I think it’s been a really good year for trance, despite what some people will tell you about it “being dead”. So it’s been a challenge narrowing it down to just 20 tunes. And impossible to try and rank those 20 – so, like last year, I’ve just listed them in alphabetical order. Please use the comments facility to let me know which tunes I’ve left out that you think I shouldn’t have!
Suncatcher – Are We There Yet? (Always Alive Recordings)
This features on Solarstone’s Pure Trance V2 mix and is simply beautiful. Suncatcher is from Romania and a name to watch out for, if you like your trance pure.
Solarstone & Betsie Larkin – Breathe You In (Solarstone Pure Mix) (Premier)
The original mix of this song is on Betsie Larkin’s 2011 album, All We Have Is Now, but Solarstone has weaved his pure magic over it and I just love this version. The Sneijder remix is also very good, but I couldn’t put both in this list and eventually plumped for this one.
Aly & Fila with Giuseppe Ottaviani – Brilliant People (Sneijder Remix) (Black Hole)
Aly & Fila and Giuseppe Ottaviani … with these brilliant people working on a track, you just know it will be fantastic. I love the original, but Sneijder has made it even better. Tune!
Maria Healy – Chatterbox (nu-depth Recordings)
Maria Healy is from Dublin and if this tune is anything to go by, she’s one to look out for in the future. There’s so much great music coming out of Ireland at the moment.
The Thrillseekers with York & Asheni – Daydream (Will Atkinson Dreamy Mix) (Adjusted Music)
I’ve seen The Thrillseekers twice this year and whether he’s dropping classics or contemporary tunes, Steve Helstrip always delivers the goods. And although he’ll always be best known for Synaethesia, he is still producing top quality uplifting trance.
ReOrder & Ian Standerwick pres. Skypatrol – Folding Your Universe (Future Sound Of Egypt)
This is going to be a lot of people’s choice as tune of the year, I suspect. It has an old school feel to it and I hope there will be more from Skypatrol next year.
Armin van Buuren feat. Emma Hewitt – Forever Is Ours (Solarstone Pure Mix) (Armada)
Armin’s new album, Intense, was predictably commercially focussed, with only a couple of nods to true fans of trance (Who’s Afraid of 138?! and Last Stop Before Heaven) but Solarstone picked up on this tune and gave it a Pure mix, which I really like, even if it is slightly cheesy.
Driftmoon – Howl At The Moon (Solarstone Retouch) (Black Hole)
Yes, Solarstone again. I have to confess that I love what he does, as you have probably guessed by now. This is another tune from Pure Trance V2, which is definitely my album of the year!
Solarstone – Love Theme from Blade Runner (Pure Mix)
Another tune from Pure Trance V2, this is a remake of the Vangelis theme from Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic film. And as ever, when Rich Mowatt gets his hands on a tune, it turns to gold.
Adam Ellis – Napalm Poet (Angry Man Remix) (Kearnage Recordings)
Adam Ellis is a name to look out for and his first release is one of those tunes that almost everyone was playing in their sets this year. The original mix is really good, but I think Angry Man makes it even better.
Charles McThorn – Oxydizing (Original Anthem Mix) (Redux Recordings)
I’ve never heard anyone play this, but I think it’s brilliant. I’ve not come across Charles McThorn before and I can’t find out anything about him either. Let’s hope there are more tunes like this to discover!
Solarstone – Please (Bryan Kearney Remix) (Black Hole)
It’s not often that remixers improve on a Solarstone original, but Bryan Kearney does just that, taking the BPM up to 140 and giving the tune added bite. I love it!
Sneijder & Bryan Kearney – Proper Order (Subculture)
Two leading lights in the Irish branch of Team 140 coming together to create a proper trance track. I think this is going to get a lot of plays in the next few months, and deservedly so.
Agnelli & Nelson presents A&N Project – Quest (Adam Ellis Remix) (Subculture)
Whenever I tell people that this is possibly my favourite tune of the year, they all profess not to know it. Well hopefully this will change now.
Liam Wilson – Restrictor (Thomas Datt Remix) (Critical State)
We were very lucky to have both these DJ producers play at Digital Therapy recently and I really like this track. I hope you do too!
