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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

Trippy Trance Music Origins

My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.

In this episode we’re going to sample some of the early recordings of trance music from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Trance nowadays is a style characterized by driving tempos of 120 to 150 beats per minute. But it wasn’t always like that. Before Trance was absorbed into what is also called Electronic Dance Music, a style that is also very interesting, it rose up in Germany, specifically Frankfurt, and was put together by electronic musicians some of whom were also sometimes DJs. It had a kind of spacey atmosphere, influenced by the work of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, but differed in the kind of pulse of the sound. Whereas Tangerine Dream and Schulze built a lot of their early sounds around the pulse of analog synthesizer sequencers, Trance music came for an infrastructure of digital music tools, drum machines, sampled sound effects, and polyphonic keyboards. The beats were in place but you will hear in some of these works that they felt more organic, based on acoustic instruments.  Hopefully, the works I’m going to play in this episode will reveal their similarities and also their differences to those earlier German works.

I am going to feature works from several artists. First, is a track from the UK group KLF that was a kind of forebearer of what would become early Trance. In this case, and the only one in this episode, there is the formative structure of an increase in the intensity of the rhythm followed by a momentary drop, much like modern Trance. Then we will switch to Germany and music of a couple of DJ artists and record producers, Sven Väth and Oliver Lieb. Both produced music that was more tribal sounding that modern Trance. Then we will explore works made by Pete Namlook, one of my favorites. He founded his own record label and often collaborated with other artists to create a series of fantastic albums. We’ll hear works in this episode released in the year 1993 and his separate collaborations with Dr. Atmo, also known as Amir Abadi, another musician from Frankfurt, and Tetsu Inoue, one of my favorite electronic music artists from Japan. The Atmo’s work is definitely beat driven and the works done with Tetsu are more organic and unfold as a kind of state of mind. These works are from a period when Tetsu was making primarily ambient electronic music, and teaming with Namlook they found a unique voice that combined a little bit of rhythm and repetition, looping ambient recordings, and music that instead of building to dramatic peaks or drops in the rhythm, often sustains the energy as long as it can and makes subtle transitions from one section to the next. We’ll hear some additional recordings from Namlook and Tetsu in the next episode, when Tetsu was based in New York during a period when I knew him.

Episode 124

Trippy Trance Music Origins



Track Time

Start Time

Introduction –Thom Holmes



The KLF, “What Time Is Love?” from What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1) (1988 KLF Communications). Kopyright Liberation Front (KLF), a duo comprised of Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond. Cauty was born in Devon, England; Drummond was born in South Africa but grew up in the Dumfries & Galloway area of Scotland.



Sven Väth, “Ritual of Life” from Accident In Paradise (1992 Eye Q Records). Music by Sven Väth. Internationally known DJ / producer from Germany.



Sven Väth, “Caravan of Emotions” from Accident In Paradise (1992 Eye Q Records). Music by Sven Väth. Internationally known DJ / producer from Germany.



Oliver Lieb, “Dimension X” from  Constellation (1993 Recycle or Die). Frankfurt based DJ & producer Oliver Lieb is involved in the production of electronic music since 1988.



Pete Namlook & Dr. Atmo, “Trip“ from Silence (1993 Rising High Records).



Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue, “Liquid Shade” from Shades Of Orion (1993 Fax +49-69/450464).



Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue, “Biotrip” from Shades Of Orion (1993 Fax +49-69/450464).




Opening background music: Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue, “Ethereal Being” from 2350 Broadway 4 (2007 Fax +49-69/450464). Composed, programmed, and played by Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue. (07:00)

Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.

See my companion blog that I write for the Bob Moog Foundation.

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Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.

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