By the mid- 1990s , trance, specifically progressive trance, had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of EDM. Progressive trance set in stone the basic formula of modern trance by becoming even more focused on the anthemic basslines and lead melodies, moving away from hypnotic, repetitive, arpeggiated analog synth patterns and spacey pads. Popular elements and anthemic pads became more widespread. Compositions leaned towards incremental changes (aka progressive structures), sometimes composed in thirds (as BT frequently does). Buildups and breakdowns became longer and more exaggerated. The sound became more and more excessive and overblown. This sound came to be known as anthem trance .
Immensely popular, trance found itself filling a niche as edgier than house, more soothing than drum and bass , and more melodic than techno. It became more accessible to more people. Artists like Paul van Dyk , Ferry Corsten , and Armin van Buuren came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, "epic" feel of the style. Meanwhile, DJs like Paul Oakenfold , DJ Tiësto , and DJ Jean were championing the sound in the clubs and through the sale of pre-recorded mixes. By the end of the 1990s, trance remained commercially huge, but had fractured into an extremely diverse genre. Some of the artists that had helped create the trance sound in the early and mid-1990s had, by the end of the decade, abandoned trance completely (artists of particular note here are Pascal F.E.O.S. and Oliver Lieb). Perhaps as a consequence, similar things were happening with the DJs as well. For example, Sasha and Digweed, who together had helped bring the progressive sound to the forefront, all but abandoned it by 2000 , instead spinning a darker mix of the rising " deep trance " and " tech-trance " style pioneered by producers and DJ's like Slacker , Breeder , and the duo of Sasha and Digweed (as marked by the duo's 2000 release, "Communicate"). However, Sasha and John Digweed (two completely different people who now DJ less often together) might argue that "Communicate" not be called trance.
At present, trance is as much about who plays the music as it is about what it sounds like. Trance has transcended the underground scene to become the most popular form of electronic dance music, and a figure in the realm of popular music.
However, the fact that trance has entered the mainstream has alienated many of trances original fans. As the Industry became bigger, companies and Dj's began to alter their sound to that of a more pop based one, so as to make the sound more accessible to an even wider, and younger, audience. Vocals in particular are now extremely common in mainstream trance, adding to their poppy sound.
Companies such as Ministry of Sound, once one of the most respected authorities on dance, have also seen a big loss in their cult following as they have repositioned themselves into a younger mainstay market.
For more concrete examples, check out any number
of purported trance compilations;
perhaps the most highly recommendable
source would be the Global Underground
series, including its "Nubreed" sub-series,
because it captures the diversity
of the genre as expressed through
many of its brightest DJ talents.
Also recommended as source material
would be the Tranceport/Perfecto Presents...
series, any of Sasha and Digweed 's
Northern Exposure mixes,
and any of the mixes in the Renaissance
series. The Labels to reference would
include 3Beat, Bedrock, Devolution,
Fluid, Fragrant, Hooj Choons , Hook,
Perfecto records , Vandit, Armada,
Black Hole, Intuition, Positiva ,
Harthouse , Eye Q , MFS, Platipus
, NOOM, R&S, Anjunabeats, Anjunadeep,
Yoshitoshi rec , and ATCR Trance Music.