Dreamstate is set to take off on November 24 — or, as trance fans call it, “Trancegiving.” Known as the mecca for the genre on this side of the pond, Dreamstate has consistently delivered a slew of cutting-edge talent across the trance spectrum. 2017 marks the gathering’s third birthday, and shows no sign of slowing down as it continues its expansion across the globe.
Cold Blue has joined forces with us right in time for his USA debut at Dreamstate to work up further anticipation in the form of this exclusive mix. Each of its 60 minutes is packed with warm chords and moving, emotional melodies — per the Cold Blue’s signature aesthetic. Additionally, he ensures that plenty of his own gems are weaved within, showcasing his utter talent in trance composition.
“What I love about trance is the combination of driving forces/unstoppable power and the whole range of emotions that I feel on my journey through life. Sometimes it’s raw and pounding like pure techno, maybe to let out all the anger, but there’s also room for sadness and melancholy as well as the happy, even euphoric moments. It feels like the perfect soundtrack for my life.” – Cold Blue
Cold Blue: A retrospective of his takeover leading to Dreamstate
Cold Blue‘s takeover of the trance world almost feels like it came out of nowhere. The rising German talent, born Tobias Schuh, spent years simmering below the surface, building over a decade of professional experience into a breakout that has caught global attention.
Though he’d already clocked in releases on labels like Anjunabeats and Monster Tunes as early as 2009, respectively, his swift ascension to the top of trance ranks didn’t truly manifest until more recent times, where pieces like his Dennis Sheperd and Ana Criado collaboration “Every Word” and his remix to deadmau5’ “Avaritia” went viral and more or less put his name on the map. Success only snowballed from there, with Cold Blue burrowing deeper into the trance sphere to eventually be hailed as one of the major breakout talents of 2017.
His distinction in the music world is hardly a surprise to those who are familiar with his work. Schuh possesses an innate talent at melodic arrangement and fusing classic elements into his own unique and contemporary sound — one that he has showcased since the beginning of his career. Now, he is more poised than ever to take on the dance world, outputting a bountiful series of releases that deepen his imprint on the public psyche and growing demand for his presence in the process.
Cold Blue is officially a player within the festival game as well — having made it onto the Luminosity lineup over the past couple editions, he now looks forward to a spot on the esteemed Dreamstate (tickets here) lineup in California. Dreamstate has been hailed as the largest major trance festival in the United States since its inception, and the rising star will be making his USA debut there alongside other icons which include Subculture boss John O’Callaghan, Bryan Kearney, Gaia, and more.
Ahead of his first Californian “trancegiving,” Dancing Astronaut has opted to take a look at his career thus far through some of his most breathtaking releases.
Cold Blue earned recognition by none other than Above & Beyond during his early years — a surefire indicator of his future success. Mount Everest showed off his uplifting chops right away, albeit washed in a tad more of a progressive underlay.
Avaritia (Cold Blue’s Uplifting Rework)
The blossoming German talent continued to pour his soul into every opportunity that came to him, including submitting his euphoric, trancey take on deadmau5′ classic “Avaritia” to a remix contest. It served as a strong addition to his repertoire at the time, opening the masses to the Cold Blue sound.
Every Word (Uplifting Mix – with Ana Criado & Dennis Sheperd)
Ana Criado’s vocals add a distinctive touch to any trance piece, but the underlay created by Cold Blue and his Anjuna veteran collaborator Dennis Sheperd would shine as a standalone piece as well. It’s emotive as ever, indicating the producer’s hand in its production.
“Nevada” served as Cold Blue’s first release on Aly & Fila’s prolific FSOE Recording — a hallmark for those in the uplifting realm of trance. Its mysterious, yet jubilant melodies paired with futuristic accents made it a favorite across the circuit.
Until We Collide
Shortly after “Nevada” came “Until We Collide” — the first of many powerhouse releases for the exploding act on Subculture. A menacing atmosphere takes over, as Schuh displays his dark side in creating tense, powerful melodies backed by equally pounding kicks.
Once In Time
Spring 2017 brought about the release of the touching “Once In Time,” also on Subculture. Cold Blue was becoming a quick favorite at this point within the Subculture family, and “Once In Time” swiftly became a staple in John O’Callaghan’s sets, among others.
“‘Once In Time’ probably created the biggest buzz out of all my releases this year, but in general I’m very happy and proud about the response to all of my tracks this year, as each one seemed to find its home in many music lover’s hearts out there.” – Cold Blue
“Bliss” listens exactly as its title connotates — sunny chord arrangements strummed by warm synthesizers wrap around a gripping hook and sweeping breakdown, catalyzing bliss.
