Was old trance good because it were simple ?

Daysleeper

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Whats your thoughts on this?

I just came by this Pure Trance release, Artur - Wonderland from this year, and I took a listen. Not too bad I thought, but soon enough I realised it sounded so simple.
So simple it in fact sounded more like a demo or an unfinished track rather than a fully developed and produced trance track. It was so repetitiv and stripped down and the basic rhythm of the track kept going without basically zero developement or change throughout the structure of the track,and it became clear to me. Its not simple, its boring. Theres really no better word for it.

You can read the descriptive text and listen for yourself Here

Has this word simple been taken to an extreme in modern times when producers/trance artists speak about how classic trance were way simpler and less complicated ? To me they seem to confuse the word simple with subtle or less compressed/complicated.

I remember this interview Armin did a couple of years ago with I think Brian Karney, and mention this less is more approach, but in actuality the way they look at it today has little to do with how it actually was back then.

when tracks were way simpler and more transparent. Think Paul van Dyk’s early productions if you want a reference.

Please take a listen to the track above and compare it to Another Way which is a fair comparasion as they specifically mention PVD's earlier works.


Another way is quite simple Id say, but I still like to listen and engage in the track, because around the known riff there's certainly lots of subtle elements fading in and out, and the structure isnt only the same A part throughout the whole track.
 
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Magdelayna

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Another Way is a very simple melody but its so expertly crafted with the other elements that go with it - eg bass,pads,fx,structure....thats where the skill and talent came back in the day - if someone had this melody created today and made a modern track,it just wouldnt have the same magic as theyre just following the same generic rules to get on a label...eg the sledgehammer kickand massive sidechained bassline.
 

Gagi

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It might be a bit misinterpreted. It's just a buzz word/phrase that stands for nothing. Music does not and should not rely on buzz words and marketing. Comparing Anton's and Paul's tracks by one word is pointless as well. Sound design, arrangement, structure, melodies, harmonies etc. are all a factor.

I'm equally capable of loving old, complicated tracks and new, simple tracks, if the actual content is to my liking. Think Rank 1 - 7 Instead of 8. Now that's just too simple! But good. Do I like it because it's simple? No. I like it because I like it. Same as with Banco de Gaia's Last Train to Lhasa. There's just too many ideas, samples, elements, but I love it. It's all about the content, not just the word "simple".

Over-generalization, nothing else.
 
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Daysleeper

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I'm equally capable of loving old, complicated tracks and new, simple tracks, if the actual content is to my liking. Think Rank 1 - 7 Instead of 8. Now that's just too simple! But good. Do I like it because it's simple? No. I like it because I like it. Same as with Banco de Gaia's Last Train to Lhasa. There's just too many ideas, samples, elements, but I love it. It's all about the content, not just the word "simple".
Yeah, sure, but personal taste aside. We are talking facts and observation now :)

Content is all that matters for me, yes!
 

Gagi

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Just wanted to write 2 contrasting cases to show how ridiculous the actual word is and how little it actually means when used on its own in this case.
 
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Magnevi

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I'd say no. I think there's a lot of trance that wasn't simple at all. Tiesto - Suburban Train, Svenson & Gielen - We Know What You Did, Airbase - Escape... those type of tracks are very layered. Lot's of details in them, multiple melodies on top of each other.

But, maybe you mean "old" is let's say pre 1999. Then I'm starting to agree with you. Music was more simple back then. Mainly because production equipment was way more difficult, expensive, and they had to deal with the limitations of the time. I do think tracks back then (while simple) had to be better. Because a weak element is quickly spotted in a "fairly simple" production.

While now it's easier to drown medicore stuff in an ocean of layers to mask the averageness of what you're actually listening to.
 

dmgtz96

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I'd say no. I think there's a lot of trance that wasn't simple at all. Tiesto - Suburban Train, Svenson & Gielen - We Know What You Did, Airbase - Escape... those type of tracks are very layered. Lot's of details in them, multiple melodies on top of each other.

But, maybe you mean "old" is let's say pre 1999. Then I'm starting to agree with you. Music was more simple back then. Mainly because production equipment was way more difficult, expensive, and they had to deal with the limitations of the time. I do think tracks back then (while simple) had to be better. Because a weak element is quickly spotted in a "fairly simple" production.

While now it's easier to drown medicore stuff in an ocean of layers to mask the averageness of what you're actually listening to.
Yep. Producers had much less to work with, so they had to develop their sounds from scratch and make sure everything fit.
 

