There may be a disconnect in the EDM world. Trance, which boasts perhaps EDM’s most rapid gains insofar as musical quality, is severely underrepresented in the states. Staples of the trance world, such as Armin’s A State of Trance are reaching a broader audience than ever, yet North American events seem to be tending to skew away from the genre. That’s why when a trance mega event like Aly & Fila’s Future Sound of Egypt 350 comes to town, it’s an automatic can’t-miss.
The hype was strong for this one. Trance, more than any other EDM subgenre, seems to have a following of devout purists, those who have been around since before 2008, who have seen the genre morph from almost exclusively beat-centric 140bpm to a more accessible 128bpm with pop style song structures. Whether this has been good for the genre remains up to the listener, but as far as trance paying homage to its roots, and representing a more “pure” form of the music, FSOE350 is the event to check out.
The tour, presented by Esscala, made its sole North American appearance at Hammerstein Ballroom on August 9 to an amped crowd of locals and imports alike. And for good reason. The lineup featured a slew of pure trance mainstays, including Andy Moor, Lange, Arctic Moon, Solarstone, Orjan Nilsen, Max Graham, John O’Callaghan, and of course label namesakes Aly & Fila.
The format for much of the evening was “versus”, a rapidfire back-to-back on-stage dueling of two DJs in one set that seems to be trending lately. FSOE saw the massive pairings of Andy Moor/Lange, Arctic Moon/Bryan Kearney, Aly & Fila/John O’Callaghan, with Monoverse and surprise guest Sid van Riel kicking the night off. Monoverse, a quickly-rising NYC talent, played a perfect warmup set, showcasing his continually growing skill in song selection. The crowd, though thin at the beginning, started to fill the room by the ten minute mark of the duo’s set. By the time BT’s Force of Gravity played, everyone was in the zone and the evening was underway.
Building up from the lighter vibes was Max Graham, who quickly turned the room’s energy up. With his own catalog of originals on display, Graham took over the light-laden pyramid DJ booth, emanating his own energy and receiving the same from the enthused crowd. Song selection was apt and well done, with highlights including Mark Sherry’s edit of Above & Beyond’s Sun in Your Eyes, and (Graham’s closing track) the ever-classic Skyfall by Stoneface & Terminal.
Up next was Andy Moor vs Lange, which launched Hammerstein into a flurry of trance mayhem and musical bliss. The duo opened with Mark Sixma & Chris Schweizer’s huge The Saga, a fierce track that marked the point of no return for the crowd. Moor is a well known goofball, and the juxtaposition of his personality and his and Lange’s fierce song selection captivated everyone in the room. Young and old, purist and modern, even venue staff and bartenders were getting into it by way of Gaia, Markus Schulz, and Ian Bluestone tracks.
It was mostly in the following hours that trance in its most traditionally pure form was represented. Sensations Arctic Moon and Bryan Kearney took the stage, and brought the 140bpm vibe that would dominate much of the rest of the night. Amidst a wave of high energy beats, Kearney dropped his remix of Gareth Emery’s U to a crowd who would not have stopped singing even if the world was ending. The duo’s set mixed perfectly into Solarstone’s, who brought “pure trance” in its most literal form. While mixing mostly tracks from his album (entitled – you guessed it: Pure Trance), the vibe morphed from high-energy intensity to the beautiful musicality Solarstone is known for. By this point it was clear that the order of DJs had been carefully decided; all of the music from each act flowed seamlessly the sea of crowd energy, creating an amalgam of trance that this city hasn’t seen for quite some time.
Always a character, Orjan Nilsen and his distinct style took the stage next. Opening with his new collab with Cosmic Gate, “Fair Game”, Nilsen delivered a set for the ages, his personality pulsing from the speakers. The trance veteran delivered a set awash in his own color, yet one that meshed perfectly with the rest of the night. It could be argued that in the context of the FSOE lineup, he stands alone. Going into the show, fan expectations for his set were mixed, given that Orjan’s sound is stylistically different from most of the rest of the lineup. But Orjan is a seasoned, multi-dimensional artist who was able to craft a set that was uniquely him, but also fit into the framework laid out before him that night. Track selection was excellent, and most notably his own The Late Anthem (Way Too Late Mix) sent Hammerstein into a frenzy. Peppering tracks from his excellent artist album No Saint Out of Me with current, more modern smashes like Armin’s Save My Night, and Andrew Rayel’s Dark Warrior was the formula for success for Orjan, who may have stolen the show with an invigorating set that really demands multiple listens.
2014 trance wouldn’t be what it is without Aly & Fila – a fact that has been demonstrated with every one of their releases. The duo reaffirmed their collective talent, exploding into their set with a live performance of the FSOE 350 anthem featuring Sylvia Tuson in full Egyptian garb. This was, perhaps, the zenith of the night. The venue exploded in energy as the duo’s unique sound took control of the minds and hearts of everyone there. The two headliners played hard and fast, and in a resounding climax, brought the house down one last time. The set’s highlight was certainly Luke Bond and Roxanne Emery’s On Fire, which lived up to its name in a big way.
In a perfect world NYC would get events like this every month. A combination of trance’s top talent playing nine hours of the music that resonates so deeply within its listeners is bliss. It’s beyond bliss. Maybe it’s the rarity that makes it so special. Maybe it’s a combination of things. Future Sound of Egypt 350 promised to deliver, and deliver it did. Let’s hope this vibe is one that comes back to town again soon.
Originally written for ENL by Zalex Ruimy