Dart Rayne & Yura Moonlight and Sarah Lynn – Silhouette (Allen & Envy Remix) (Amsterdam Trance Records)
Well, this is going to be many people’s first choice for tune of the year and it’s easy to see why. I love it and my only reservation is that perhaps it’s overplayed? I can’t remember when I last went a whole evening without at least one DJ dropping it. While hunting for the You Tube video, I cam across the original, which is horrible beyond belief. So make sure you only listen to the Allen & Envy remix!
John O’Callaghan & Ronski Speed – Sincerely JORS (Subculture)
I first heard this at Dream nightclub in Miami, when Aly & Fila dropped it. I love the way the way the melody rolls through the build up to the drop and then bounces you along with it through to the end. A very under-rated tune, in my opinion.
Paul Oakenfold – Southern Sun (Angry Man Remix) (Perfecto Fluoro)
To be honest, there were a number of remixes of classics that came out this year that I really like, but this was the only one I thought was good enough to make the cut as one of my tunes of the year. There’s a lot of mystery and speculation about who Angry Man is and he always appears hooded and masked, to add to the mystique. But with tunes like this and sets like he played at Luminosity Beach Festival this year, his identity is bound to become much better known in future.
Matt Bowdidge – Still By Your Side (Adam Ellis Remix) (Mental Asylum)
I love this tune from our Aussie mate – especially the Adam Ellis remix. Don’t let it get to your head, Matt!
Aly & Fila – Tula (Future Sound Of Egypt)
Taken from my favourite artist album of the year, Quiet Storm, I just love this track. I could have picked several more tunes from the album in this list, such as Laily, Mysteries Unfold, Speed Of Sound, First Sun, Daydreaming, Fireisland (Chillout Mix), Brilliant People … but I’ll content myself with this one.
So there we have it … 20 amazing tunes. My draft list had 41 on it, so it was really hard to narrow it down. I’d love to pick a single winner, but if I did so today, it wouldn’t be the same as yesterday, or tomorrow, so they will stay in alphabetical order. Let’s hope 2014 is as good as this year!
Each day was dominated by one outstanding set and, particularly on day two, there were some very good others.
On the first day, we arrived during Jochen Miller’s set and also caught Tritonal before we saw Andrew Rayel. I enjoyed Rayel’s set the most of these. Although there was a fairly commercial trance feel to lots of his set – think Dash Berlin – Waiting mashed with Above & Beyond – Sun & Moon, or MaRLo – Boom, he did create an interesting and enjoyable journey through tunes like Alex M.O.R.P.H. – For The Love Of An Angel, Omnia & Ira – The Fusion, an interesting reworking of Tiësto – Just Be and his hit track with Jano – How Do I Know? Ferry Corsten joined him for some brief back-to-back DJ’ing and dropped Ferry Corsten & Markus Schulz – Loops N Tings after which Andrew Rayel played his remix of Faithless – Insomnia. Then it was time for the act I’d really come for!
Ferry Corsten back to back with Andrew Rayel, drops Markus Schulz & Ferry Corsten – Loops N Tings
The Saturday was all about Aly & Fila vs. John O’Callaghan. I’m a massive fan of both of these DJs. Fadi, of Aly & Fila, is without doubt my favourite DJ. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him play seven times in the last 12 months, including this set – in Sydney, Miami, Ibiza and Amsterdam. His brand of uplifting trance mixes very well with that of John O’Callaghan and I was really looking forward to this set, ever since it was first announced they’d be playing back to back at Stereosonic.
Sometimes when you have very high expectations, it can lead to a slight feeling of disappointment when the reality is very good, but still below the anticipated level. This was not one of those occasions! From the word go, Fadi and John were simply brilliant. I’ve heard a lot of great sets in 2013, but this was undoubtedly the best 90 minutes of pure, uplifting trance this year.
