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Gone and back: not always on the right track

Written by Luciano Medica Catalan on . Posted in Home

2017 seems to be the year for the great comeback of former Trance producers, who have been gone for a while. But Trance was never gone, and as we all have seen in the last few events, coming back is not always the easiest task.

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In the last few years, we have seen many Trance producers emigrating to other genres of electronic music, many of those were considered ‘pioneers’ in the trance scene, but also other were the new up-and-coming promises of trance (or at least that’s what we thought).

A few weeks ago many of us attended (virtually, remotely or in person) to the A State of Trance stage at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, which has been on everyone’s lips due to the comeback of two main acts: NWYR and Purple Haze, these are the new stage names for W&W and Sander van Doorn respectively.

Trance has never been gone, neither the fans

Lately, we all have been witnessing an increase of artists speaking out about the fact that there’s no such thing as a Trance comeback, as Trance has never left us. Artists like Fadi from Aly & Fila and John O’Callaghan have been more than clear about this: while some have left the scene, others have always remained loyal to their fans. And likewise, the fans have been standing all along with them.

This gains special importance, as both W&W and Sander van Doorn were massive when they started drifting away from Trance.

The Dutch duo W&W was the big promise of what many expected to be the future sound of trance, including tracks like ‘Impact’, ‘Arena’, ‘Dome’, ‘AK-47’ and ‘Shotgun’ among others. They even collaborated with legends like BT and Armin (remixing ‘These Silent Hearts’ from Armin’s Mirage album) and did some vocal tracks like ‘Three O’Clock’ (featuring Ana Criado).

It seemed that there was no reason to give up on a career that was growing steadily and succeeding in almost every endeavor that they have been taking over. For me, it’s impossible not to think about how far it seems they are now from those two guys from Breda who produced the anthem for A State of Trance 550: Invasion!

As for Sander van Doorn, since 2011 he has been walking a long way after his track ‘Renegade’ or his remix of ‘Control Freak’ -considered by many as one of his classics-. He was experimenting with deeper and more progressive sounds, but still, it was a Sander van Doorn’s sound that you could easily recognize.

He kept on progressing into his creative journey, one step at a time, but always further away from those glorious Trance days.

Coming back may not always be a good idea, and it’s never an easy task for sure, especially when you leave at the summit of your Trance career. Expectations can be way too high and as a DJ and producer you may not live up to the memory your former fans have been keeping of you.

Perhaps this return of Sander van Doorn and W&W to the Trance scene shows two different sides of the same coin. It is evident that two different approaches with the same goal can come to fruition with absolutely different results. And this also speaks about the qualities of the musicians behind. The versatility of moving between genres without losing quality is for me one of the main assets a producer can have.

Regarding this, I consider myself a former W&W fan and a follower of Sander van Doorn, so it also could be I’m a little biased, but I’ll try to make this as clear and straightforward possible.

Love is darkness when you leave, but it’s bright when you come back

Sander van Doorn presenting himself as Purple Haze was for me the surprise of UMF Miami this year. Purple Haze is not a new project for Sander, as he had already been using this alter ego since until 2011, however, we hadn’t heard of it for quite a while.

Dark and deep sounds have always been Purple Haze’s trademark, and there was something in the set that felt just right. I kept smiling all the way during the set. I could still feel the old Sander who has been busy with other sounds, exploring other sides of electronic music.

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It was easy to notice that Sander van Doorn was on decks. The set as a whole was clearly homogenous. It was a complete set, perfectly mixed instead than as a progression of tracks, intros, drops and “put your hands up” calls. Although many can question the set was way too progressive, it seems those sounds are currently on the rise. And especially when they are properly executed, they can feel as uplifting as Trance is supposed to be.

Mostly all reactions on social media are in the same direction. People who knew Sander from the past were really excited to hear such a high-quality set. On the other hand, people who were not around back since between 2008 and 2011, were pretty amazed by the sounds of this ´new artist´ who in fact, is everything but new.