SecondNature

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I think sample packs can also cheapen productions as well. These days, a lot of new producers often skip the fundamentals of audio production, music composition, and arrangement and go for the quick shortcut to rely on these packs, mimicking what they hear from the big names and lose their originality. Don't get me wrong, I use sample packs as well, but not so much to the point where it sounds generic. Oftentimes you can mix and match elements in a sample pack and "create" a track.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think sample packs were big back in the day! And by "pack" I mean a library of sounds with kicks, percussion, melodic riffs, and sfx; not samples inside a Roland TR-909 or something like that.
 
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Bluemoon

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It was better because there was no a&rs wanting exact the same sounds for all the tracks.

This is so true, and its so weird that its even a thing.

So many labels , if not all they kill originality and mold every little track to sound exactly the same as the other stuff they are releasing.

Its so monotone and boring.

What happend to variety.
 

jetflag

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K, my 2 cents, trigger warning, some are probably not going to like it, but like i said its my 2 cents, take it with a grain of salt.


First. Its a false dichotomy. Simple/minimal is a measurable term depending on the level of complexity, whereas “boring” is a feeling based on personal taste. And/or, I would argue, oversaturation of something.


The reason (I would argue) that you’re bored when listening to new stuff and revitalized when you listen to “the good old times” stuff is because of the emotional flashback you have when listening to it. The scene was new (to you) and along with it came memories of wonder, new experiences or copes for bad times, you name it. One doesn’t listen to music mathematically, one listens to it emotionally.

“complex” 2020 esq trance with some notable exceptions presumably bore you emotionally less, but still don’t entertain you as much as say that PVD classic.

I would also put forth that if you drop both tracks in front of a neutral observer, say a country music fan who’s never been exposed to trance, he would argue both sound exactly the same and the latter actually better due to its crisp production.

So the "problem" if you could call it that, isn’t simplicity v complexity v boring.


I would say its threefold:

1: personal over saturation. You’ve been having constant aural trance ”injections/hits” for 4 decades. (this mainly applies to long participants of the scene). Your first time being in love or having a cocaine hit is utterly amazing, but once you’re an addict, it becomes somewhat normal over time. Your brain gets used to it, no matter how much to you take to offset, you’ll never reach that first high. Hence you “missing” that/ feeling bored when listening to new stuff compared to the old with memories attached.


2 the fact that after 4 decades, the scope of new (simple) ideas that works for trance have been a lot more exhausted/tested and tried then its obvious inception. (there’s only so many notes and sequences on a keyboard that work in a “trance” sense) which in term consequently leads to:


3. standardisation, both in terms of label sound as well as production tools. Goes for every genre really, The (free) market of gear or sound simply decides which "sylenths" float to the top and which don't, thats just the way it works. Rock used to be experimental with Indian instruments, self made effects and 1 non distorted electric guitar. And now the defacto standard setup for any rock band is: drumkit, bassist, guitarist, guitar/vocals, maybe keys, c'est ça. Hand in hand with this is the level of entry for music making. All you need is a somewhat decent computer and an internet connection, whereas back then you needed to save thousands of bucks just to create a minor music studio.

fortunatly, Its also partly where the solution lies.

a low level to entry means its possible for everybody to create the music/sound they love, aswell as/ or too, start a label with the things you want to hear or more specifically, don’t want to hear. It also enables you as a means of creative approach. to scoure the "bottom" of music making methodologies or artists who don't conform, since you're not bound by anything that would prevent you from doing so.

Is this easy/ a quick fix? No. but then again I would argue that it actually shouldn’t be.
 
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Hensmon

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The reason (I would argue) that you’re bored when listening to new stuff and revitalized when you listen to “the good old times” stuff is because of the emotional flashback you have when listening to it. The scene was new (to you) and along with it came memories of wonder, new experiences or copes for bad times, you name it. One doesn’t listen to music mathematically, one listens to it emotionally.

This is a common argument, but I feel like it misses something, or just accounts for part of whats going on.

All I can go on is my own experience, in which It was Tiesto, Armin, Ferry etc from 98-02 which is what I grew up with, then when I got older it was the 05-12 dominating my clubbing scene and full addiction to the music. So why do I now absolutely love the 88-94 sounds? I spent all year listening too and discovering new artists and sounds. I find this stuff to be incredible, yet its totally different from what I grew up and partied too.

