Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music (old)

dmgtz96

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Just as an fyi, but version 2.5 of Ishkur's guide to electronic music (the really old one that was made in 2001) will be gone next month Dec. 2020 following the end of Adobe support.
The whole thing is a blast from the past, which you can see for yourself here. It has sections on house, trance, techno, breakbeat, jungle, hardcore, and downtempo. For us the section on trance is most relevant, so I'll go ahead and keep that info here for our records. Some of the genre descriptions are funny and elitist in the same tone that a trance purist would have had in 2001, so just take them as tongue-in-cheek for what was trendy at the time.

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Classic Trance
AKA Trance

Not a genre (that I know of) yet, but it might as well be. Trance is old enough to have one now, like House and Techno are. And the reason why is because this music encapsulates what I think of when I hear trance. Music that rewards paying attention and looking inward, on a meditative level. Music that you can get lost in. Parties that last several days and songs that last 8 hours. You don't hear that anymore. Today, trance is either a sequence or disjointed, disaffected, unrelated predictable anthems laid out one after another (hardly entrancing), or is completely overshadowed and drowned out by the posturing and hero-worshipping of people who really do nothing more than operate a glorified stereo.

Songs:
1. Age of Love - Age of Love (Jam & Spoon Stella Mix)
2. Cosmic Baby - Magic Cubes
3. Commander Tom - The Vulcan
4. Resistance D. - Cosmic Love
5. Datura - Yerba del Diablo
6. Emmanuel Top - Acid Phase
7. Dance 2 Trance - We Came in Peace
8. Spicelab - Amorph
9. Underworld - Thing in a Book

Branches: Symphonic, Progressive, Ibiza


Symphonic Trance
AKA Something Else?

I can't decide if this is trance with orchestrations behind it, or swelling orchestral scores that include a drum machine (or some kind of trancey rhythm section), or trance that samples orchestral strings, or maybe it's just another stupid name in Epic Trance's nitpickingly long list of accolades. I know what it is NOT, though: crappy remixes of film and classical pieces (yeah, I'm looking at you DJ Sakin, Cygnus X and William Orbit, you turds). However much of it is out there I can't tell. But I'll put it up when I find some worthy enough to be called "symphonic."

Songs:
1. Brainbug - Rain
2. Tastexperience - Summersault
3. Crescendo - Are You Out There
4. Yomanda ft. Emma Shapplin - Spente le Stelle

Branches: Progressive


Progressive Trance
AKA Progressive house???

Progressive is a pretty pretentious word to begin with, so if you're bold enough to actually call your genre anything like that you better have something pretty fucking impressive, groundbreaking, and forward-thinking to call it that. Like, music that will make you fly or breathe underwater or something. Since that's the case, Progressive Trance is easily the most misnamed genre in the history of music. In the annals of trance, it made huge leaps backwards. Most oldskool trance enthusiasts admit that they stopped listening to trance right after Progressive Trance came around (legend states around 96 or so). The genre doesn't actually do anything new or inventive. But what it DID do was codify - that is, write in literal stone - the trance template of breakdown-build-anthem, an infused pop gimmick that all of sudden made this strange, space-age music suddenly acceptable to the sonically docile masses. No longer long, unwieldy, repetitive, and unresponsive, trance became a familiarity, an image, associating itself (and its artists) with all the trappings that keep the pop music world intact. It all went downhill from here.

Songs:
1. CM - Dream Universe
2. Three Drives on a Vinyl - Greece 2000
3. LSG - Netherworld
4. Lost Tribe - Gamemaster
5. Andy Ling - Fixation
6. BT - Flaming June
7. Tekara - Breathe in You
8. Sasha - Xpander
9. Spacepunks - Another Space (Pu**y 2000 Mix)


Anthem Trance
AKA Mctrance, Stadium Trance, Arena Trance

Progressive Trance actually had a pretty good idea. There's nothing wrong with some tension and release in your song. That's what people listen to music for. To bring the music down to a crawl before exploding out with a crescending climax is one of the best tricks in music. And besides, if the DJ's too stupid and inept to figure out how to provide adequate tension and release during his sets through careful track selection and record management, why not do it for him, essentially removing any skill he thought he might've needed to have in order to be a good DJ. Breakdowns, builds, and memorable melodies are not a new thing in Trance. But what Anthem Trance did was completely and totally abuse and pervert them. Where Progressive Trance used them to somewhat accentuate the moment (like say a lull before the main synth kicks back in), Anthem Trance used them for the track's entire purpose. This cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers formula dominated the English club scene and trance, once the quirky kind of music with only a niche market, reformed itself into a neverending series of pop jingles and by doing so supplaunted house as the most popular dance music in the world.