Speed Of Life
Another heavy Subculture staple heading into Dreamstate, Cold Blue’s “Speed Of Life” is a monstrous cut, filled with haunting pianos and bittersweet overtones. It embodies Cold Blue’s aesthetic — sentimental, impactful, and complex.
Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) is officially underway, with thousands of artists and fans filling up the city in celebration of their beloved music. Virtually every single genre under the sun in covered in this all-encompassing celebration, which began on October 18 and will continue into the 22.
Armin van Buuren is in a particularly good position for the current festivities. Having moved the ASOT headquarters to a sleek new studio in Amsterdam at the beginning of 2017, the purveyor of pop and trance is hosting an extra special episode that began in the early hours of Thursday and will continue beyond the ASOT studio and into ADE itself.
Trance fans are able to tune into the action and get their fill of caliber music from Armin van Buuren, Standerwick, and more on the ASOT YouTube Channel.
Those who enjoy trance of the uplifting or tech shades are likely to point to Sneijder as one of the top talents in this arena. Hailing from Ireland, he joins an extensive list of fellow countrymen as one of the new generation of greats — especially with the recent creation of his new label and podcast, Afterdark.
While Sneijder’s year has been brimming with a series of dynamic new releases and appearances at the most reputable festivals of his genre, he kindly agreed to provide Dancing Astronaut with the latest edition of The Radar.
His mix is powerful as ever, packing an entire journey into just an hour of intense music that plays around with emotions. Plenty of peaks and valleys ensue as Sneijder weaves expertly through sweeping uplifting landscapes and back down into raunchy, dark tech trance. Not many can balance out such sonic poles with the skill this maverick can, and once more we’re reminded why his reputation continues to climb to new heights.
01. Sneijder & Neal Scarborough – Your Way (Original Mix) [Subculture] 02. Sneijder & The Noble Six – Question Mark (Original Mix) [Kearnage] 03. Sneijder & Mark Leanings – Now or Never (Original Mix) [Kearnage] 04. Thomas Bronzwaer – Sundown (Sneijder Remix) [Armada] 05. Giuseppe Ottaviani & Marc van Linden – Until Monday (Sneijder Remix) [Vandit] 06. Sneijder – Viper (Original Mix) [Kearnage] 07. Sneijder – Polarize (Extended Mix) [Afterdark] 08. Sneijder – Vaporize (Original Mix) [Subculture] 09. Team Argentina – Alpha Omega (Sneijder Remix) [Armada] 10. Sneijder – Neutralize (Extended Mix) [Afterdark] 11. Sneijder & Christina Novelli – Love Of My Control (Sam Jones Remix) [Armada] 12. Sneijder – Outsider (Extended Mix) [Afterdark] 13. Sneijder – Jackknife (Original Mix) [Kearnage]
If there was ever a college course on becoming a DJ (DJ 101), one of the main objectives would probably be whether to keep your real name or have an alias. Whether you want to be known as a Deadmau5 or a Ferry Corsten (or if your name is difficult to pronounce, a Tiesto), it’s
Hypnotic Grooves is Dancing Astronaut’s bi-weekly space for nothing but true, unadulterated trance and progressive. Only the highest quality sounds are valued here, curated with a mission to show the thriving, yet often underexposed side of these genres. The first half of each mix starts off deep and progressive, featuring music from labels such as Lost&Found, Last Night On Earth, and Sudbeat. Then, we venture into trance territory, travelling through various shades of uplifting, tech, and psy that display the music’s artistry and credibility in a climate where it’s widely disregarded.
Both the progressive and trance worlds have been brimming with quality releases as of late. Guy J’s Lost&Found imprint has had a slew of powerful progressive weapons, including the ever-evolving “Triptico” by the renowned duo Matteo Bruscagin & Visnadi in addition to a remix of theirs by the label boss himself. Jeromic Isma-ae and Alastor continue their streak of dark, technical progressive, while Crisptoph’s forays into Last Night On Earth and Bedrock demand the dance world’s attention.
Tech trance is heavy in this edition’s selection; titan Alex di Stefano returns with a heater on Kearnage Recordings titled “Don’t Back Down,” while The Noble Six formulated a hard, driving piece in “Chemicals.” On the uplifting side, both Bryan Kearney and John O’Callaghan dominate with much-awaited singles, one of which is O’Callaghan’s remix to “Two Trees,” by Ludovico Einaudiand the other being Kearney’s Plumb collaboration, “All Over Again.”