I also still find tracks all through the 10-20 that bring me tons of joy too, so it can happen right... but for the most part I feel exactly like Daysleeper, that bar a few the majority of Trance is missing something (something objective) and that all the good tracks today are usually 7.5/10 max, never the 9's or 10's, which used to be commonplace. Its like they are forgetting some crucial essence or approach, I dont know.

I think nostalgia or early musical experiences play a role, but that it doesn't negate the argument that quality dropped or sounds changed (for the worse). Both arguments can exist together.
 

dmgtz96

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This is a common argument, but I feel like it misses something, or just accounts for part of whats going on.
Exactly, it misses people like @Gagi and I who have only heard trance for ~9 years or so.
Apart from that, I agree with most of your points @jetflag.

edit: I actually really like the "reconstructed old trance" from 2019-2020, like Connected - Orbit Triton and Trance Wax.
 
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jetflag

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This is a common argument, but I feel like it misses something, or just accounts for part of whats going on.
oh yeah i agree. which is why I don't base my whole argument on it. But nostalgia vs oversaturation and over trained ears if you will, I would argue do contribute (partly) to why so many veteran listeners as a general rule of thumb feel bored (individual experience i can't account for obviously) :)
 
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Gagi

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You have a point there with nostalgia and oversaturation. Like Hens and dmgtz96 said, I only recently started discovering trance's really old stuff, and have been in love with it ever since. Sure, I like my 2012 stuff because of nostalgia as well. But it's not a complete part of the picture. Plus, I never really went clubbing/raving to trance, I discovered everything in my bedroom(s).

That said, oversaturation explains why I really rarely listen to uplifting anymore, even the good stuff that I used to love. But then again, how come I still listen to Airwave's old stuff all the time? Strange...
 
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Daysleeper

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K, my 2 cents, trigger warning, some are probably not going to like it, but like i said its my 2 cents, take it with a grain of salt.
No. this was good. It was interesting to read your thoughts.

First. Its a false dichotomy. Simple/minimal is a measurable term depending on the level of complexity, whereas “boring” is a feeling based on personal taste. And/or, I would argue, oversaturation of something.


The reason (I would argue) that you’re bored when listening to new stuff and revitalized when you listen to “the good old times” stuff is because of the emotional flashback you have when listening to it. The scene was new (to you) and along with it came memories of wonder, new experiences or copes for bad times, you name it. One doesn’t listen to music mathematically, one listens to it emotionally.

“complex” 2020 esq trance with some notable exceptions presumably bore you emotionally less, but still don’t entertain you as much as say that PVD classic

I reeeaally...dont buy into this as much as you seem. I do believe this is a factor generally with most music you grew up with, but if we go into specifics and really analyse tracks head-to-head its not as big of a factor any more. I might be totally wrong based on my strong belief that "modern" trance is objectively worse but I believe the nostalgia factor only accounts for maybe 30% and that it also outgrows you the older you get. You have some sort of nostalgia peak sometime in your musical-listening journey and then it ebbs out. You def bcome more of an analytical listeners. And maybe only 20-30% part of tracks has the ability to make you feel nostalgic.

Boring can both be subjective and objective. Especiallly when we are talking about music,which is an complex artform, more so than other arts imo(debatable). Its not so simple to say its just a personal taste related thing. Theres more variables to account for I think.

Concerning the pvd track here. I never listened to this when I got my firs injection of trance back in the day. Cant say when I first heard it though, but I'll give you that it might have been in the period closeby post first love of trance.

I would also put forth that if you drop both tracks in front of a neutral observer, say a country music fan who’s never been exposed to trance, he would argue both sound exactly the same and the latter actually better due to its crisp production.
This is totally assumtion based, but if I guess and they made a study your argument would hold and the outset will probably be about 70 vs 30% result depending on the type of country-music listener. The listeners might also say they thought the modern track sounded so loud they preferred the older track and found that more pleasing. Especially if they were played in headphones with normal volume. Casual listeners dont seem to care at all about nuances or dynamics in music. Experience listeners do.

Btw, my mother often comments on modern music that she cant hear the vocals and lyrics clearly because the "music" around is so loud/messy, hehe.

I love how the term music-addict gets so apparent when I read your post, haha!

