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About Psychedelic Trance Music


What is Psychedelic Trance ?

Commonly known as psytrance- especially to those in the know- the nomenclature derives from the ancient Greek word `ψυχή`, pronounced `psyche`, which means `soul` and also from the word `trance`, which stands for `ecstasy` or `rapture`.

Psytrance is more than just a genre of music; it is a state of mind. Call it catalepsy of the spirit, if you will. This category of trance is a form of electronic music characterized by industrial leads, hypnotic arrangements, groovy rhythms and complex layered melodies, stemming from high tempo riffs. To put it simply, psytrance is mind-blowing.

History Of Psychedelic Trance

Hippies taking respite in Goa, India during the mid-1960s were drawn to the land for many reasons: the beaches, low cost of living, friendly locals, religious beliefs and spirituality. Not to forget, the readily available Indian hashish was quite a draw as well. Hashish was widely known as a legal option up until the mid-1970s.

During the 1970s, the first Goa DJ’s were generally spinning well-known psychedelic rock bands such as Pink Floyd and The Doors.

In 1979, the beginnings of electronic dance music would occasionally be heard around Goa, in the form of tracks, passed from DJ to DJ- “Did you hear this new beat! Check this out!” Much like today, when you think about it! The popular tracks were remixed - removing the lyrics, looping the melodies, adding trancy basslines and generally manipulating the sounds in speedy way with a hard clubby approach. These tracks were finally presented to the public and became known as trance-style remixes.
psychedelic trance

Development of Psychedelic Trance

The trend of Goa trance style tracks, was first appeared in the region of Goa, India around the year 1991 and rapidly the Goa trance scene had picked up a pulse of its own. Seeking a following, newer artists were appearing all over the world in clubs and at parties- sharing their passion for trance. Like-minded individuals getting together to explore their options and interests, together like never before. Even celebrity DJs would join the movement and propel psychedelic trance further mainstream.

By 1996, the genre had changed so much from its Goa beginnings that the term Goa trance no longer seemed suitable. The new term of `psychedelic trance`, or `psytrance` for short, was coined to refer to this new style of music. Psytrance became more mainstream in the mid to late 1990’s, owing its roots to the trend of Goa trance that originated in the 1970’s.

Description of Psychedelic Trance Music

Psychedelic trance has a distinctive, speed up sound. It generally sits between 125 & 175 BPM, which tends to be faster than other forms of trance music.

Psytrance uses a very distinctive, resonating bass beat that pounds constantly throughout the song keeping the pace. The DJ will then overlay the bass with varying rhythms drawn from funk, techno, dance, acid house, euro dance and/or trance using drums, synthesizer, and other instruments. The different leads, rhythms, and beats generally change every 8 bars.

Layering is a technique used to achieve a great effect in psychedelic trance. With new musical ideas integrated at regular intervals (every 4 to 8 measures or so) psytrance will keep you on your toes. New layers are added until a climax is reached, and then the song will break down by starting a new rhythmic pattern over the rolling, consistent bass line.

Psytrance tracks are typically 6–10 minutes long and make heavy use of the cutoff frequency control of the modulating filter on the synthesizer. Reverb and delay are used frequently with large, open sounding reverberation present on the lead synthesizers in the track.

The Roland TB-303 (acid) sequencer, Juno 106 & Roland SH-101 are used in majority and are sampled in psychedelic trance.

Sub-Genres of Psychedelic Trance

The genre offers listeners a variety in terms of mood, tempo and style. Some current examples of psytrance include: 

• Goa Trance

• Full-on

• Dark / Forrest / Neuro / Hi-tech

• Progressive

• Minimal / Morning

• Uplifting / Nitzch O Not

• Psybreaks / Off-Beat

• Chill-Out / Down-Tempo / Psybient

• Psytech

• Goa Trance

The initial genre, developed by the so called dinosaurs of psytrance scene, such as "Goa Gil" & "Raja Ram" amongst others back in the 90s, when psychedelic contemporary rhythm took form through the computers and electronic equipment for the first time in history of human kind.

Goa Trance was characterized by its use of a driving 4/4 beat, trance-inducing melodies that is performed usually by a roland TB-303 synth, various uplifting sounds, heavy drum-sets and finally strings ment to create a mystical atmosphere to the listener.

This was the original cause of psychedelic trance.

• Full-on Psytrance

Full-on is a form of psychedelic trance that originated in Israel during the late 1990s. The expression “full-on” is derived from a phrase widely used to describe particularly high-energy music and continues rhythm.