A list of the tunes they played barely does justice to the magic they weaved and they had a packed arena absolutely buzzing for the whole of the set. We heard Veracocha – Carte Blanche (Sneijder Remix), Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You (John O’Callaghan Remix), Chakra – Love Shines Through, Aly & Fila – End Of The Road, Solarstone with Aly & Fila – Fireisland, Motorcycle – As The Rush Comes, RAM – RAMelia, Aly & Fila – We Control The Sunlight, John O’Callaghan & John Askew vs Nadia Ali – Stresstest Rapture (Shura Vlasov Mashup) and John O’Callaghan – Big Sky (Signum vs. RAM Remix). And when Ferry Corsten joined them on stage for the last fifteen minutes, he dropped his classic from 2008 – Radio Crash and Fadi dropped Binary Finary – 1998.
Ferry Corsten, back to back with Aly & Fila vs. John O’Callaghan, plays Radio Crash
I was utterly blown away by this amazing set. The highlight for me being when Fadi played Above & Beyond – Home … in fact, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it as I write this.
Aly & Fila, back to back with John O’Callaghan, plays Above & Beyond – Home
On Sunday we saw MaRLo and Heatbeat as well as wandering into the next door arena to listen quickly to Mat Zo and then Gareth Emery (we beat a hasty retreat on both occasions as we didn’t like what we were hearing).
The best set of the Sunday was undoubtedly Solarstone’s, although Bryan Kearney gave him a good run for his money. No one does trance quite like Solarstone does – the Pure way. A succession of great tunes from his past as well as present: Solarstone feat. Lemon – Lovers, Lemon – We Can’t Fly (Solarstone Pure Mix), Solarstone – Solarcoaster, Solarstone – Please, Armin van Buuren feat. Emma Hewitt – Forever Is Ours (Solarstone Pure Remix), Solarstone – Seven Cities, Solarstone – Love Theme From Bladerunner (Pure Mix) and Young Parisians – Jump The Next Train. He also dropped the tune of the moment: Reorder & Ian Standerwick present Skypatrol – Folding Your Universe.
Solarstone drops Armin van Buuren feat. Emma Hewitt – Forever Is Ours (Solarstone Pure Remix)
It was a wonderful set and though the room was not as full as it had been on Saturday, the crowd lapped it up and enjoyed it from start to finish.
Coming on next, Bryan Kearney dropped great tunes like Adam Ellis – Napalm Poet, Craig Connelly feat. Christina Novelli – Black Hole, Markus Schulz feat. Fiora – Deep In The Night, Paul van Dyk – For An Angel, John O’Callaghan – Find Yourself, Sneijder & Bryan Kearney – Proper Order, John O’Callaghan – Big Sky and Solarstone with Clare Stagg – Jewel. Kearney had to cope with a more sparsely filled room, as Above & Beyond were drawing many people towards the main stage, but he kept the energy level high and left everyone who stayed wanting more.
Bryan Kearney drops Paul van Dyk – For An Angel
After Bryan Kearney, Giuseppe Ottaviani wrapped up the evening in the trance arena (which metamorphosed into the hard dance arena for the last 75 minutes of the festival). I felt he took some time to get going, but the last three-quarters of an hour was pure Ottaviani brilliance. We heard his remix of Tiësto – Adagio For Strings, 4 Strings – Take Me Away, some of the songs from his new album, Magenta – Love Will Bring It All Around (feat. Eric Lumiere) and Brilliant People (with Aly & Fila) and he wrapped up with his remix of Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You.
There was just time to head over to the main stage to see Armin van Buuren playing to tens of thousands of people. It was an awesome spectacle, but the music wasn’t doing it for us and we decided to head off before the rush. I discovered later that he dropped some great tunes at the end of his set, such as John O’Callaghan & John Askew vs Nadia Ali – Stresstest Rapture (Shura Vlasov Mashup) and Armin van Buuren vs. Photographer – Airport Shivers (Armin van Buuren Mashup), which would have sounded fantastic on the main stage sound system, which was as good as any I’ve ever heard at an arena of that size. But we were happy to be heading off for some well-earned rest after two days of great music and dancing.
All in all, it had been a fantastic festival – Aly & Fila vs. John O’Callaghan the undoubted highlight, but Solarstone, Bryan Kearney and Giuseppe Ottaviani all excelled too.