Evian Christ & David Rudnick present The Trance War

There’s nothing so brutal as the truth, and the truth is that trance music culture played a significant role in the rise of New Labour, the impending collapse of the Eurozone, and the senseless slaughter of 30,000 dogs.

That’s according to Josh Leary, aka Evian Christ, and David Rudnick, the producer and designer behind Warp’s first ever joint venture – The Trance War, a disputed, on-going, Europe-wide conflict. Together the pair have built within the ICA a small quarter of dementedly alternative history – one that both reveres, and ruthlessly takes the piss.

Leary’s love for the hyper-emotional builds and euphoric breaks of late 90s trance is well documented, both in his music and interviews. Last year he told FACT his stepfather was a trance DJ at the height of the genre’s popularity, around the time he was twelve years old. Enchanted like many teenagers by the drama and intimacy of the sound, he would go on to incorporate elements of it in his productions with little sign of irony.

Here at the ICA, Leary has fun taking the features of trance that make it so open to ridicule and lending them museum-style legitimacy. A display case in the far corner houses matching pairs of Euphoria compilations, their garish fonts and colours radiant beneath the glass. The Pacha, Positiva and Ministry of Sound logos are made holy with embellishments of wreaths and crosses. Graphs printed on black fabric compare the waveforms of Tiësto’s Parade of the Athletes and Binary Finary’s 1998 with the Greek national debt and property prices in London. The latter pair simply rise and rise, out of control, and totally unsustainable. Meanwhile, the trance anthem visualisations rise and fall in pleasing peaks and troughs – patterns we can make some sense of.

At the centre of the exhibition is a twelve-foot statue of Aden, just one of the 30,000 dogs whose memory the exhibition serves to honour. Carved into its base in a typeface of Rudnick’s design is a line from Delerium’s Silence – “Heaven holds a sense of wonder”. Over the PA, a voice recites the names of each victim. Generated in part via one of the artist’s Twitter histories, they range from mundane, to absurd, to puntastic. RIP Tofu. RIP Know-Nothing Bo the Non-Wonder Dog. RIP Dogspeed You! Black Labrador. Heroes all.


It’s a lot to take in, but again, trance’s familiar warmth is on hand to effectively remove any need to make sense of things – this time via wireless headphones, churning out classics from Europe’s finest. The effect is hilarious, and powerful, and quells the anxiety that resonates in the chamber.

Here, on the opening night, a ‘memorial fanfare’ is held. Just in front of Aden, a small boy delivers soprano renditions of Things Can Only Get Better and Silence. Behind these, a storm of dense, shimmering synths is growing increasingly out of control. There’s a brief respite as the boy departs, before the system erupts with blasts of corrupted rapture. The ceiling lights up. A disgusting amount of confetti explodes through the room – enough to force euphoria on anyone.

It’s a fleeting high though – within a minute the music has been stripped back to a single, pounding bass drum, and ICA staff are ushering the crowd out with glow-sticks. Leary and Rudnick’s combination of absurdist humour and attention to detail prompts a lot of silly questions, but there’s one that trumps them all – might it have been worth just going to an actual trance night? See you all at Cream Ibiza, yeah?