Psychedelic trance, psytrance or just psy (derived from the Ancient Greek word ψυχή "psyche", mind; soul; breath; spirit) is a form of electronic music characterized by hypnotic arrangements of synthetic rhythms and complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs. It appeared in the mainstream in 1995 as with reporting of the trend of Goa trance. The genre offers variety in terms of mood, tempo, and style. Some examples include full on, dark, progressive, suomi, psybreaks and psybient. Goa Trance continued 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 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.
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. 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 recognized 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.
Psychedelic trance has a distinctive, speedy sound (generally between 140 and 150 BPM) that tends to be faster than other forms of trance or techno music. Psychedelic trance uses a very distinctive resonated bass beat that pounds constantly throughout the song and overlays the bass with varying rhythms drawn from funk music, techno, dance, acid house 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.
You can arguably trace trance music back to religious roots emanating from a spiritual state of mind reminiscent of shamanism and elements of Buddhism. With this in mind, it's very important that trance age in aggregate can be estimated as hundreds and thousands years. The actual sound of contemporary trance, however, was born as early as 1990 in Germany, and through pioneering trance labels like Dragonfly the sound started to take on a slightly more mainstream appeal during the later 90's. Goa and Psy-trance are arguably older, with their characteristic sounds purportedly emerging in Israel and India. The repetitive nature of much of the early trance tracks provided club-goers with the ideal chance to immerse themselves in a new style of music after a period of relative quiet on what had been termed the scene.
Arguably a fusion of techno and house, early trance shared much with techno in terms of the tempo and rhythmic structures but also added more melodic overtones which were appropriated from the style of house popular in Europe's club scene at that time. However, the melodies in trance differed from euro/club house in that although they tended to be emotional and uplifting, they did not bounce around in the same way that house did. This early trance tended to be characterized by the anthemic qualities described above, and typically involved a break-down portion of the song in which the beat was dropped for a few bars to focus on the melody before bringing the beat back with a renewed intensity. The trance became instantly popular in Europe and spread very quickly. Inevitably, the style was to evolve and as more and more mainstream DJ's picked up on the sound of trance, so the sound became more commercial and more diverse often relegating the traditional trance styles into background sub-genres.
By the mid-1990's, trance had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of dance music. Immensely popular, trance found itself filling a niche as edgier than house, more soothing than drum-n-bass, and more accessible than techno. By this time, trance had become synonymous with progressive house and both genres essentially subsumed each other under the commercial banner of progressive.Artists like Brian Transeau (BT), Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten (Art of Trance), and Underworld came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, epic feel of the style. Meanwhile, DJ's like Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, and John Digweed were championing the sound in the clubs and through the sale of pre-recorded mixes. By the end of the 1990's, trance remained commercially huge but had fractured into an extremely diverse genre. Perhaps as a consequence, similar things were happening with the DJ's as well; for example, Sasha and Digweed, who together had helped bring the progressive sound to the forefront, all but abandoned it by 2000, instead spinning a darker mix of the rising deep trance style.
In 1996, the UK became the core of the new trance phenomenon taking trance to new heights in UK clubs and out to the clubber's island of Ibiza. DJ's like Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and John Digweed started to open the eyes of the clubbing population to what would probably be best now described as euro trance: epic winding tracks with monumental breakdowns and uplifting lead lines culminating in the ATB and Delirium sounds of 2000. Assisted by well-known producers like Robert Miles, Sash and BT, these tunes struck to the hearts of an audience looking for new energy and excitement in their music. Just as interesting to observe is the creeping effect of trance around the world. While the Israelis and Swedes in particular continue to produce new sounds, American and the new Eastern European markets are absorbed in the trance sounds of a once frenetic European market. Meantime the UK and Canada are pushing the boundaries of hard trance with new genres cropping up like Hard House, a fusion of trance and house.
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 concentrated on rhythm and groove appeared. A landmark album of this change would be the 1998 album Radio by X-Dream.
In 2002, melodies became popular again, heralding the beginning of full-on psytrance.
Currently, there are many sub-genres within the psytrance scene, including 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, such as Metapsychic Records (2006 - December 2007 and Suntrip Records, which are dedicated to reviving the roots of the scene and promoting artists trying to recapture the original feeling of the music.