Songs:
1. Cascade - Transcend
2. Steve Morley - Reincarnations
3. Agnelli & Nelson - El Nino
4. Pulp Victim - The World
5. DJ Tandu - Velvet
6. Transa - Transtar
7. Cold Turkey - Sunflower (Transa remix)
8. Flutlicht - Icarus
9. The Generator - Where Are You Now?

Branches: Break, Tech, Deep, Epic


Dream Trance
AKA Dream House

If there is anyone who is responsible for the complete and thorough pu**ification of trance, making it offensively lame to the point where not only newbie ravers but also their soccer moms could enjoy it, it's Robert Miles.
OP's note: Oof, this quote did NOT age well. RiP Robert Miles, producer of "Children," arguably one of the most famous trance tracks of all time. Also, it was released on Platipus, so stfu Ishkur!
"Children" has the exclusive accolade as being the #1 rave recruitment song of all time. It's also probably responsible for the embarrassing onslought [sic] of banal, melody-driven trance that dominated the last half of the 90s. Hell, I remember Anne Savage playing this fucking song at my very first rave. This isn't trance; this is like that crappy background music on the TV listings channel that tells you what's playing on other channels.

Songs:
1. Robert Miles - Children
2. Dj Dado - Dreamscape
3. DJ Panda - Forever Young
4. DJK - I Like Chopin
5. Imperio - Atlantis
6. Nylon Moon - Sky Plus
7. Zhi-vago - Feel My Love
8. The Cynic Project - Trance Generation
9. WP Alex Remark - Pyramid

Branches: Epic Trance


Breaktrance
AKA Breaks

Like rats scrambling from a sinking ship, Progressive Trance and Anthem Trance producers escaped the banality of the builds, breakdowns, and chorus melodies when it was declared by the genre's elite (read: Sasha and Digweed) as being thoroughly uncool to keep playing this stuff. So they latched onto the other genres as a way to stay ahead of the pack. Break trance (breakbeat), tech trance (techno) and deep trance (house) are such genres created in the wake of the Great Anthem crash.

Songs:
1. Hybrid - Finished Symphony
2. General Midi - Further
3. Starecase - Faith
4. Christian J - Understand


Techtrance
AKA Techno Trance

Like rats scrambling from a sinking ship, Progressive Trance and Anthem Trance producers escaped the banality of the builds, breakdowns, and chorus melodies when it was declared by the genre's elite (read: Sasha and Digweed) as being thoroughly uncool to keep playing this stuff. So they latched onto the other genres as a way to stay ahead of the pack. Break trance (breakbeat), tech trance (techno) and deep trance (house) are such genres created in the wake of the Great Anthem crash.
(yes, he reused the same description for breaks, tech, & deep trance)

Songs:
1. Breeder - The Chain
2. Timo Maas - Riding on a Storm
3. Steve Porter - Mindless
4. Marco V - Indicator
5. Agoria - Radio City
6. Brian Zents - Algebra
7. Christian Morgenstern - Hawaii Blue
8. Der Dritte Raum - Hale Bopp
9. Ronny Priest - Tracked Romance, Pt. 1


Deep Trance
AKA Housey Trance... or Trancey House

Like rats scrambling from a sinking ship, Progressive Trance and Anthem Trance producers escaped the banality of the builds, breakdowns, and chorus melodies when it was declared by the genre's elite (read: Sasha and Digweed) as being thoroughly uncool to keep playing this stuff. So they latched onto the other genres as a way to stay ahead of the pack. Break trance (breakbeat), tech trance (techno) and deep trance (house) are such genres created in the wake of the Great Anthem crash.

