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Psychedelic trance

Psychedelic trance, psytrance or just psy (derived from the Ancient Greek word ψυχή "psyche", mind; soul; breath; spirit[3]) is an electronic music style characterized by arrangements of synthetic rhythms and complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs.[4] By 1998 psytrance had become 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.[5] 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 subgenres.


File:Voov experience 2005-02.jpg
VooV Experience 2005 – one of the longest-existing psytrance openair events


See also: Goa trance

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 cannabis, 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.[6][7]

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.[6]

An indoor event

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 was brought on tape cassettes by fanatic traveler collectors and DJs. This material was shared and copied tape-to-tape by Goa DJs, in an underground scene that was not driven by music industry labels. The artists producing this "special Goa music" had no idea that their music was being played on the beaches of Goa by cyber hippies.

The first techno played in Goa was by Kraftwerk in the late 1970s on the tape of a visiting DJ. At that time, music played at most parties was performed by live bands, with tapes used to fill the space between sets. Old school acid heads who devoutly believed that only acid rock should be played at parties initially resisted, but they soon relented and converted to the revolutionary wave of technodelia that took hold in the 1980s. In the early 1980s, sampling synth and midi music appeared globally, and DJs became the preferred format in Goa. Two tape decks would drive a party with continuous music and continuous dancing. Cassette tapes were used by DJs until the 1990s, then DAT tapes were used.

Among 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, and Gil. Their music was eclectic in style but nuanced around instrument/dub spacey versions of tracks that evoked mystical, cosmic, psychedelic, political, and existential themes. DJs in Goa made special mixes by editing various versions of a track to make it longer, taking the stretch mix concept to new levels. Trip music for journeying to outdoors, trance dancing to mind-expanding music while high on hallucinogens was the Goa mantra. The night clubs were not fueled by alcohol, but by hash and acid. The result was an anarchistic, alternative counterculture of DIY psychedelic exploration driven by future rhythm machine music.

By 1990-91 Goa was no longer under the radar and had become a hot destination for partying. As the scene grew bigger, Goa-style parties spread like a diaspora all over the world from 1993, spawning a multitude of labels in various countries (U.K. Australia, Japan, Germany) to promote psychedelic electronic music that reflected the ethos of Goa parties, Goa music, and Goa-specific artists, producers, and DJs.[8] Goa Trance as commercial began gaining global traction in 1994. The golden age of the first wave of Goa Psy Trance as a generally agreed upon genre was between 1994-97.


File:Stepanida Borisova at Khan-Altay psytrance festival.JPG
Performance at a Russian psytrance festival, 2008

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] Its impact was felt in western Europe, Israel, North America, Australia, Japan and South Africa.[11] Psytrance is linked to other music genres such as big beat, electroclash, grime and 2-step.[12] The genre evolved in conjunction with a multimedia psychedelic arts scene.[11]


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Many consider the difference between goa trance and psychedelic trance as minimal at best and really just a matter of opinion.[10][13] Psychedelic trance is distinguished from other subgenres because of the unique sounds it typically features.[10][14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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) synthesizer, Juno 106, and Roland SH-101 are heavily used and sampled in psychedelic trance, usually processed through a distortion effect.

Related subgenres

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. Currently, there are many subgenres within the psytrance scene, including ambient psy (psybient), minimal/progressive psy, morning psy, full-on psy, and dark psy. There has 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.


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, Meat Katie, and others on the record label Broken Robot Records produce in this genre.

Full on

Example of Full On Psytrance Music

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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 without 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.[citation needed]

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, System Nipel and Dreaml4nd, Lee AudioAddictz.[citation needed]


Dark psytrance (neuro, dark psy, forest trance or faster trance called Hi-Tech) is a darker, moodier and faster form of psychedelic trance music. With tempos often ranging 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 subgenre 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 'Hi-Tech' is more like alien trance, which generally is no lower than 170 bpm and no higher than 200. 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), Noise Poison Records and Kamino Records. Some dark psytrance artists include: Kindzadza, Psykovsky, Penta, Atriohm, Highko, Mubali, Mark Day, Electrypnose, Encephalopaticys, Arjuna, Scope, Ocelot, Furious, Dohm, Farebi Jalebi, Jahbo, Kashyyyk,Technical Hitch and Fractal Mind.

