDC that same year. ID&T, however, proved to become the most eye-catching and successful example of the Dutch success.
Founded in 1992, ID&T took its name from the initials of founders Irfan, Duncan and Theo. The organisation initially only operated within the Dutch market, and was responsible for the commercially successful rollout of large-scale hardcore and gabber events in the early nineties. When hardcore and gabber music became less popular, ID&T decided to abandon these sounds. 

By then, a handful of Dutch artists had picked up on the thriving trance scene from neighbouring countries like Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Ferry Corsten was the first Dutchman to make fame. After two modest hits under his moniker Moonman in 1996 (“Don’t Be Afraid” and “Galaxia”), Corsten hit it big with the release of “Out Of The Blue” as System F two years later. “Out Of The Blue” was built around the then-brand-new Roland JP-8000 synthesizer, which brought the anthem sound of trance to another level — and became common practice within the genre ever since.
It didn’t take long until two other Dutch artists, Armin van Buuren and Tijs Verwest, aka Tiësto, followed in Corsten’s slipstream. Verwest’s most acknowledged early work became his remix of “Silence”, a pop track from Canadian band Delirium. By 1999, Gouryella — a collaboration project between Corsten and Verwest — was turning heads around the world. The energy and euphoria of their first singles, “Gouryella”, “Walhalla” and “Tenshi” set the tone for the more anthemic trance that would dominate the naughties market.
Photo: Ferry Corsten, Tiësto, & Armin van Buuren (1999)

The so-called three musketeers — Corsten, Van Buuren and Verwest — also embraced DJing in addition to their studio efforts. This turned to become an important addition to their career, as ID&T launched entire events around trance around the turn of the century, such as Innercity, Sensation and Trance Energy, and it didn’t take long until the trio were caught up in the global trance craze. In addition to their heavy international gig schedule, the trio also, separately, ran independent record labels (Armada, Black Hole and Tsunami), hence forming strong ties with other artists while gaining a powerful position within the international market.
When the Dutch sound — euphoric, fast and melodic — became recognised, these close-knit connections paved the way for the Dutch trance wave, bringing artists such as Johan Gielen, Matthew Dekay, Rank 1, Signum and Vincent de Moor to an international stage.
By 2003, ID&T hosted the first single-DJ event with DJ Tiësto in Dutch football stadium GelreDome in Arnhem. In subsequent years, the company moved abroad and hosted some of its most successful concepts, such as Sensation and Tomorrowland, in cities all over the world. Henceforth, it didn’t take long until the American and Eastern European markets absorbed the trance sound that once seemed to be a frenetic European affair only.
By the turn of the new millennium, a string of highly regarded trance artists — think ATB, Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk and Sasha — traveled the world every weekend to share their own takes on trance music. Youngsters the world over were eager to absorb these new sounds on the dance floor, and the sound of trance became a prominent genre across clubbing scenes in cities like Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Medellin, Mexico City, Moscow, Sydney and São Paulo.
Around the same time, the rise of the internet allowed for digital music distribution opportunities that both lowered production costs as well as increased the visibility of new music on a global scale. Northern European labels like A State Of Trance, Anjunabeats, In Trance We Trust, Vandit, and Xtravaganza eagerly seized these opportunities and increased their output, while taking the trance sound towards more widely appealing territories. 
Meanwhile, major labels such as EMI quickly entered the market through new sublabels to take a piece of the seemingly ever-increasing trance pie. These new developments led to vocals becoming an important element in new productions. If a record had hit potential, you could bet that a vocal version would be added to the original mix. That vocal version would then most likely get airplay on radio and television. 
This more accessible variant of trance that dominated the charts strayed away from the actual sound that was then being played in underground trance clubs. Flagship tracks of this so-called “Euro” sound were “Toca’s Miracle” by Fragma, “Castles In The Sky” by Ian Van Dahl and “Something” by Lasgo.
Still, the newly formed trance sound kept appealing to a more mainstream audience during those first years of the new millennium. During those years, various new acts emerged and managed to craft a sustainable career that holds to this date. 
Hailing from Great Britain, Above & Beyond’s single “Far From In Love” (2002) kickstarted the trio’s international careers, as well as their label Anjunabeats. Fellow countryman Andy Moor broke through with “The Whiteroom” (2004), and so did Gareth Emery with “Mistral” (2002, as GTR). Similarly in Germany, Cosmic Gate became a mainstay in the domain of trance since their release “Exploration Of Space” (2000).

