|Stylistic origins||Trance, Goa trance, Eurodance, dream trance, hard trance, acid trance, techno, psychedelia|
|Cultural origins||Late 1990s, Goa, India|
|Typical instruments||Drum machine, sequencer, sampler, electric guitar, synthesizer, keyboard|
|Psybient - psybreaks|
|Finland - South Africa - Israel - Germany - Italy - France - Hungary - Russia - Mexico - Brazil - UK - USA - Australia - India - Poland - Japan|
Psychedelic trance, psytrance or just psy (derived from the Ancient Greek word ψυχή "psyche", mind; soul; breath; spirit) is an electronic music style characterized by arrangements of synthetic rhythms and complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs. By 1998 psytrance had became a mainstream form of music as had the growing trend of Goa trance.
Psytrance lies at the hardcore, underground end of the diverse trance spectrum. The genre offers variety in terms of mood, tempo, and style. Some examples include full on, dark, progressive, suomi and psybreaks. Goa Trance continues to develop alongside the sub genres.
The first hippies who arrived in Goa, India in the mid-1960s were drawn there for many reasons, including the beaches, the low cost of living, the friendly locals, the Indian religious and spiritual practices and the readily available Indian hashish, which until the mid-1970s was legal. During the 1970s the first Goa DJs were generally playing psychedelic rock bands such as the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and The Doors. In 1979 the beginnings of electronic dance music could occasionally be heard in Goa in the form of tracks by artists such as Kraftwerk but it wasn’t until 1983 that DJs Laurent and Fred Disko, closely followed by Goa Gil, began switching the Goa style over to electro-industrial/EBM which was now flooding out of Europe from Frontline Assembly, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb as well as Eurobeat.
The tracks were remixed, removing the lyrics, looping the melodies and beats and generally manipulating the sounds in all manner of ways before the tracks were finally presented to the dancers as custom Goa-style mixes.
The music played in the 1980s was a blend of styles loosely defined as techno and various genres of computer music e.g.: high energy gay disco without vocals, acid house, electro, industrial gothic, electronic body music, exotic wacky styles of house, electronic/rock hybrids. The music arrived on tape cassettes by fanatic traveller collectors and DJs. It was shared (copied) tape to tape amongst Goa DJs, which was an underground scene, not driven by labels or music industry. The artists producing this "special Goa music" had no idea that their music was being played on the beaches of Goaby cyber hippies. The first techno played in Goa was by Kraftwerk in the late 1970s on the tape of a visiting DJ. At the time, the music played at most parties was by live bands. Tapes were played in between sets. In the early 1980s, sampling synth and midi music appeared globally and DJs became the preferred format in Goa. Two tape decks driving a party without a break, continuous music, continuous dancing. There had been resistance from the old school acid heads who were devout that only acid rock should be played at parties, but they soon relented and converted to the revolutionary wave of technodelia that took hold in the 1980s. Cassette tapes were used by DJs until the 1990s when DAT tapes were used. DJs playing in Goa during the 1980s were Fred Disko, Dr Bobby, Stephano, Paulino, Mackie, Babu, Laurent, Ray, Fred, Antaro, Lui, Rolf, Tilo, Pauli, Rudi, Gil. The music was eclectic in style but nuanced around instrument/dub spacey versions of tracks that evoked mystical, cosmic, psychedelic, political, existential themes. Special mixes were made by DJs in Goa which were the editing of various versions of a track to make it longer. This was taking the stretch mix concept to another level, trip music for journeying to outdoors. Trance dancing to mind expanding dance music on hallucinogens was the mantle of the Goa mantra. It was not a night club furnaced on alcohol. Hash and acid were the principal heighteners. It was an anarchistic alternative counter culture. DIY in psychedelic exploration driven by future rhythm machine music. Goa Trance as a music industry and collective party fashion tag did not gain global traction until 1994. By 1990-91 Goa had become a hot destination for partying and was no longer under the radar, the scene grew bigger. Goa style parties spread like a diaspora all over the world from 1993 and a multitude of labels in various countries (U.K. Australia, Japan, Germany) dedicated themselves to promoting psychedelic electronic music that reflected the ethos of Goa parties and Goa music and Goa specific artists and producers and DJs. The golden age of the first wave of Goa Psy Trance as a generally agreed upon (genre) aesthetic was between 1994-97.
