The essentials

GARAGE and trance - no they're not the latest cartoon characters from MTV, they are types of dance music. But the big question is: what exactly is the difference? For many years house party DJ extraordinaire Joel Lai has blasted the finest underground dance music from either side of the Atlantic to Hong Kong clubbers.

So what is the difference between garage and trance music? ''Well, garage is house music with a vocal, and trance has no vocal but depends a lot less on the bass line than house.'' OK, let's start again. What is house? ''House is an underground disco sound that came out of gay clubs in Chicago in 1987. It's basically about bass andsynthesised drums. There is no melody or voice. Probably the best known house artists are Todd Terry, Derek May and Joey Negro.'' So how does garage relate to all this? ''Garage is house with a vocal over the top.'' And what do they sing about? ''Generally they sing about how they feel about house music, how the groove affects them.

''There are no vocals in trance. It's played at raves and is designed to send people even further over the edge. It's spacey, nervous and it gives you a rush.'' ''Typically house comes out of the States, and garage and trance out of Europe.'' Five indispensable albums? ''All these are compilations so they should give a good cross section. Kinky Trax, a house and garage compilation on the React label, Strictly Rhythm (that's a house recording), The Cream of Underground House on Arctic Records, The Secret Life of Trance on Rising High and R & S's In Order to Dance.'' Joel Lai was in conversation with MARTIN SNAPE.