Photo: Above & Beyond (by Luke Dyson)
It also didn’t take long until American acts such as Gabriel & Dresden, Markus Schulz and Sean Tyas broke through on an international level. Meanwhile, new labels still managed to position themselves within the then-saturated trance market. Honourable mentions include Coldharbour (set up by Markus Schulz), JOOF (John Fleming), Flashover (Ferry Corsten), Future Sound Of Egypt (Aly & Fila) and Pure Trance (Solarstone).
By the late noughties, trance had inevitably become a victim of its own success. Its formula was predictive and productions became just harder and louder — not more creative. At the same time, other electronic music genres such as electro house and EDM caught the ears of (especially younger) listeners. 
One of the first big names in trance to make the leap into these new musical territories was Tiësto, moving away from his signature sound towards a more energetic and epic approach. By then, it was time for trance to take a step back from the main stage to reinvent itself.
While trance moved into the background of the electronic music spectrum, the genre always kept its most dedicated following — known across the web as the #TranceFamily. Whilst trance didn’t reach top charts, the genre kept alive and well through the efforts of established artists such as Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold and Solarstone, plus young producers such as Allen Watts, Ilan Bluestone, Jody 6, Kriess Guyte and Colombia’s Steve Dekay
One of today’s most successful acts is Egyptian duo Aly & Fila, whose recent tracks “Gravity” (2019) and “Somebody Loves You”(2020) released on their label Future Sound Of Egypt, turn heads across the globe. In 2021, veteran Italian producer Giuseppe Ottaviani hit the charts with “Be The Angel” and “Magico“, and so did German duo Cosmic Gate with “Nothing To Hide” and “Feel It“.

Meanwhile, old trance tracks have proven ripe for remixing by contemporary producers in various musical domains. French producer Malibu incorporates chillout versions of trance tracks in her ambient DJ sets; Dinamarca crafted a dancehall album based on trance samples; and various techno artists recently remixed trance classics, such as Joyhauser’s remix of “Strange World” by Push. Popular techno DJs like Nina Kraviz and Courtesy have woven old-school trance tracks from Bonzai and other labels into their sets over the last few years, and Charlotte de Witte — arguably the most famous techno artists in the world right now — remixed trance classic “The Age Of Love” with fellow techno star Enrico Sangiuliano. The fast techno scene is rife with trance overtones, proving the genre’s popularity with gen z. Even popular trance acts try their luck, as proven by Tinlicker’s remix of “Children” by Robert Miles and Paul Van Dyk’s rework of one of the most remixed electronic music tracks ever, “Café Del Mar” by Energy 52.

Moreover, large-scale annual trance festivals have continued ever since. Notable examples include Beyond Wonderland (Mexico), Boom (Portugal), Dreamstate (United States), Luminoscity (The Netherlands), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Rebirth (Japan), Tomorrowland (Belgium) and Transmission (Czech Republic).
Regardless of its destiny, the future of trance looks bright and full of potential — a suitable metaphor for the positive, emotive and energetic sound that trance really is.
Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Tech House here.
Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Drum & Bass here.
Read Beatport’s Definitive History of Techno here.
Read Beatport’s Definitive History of House here.
Listen to Beatport’s Definitive History of Trance Playlist below.

Dutch writer Arjan Rietveld is the author behind the book ‘Hypnotised: A Journey Through Trance Music (1990-2005)’. Pick up a copy of the book here.
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