In the early days of psychedelic trance scene (c. 1994) a side project was established by pioneers such as Simon Posford, Joti Sidhu (Psychaos), Dominic Lamb, Olli Wisdom... who produced tracks intended to be exclusively played at so called ´real or heavy Psychedelic` parties. The sound of this music reportedly contains higher levels of intense and full power twisted patterns which has a far richer quality when compared with the standard commercial side of the scene. The tracks was shared exclusively among the similar-minded acts and also to a few numbers of handpicked Djs and was very difficult to obtain by people outside that `inner circle` which has generate the development of the new, but yet different in many levels genre Dark in 2004 by mainly former audience.
Psybreaks or psychedelic breakbeat is a form of psychedelic trance originating in the late 1990s, splicing breakbeat basslines and rhythms into otherwise heavily psytrance-influenced tracks. Style typical Tracks: Drone - Pulsar, Morphonix - Island Sanctuary, and Planewalker - Spellbound.
Full on Psytrance
Full on is a form of 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!"). It may also refer to the drug use sometimes witnessed ("full-on drugs") on the festivals, as this music is regarded "pushier" than other psytrance styles, thus more exhausting to dance to and the requirement of bodily stimulating drugs is more apparent.
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 melodic/uplifiting nature compared to the original psytrance, often accompanied by electronically distorted vocals and shout-outs.
Some commercial morning artists associated with the following style: Sesto Sento, Bizzare Contact, Electro Sun, Gataka, 1200 Micrograms, Astrix, 40%, SOM and Vibe Tribe.
Some Full On Record labels: PsyShark, Phantasm Records, Hommega, and many more.
Dark psytrance (killer psytrance, dark psy, forest trance, fullon darkpsy) is a darker and faster form of psychedelic trance music, with tempo ranges generally from 145 to 180 BPM. Originating in Denmark, Russia and Germany, the style has recently expanded worldwide. Full on dark psytrance is a popular variation and can include melodies from morning trance. Some well-known dark psytrance labels include Parvati Records, Dark Prisma Records, Rumbling Earth Recs, Lamat Records, Ultratumba Records, Noise Poison records, Psynon Records and Demon Tea Records.
Progressive/minimal psychedelic trance
With a slower BPM range around 125 to 140, progressive psychedelic trance has a cleaner, crisper sound than other subgenres and is better known for well-constructed percussion underlying a complicated series or evolution of musically rooted melodies. At times uplifting, progressive psy has made a home for itself during the morning and daytime sets of many outdoor dance parties, particularly in the Australian doof scene, as well as worldwide. Zenon Records is the prominent label for Psygressive subgenre which is vastly different than the common Progressive trance.
Dark psytrance generally does not use vocals, though sampling is common, with speech and other kind of samples usually being taken from different kind of movies (especially horror or sci-fi movies), or from cartoons such as Futurama, South Park, etc.
The atmosphere and theme of the tracks very loosely resembles those from genres such as dark ambient, musique concrète, darkcore, power noise and industrial music. At times atmospheric and "deep" sounds are used to create a haunting and Gothic effect such as those used by Xenomorph, Psychoz, Parasense and Kemic-Al. On the other side there is high-tech DarkPsy, with a higher BPM (160-220), and powerful baselines, without a Gothic or horror atmosphere. Other artists such as Baphomet Engine and Whicked Hayo add in metal samples to darken the music, linking it to industrial metal.
Recently, some artists who previously were dark psytrance artists, such as N3XU5, Darkpsy,Kalilaskov AS and Fungus Funk, have started producing a more melodic, South African-like sound, whilst some others are starting to experiment with using melodies and morning trance elements in dark psy like Deja Vu Fabrique (Zolod from Parasense), Psyc0ma, and C-P-C. However, the whole electronic music scene has evolved, and most artists indulge in experiments to produce many varied genres such Psychedelic Chillout, Progressive Psytrance, Dubstep, Psychedelic Breaks, etc.
The beginning of the new decade has seen a tremendous rise in the popularity of high BPM music. With tracks going as fast 180-190, this type of music is generally associated with horror samples and evil and devilish atmospheric synths.