By 1992 the Goa trance scene had a pulse of its own, though the term 'Goa trance' didn’t become the name tag of the genre until around 1994. The Goa trance sound, which by the late 1990s was being used interchangeably with the term psychedelic trance, retained its popularity at outdoor raves and festivals rather than in nightclubs. New artists were appearing from all over the world and it was in this year that the first Goa trance festivals began, including the Gaia Festival in France and the still-running VuuV festival in Germany.
In 1993 the first 100% Goa trance album was released, Project 2 Trance, featuring tracks by Man With No Name and Hallucinogen to name two. Goa trance enjoyed its commercial peak between 1996 and 1997 with media attention and some recognised names in the DJ scene joining the movement. This hype did not last long and once the attention had died down so did the music sales, resulting in the failure of record labels, promotion networks and also some artists. This ‘commercial death of Goa trance’ was marked musically by Matsuri Productions in 1997 with the release of the compilation Let it RIP. On the back sleeve of the album at the bottom of the notes, R.I.P : Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, William Burroughs & Goa Trance was written.
While the genre may have been incubated in the goa trance scene it went on to proliferate globally. Its impact was felt in western Europe, Israel, North America, Australia, Japan and South Africa. Psytrance is linked to other post-ecstacy music genres such as big beat, electroclash, grime and 2-step. The genre evolved in conjunction with a multimedia psychedelic arts scene.
Sample of a typical psytrance track
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Many consider the difference between goa trance and psychedelic trance are minimal at best and really just a matter of opinion. Psychedelic trance is distinguished from other sub-genres because of the unique sounds it typically features.  Psychedelic trance has a distinctive, energetic sound (generally between 140 and 150 BPM) that tends to be faster than other forms of trance or techno music. It uses a very distinctive resonated bass beat that pounds constantly throughout the song and overlays the bass with varying rhythms drawn from funk, techno, dance, acid house, eurodance and trance using drums and other instruments. The different leads, rhythms and beats generally change every 8 bars. Layering is used to great effect in psychedelic trance, with new musical ideas being added at regular intervals, often every 4 to 8 bars. New layers will continue to be added until a climax is reached, and then the song will break down and start a new rhythmic pattern over the constant bass line. Psychedelic trance tracks tend to be 6–10 minutes long. Psychedelic trance makes heavy use of the cutoff frequency control of the modulating filter on the synthesizer. Reverb and delay are used heavily, with large, open sounding reverb present on most of the lead synthesizers in the track. The Roland TB-303 (acid) sequencer, Juno 106, and Roland SH-101 are heavily used and sampled in psychedelic trance, usually processed through a distortion effect.
In 1996, the music had changed so much from its Goa beginnings that the term Goa trance no longer seemed suitable, and the new term of psychedelic trance, or psytrance for short, was coined to refer to this new style of music.
The multi-layered melodies of Goa trance were stripped away, and a darker and more repetitive form of music concentrating on rhythm and groove appeared. In 2002, melodies became popular again, heralding the beginning of full-on psytrance. Currently, there are many sub-genres within the psytrance scene, including ambient psy (psybient), minimal/progressive psy, morning psy, full-on psy, and dark psy. There has recently been a movement attempting to ‘return to the source’ and bring back the original Goa trance sound. Examples include Metapsychic Records (2006 - December 2007) and Suntrip Records. These labels are dedicated to reviving the roots of the scene, and promoting artists trying to recapture the original feeling of the music.
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Psy-breaks or psychedelic tech-funk is a form of psychedelic trance originating in the late 1990s, splicing breakbeat basslines and rhythms into otherwise heavily psytrance-influenced tracks. At times there is a fine line of a difference between nu skool breaks and psy-breaks, but usually you can distinguish the difference depending on the synth lines. Psy-breaks tracks would be closer to Goa and psy trance with 16th note arppegiated synths and or bass line driven tracks with lots of sound effects. Where as many Nu skool breaks tracks use the same elements but a different way and tends to use distorted heavy basslines with lots of glitch edits. Another noticeable difference between the two is Nu skool is more club driven in the sense of upbeat and rowdy as opposed to Psy-Breaks which leans more towards dark and mysterious. Artists such as Bad Tango, Hedflux, and others on the record label Broken Robot Records produce in this genre.