I was somewhat anxious about what to expect. I knew what kind of artist he was, but I couldn’t tell if after so many years and different projects if it hadn’t taken a toll. All I can sense is that he not only lived up for the memories I had, I also heard a healthy evolution within the sound, without giving up on his evergreen mixing skills.
The selection of tracks for the set was a great choice. For instance, ‘Shout’ by Grum, which was great received by the fans. Many IDs were also added up to his great performance. I personally believe that coming back has to be full of surprises and leave the people wondering about what they have been missing through all these years.
Listening to a set like this in all its glory, was a great experience for me, and left me wanting for whatever he has in mind for his next appearance. The talent and the essence are still there, just wait and see.
It was indeed a bright comeback with all the components and nuances that you would have expected from an artist of the stature of Sander van Doorn.

In case you missed the set, you can have a look here:

W&W is now NWYR and that apparently means NEW YEAR

When I heard that W&W was coming back into the trance music scene, I was thrilled. I had always liked their sound until they moved on to a questionable EDM experiment -and even when I’m a big supporter of people experimenting with different sounds, I can’t do it with theirs- and despite they had always been different than the rest, they managed to produce some great tracks that still bang in my head.

Illusions started crumbling down as they announced that the first track produced by the ‘mystery act’ NWYR was a remix of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’. They took the easiest -and in my opinion, worst- approach, coming back to Trance from EDM by remixing a pop song.

Good idea, going back to your roots. Bad idea, pretending to go back to your roots drifting further away from them.

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It’s interesting to read some comments on Youtube mentioning how sad people were about W&W turning into Trance again and how they will miss their Big Room sound. It feels surreal because W&W started as Trance. And some people have never known that bright side of their music.

All in all, NWYR’s set at the A State of Trance Stage at UMF Miami was not good enough to live up to the expectations, but it was neither terrible. To some extent, it seemed like an intermediate stage between Big Room sounds and Trance. Of course, expecting W&W to play uplifting sounds would be a mistake as that has never been their style. However, when I think of W&W playing, I first think of them during ASOT 500 in Buenos Aires. That was an unforgettable set, and if you hadn’t listened to it yet, you should definitely give it a try.

If I needed to describe the set in just one word, it would be inconsistent. There were too many highs and lows, too many ins and outs. The direction of the set was unclear, it was not in crescendo and the tracks left you many times asking you WHY??

The most questionable decision, in my opinion, about the mix included in the set, was that the structure had too many intros and drops, which are nowadays associated with trashy EDM producers. They also did something weird, speaking to the crowd, and that’s something we don’t usually appreciate. You don’t need to cheer up the crowd if the music is doing its job, and also playing for people who were not really engaged with their music made them forget about what the Trance scene is all about.

It’s about something that is beyond the edge of our skin connecting all of us as one.

Were they trying to please everyone? Maybe. Was it good for a Trance comeback? I don’t think so. The magic remains lost, at least for now.

You can check this set out here!

Time to go back

Alongside these artists, also producers like Jochen Miller have decided to make a comeback. He has released a track called ‘Time to go back’ which in my opinion sums up pretty accurately what most producers must be feeling at the moment.

For those who don’t remember him, he produced tracks like ‘Humanoid’ and he played a couple of times at A State of Trance. But luckily for him, he has remained always on a different level of popularity. This makes it much harder for those front-liners who are trying to do the same thing.

For the die-hard fans, these comebacks are tuned into a melody they don’t want to hear. Most producers left without pursuing a creative path, and rather more an economic need, and that’s something which it’s not well received by the crowd and the critics.

Perhaps we’re entering a new golden era of Trance music. Maybe 2017 is the year when most former Trance producers will be coming back to the scene. Let’s hope they come back because they love Trance, they love music and they love the fans. Only then we will be able to enjoy lots of successful comebacks, and if that really happens, then we will be ready to open our arms waiting to receive the ones who took a different path.

Luciano Medica Catalan

Argentinian journalist. Electronic music fan, trance music lover.
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