One of the most difficult things we do is try to figure out what the hell we want to do with our lives. More often than not, what we envisioned ourselves doing when we were children rarely aligns with what we end up doing as adults. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that a left turn in life can’t be a good thing. That was the case for Dallas-based producer/DJ, Omair Mirza, best known for tracks such as “Eleven 11” and “Perfect Imperfection (featuring Avari),” as well as remixes of Markus Schulz’s tracks like “Destiny” and “Erase You.” Omair grew up in a traditional South Asian household where he wanted and was expected to pursue some type of career in healthcare, science, or technology. Music was always a presence in his life, but nowhere on his radar as a career choice.
“This may come as a surprise, but growing up I really wanted to be a cardiologist. I was enrolled at Southern Methodist University when I was only 13 and my electrical engineer professor was the Nobel Prize winner, Jack Kilby! I graduated high school two years early and was immediately accepted to several medical schools, but my dad didn’t let me attend any of them because they were all out of state. I guess you could say it was fate because if I had gone to med school, I would have never started in music. With my love for music in tow, I started spinning back in 1999 after graduating high school. I didn’t start producing my own music until 2010. In May 2012 my life would begin to change as my tracks “This Music” and “8 Gig” were signed to Christopher Lawrence’s label, Pharmacy Music. My life in the electronic dance music scene took off from there. I have truly dedicated myself to the music industry and the past few years have been a whirlwind in the studio, crafting tracks and EPs that make me proud. Fast forward to November 2016 and I am thrilled to announce that I have launched my very own record label, OHM Music. Life has a funny way of taking you to places you never saw coming.”
It was a long time before Omair made any headway into the music industry; success does not happen overnight. In fact, he spun as a DJ for more than a decade before he even started producing his own music. However, more than ever, there is no clear path to success in the music world. Omair stressed the importance of developing a unique sound as an artist, especially as it becomes easier and more accessible for producers to get their music heard. He is motivated to stay ahead of the curve, and as someone who transitioned from wanting to be a cardiologist to becoming a DJ, he’s certainly not afraid to try new things.
“Staying relevant is probably my biggest fear. With the explosion of dance music both nationally and internationally, naturally we are seeing new producers coming up and making a name for themselves every day. In addition, the ease of access and use of the latest and greatest production software is making it so more and more artists can put their material out there for the world to hear. This pushes me harder than ever to stay at the top of my game without compromising my own personal sound. I have to stay true to who I am as an artist and avoid following recent trends that have been emerging in the electronic dance music scene. With all this said, I will let my music speak for itself and hopefully my fans will stay true and faithful for years to come.
A major challenge I faced was the quest to defining my own unique sound that would set me apart from other artists as the dance market has become so saturated with similar productions. I enjoy trance, but I am also in love with house, progressive house, tech house, and techno. You can hear different vibes and energy in my various original releases and remixes as well. My drive to be unique in everything I create keeps me ahead of the game and hopefully will keep me relevant as electronic dance music continues to evolve.”
Despite the massive inroads Omair has made in the music industry, one of the toughest challenges was informing his parents that he was pursuing music full-time. In fact, he never even told his own dad his intentions. Although his parents may not necessarily agree with his career path, they are proud that their son is following his passion. It’s tough to find a job that is both productive and fulfilling. There’s never been a better time to pursue your passion.
“Growing up as a child of South Asian descent, I was raised and expected to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or a corporate professional. No one tells their parents they want to be a musician! In fact, I was part of corporate America for several years – finance – for some of the biggest investment firms. However, my true passion and life plan was to become a cardiologist. So, you could imagine how hard it was to explain to my family that music was the path that I ultimately chose. Because of this, I never actually communicated this to them. I have been spinning since 1999, and they would hear me practicing in the bedroom. My mom was the first to know about the music business side. I never told my dad because he is so old school and traditional. To this day it’s still an internal struggle that I endure. However, this struggle has been motivation for me to succeed in this industry. I want my family to be proud of me. I know that if I show them how hard I work, and as long as I continue to achieve great things in this industry, everything will work itself out. I am following my heart and for that I know they are proud.”
There is no question that Omair is a thoughtful guy, mindful not just of his career choices but also how they affect those around him. He also touched on being raised in a very traditional South Asian home (he is Pakistani-American). As such, he is in a unique position to use his platform to make a difference in the world at large. He has personally worked with a charity called Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and their Peace One Day initiative. It utilizes the power of music to help promote peace and humanitarian aide in war-torn regions. What a beautiful concept.
