Trance Through The Ages

Published on Thursday 18 August 2022

Trance first emerged in the late 1980s and grew into the 90s' most popular form of electronic music. Read more as we take a look at this popular genre of music.

The Google search engine defines trance as a ‘half-conscious state characterized by an absence of response to external stimuli, typically as induced by hypnosis or entered by a medium.’ No wonder a genre of music stems from this state of hazy euphoria, considering its combined use of pacey BPMs and tingling melodies. If produced well, trance strikes a sweet spot in the listener, evoking feelings of pumped-up energy but relaxation too. It’s a fine line to blur but one long-running artist, Paul Oakenfold, does it exceptionally well.

Alongside names like Armin van Buuren, Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold championed trance during the 90s when the genre gained popularity across Europe. Although the origins of trance trace back to 80s Chicago house music and Detroit techno (4/4 patterns, 808 drum machines and arpeggiated notes snake through these genres too), trance remained mostly dormant in these cities. It was in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium where trance really took off. Labels like Positiva and Platipus Records released timeless tunes like B.B.E.’s ‘Seven Days and One Week’ and Robert Miles’ ‘Children’ respectively, widely increasing the popularity of trance. Further afield in Goa, India, trance spawned into the palpitating genre of psy trance. But that’s a history lesson for another day.

Oakenfold grew up in Greater London and trained as a chef. But having dipped into dance music aged 16, when he played a soul set at a basement bar in Covent Garden, he caught the DJing bug. In the late 70s, the aspiring producer lived in New York and worked as a courier. He spent nights at the Paradise Garage, listening to the lush disco tones of Larry Levan. Then, in the early 80s, Oakenfold moved back to London and worked as a club promoter and British agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C.

Meanwhile, he continued to DJ. However, a trip to the White Isle in 1987 changed everything. Oakenfold discovered other strains of house, soul, Italian disco, techno and alternative music, deepening his love for dance music. We know what happens next.

Oakenfold evolved into one of the most prolific trance producers of all time. A three-time Grammy Award nominee and two-time World Music Awards nominee, a twice-fold No. 1 DJ in the World, a remixer for Madonna, Britney Spears and Massive Attack, and a dizzying discography that deserves an award in itself—the man is one of the OG trance innovators.

These days, trance is still going strong. A fresh wave of artists—in the predominantly techno world—like Courtesy, Blue Hour, Anastasia Kristensen and Marlon Hoffstadt fuse trancey elements across their sets and productions, creating a happy medium between muscular techno and floaty trance. It’s not something one can pull off easily.

Paul Oakenfold can do this in his sleep. It’s why he’s coming to the Warehouse Saturday 27th August holiday to mark two special occasions—his E1 debut and his final London-based set of 2022. One for the heads.