Fun:Psychedelic trance

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Psychedelic trance (also known as "Psytrance" or "Goa trance") is a form of electronic dance music that has been parting hippies from their hard-bartered cash since the early 1990s. It combines a pattern of repetitive beats and melodies with a lot of weird noises, which supposedly lull the listener into a trance-like state. When combined with various recreational drugs, visual and aural hallucinations that appear to follow the same pattern as the music can supposedly be experienced. Generally, this results in the listeners either staring vacantly into space, or dancing like a drunk elephant wearing shoes that are too tight for their elephant feet. (Hey, at least it's not dubstep.)

It was born on the beaches of Goa, India, by expatriate hippies (such as Goa Gil), who combined the sounds of late-60s and 70s psychedelic rock with the four-on-the-floor rhythms of techno from Detroit and Chicago.

The main features of psytrance are the percussion, bass line and random noises. The drums are generally made using a 16-step (i.e., 16th note) sequencer with a loud THUMP on each beat. Other little beats can be added in, but it doesn't really matter, as long as the THUMPs are there. The bassline is generally made in the same way, but consists of three or so short, staccato 16th-note 'bloops' after every THUMP. That is, 'THUMP'bloopbloopbloopTHUMPbloopbloopbloopTHUMPbloop...' This 'driving' bassline is often made with an infamous Roland synthesizer called the TB-303. When the 303 is abused, it will make strange noises. This is the basis of another genre of electronic dance music named 'Acid'.

The weird noises in psytrance, however, can be absolutely anything. Though careful composition can of course create more appealing selections, arrangements and manipulation of any sound(s).

From Goa, the music spread around the world, except for America, where its arrival coincided with the Crack House Laws, which made anybody organising a gathering involving loud, repetitive music decidedly nervous. Not as nervous, however, as your average rave bunny, suddenly finding themselves surrounded by hairy, dreadlocked, pierced, tattooed hippies... and the men were even scarier.

These days, psytrance producers who aren't lying face down on a beach in Goa, can be found lying face down on the beaches of the UK, Japan, Russia, Croatia, Italy and South Africa. However, for reasons known only to them, 99% of all psychedelic trance comes from Israel. Many notable groups delight in subtle names, such as Infected Mushroom, Hallucinogen, Astral Projection and 1200 Micrograms, to name but a few.

It's also acted as a magnet for every type of New Age loony and it's impossible to move at a party without having your chakras cleansed, your crystals read, a cup of chai with all the trimmings and if you're really lucky, a pizza baked by Hare Krishnas, who offer a convert-you-while-you-wait service. Some have even cashed in on the woo-factor and there are now two Trance Institutes, studying trance (duh!). Most of the studies, however, appear to involve staring at the pretty pictures in the corner, or sitting on the floor saying, "Whee! I'm a tangerine."

What psychedelic trance is not[edit]

Uplifting, progressive, vocal, tech trance, etc. which are generally considered mainstream. They're similar in name only.

Required listening[edit]

Although these days, psytrance appears to have branched off into two subsets - one which sounds like an angle-grinder raping a combine harvester and the other which sounds like the bastard offspring of Euro-trance ("Go on, swim into the light, fondle the dolphin, you know you want to...") there are several notable classics that anybody who wants to be "with it" (i.e. not being stared down by a mob of glassy-eyed hippes) should know. These include: (Artist name first, because some of them are weirder than the song titles)

  • Cosmosis - Down at the Crossroad
  • Astral Projection - Nilaya
  • Transwave - Trashish
  • Electric Universe - Meteor
  • Hallucinogen - LSD
  • Infected Mushroom - Release Me (Oh, hell with it, everything of theirs is classic apparently)
  • Etnica - Starship 101
  • Chi A.D. - Eye am the I


One sub-genre of psychedelic trance, is known as "darkpsy", which obviously sounds ridiculous enough, but can actually be quite the adventure. Given you're on the right drugs, it can propel the listener through truly extraordinary mental journeys. It's an "acquired taste", like many things, but can supposedly be quite delicious, if you're into having your mind raped. It is much more underground, weirder and more "savage" than "regular" psytrance.

It is defined by a much "darker" sound (yes, really), and a more merciless, evil and dolphinless mood than "regular" psytrance. It is characterized by having a much higher tempo, ranging from 140bpm to 200+bpm. It can feature any combination of sounds and atmospheres, and are not limited to any specific archetype.

The various moods/feelz, and aesthetic archetypes that might be featured in darkpsy are immensely numerous; a vast plethora of spontaneous manifested idiosyncrasies. Darkpsy is largely (though not entirely) dependent on Pareidolia as a narrative instrument, both intentional and non-intentional, to function. It can often appear purely as experiments to test (well, fiddle with, anyway) how your brain tries to make sense of utter weirdness, in addition to that being its own archetype as well. Though seeing Pareidolia is defined as recognition of shapes, it can also exceed this and manifest entirely new shapes, forms, feelings, atmospheres and adventures altogether. Also drugs. Did I say drugs? Well. Drugs.

Many producers of darkpsy (as well as "regular" psychedelic trance) are equally annoyed at new-age fanaticism, which has sadly become an inherent association with these forms of sonic experiments. Darkpsy is probably "a more skeptical genre", or "unaffiliated" or unbiased in that regard, seeing producers are simply interested in creating the most absurd, weird and mindfucking experience possible, regardless of any vague new-age context. But, this scene sadly attracts many homeopath-championing crystal-advocates nonetheless; obviously ruining the "credibility" of these types of music to actually produce genuinely exciting experiences. Many darkpsy-producers can't stress enough that they are only interested in the music itself, and hope to not be associated with generic new-age nonsense. After all, music is subjective experience, and not something that necessarily has to be associated with any given philosophy. Although, there is sadly some wishful-thinking pseudo-science-worshipping crystal-hoarders lurking around there as well. Though, woo aside; chai, cannabis and psilocybe-mushrooms are all pretty great actually. Hippies got 3 things right at least.

Notable labels include:

  • Tantrumm Records
  • Dark Prisma Records
  • Kamino Records
  • Noise Poison Records
  • Parvati Records
  • Yggdrassil Records
  • Osom Music
  • Anomalistic Records
  • JellyFish Frequency Recordings

External links[edit]