“My family comes from Pakistan…I’ve been there a lot. I’ve lived there, seen the results of poverty and war, and been privy to the suffering. After seeing this firsthand, I have been driven to do something about it. I’ve worked with a charity several times before called Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, during the initiative Peace One Day. This has become a global initiative with tons of charities and countless celebrities working to end violence that third world countries suffer on a daily basis. The idea is for just one day a year on September 21st, everyone lay down arms and joins together in peace, offering families the opportunity to leave their homes to get things like medical care without the fear of being injured or killed. This is a global day of unity on a scale that humanity has never known. Small movements like this will hopefully bring the tides of change, even if just for a moment. If we can bring peace to war ridden countries for even a day, think of what that could mean on a larger scale! Peace is possible if we all work together. I want nothing more than to be part of a world that can finally breathe and live without the fear and destruction that war brings.”
Omair is a perfect example of how you can never know where life will take you. Also, it’s good to have multiple interests and passions. Masters of their craft do dedicate themselves to it, but a rich life involves diversity. Aside from his interest in science and medicine, Omair is also an avid poker player; he says he may even go out for the World Series of Poker one day. With all that he’s set out and accomplished so far, I wouldn’t put it past him.
“I love poker! I would consider it my second passion. I wouldn’t say that I play ‘professionally,’ but I would like to think I am semi pro. I put in 35-40 hours a week playing, studying, learning, and constantly evolving as a poker player. Would I ever pursue a spot in the World Series Of Poker if I weren’t a musician? I think so. To be honest I am pursuing that even though I am a musician. I think sitting down at the poker table and standing in the DJ booth have a lot of parallels when it comes to reading the player or reading the crowd, respectively. You have to predict the next player’s move just like you need to predict what the crowd wants or needs from you during a set. You have to be a forward-thinker and also have the ability to stay calm under pressure. I like to think that I have what it takes to be successful both behind the DJ decks and at the poker table. So who knows…maybe one day you will see me in The World Series Of Poker. We will just have to wait and see!”
Trance fans are considered some of the most dedicated in the dance community, and Insomniac has wisely tapped into this ardor with their beloved Dreamstate series. The flagship event was first held in Southern California in 2015, selling out in just hours.
With this success in mind, Dreamstate has evolved into a cornerstone brand of Insomniac, spreading first to San Francisco, then internationally to Australia and Mexico as its own standalone event. In addition, trance fans attending bigger Insomniac festivals have been pleased to find the company designating whole stages to Dreamstate, curating nothing but top talent with each takeover.
Twelve months passed by swiftly, and all of a sudden it was already time for Dreamstate to return to its original home at San Bernadino’s NOS Events Center for a second two-day bout of pure trance. Eager guests flooded the gates promptly at its 5pm start time on Friday, this time better preparing for the cold weather with multiple layers and colorful varieties of onesies.
photo credit: aLIVE
Just like last year, where the debut Dreamstate served as a launchpad for Insomniac to cultivate a behemoth brand, the second Southern Californian edition saw Pasquale Rotella and his team testing the fervor of American trance addicts by transforming the festival into a fully immersive experience, complete with four different stages filled with every flavor of the genre imaginable. The theme of this year’s Dreamstate was “terraforming our new society,” and each stage expertly followed this message.
The Vision stage, for example, had geometric, orderly decor — triangular screens burst with sharp, LED visuals while lasers covered the enclosed crowd, painting a futuristic and organized view of Dreamstate’s ideal look. Fueling The Vision further was the music it hosted, which comprised of most of the weekend’s forward-thinking uplifting and tech performers that are propelling the genre into the future. Their multifaceted sets, which covered the total emotional and sonic scope of trance, weaved together an ideal “vision” of what Dreamstate and the genre as a whole might become.
Highlights of The Vision stage included Pure NRG closing the festival out on a powerful note on Friday, recreating a multitude of uplifting tunes like “Falcons” and mashing them into each other live as part of their innovative setup. FSOE newcomer Niko Zografos was granted an extended set on Friday as a result of Allen & Envy’s cancellation, doing a fantastic job substituting for his more experienced counterparts with a pounding, jubilant song selection. John Askew and Will Atkinson dominated the stage on Saturday, presenting their audiences with raw, uninhibited tech trance.
photo credit: Holy Mountain
The Sequence was dedicated entirely to psy trance, which is one of the first instances ever in America where the smaller subgenre earned such attention at a large-scale event. Like it’s groundbreaking list of artists, which included heavyweights like Coming Soon!!!, Astrix, and Vini Vici, The Sequence stage held the most futuristic setup. The smaller enclosed area looked almost like a spaceship, setting the decks up on top of vivid, layered LED screens. Where The Vision outlined Dreamstate’s potential, The Sequence demonstrated the great bounds it has already made.
