It happens to the best of them. Trance, once so promising as the apogee of electronic music sophistication, is being laid low by commercialization. This double-CD collection-mix of played-out trance “hits” from so-called stars such as Paul Van Dyk, BT, Moby, etc., offers nothing new. Save for a cautionary tale: If the corporations are cashing in on trance, the artists themselves like the sound of a ringing till. Popular music has become a gold rush — you put out a homemade recording quick and dirty and hope the thing catches on. How many thousands of knob-twirlers are hard at work in their apartments, hoping to catch the fancy of a DJ who will spin their ditty all the way to Ibiza and beyond? DJs are celebrities simply because they string together three-minute snippets of chord progressions and tawdry melodramatic orchestration, much to the delight of kiddies hopped up on big sound and small pills. A recent New Times article praised Moby’s Play as the first coherent “song cycle” album of electronica, an album for listening as well as dancing. The first, only now?! While ridiculing many of the excesses of mainstream rock, punk also diminished the cachet of the concept album, the domain of laughable dinosaurs like Yes and ELP. Only disco kept the genre alive until new wave and techno took it under for good. Trance, it would seem, is the perfect vehicle for its renaissance — a form tailor-made for long, evolving compositions with classical music structure and thematic coherence? Where is our Dark Side of the Moon? The answer, sadly, is that few artists are up to the task. Listen closely to Gatecrasher and you’ll hear for yourself.
Timothy Dugdale writes about books and visual culture for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].