The sub-genre "progressive trance" is moving toward the mainstream, and in the last few months several artists from that wing have begun creating music specifically designed for the final frontier of any dance music style: home listening. International reputations may be built by deejaying to crowds numbering into the tens of thousands, but in dance as in any other type of popular music, the only sure way to maintain that stature is via recordings. Four recent releases -- Timo Maas's "Loud" (Kinetic), [Richard Morel]'s "Queen of the Highway" (Yoshitoshi), Sandra Collins's "Cream" (Kinetic) and Paul Van Dyk's "The Politics of Dancing" (Ministry of Sound) -- show trance, a music created for large crowds in larger spaces, developing a versatility that makes it an effective soundtrack for more intimate environments.
The title of Maas's most recent full-length recording is entirely sarcastic: There is little loud to it. The opening track, "Help Me," presents R&B star Kelis singing slinky vocals over a sci-fi updating of a film noirish, minor-key blues. By contrast the second track, "Manga," is straight-up mainstream trance, a melange of electronic squiggles and gurgles augmenting a resolute beat that retreats and returns like the tide. The album is all over the place musically, but it never feels like a pastiche. Most tracks feature solid song structure, there are captivating vocals on several tracks, and the mood is consistent throughout. The recording offers a guided tour of the sounds that have influenced trance and a preview of how this genre may affect older styles.
Perhaps the surest sign that trance is entering the mainstream comes from the dance-music underground itself. During the last year or so, there has been a groundswell for a music called electro, whose antsy, opaque beats are in direct contrast to trance's smooth veneer. While trance itself still holds sway and artists like Collins, Van Dyk, Morel, Maas, [Paul Oakenfold], [John Digweed] and others will likely maintain their constituency, their sound is already too established for the newest club kids looking for an alternative to embrace as their own.
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