Psy trance’s immense growth over the past couple years in America was truly embodied at The Sequence stage. Both nights saw the room filled to the brim with excited fans looking for more experimental sounds in their music. Vini Vici, Astrix, and Astrix & Ace Ventura under their Alpha Portal project caused the building to overflow throughout a good portion of Saturday night. Avalon, who closed Saturday with the most authentic, full-on psy set of the weekend, also filled the room to its brim — an occurrence one might not have thought possible as recently as two years ago.
The Timeless stage hosted an array of veteran trance heroes, which drew an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd to its intimate boundaries. Production was minimal there, but ultimately this did not matter as the ageless music was the clear centerpiece. Psychedelic visuals cast a glow over the small tent as faces lit up with smiles and feet moved feverishly to classics like Rank 1’s “Airwave” or Super8 & Tab’s “Helsinki Scorchin’” played by the likes of Binary Finary, Talla 2XLC, and Richard Durand.
An added bonus of Timeless was that it was the only stage where DJs were granted extended two-hour sets, allowing them to properly douse the area in blissful nostalgia. Through old-school sounds and electric energy displayed at this stage throughout the weekend by its attendees, the message of the stage was driven home: all it takes for something to stand the test of time is beautiful, yet finely-crafted simplicity.
Finally, The Dream stage tied together all the aspects of the other stages to fully define Dreamstate as a whole. ATB, Paul van Dyk, Rank 1, and Aly & Fila headlined this stage, enchanting the crowd with a mixture of uplifting clips and their own gems from years past. Meanwhile, newer icons in the scene such as Ben Nicky brought eclectic mixes of tech and psy to their sets, adding variety to the lineup.
While The Dream was set in an open hangar space, frigid temperatures hardly affected the steadfast crowd as they huddled together under the overhang and embraced each other while singing passionately along to anthemic tracks blasting through the speakers. The experience was indeed dream-like for all those bearing witness to talent there. Naturally, this stage boasted the most elaborate setup, showcasing its full potential — sound was crisp and well-articulated, while elaborate networks of lasers and visuals played out consistently throughout both nights.
Photo credit: Jake West
Dreamstate’s expansion could be defined as a resounding success for the brand, however, it was not completely without fault. Jumping from just one stage to a large-scale festival with four stages was quite a leap, and this translated to many of the stages maintaining a “half-full” status throughout a good portion of the weekend in addition to many difficult set time intersections. As a result of such a swift expansion, some of the stages were not attended to with the same care as others. Timeless and The Vision stages, for example, experienced sound issues that endured throughout all of Friday and were hardly improved upon for Saturday.
Fans also expressed disheartenment at set time length and heavy conflicts due to there being four stages of such stellar talent — most agree that one hour is not enough time for a trance DJ to properly tell a story in their sets. Perhaps a good improvement for Dreamstate to consider would be to reduce the stages to two or three, and book fewer DJs while giving them each longer set lengths. Doing so would mirror many of the hugely successful trance festivals in Europe such as Luminosity, while still providing a large menu of artists to choose from.
These slight pitfalls ultimately failed to dampen the overall positivity flowing from artists and attendees after the weekend had passed. Insomniac is a company that knows exactly what it takes to put together top quality events, and they unquesitonably delivered with Dreamstate 2016. A combination of incredible music coming from the best of the trance paired with passion, love, and fervor rarely exhibited outside of the trance family has solidified Dreamstate’s standing as a key building block in the genre’s renaissance.
After successfully terraforming the Dreamstate society as one, we look forward to seeing the brand’s continued growth entering into year three as America’s premier trance destination.
I was about ten years old when I stumbled across an unfamiliar CD in my uncle’s catalog of discs he kept in his room. Out of all of the Spanish Rock, Pop and R&B albums, this one particular case stood out from the rest; the album cover had a man dressed in black and his
John O’Callaghan thrives in the realm of tech-trance. On his latest track,”The Forging Of Steel,” the Irish legend opts for a dark route that drills deep into the listener’s psyche with sharp synths weaved into cunning melodies, and driven by relentless kicks. The piece’s high energy levels make it an ideal tool for peak-time destruction on the dance floor.
The song’s release on Giuseppe Ottaviani’s On Air imprint marks a departure from O’Callaghan’s usual modus operandi of unveiling new tracks on his own sub-label, Subculture. John O’Callaghan will return to California right after Thanksgiving to reprise his headlining duties for this year’s Dreamstate festival.