Full-on is one of the most well known forms of psytrance. The speedy basslines, catchy hook-lines and commercial elements bring together a style that has the most mass market appeal.

The most easily recognizable elements of full-on psytrance are the "rolling basslines", the fast changes in music sequences --max 32 beat for sequence-- and the more melodic, uplifting nature of the subgenre.

The style was incredibly popular in Israel, Greece and other European countries with a progressive group of followers.

• Dark / Forrest / Hi-tech

Dark psytrance (such as neuro, dark psy, or forest trance) is a darker, moodier  and faster form of trance music, with hypnotic arrangements and tempo ranging from 145 to 180 BPM.

Originating in Denmark and Russia, the style has developed a loyal, yet sometimes borderline fanatical following over the years.

Dark psytrance is a popular variation of the genre that can include extremely filtered acid arpegiators taken from Goa trance. These tend to be more tripping & haunting than uplifting, though.

`Forest Trance` is a style with in the dark sub-genre that inspires and creates a forest like - spooky mood.

The `dark psy` style is more abstract and experimental with less reliance on typical trance musical aspects and formulas. The high speed of tracks, the experimental nature of the style and its underground philosophy make it more appealing to a younger, drug addicted crowd.

• Progressive Psy Trance

Progressive Psytrance has a heavier, crystal-cleaner sound than other sub-genres and a slower beat range around 125 to 139 bpm.

The most easily recognizable elements of progressive are the "rolling basslines" or else "triplets", which cram two or three short bass notes in between each hit of the 4/4 drum. Mainly consists of atmoshperic pads and abstract sounds that evolve or else progress during the track. All kind of vocals and hook-up lines are present combined in a club-like groovy rhythm.

Progressive is the most popular genre of psy trance nowadays by far.

• Minimal / Morning

It is better known for the well-constructed percussion rolling under a complicated evolution of musically rooted melodies. It progressively builds up to a climax before it comes back down.

It was primarily used primarily in the mornings at festivals and during energetic dance parties but it tends to win ground on the international dance scene as time goes by.

Progressive in the way it was shaped but with less bpm, suitable for the ending of the parties when the feelings take over, as also suitable for the morning hours of a usual relaxing day.

• Uplifting / Nitzch O Not

Uplifting trance music was first termed by Mike Verros, a long-standing supporter and DJ of the psytrance scene. This style is described perfectly by this name, as it is used to enhance moods and enlighten the atmosphere of the scene.

Uplifting trance consists of `wooded` kicks and hard industrial leads that create a happy atmosphere. Through cutoff-filtered melodies that come and go during the tracks, dancers, and listeners are taken on a happy joyride through their mind with every beat.

The style became a real trend in Greece around the turn of the millennium. The scene was heavily supported by the local record labels and media, but started to collapse after the most well-known names in the industry disappeared (Cyan, Cherouvim, etc.)

The title `Nitzch o not` was coined a decade later and was inspired by the Holymen`s successful homonymous track, which was produced 15 years earlier. Way to keep up with the times!

• Psybreaks / Off-Beat

One of the most modern genres shapped in Nothern Germany around the year 2005. The range and the rhythm are progressive but a lot of basses do their presence in an out-of-sequence pace. A lot of Brazilian but also Isreali live acts took over and are currently producing heaven vibes out of this new rhythm that makes the crowd explode. One of the most popular subgenres of psytrance nowadays.

• Chill-Out / Down-Tempo

Chill-out music is a term for low tempo psychedelic trance music characterized by their mellow style and low-tempo beats — the term being derived from a slang injunction `to relax.`

Chill-out music emerged in the early and mid-1990s in chill rooms at dance clubs, where relaxing music was played in order to give dancers a chance to breath and calm down from the more upbeat and fast-tempo music out on the main stage.

Genres associated with the chill-out style are mostly ambient, down-tempo psytrance, minimal psy, and morning psytrance. Sometimes the easy listening subgenre `lounge` is considered to belong to the chill-out collection as well.

• Psytech

The subgenre goes all the way back to 90s with schemes like "Source Code" and "Wizzy Noise" but also nowdays many live acts are still working on it. It basically consists of less melodies and more techno elements, industrial leads, hard loops and heavy drum assets. A fantastic mixture of psychedelic trance & techno music.


Article written by Aggelos Mavros & Jennifer Earls.

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