Classic Trance

by george palladev

It’s assumed that early (classic) trance emerged at the seam between the first and second rave waves—in late 80s and early 90s when on one hand acid house came to its end, on the other hand Detroit techno and Dutch hardcore started dominating the scene. At the boundary between two important decades both directions were covered with the chill out wave: ambient was popular, it got a second wind and more attention that it had ever had since its emergence in 70s.

  1. detroit techno

Mark Reeder

The founder of a small but glorious label called MFS, Mark Reeder, recalls that when the new releases on the cusp between techno and house appeared, no one knew what to call such music, although Reeder noticed that these fresh tracks had a hypnotic effect. They charmed the listener: fragments of the track were constantly repeated more and more; sometimes fast, sometimes slowly, putting a person into a state of trance. Having founded his own label, Reeder personally brought the vinyls that had just been produced to DJs. The sleeves had a caption: hypno-trance. It was 1991.

The creation and development of dance music in Europe coincided with the time of political changes. In 1989, the governments of the countries that only a year before had been considered the bastions of socialism changed. Now Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Poland moved into the big world. The main symbol of the iron curtain, the Berlin Wall, which divided Europe into us and others, fell in November 1989. Now two states, the DDR and the FRG with a common city of Berlin discussed the possibilities of reunification. Already in 1990, the uniting Germany was rapidly moving away from the Communist heritage. The recent party bosses renounced the old ideology, the DDR label Amiga was renamed Zong. Reeder, who left England to study the benefits of socialism, was linked to Amiga. As a representative of the West German branch of the British Factory Records, where New Order and Joy Division released their works, he was invited to participate in the recording of an album by East German new wave band Die Vision in order to promote them in the West.

They didn’t appreciate Mark’s idea of producing the popular underground music that was already played everywhere in West Berlin. “What’s techno? Computer music? And what’s a 12″? Not like a normal album? What is it then? One song for one side? What a waste!”—they said disapprovingly. As a result, Reeder decided to start his own label—he gathered the support of an East German monopolist and started looking for talent among former Soviet youth. However, he didn’t manage to realise the original idea: young people in the red sector couldn’t afford to buy good equipment.

The wall was demolished. The presidential palace was on the left, the Reichstag was on the right. Photo by Manfred Brückels.

The office of the new label was located in the building of the former imperial palace. Another label in this building was the East German record giant DSB, under whose cover and with whose equipment Mark made records during the first few years. The conquered, but not yet demolished, wall adjoined the building of the musical monopolist, shutting off the empty Western Reichstag.

Observing the changes in the country, Mark didn’t want the remarkable abbreviation to go to oblivion with all the memories of that time, so he named his label after the former Ministry of National Security of the DDR, known as the Stasi. It only changed its meaning—instead of Ministerium für Staatssicherheit it became Masterminded for Success. The label was launched in the best tradition of red party meetings with banners and guards in the guise of severe border guards. The invited journalists were granted certificates of confidence and passes with an MFS stamp to enter and to exit the imperial palace. Mark himself was wearing an oberlieutenant uniform and just before it he was walking around Berlin with an “MFS is back” poster—it was understood as “Stasi is back”. And judging from the reviews by the local press, the conference and its owner made a very strong impression on many people.

Effective Force — Diamond bullet 1991

Written by Johnny Klimek, Paul Browse
From Diamond bullet EP, MFS

Originally, Mark wanted to stake everything on his beloved techno, but the emerging new music fascinated MFS’s founder. There was no name for it yet—it was just thinking outside the box and experiments by young techno musicians. He was fascinated by Effective Force’s mini album Diamond bullet, which became one of the first releases of the label. “It’s all about the atmosphere of the track,” explains Reeder. “Not about a specific sound or sequence but all the elements unified into something hypnotic, trance-like. When I say trance, I want to point out that at first we had certain difficulties with naming this music because it has a lot of repetitions: fast and less fast. But essentially this is modern tribal music to summon spirits. Just look at the dancefloor: dance is a form of sensual or sexual expression. Techno, for instance, is very static: you can only move this way or that way to it. But trance music has lots of different elements, lots of different beats—people on the dancefloor fall into a real trance and this why they make wave-like movements with their arms and bodies—because the rhythm reaches every cell in their body”.

Age of Love
Age of love
(Boeing mix)

Age of Love — Age of love (Jam & Spoon remix) 1992

Written by Bruno Sanchioni, Giuseppe Chierchi
Remixed by Rolf Ellmer, Markus Löffel
From Age of love (Jam & Spoon remixes) single, React

New Beat,
for example

A year before Effective Force, at the beginning of 1990, the Italian duo Age of Love recorded something similar for a Belgian label. In Belgium, it wasn’t dawn, but definitely darker times for the local movement of new beat—light industrial with a tint of Detroit techno. The single was well received by the audience, it was played in Ibiza and Goa. In 1992, the original was overshadowed by a remix by the German duo Jam & Spoon which brought the minimalism of the original to the edge, which caused ecstasy and sensation on the dancefloors. Age of Love was called the anthem of modern techno and the Father (or Virgin Mary) of trance music.

MFS took the young promising musicians who enthusiastically promoted the new culture under its wing. Among those involved: Harald Blüchel (Cosmic Baby) and the famous Berlin DJ Mijk van Dijk—together, in February 1992, they conceived and produced the first genre compilation with a punny name Tranceformed from Beyond. It was apparently assumed that MFS was the only label on the planet which clearly understood that it was creating a new musical movement in everyone’s eyes, making it from all the best of electronic music and going beyond the existing limits of the genre. Harald was proud of this compilation. Not only were all the tracks knitted into a single canvas (the press service of the label insisted on the title of the first continuous compilation in history), but also all the originals were changed out of all recognition, only their names were left untouched. Blüchel used the same method in his remixes—to start with his variation of L’Esperanza by Sven Väth.

Harald Blüchel, Paul van Dyk

Visions of Shiva — Perfect night 1992

Written by Harald Bluchel, Paul van Dyk
From Perfect day single, MFS

Cosmic Baby — Sweet dreams of Kaa 1992

Written by Harald Bluchel, Paul van Dyk
From Stellar supreme album, MFS

Reeder was thinking about promoting the label’s sound. Harald Blüchel noticed Paul van Dyk, a young DJ from West Berlin who dreamt of becoming professional. Together they created an alliance with the charming Goan name, Visions of Shiva. The duo consisted one who was mainly a composer and one who was mainly a DJ. Their first trance single Perfect day was well received and to the label’s delight the duo travelled around European clubs presenting the trance sound of West Berlin. But already in 1993, the DJ’s ambitions took over, and the second, the last, single How much can you tke was recorded by Harald Bluchel alone.

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Everything you need to know about classic trance is here: the very first trance label, the establishment of the significant sound, Love Parade, PLUR, rave fashion, the dramatic upswing in popularity, departure of the old heroes and the arrival of the new stars. Age of Love, Paul van Dyk, Cosmic Baby, Sven Väth, Energy 52, Torsten Fenlau, Oliver Lieb, Dance2Trance, BT, Jam & Spoon, Chicane and many others. I think it’s a good reason to subscribe :) No spam, no crap, no ad. Just music.