Give Trance a Chance

Image via Armin van Buuren on Facebook / Marc van der Aa
Image via Armin van Buuren on Facebook / Marc van der Aa

Upon watching both the videos for Flosstradamus“Mosh Pit” and the cock-tastic, twerk-nificent clip for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What,” I think we’ve come to realize that the EDM community can turn up no higher. As well, in what can only be described as a direct opposition to the turn up is “Sea of Voices,” Porter Robinson’s ambient aural opulence of a lead single from his forthcoming debut album Worlds on Astralwerks Records. While the two former tracks are peak-hour rave champions, the latter is a complete lullabye.

Insofar as contemplating 2014, the story of the year will likely best be told between these two extremes. Those embracing rap and pop’s wholesale infiltration of dance will err towards trap or twerk, as the number of wins to be had with 808s and either mid-tempo or 70 BPM top-40 friendly rhythms is entirely too enticing. The nerds in the room not so down with neon-colored bro rage, likely to fall on the side of ambient moods or, if thinking that this direction is the schmaltziest of cheese, heading into dark and sparse aural depths. However, if looking for what the best answer is, the path with the least resistance to mainstream success may lie between these two divergent styles. Yes, I’ll just say it: Trance is the answer. If a producer not down with embracing the 180-degree turn that dance must take back to it’s pre-global pop invasion era, then in short order, you’re going to be either a) despondently picking up the pieces when the rap/dance bubble bursts (and it’s going to be worse than when it happened in disco) or b) needing to learn quickly how to become sustainable on the underground without mainstream dollars flowing in.

Wikipedia defines one of trance’s key elements to include the sound’s ability to create an emotional feeling that includes “euphoria, chills, or [an] uplifting rush.” As well, there’s the idea that the sound attempts to create an “actual trance-like state.” In those descriptions exists the balance needed at-present in EDM for trance to deserve a chance. Many people would argue that the opposite of turning all of the way up is turning all of the way down, so tracks like Robinson’s deserve an opportunity. However, the smarter thinker would do the opposite. Instead of forcing dance to consider polar extremes, the idea should be to pull all crowds together. Giving space to the peace, love, unity, and respect that the tired trope of PLUR aims for should be the ideal aim if dance is to have longevity as pop’s dominant genre. Thus, creating a mass of all dance audiences that have been pulled into the collective force field of dance is key. To do this best, all roads can (and do) lead to trance.

Intriguing to add into this story is Armin van Buuren’s latest single “Alone,” (from his latest album Intense) released on Armada Music. For trance-master van Buuren, his fifth studio album features a departure from his typical trance strategy, and has yielded “This Is What It Feels Like,” (featuring Canadian vocalist Trevor Guthrie) which even reached Billboard’s Top 100 pop singles chart. Erring in a more electro house direction, “Alone’s” low end is more heavily punctuated with four-on-the-floor kicks, and unlike the trance that van Buuren built his dance legacy upon, the rhythms figure more prominently into the track than usual. Sounding less like Armin and more like Avicii, though, led Armin to pop success. However, can/should he come back to form and create a direction for the future?

Between Kaskade, van Buuren, and Tiesto, trance’s once pre-eminent forces have all evolved their sounds in a more “ready to cash in FM radio-driven success” direction. As creatives, these producers’ evolution is important. However, as artists who can ideally provide trance as a safe haven for mainstream EDM to head if/when the pop bubble bursts, they may be needed to return back to their roots. Or, if dance is to remain pop-dominant, they may be needed to ideally open the doors to guide dance in a direction that could allow the genre’s most mainstream sound to re-invigorate itself. Above all else, allowing a pop (meaning soul, rap, and rock)-influenced new school form of a once-popular style to be created is an absolute necessity.

At the end of the day, with a Flosstradamus artist album, Waka Flocka jumping into the deep end of the dance pool, and producers-as-artists like Porter Robinson thumbing their nose in what appears to be the mainstream’s general direction, a schism in dance (as it entrenches itself at the top of the charts) is apparent. Healing said divergence with trance is not just a classic solution, it’s the only solution.