In trance music’s alphabet, G is for Germany, while H could only ever count for Holland … ports-of-call already made by the Hypnotised album series. When it comes to Britain though (likewise touched on in 2023), it has to share its B with another. Despite its neatly compact size, Belgium’s left an outsized impression on the genre, and that’s where Hypnotised’s roots-to-musical-riches ‘Journey Through Trance’ series arrives on June 7. Meticulously detailing the impact the country had on the scene, over the course of 25+ tracks, it highlights nine of the most momentous years in Belgium’s electronic music history.

The fourth album in the series is again compiled by Arjan Rietveld, author of its encyclopedic companion book, Hypnotised: A Journey Through Trance Music 1990 – 2005. As with previous incarnations, Rietveld explores the country, not in a chronological, but more a ‘label-logical’ fashion, though its imprints, sublabels, mainlines and dance departments often prove incestuous.

His tour begins at the door of R&S Records, whose early impact (powered by the likes of Joey Beltram, Aphex Twin, Jam & Spoon, Jaydee, Human Resource and others) once threatened to all-out define Belgium musically.  The track triplet of ‘Camargue’, ‘Arab Girl’ and ‘Pure Pleasure’ provide a fascinating snapshot of the genre’s infancy, as it swiftly mutated from techno and rave into trance.

With R&S maintaining its multi-genre outline, the door opened to more trance-specific labels. Dance Opera, Anaconda and S5 Red Active were the foremost imprints for Brussels-based hit factory, Antler Subway. While A&S focused on chart-fare, their sublabels fed the underground, Dance Opera notably becoming (through his ‘L’Esperanza’ and ‘The Secret Wish’ breakthroughs), Johan Gielen’s outlet of choice.

The Ghent-based N.E.W.S. stable had a different take on trance, one they explored through their revered Yeti imprint. Tougher, more stripped back and progressive-trance in nature, Filterheadz and Sinesweeper feature with, respectively, their ‘Blue Car’ and ‘Eyes Wide Open’ releases.

No retelling of Belgium’s story would be complete without a significant cross-section of Lightning Records’ imprints – four of which are counted on the album. Bonzai brings ‘Hypnotised’ some of their earliest works, including the seismic and sound-shaping ‘The First Rebirth’ from Jones & Stephenson. XTC meanwhile sports ‘Souvenir De Chine’ from Laurent Véronnez’s Fire & Ice, as well as the endless summer promise of M.I.K.E.’s ‘Sunrise at Palamos’. Also included is ‘Final Fantasy’ from Extreme Trax (essentially a producer supergroup once comprised of M.I.K.E., Laurent and other Belgium trance luminaries). Last but by no means least, Green Martian was largely the preserve of Véronnez himself, and the imprint is brilliantly captured by the music of three of his best-known aliases, Velvet Girl, V-One and Planisphere.

Through one album, nine labels and twenty-seven tracks, ‘Hypnotised: A Journey Through Belgium Trance Music’ brings the country’s golden years vividly back to life. Find it through all good physical, digital and streaming channels here [https://blackhole.lnk.to/hypnotised4PR].

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