You make good points, but I believe theres a little more to it :)
 
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aSeb

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I am not sure about the nostalgia thing. I got fully into Trance music during 2004-07 and most of the nostalgic tracks are from those years. But I have later discovered so many gems from the earlier years that got be completely hooked. There is no nostalgia attached to some of the tracks I consider nowadays as my all time favorites. The sounds were incredible back then and feels completely different what we are served today.

I also listen to new releases on a weekly basis and there is still quality out there, but in lesser extent. For example I thought that 2017 was a good year for the scene and I liked a lot of new releases that year, so that is also a proof that nostalgia itself doesn't make music feel more enjoyable. But of course this is just the way I feel it.
 
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Propeller

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Old trance was not more simple than modern trance, it was actually much more complex. And that's what made it better overall. That's not to say that there isn't complex modern trance being released now but my view is that in the old days far fewer producers bothered to produce the simple kind of stuff we hear so much of these days.

The reason for the complexity is simple. Vinyl sales could earn producers decent money. There was no piracy and decent money could also be earned from remixing. So, your reputation, originality and individuality matter a lot.
Old record labels had a far smaller output than the current lot. I mean some labels today seem to be releasing 15 - 20 tracks a month (FSOE, tranceallstars). Even Solastone's labels seem to be putting out about 5 tracks a month! Contrast this to a legendary label like Hooj Choons who probably put out an average of one release a month.

So when you produced in the old days it had to be good, it had to be clever and a lot of it was indeed highly complex. The period between 1997 - 2002 is probably where the greatest complexity can be heard. Now there is very little money to be made from actual sales of singles so to make money it seems like you are having to produce 50 tracks a year, if not more.

If you look at the discography of your average trance producer on Beatport you'll probably find hundreds of tracks in the last 10 years. When you have such a high output then of course the creativity is going to fall by the wayside and there will be a huge number of copy and paste/template type jobs.
At a quick glance Darren Porter has about 400 releases and remixes spanning from 2011 to the present day. Back in the 90s a producer could spend months on producing a single track - e.g. Chicane - Offshore took at least 5-6 months to produce?
The advent of massive stadium trance gigs in the modern era and their lucrative pull also meant that simple tunes that were loud and could catch the attention of the entire stadium were the order of the day for DJs who played in these venues, which in turn spawned more producers who made this kind of music and so on....

Back in the old days DJs played in smaller clubs to much smaller and more discerning crowds who could appreciate the complexity of something that was 10+ minutes long and had many twists and turns, and ups and down. Now that's true art.
 
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SecondNature

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Old trance was not more simple than modern trance, it was actually much more complex. And that's what made it better overall. That's not to say that there isn't complex modern trance being released now but my view is that in the old days far fewer producers bothered to produce the simple kind of stuff we hear so much of these days.

The reason for the complexity is simple. Vinyl sales could earn producers decent money. There was no piracy and decent money could also be earned from remixing. So, your reputation, originality and individuality matter a lot.
Old record labels had a far smaller output than the current lot. I mean some labels today seem to be releasing 15 - 20 tracks a month (FSOE, tranceallstars). Even Solastone's labels seem to be putting out about 5 tracks a month! Contrast this to a legendary label like Hooj Choons who probably put out an average of one release a month.

So when you produced in the old days it had to be good, it had to be clever and a lot of it was indeed highly complex. The period between 1997 - 2002 is probably where the greatest complexity can be heard. Now there is very little money to be made from actual sales of singles so to make money it seems like you are having to produce 50 tracks a year, if not more.

If you look at the discography of your average trance producer on Beatport you'll probably find hundreds of tracks in the last 10 years. When you have such a high output then of course the creativity is going to fall by the wayside and there will be a huge number of copy and paste/template type jobs.
At a quick glance Darren Porter has about 400 releases and remixes spanning from 2011 to the present day. Back in the 90s a producer could spend months on producing a single track - e.g. Chicane - Offshore took at least 5-6 months to produce?
The advent of massive stadium trance gigs in the modern era and their lucrative pull also meant that simple tunes that were loud and could catch the attention of the entire stadium were the order of the day for DJs who played in these venues, which in turn spawned more producers who made this kind of music and so on....

Back in the old days DJs played in smaller clubs to much smaller and more discerning crowds who could appreciate the complexity of something that was 10+ minutes long and had many twists and turns, and ups and down. Now that's true art.

I agree with lot of your points, with all kinds of media being produced at such a fast speed, the demand for more and more with a quick turnaround time cheapens the art. I'm sure that a lot of artists and labels feel the pressure to keep the attention of their audience.
 
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