Songs:
1. Blue Amazon - And Then the Rain Falls
2. The Fact - Contact
3. Ashtrax - Digital Reason
4. Quirk - Soft Focus (Hyperion Mix)
5. Sunday Club - Etana's Flight
6. Excession - Affected
7. Alexander Kowalski - Belo Horizonte
8. Dominion - II Hours


Epic Trance
AKA Euphoric Trance, Uplifting Trance, Emotional Trance, Pop Trance, McTrance, Euro Trance

Epic Trance is the gateway genre into the world of rave for most people, so if you have any form of music to blame for raves hitting the mainstream, this is it. Right here. And that, my friends, really, truly, terribly sucks. There must be a word to describe the pain one feels when witnessing (or hearing, rather) something once pure and brilliant completely sold down the river. Sometime in the mid-90s trance decided to drop the technique of slowly introducing complicated layers and building adequate tension over long stretches, replacing them with cutesy little insta-melodies (Robert Miles may actually be to blame for this). That made it more pop culture accessible. The average attention span, way too ritalin-freaked to pay attention to the slow, brooding trance in its original form, liked the anthemic singalong tone of the NEW McTrance, and that's why you all trance crackers are reading this right now. Now because you grew a taste for this super awesome underground music or you discovered it all by yourself once upon a time. But because trance reformed its sound and delivery to suit YOUR sweet-toothed, top 40 pop music consuming tastes. Because the truth is Epic Trance is not actually Trance, per se. It is powdered, sugar-coated pop schmaltz draped over trance for easy digestion by giggling high school girls and poser trendy types who would never think to even blink at trance in its raw incarnate. This is the musical equivalent of drowning a meal in ketchup so you taste the original flavour anymore.

Songs:
1. Ian van Dahl - Castles in the Sky
2. Kayestone - Atmosphere (Angelic Mix)
3. Ayla - Ayla pt. II
4. Alice Deejay - Better off Alone
5. Fragma - Every Time You Need Me
6. Paul van Dyk - For an Angel
7. The Thrillseekers - Synesthesia
8. Kamaya Painters - Endless Wave
9. Vincent de Moor - Fly Away

Branch: Dutch trance


Dutch
AKA Super Saw Mega Trance, Fake Trance

If I roll my eyes any harder, they're going to fall right out of their sockets. As a good friend of mine once said: "Come on. Get on with it already. I can only hold my arms in the air for so long." Let it be said that electronic music NEVER learns how to "leave the audience wanting more." Instead, like a spoiled, immature little child, it shamelessly and greedily exploits any whiff of success it sees, to cartoonish extremes. Which is why we have this. Yeah, I know. It sounds like a really bad and corny Hollywood scene, doesn't it? Somehow, a mutant form of trance evolved from Epic drenched itself in the breakdown-build-anthem formula and senselessly driven it to new, insane levels of assinine [sic]. In doing so, it stopped becoming trance. Some songs have ridiculously long and drawn-out breakdowns. lasting well over 3 minutes or almost half the length of the entire fucking track.
OP's note: In 2020, some pop songs are shorter than the "dutch trance" breakdowns!
Each new release tries to outdo last week's hit anthem, reaching higher and higher, making the genre louder, fuller, and more exalted and grandiose. Good god, does this ever suck. The way megatrance producers shamelessly cash in on a particular sound is insulting sometimes. How can anyone take this trite, derivative garbage seriously? What the hell is this, anyways? It's bombastic melodrama; a pompous, over-the-top monstrously grotesque caricature of what trance used to be. The final betrayal. Trance is dead. Ferry Corsten killed it.

Songs:
1. Rank 1 - Airwave
2. Human Evolution - Project Magenta
3. Scot Project - Overdrive
4. System F - Exhale
5. DJ Tatana - Words
6. Pervading Call - Destiny
7. Envio - Touched by the Sun
8. 4 Strings - Daytime
9. Dumonde - God Music
 

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Hensmon

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Damn I used to love that thing, really was a fun and interesting tool to use when I was first getting into electronic. He made a new version but it is so difficult and confusing to use.
 
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dmgtz96

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Damn I used to love that thing, really was a fun and interesting tool to use when I was first getting into electronic. He made a new version but it is so difficult and confusing to use.
Not only that, but it doesn't have as much detail for trance!
 

freewave

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Yeah I'm gonna really miss his old site. I believe I backed up a fair amount of it and screen capped it too but its full functional original style was rather amazing even if lo-fi by today's standards. I've got a fair amount of gripes with the new one (especially his Eurotrance parent which separate from the rest of trance), his continued tone, and the lack of finer detail into subgenres, but I'm glad both sites exist(ed).
 

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Hensmon

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Genre classification is a bit of a nightmare nowadays. Etymology got really muddy and rigid in how far it can be taken. I'm about 25 years of listening to electronic music and sometimes I still don't know what is House and what is Techno ha!
 

