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 temporiffs. It appeared in the around in 1990 as with reporting of the 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, psybreaks and psybient. Goa Trance continues to develop alongside the sub genres.
Goa Trance (Goa, 604) is a form of electronic music that originated during the late 1980s in Goa, India. The music has its roots in the popularity of the Goa state in India in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a hippie mecca, and although musical developments were incorporating elements of industrial music and EBM with the spiritual culture in India throughout the 1980s, the actual Goa Trance style did not officially appear until the early 1990s.
As the hippie tourist influx tapered off in the 1970s and 1980s, a core group remained in Goa, concentrating on developments in music along with other pursuits such as yoga and recreational drug use. The music that would eventually be known as Goa Trance did not evolve from one single genre, but was inspired mainly by EBM like Front Line Assembly and A Split-Second, acid house, Techno (The KLF’s “What time is love?” in particular), and psychedelic rock like Ozric Tentacles, Steve Hillage and Ash Ra Tempel. In addition to those, oriental tribal/ethnic music also became a source of inspiration. A very early example (1974) of the relation between psy-rock and the music that would eventually be known as Goa Trance is The Cosmic Jokers (a collaboration between Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze) highly experimental and psychedelic album “Galactic Supermarket”, which features occasional 4/4 rhythms intertwined with elements from psy-rock, analog synthesizers and occasionally tribal-esque drum patterns.
The introduction of Techno and its techniques to Goa led to what eventually became the Goa Trance style; early pioneers included DJs Fred Disko, Laurent, Goa Gil, and Amsterdam Joey. Many “parties” (generally similar to raves but with a more mystic flavour, at least in early 1990s) in Goa revolve entirely around this genre of music. In other countries, Goa is also often played at raves, festivals and parties in conjunction with other styles of Trance and Techno.
Today, Goa Trance has a significant following in Israel, brought to that country by former soldiers returning from recreational “post-army trips” to Goa in the early 1990s. A great deal of Goa Trance (or now, more accurately, Psytrance) is now produced in Israel, but its production and consumption is a global phenomenon. New “hot-spots” today include Brazil, Germany, Japan, Serbia and South Africa.
One particular underground genre that branched off from Psy Trance is called suomisaundi (Finnish sound), which originated in Finland. One of its trademark features is reference to early\mid-1990s classic Goa Trance music, and this genre is often exhibited in Finland’s forest party scene. At these parties, mostly Goa Trance and Suomi-style Psytrance can be heard.
Goa Trance is essentially “dance-trance” music (it was referred to as “Trance Dance” in its formative years), the original Goal being to assist the dancers in experiencing a collective state of bodily transcendence, similar to that of ancient shamanic dancing rituals, through hypnotic, pulsing melodies and rhythms. As such it has an energetic beat, almost always in common time (4/4) meaning 4 quarter note pulses per bar. Time is marked with kicks (bass drum beats) on each quarter-note pulse, a snare or clap on the second and fourth pulse of the bar, with an open hi-hat sound every second eighth note. A typical track will generally build up to a much more energetic movement in the second half then taper off fairly quickly toward the end. The BPM typically lies in the 130 – 150 range, although some tracks may have BPMs as low as 110 or as high as 160. Generally 8-12 minutes long, Goa Trance tracks tend to focus on steadily building energy throughout, using changes in percussion patterns and more intricate and layered synth parts as the music progresses in order to build a hypnotic and intense feel.
The kick drum often is a low, thick sound with prominent sub-bass frequencies. The music very often incorporates many audio effects that are often created through experimentation with synthesisers. A well-known sound that originated with Goa Trance and became much more prevalent through its successor, Psytrance, is the organic “squelchy” sound (usually a saw-wave which is run through a resonant band-pass or high-pass filter).
Other music technology used in Goa Trance includes popular analogue synthesizers such as the Roland TB-303, Roland Juno-60/106, Novation Bass-Station, Korg MS-10, and notably the Roland SH-101. Hardware samplers manufactured by Akai, Yamaha and Ensoniq were also popular for sample storage and manipulation.
A popular element of Goa Trance is the use of samples, often from sci-fi movies. Those samples mostly contain references to drugs, parapsychology, extraterrestrials, existentialism, OBEs, dreams, science, spirituality and other things that could be deemed as “mysterious” and “unconventional”.
- This is the original post where the term 604 came from, dated Oct 28, 1996 from Braden L. Albert:
Hey Everyone, I had a very weird thing happen to me while at a party in Cleveland on Saturday night. I was in the main room of this rave at the time. It must have been about 4:00 A.M. or so. I had been dancing to this great hypnotic trance for a couple hours. It winded its way from acid to psychedelic to tribal and back to psychedelic trance like the thumping, swirling swing of a grandfather clock on LSD.
Anyway, after working up a righteous sweat, I took a breather on a bench. The venue was a converted roller skating rink, so there were plenty of benches on which to sit.
As I was grooving in my repose to the still rising tide of scintillating tunes, I looked at this object in front of me and my mouth dropped.
It was this huge mail bag that had the letter “604” inked on the canvas. But the inking was done in such a way that the “6” looked just like a “G” and the “4” looked like an “A”. So “604” was actually “GOA” in disguise. Considering the music and where my head was at the time, it was quite a moment. Talk about signs, huh? (Braden Albert)
Goa Trance in popular culture
For a short period in the mid-1990s Goa Trance enjoyed significant commercial success with support from DJs such as Paul Oakenfold, who later went on to assist in developing a much more mainstream style of Trance outside Goa. Only a few artists came close to being Goa Trance “stars”, enjoying worldwide fame. Among the most notable are Astral Projection, Etnica, Dimension 5, Doof, Hallucinogen, Man With No Name and Transwave. Several artists initially started producing Goa Trance music and went on to produce Psytrance instead, perhaps most notably Electric Universe who pioneered Goa Trance with 2 albums in 1995. Contrary to popular belief, Infected Mushroom had little involvement in Goa Trance. Only their first album qualifies as Goa Trance and it came in 1999 when the style of music was being replaced by Psytrance. Experimental Goa and Psytrance group Juno Reactor had their music featured in many Hollywood movies like Mortal Kombat, The Matrix and even Once Upon a Time in Mexico. However most of their music featured is regarded as Trance or Psytrance and of a very experimental nature. Koxbox from Denmark have Goa Trance tracks on the sound track of the movie Pusher most notably the track Fuel On. ESPN has featured ~30 second clips of Goa during the scoring recaps for both college and professional games.