As the aesthetes invade dance music, trance has taken more blows than Douglas gave Tyson. In all of electronic music, trance is the genre most associated with goofy rave anthems, Mickey Mouse gloves, and glowsticks. Its garish synth stabs (think 2 Unlimited’s "Ya’ll Ready For This!?!") and skull-bashing repetition have become embedded stereotypes of dance music. As with most typecasting those generalizations are unfair, but trance stands alone as the only electronic music genre that has never had a subtle message. Along with the rest of the electronic landscape, this is changing. More trance DJs, like Tiesto and Paul Oakenfold, are tipping their caps to melodies and craft-oriented music. This has led to a kind of Minimal Trance: electronic music that’s still psychedelic, but toned way down. Instead of using 32 tracks of sound in the mix, the new producers make it simpler and colder.
TRANCELAB, the long-running radio show out of Durham, New Hampshire, has been quick to recognize this new twist. "For me, it’s the next step in the evolution of the sound," says CHRIS DEVRIES, host of the WUNH show, which celebrates its 10th year this Saturday at the Red Door in Portsmouth. "It’s the step I’m most comfortable with, getting away from the big progressive sound. Now even big DJs like John Digweed play Michael Mayer and Superpitcher and stuff."
The show has survived even as the popularity of trance has waned. "My wife and I went to see Sasha and Digweed in 2001 and we paid $50.00; but in 2003, we had a voucher and got in for free," Devries remembers. "The big club anthem is still huge in Europe, but it’s bad in Boston where some of the biggest guys come and play the Red Door because it’s the coolest club they can spin at." The elegant but smallish club plays host this Saturday to DeVries, three other DJs, and three long-time local producers playing live: HORCHATA with an ambient set, DECENTIGRADE with live techno, and J. HJORT, who makes the kind of music DeVries is most into these days. "My real love this year has been minimal techno, but TechnoLab would be a really crappy name for the show," he laughs.
Like many electronic music heads, DeVries has a day job working in IT, and the show is an "ideal hobby." But since May, Trancelab has been podcasting to the world. "It’s made the outside listenership blow up big-time," he says. With comments from Dubai and downloads going to China, he’s had to borrow bandwidth, going from two gigabytes to more than 150. "It really keeps me going. It’s like, ‘Someone really notices out there!,’ " he says with another laugh. DeVries goes under the alias LORD BASS when he DJs and spins whenever he can around northern New England, including such off-beat venues as Portsmouth’s Muddy River Smokehouse and Portland, Maine’s Bubba’s Sulky Lounge. "It’s so fun to pull off a good beat-matching mix, and having the break come in and hearing the cheer from the crowd. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 people or 200." Plus, he adds, "I’ve always been the DJ. If I’m at someone’s house, and they’re playing bad music, and people aren’t into it, I want to go over to their CD collection and see what they have — it’s a sickness." The show and much more can be found at http://www.trancelab.com.