Downtempo Trance

Main article: Psybient

Aka Psychedelic Ambient or Psychedelic Chillout.[1]

Suomisaundi or freeform psytrance

Main article: Suomisaundi

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).[citation needed]


Arronax performing at The Gathering, a psychedelic trance festival, in 2009

Large psytrance festivals are both culturally and musically diverse.[11] 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.[11] In Australia, pioneering outdoor festival Earthcore began in 1992 and runs a yearly event predominately featuring psytrance amongst the long list of international performers. Rainbow Serpent Festival and Maitreya Festival are also 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.[17] In 2004, the Glastonbury Festival dedicated a full day on the Glade stage to psytrance.[18]

South Africa has numerous psytrance festivals.[19] The favourable weather and beautiful landscape have made it part of a number of global destinations for the party traveller.

See also: Freetekno

There are two well-known recurring psytrance festivals in the USA: Chilluminati's Sacred Earth Open-Air Festival and T.O.U.C.H. Samadhi's Equinox. The Burning Man festival also tends to feature a number of psytrance-oriented camps and DJ performances.

Festivals calendar

There are three main places to discover psytrance festivals.

Sub-cultural research

In 2006 research was conducted on the global psytrance scene. 600 people from 40 countries provided detailed information via an online questionnaire.[22] The results were published as "Beyond Subculture and Post-subculture? The Case of Virtual Psytrance" in the Journal of Youth Studies.[23]

In 2013 Graham St. John published Global Tribe: Technology, Spirituality and Psytrance on Equinox Publishing.

Notable albums

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Ishkur (2005). "Ishkur's guide to Electronic Music". Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Goa Trance". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Etymology of the English word psychedelic. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1593764774. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Eugene ENRG (aka DJ Krusty) (2001). "Psychic Sonics: Tribadelic Dance Trance-formation - Eugene ENRG (aka DJ Krusty) interviews Ray Castle". In Graham St John. FreeNRG : notes from the edge of the dance floor (PDF). Altona, Victoria, Australia: Common Ground Pub. p. 166. ISBN 1-86335-084-5. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Graham St John (2001). "DJ Goa Gil: Kalifornian Exile, Dark Yogi and Dreaded Anomaly". Retrieved March 21, 2015. Connecting three generations of music enthusiasts, Goa Gil is an imposing figure in the world of psychedelic trance. 
  8. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2013). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 9780571289141. Psy-trance is an 'equal opportunity' genre when it comes to making the music too: there are leading exponents of psychedelic trance operating in Israel, Australia, Sweden, Greece, Denmark. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Gupta, Om (2006). "Goa Trance". Encyclopaedia Of India Pakistan & Bangladesh. Gyan Publishing House. p. 805. ISBN 8182053897. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Cardeña, Etzel; Michael Winkelman (2011). Altering Consciousness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 212–213. ISBN 0313383081. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Collin, Matthew (2010). Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House. Profile Books. p. 335. ISBN 1847656412. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Ishkur (2005). "Ishkur's guide to Electronic Music". Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Trance music. A definition of genre.. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  16. ^ Easwaran, Kenny. "Psytrance and the Spirituality of Electronics". April 2004.
  17. ^ Gemma Bowes (20 April 2012). "Boom time: Portugal's top psytrance festival". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  18. ^ Anushka Asthana (4 April 2004). "Clubbers fall under spell of Psytrance". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ festivals agenda
  22. ^ Heath, Sue; Rachel Brooks; Elizabeth Cleaver; Eleanor Ireland (2009). Researching Young People's Lives. Sage. p. 168. ISBN 1446203972. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  23. ^ Tracey Greener & Robert Hollands (September 2006). "Beyond Subculture and Post-subculture? The Case of Virtual Psytrance". ingentaconnect. Publishing Technology. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 


External links