Full on is psychedelic trance that originated in Israel during the late 1990s. The expression “full on” is taken from the first out of a seven compilation albums series and the first album ever to be released under Hom-mega Productions in 1998, titled Full On, which comes from English slang. Other sources say it comes from the "Full" "moon" festival's name, whilst others argue that it is derived from a phrase widely used to describe particularly high-energy music ("That tune is really full-on!"). Full On is with out a doubt the most popular form of Psychedelic Trance. Owing to big basslines, catchy hooks and some borderline commercial and pop elements this style has the most mass market appeal.
The most easily recognizable elements of full-on psy-trance are the so-called "rolling" bassline, which crams two or three short bass notes in between each hit of the 4/4 drum, the fast changes in music sequences (max 32 beat for sequence), and a more energetic melodic/uplifiting nature. Often heard in clubs or during the night at festivals, it is popular in Israel, Brazil, Goa, Florida, Victoria and the United Kingdom. Performers include Paul Taylor, Earthling, Talamasca, Alien Project, Azax Syndrom, Bizarre Contact, Bliss, Bubble, Gataka, Infected Mushroom, XSI, Sesto Sento, Spectro Senses, Ananda Shake, Quality Sound, Solstice, Freaked Frequency, Prototype, Atomic Pulse, Faders, Digital Tribe, Liquid Sound, Ohm Project, Burn in Noise, Vibe Tribe and System Nipel.
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Dark psytrance (neuro, dark psy or forest trance) is a darker, moodier and faster form of psychedelic trance music. With tempo ranges generally from 145 to 200 BPM. Originating in Denmark, Russia and Germany, the style has developed a loyal following over the years. Becoming popular in 2004, it has continued to grow. Dark psytrance is a popular variation and can include melodies from morning trance, though these tend to be more haunting than uplifting. 'Forest Trance' is a style within the dark sub genre that inspires and creates a "forest" like mood. Mainly produced in Denmark, this type of trance is popular at outdoor events. The 'Neuro' style is more abstracted and experimental, less reliant on melodic musical aspects and formulas. The speed of the music and the experimental nature it embraces makes it more appealing to a younger crowd. Owing to its non-conformist approach to the normal conventions of trance, this style is almost considered to have a "punk rock" element to it. Some examples of Dark Psy Labels are Psytology Records (Denmark), Parvati Records (Denmark), Lost Theory Records (Belgium) and Insomnia Records (Russia).
Suomisaundi or freeform psytrance
Suomisaundi is the "freeform" variation of psytrance, where the artist has almost no limits but still bear a specific "Finnish" style (which is also produced in other countries but the originating Suomi designation is in wide use).
Large psytrance festivals are both culturally and musically diverse. They have attracted a following amongst international backpackers. Earthdance, the world's largest synchronized music and dance festival for peace, has its roots in the psychedelic trance scene. In Australia, Earthcore occurred between 1992 and 2008 and predominately featured psytrance. Rainbow Serpent Festival, Maitreya Festival, and Yemaya Festival are by far are the most popular ones and held in Victoria.
The Boom Festival in Portugal was originally a psytrance festival but now includes world music. It is held every second year in August and combines social activism with cultural and spiritual elements. In 2004, the Glastonbury Festival dedicated a full day on the Glade stage to psytrance.
There are three well-known recurring psytrance festivals in the USA: Chilluminati's Sacred Earth Open-Air Festival, T.O.U.C.H. Samadhi's Equinox and Spacecamp Psyfari.
In 2006 research was conducted on the global psytrance scene. 600 people from 40 countries provided detailed information via an online questionnaire. The results were published as "Beyond Subculture and Post-subculture? The Case of Virtual Psytrance" in the Journal of Youth Studies.
In 2013 Graham St. John published Global Tribe: Technology, Spirituality and Psytrance on Equinox Publishing.
- Twisted, a highly influential early Goa album released in 1995 by Hallucinogen (musician)
- The Mystery of the Yeti, a downtempo concept album released in 1996 by Raja Ram.
- Radio by X-Dream was a 1998 album reflecting the change away from the Goa sound.
- Another World was released in 1999 by Astral Projection, featuring fast, long tracks with complex sounds.
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- St. John, G. 2012. Seasoned Exodus: The Exile Mosaic of Psyculture. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 4(1): 4–37.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psytrance.|
- Psychedelic Trance at DMOZ
- Psychedelic eMag - Free monthly eMagazine dedicated to global psychedelic trance
- Psytrance Radio
- Psymedia South Africa
- T.O.U.C.H. Samadhi