At the risk of making some readers of this article feel old: Gen Z has nostalgia for the early 2000s now. People are posting images of clunky technology and tagging it #aesthetic. Artists are selling CDs and cassettes as physical merchandise again. And, yes, this includes music genres too: Trance is back.
Many of these new releases are mostly confined to small corners of the internet, so to start on this journey into geometric fonts and really wishing they still made transparent video game consoles, I’ve selected a few landmarks in the development of the scene.
Virtual Self – “EON BREAK”
Despite being a lesser-known side project of Porter Robinson, he’s still got it here as Virtual Self. The self-titled EP that “EON BREAK” is off of is unusual in this list in that it was released in 2017 – most Y2K trance has only been released starting in 2020, arguably making this a progenitor to the scene.
It sets a lot of the standards for future releases – in particular, having an aesthetic that’s a throwback to many RPGs of the late 90s and early 2000s. However, Robinson’s experience in more festival-oriented EDM makes “EON BREAK” feel more like it’s meant for “Dance Dance Revolution” than many of its more rave-oriented successors, so it still remains fresh despite its relative age.
Exodia – “Lumina”
If there’s one release that really kicked off the current wave of trance, it’s “Ateriavia.” A three-way split album between artists Anthony1, Exodia, and Sienna Sleep, it came out of the very online style of hexd.
HexD’s flavor of nostalgia is focused on experiences like trying to watch anime AMVs on your dad’s computer with slow internet, which is accomplished by heavily bitcrushing the music (and usually the album art too). Exodia uses this to their advantage in “Lumina,” with resultant glitchy texture adding a little more crunch that brings it to another level.
Anthony1 – “Crisis Core”
Anthony1 also contributed to “Ateriavia,” and while “Crisis Core” is from a solo project, it embodies another aspect of Y2K trance: going hard. Fast tempos and loud, bassy kicks are on full display here, which would continue through to just about everything that came after.
nuphory – “HYPERTRANCE”
On the non-hexd-inspired side of things, there’s the emerging microgenre of hypertrance. Nuphory (and many, many others across two compilations) take nostalgia in a direction more directly inspired by the previously discussed Virtual Self with “HYPERTRANCE” by relying more on a very Y2K melodic piano, rather than hexd’s signature bitcrushed synths.
Purity Filter – “Tenshi”
Purity Filter’s music is arguably more trance-influenced hardcore than hardcore-influenced trance, but regardless, her music is a cornerstone of the current online trance scene. Most notably, she coined the term sextrance for her evolution of hexd trance, which has caught on enough to lend its name to two compilations of current trance music.
Isyti – “Pure Crystal“
As the final stop of this journey, here’s the most standard trance of the entire list, but also the biggest enigma. There’s no information on who Isyti is outside of their Soundcloud and the release this song is from, “bootleg (+)” – aptly named, since it was originally a YouTube upload from the label most associated with the current scene, Dismiss Yourself.
Despite having zero presence, this release has taken off, showing that there’s a future for Y2K trance outside of just a gimmick for 20 year olds remembering an era they definitely do not remember.
If you’re interested in looking into these songs, I made a playlist of the songs I mentioned here.