Daysleeper

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Genre classification is a bit of a nightmare nowadays. Etymology got really muddy and rigid in how far it can be taken. I'm about 25 years of listening to electronic music and sometimes I still don't know what is House and what is Techno ha!
Now you are being funny boy !
 
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Hensmon

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This guy is an idiot...
He was a self-proclaimed dickhead really, I was like 14 or something and remember seeing his posts on either Trance.nu or Trancelite and he was asking many of the guys to help build out some of the sections in a non-serious piss-take manner, think he was very young when he built it. Also I think being Canadian he is clueless and out of touch with the epicness of the European scenes and sounds of that time. Think how long it took the North Americans to realise how good dance music is ha.
 
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dmgtz96

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He was a self-proclaimed dickhead really, I was like 14 or something and remember seeing his posts on either Trance.nu or Trancelite and he was asking many of the guys to help build out some of the sections in a non-serious piss-take manner, think he was very young when he built it. Also I think being Canadian he is clueless and out of touch with the epicness of the European scenes and sounds of that time. Think how long it took the North Americans to realise how good dance music is ha.
Tbf Ishkur himself was probably around 14, as well. Those totally r/gatekeeping posts feel like they were written by a teen :p
Just finished editing the section that starts from classic trance! Tbh I loved how he mentioned that dutch trance sounds like a really bad and corny Hollywood scene, haha. That's pretty accurate.
... also I realized I missed the entire section on hard and acid trance, yikes. A lot of those genres don't make sense ("buttrock goa"? seriously?), and "Hi-NRG"/NRG just don't feel like they belong in the trance section. I would say the most important that I've missed are:

  • Tribal
  • Acid
  • German
  • Hard Acid
  • Hard
  • Goa
  • Psychedelic
  • "Dark"
Everything else sounds made-up, but that's probably just a product of its time when everyone was trying to put music in categories.

p.a. I don't think Mexico ever caught on this sound :( At least not the '99-2002 golden era trance. Definitely not the classic trance sound.
 
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freewave

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That's probably modern-day Ishkur tbh
Sadly he had a poor attitude to a lot of genres then and its even worse now. He makes a poor spokesman for Electronic music when he hates so much of it. He knows enough to learn from but screws up enough that you can't believe a lot of his conclusions. The worst part is he should never be seen as gospel and I'm sure many electronic newbs still treat his site that way. Rather than giant updates over decades I find its best to do bits and pieces and continual pruning and development along with a wider scope. Not that it gets a fraction of the attention but I feel its a better approach and huge difference in tone.
 
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Psybee

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It'll be the end of an era when 2.5 is down. Which is why I did screen-capture videos of the site, lol.

But yeah, Ishkur has a pretty angry vocal tone, and it's a little intimidating when he spends a lot of time (particularly in version 3.0) criticizing IDM when it's one of my favorite genres.
 
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IZE

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He is not completely wrong i guess.. Back then trance was pretty hectic and many on the surface had pretty much the same hit formula. It was pretty bastardized from where oliver lieb came from. This was when all the top trance compilation bootleg cds starts appearing in flea markets in late 90s. But at least everybody had a different style behind it. Percussions and elements where pretty unique and many sampling was going on (i remember there where bamboo sounds, sword sheathing, bubbling bass etc), Many tracks didn't make through curation and you could pretty much catch all releases for the week within a weekend.

You could recognize that "sound" from miles away and go yea thats Ferry alright, yeaa... thats transa, dumonde, mike, matt darey, space brothers etc. Even obscure ones like Praha, Flutlicht, Tilt, Digital blonde had their loyal followers too.
There where many one hit wonders too out of nowhere like Brainbug, The Act, Des Mitchell,. Many of them propped up by better known artists whois willing to look the other way. You also had remixers that made tracks that are weak cheese into something spectacular (Van Bellen, Man with no name, Tarrentella vs Redanka, Perfecto) and of course when you go shopping for vinyls, labels reputation really meant something

IMO i just think we had a choice back then, now not so much
 
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jetflag

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I will to this day forever ponder the question on wether or not Iskhur's real (sur)name is Buckley, and he continued his amazing musical bemoanment on youtube.

Love his rants, he's the George Carlin of EDM afaic.
 
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Psybee

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Is there an archive of his old website somewhere? I remember he used to have these hilarious rants about Paul Oakenfold, and I would love to read them again.