Throwback Thursdays are one of my favorite articles to write. They allow me to reminisce and relive specific times in my life. So it was easy to settle on Max Graham for a #TBT as his Transport 4 double discs accompanied me on my solo trip driving around the U.S. after college in 2003. And shortly after I was listening to it again, Max announced his tour was making stops in Seattle February 15th at The Underground and in Portland February 16th at Whiskey Bar–both amazing venues that bring all the trance and house phenoms to the Pacific Northwest!
Starting out as a hip hop DJ, by the early 1990’s Max Graham had developed a love of electronic dance music. Perfecting his skills on the turntables, by 2000 he was producing his own tracks, and just a short year later, he was asked to curate the Tranceport DJ Mix Series. Artists like Paul Oakenfold, Dave Ralph, and Sandra Collins had already laid down a solid foundation and turned the reins over to Max. It came with a slight name change to Transport to reflect the evolving nature of genres. With DJs of that caliber at the wheel, it’s easy to see why the Tranceport/Transport series are still considered some of the best trance albums ever released.
The first minute of Transport 4 starts with such subtle chords, wind chimes, and tones that it’s easy to imagine yourself beginning a yoga class. That is, until the beat starts and it’s matched with a low, pulsing hum that every sound is then stacked on. This kind of slowly layered beginning was normal to any progressive trance aficionado in the early 2000’s. DJs took their time creating seamless transitions by mixing the incoming track into the currently playing track for minutes at a time. The first Transport 4 disc is 1:11:37 and only has 11 tracks. Compare that to another curated album like A State of Trance 2018 that’s a little over an hour long and has 21 tracks, with the shortest at 2:28. That right there is the difference between trance styles of then and now.
Progressive trance requires the listener to be devoted and unwaveringly committed to a disc or set from start to finish, which is typically at least an hour. Being an avid reader, skipping tracks on a progressive trance disc is like skipping entire chapters of a book. No matter what, part of the story will be lost, and progressive trance is a journey that tells a tale. I know of no other genre where I can close my eyes and imagine myself traversing down into valleys, crossing rivers, and climbing mountains as I listen and dance. But on my drive around the United States, I was doing exactly that to the remarkable tunes of some of the grandfathers of trance and house.
In the last couple of weeks I heard about highway hypnosis for the first time and instantly thought of driving through Wyoming. I popped Transport 4 in as I crested a hill with a long, straight road before me leading to beautiful snow-covered mountains. In the blink of an eye, Max Graham’s own track “Tell You” (easily my favorite) was crooning through my speakers. Having listened to the disc repeatedly, I knew it was the second to last track, and when I looked at the unchanged scenery before me, I had no recollection of the last hour other than dancing and grooving in my seat.
For someone who grew up in Hawaii and then went to college in Seattle, I didn’t have much experience with winter driving, let alone car trips longer than 4 hours. Although I’m a socially awkward introvert, I LOVE people and sharing experiences, so being alone for days at a time was a challenge. My trance and house CD collection kept me company, kept me awake, and kept me sane during months of some of the most dangerous driving I’ve ever done.
Thank you, Max Graham, for keeping me happy and dancing in the driver’s seat through months of arduous solo travel. I don’t know what I would’ve done without your smooth, uplifting Transport 4 accompanying me on my journey. I still revisit it, and it’s as timeless and relevant now as it was back then. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you perform and been graced with an open to close set by an old school trance master like yourself. I’ll be dancing my face off at Whiskey Bar all night long to the lush audio excellence of Mr. Max Graham himself!
*Featured Image of Max Graham Via djguide.nl*