Psychedelic trance or psytrance is a form of electronic music
characterized by hypnotic arrangements of synthetic rhythms and
complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs.
It first broke out into the mainstream in 1995 as the UK music
press began to report on the exploding trend of Goa trance.
Since then the genre has diversified immensely and now offers
considerable variety in terms of mood, tempo, and style.
Some examples include melodic, full on, dark, progressive,
suomi, psybreaks and psybient.
The original Goa trance (or "old school") was often made with
popular Modular synthesizers and hardware samplers, but modern
psychedelic trance is typically made with VST and AU software
sampler applications. The use of analog synthesizers for sound
synthesis has given way to digital "virtual analog" instruments
like the Nord Lead, Access Virus, Korg MS-2000, Roland JP-8000
and computer VST and AU plugins like Native Instruments Reaktor.
These are usually controlled by MIDI sequencers within Digital
Audio Workstation (DAW) applications. Emphasis is placed on
purely synthesized timbres for programming and lead melodies.
Tempos range across the spectrum depending on the style and
approach of the individual producer although speeds between
140 and 150 BPM are most common.
The first hippies that arrived in Goa, India in the mid 60’s
were drawn there for many reasons, including the beautiful
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 70’s was legal.
One of the first to arrive was a hippy known as
Eight Finger Eddie and it was he and his friends who started
the first ‘Goa parties.’ At the time, the parties consisted
only of a group of friends sitting around a campfire on the
beach playing various acoustic instruments and dancing on
During the 70’s the first Goa DJs were generally playing
psychedelic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead,
Pink Floyd and The Doors. In ‘79 the beginnings of electro music
could occasionally be heard in Goa in the form of tracks by
Kraftwerk but it wasn’t until ’83 that djs Laurent and
Fred Disko, closely followed by Goa Gil, began switching the
Goa style over to electro which was now flooding out of Europe
in the shape of New Order, Frontline Assembly, Front 242,
and various other bands.
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 100% Goa-style mixes.By ’85 all Goa music
was electronic and people were constantly searching for new
music to remix into the new Goa-style.
It was impossible to buy this type of music in stores;
even today most psytrance sales take place over the net
rather than in physical shops. Arguably the first commercially
released Goa trance tune came in ’88 and is accredited to
the KLF with What Time Is Love. However, at the same time
Goa music was being created by pioneers like The Orb,
Juno Reactor, Eat Static and also by The Infinity Project.
By ’92 the Goa trance scene had a pulse of its own, though
the term 'Goa trance' didn’t actually become the name tag of
the genre until around ’94. New artists were springing up
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 now world famous and still running
VooV festival in Germany.
In ’93 the first 100% Goa trance album was released,
Project 2 Trance, featuring tracks by Man With No Name and
Hallucinogen to name just two.
Goa trance enjoyed its commercial peak between ’96 and ’97 with
a fair bit of media attention and some huge 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 downfall of record labels, promotion networks
and also some artists. This ‘commercial death of Goa trance’
was marked musically by Matsuri Productions in ’97 with the
release of the compilation Let it RIP.
Israel also played a part in this development.
Until ’88 India’s borders were closed to Israelis. When they
were eventually opened many Israelis travelled to India after
completion of their mandatory military service looking for a
cheap, fun place to unwind. When they returned to Israel they
took music and drugs back with them and in ’90 the first
psychedelic ‘full moon gatherings’ on Nizanim’s beaches began.
The music was not as dark as modern darkpsy but different from
what was already available.
The quantity of Goa music coming into Israel and being
played in the clubs provided a lot of inspiration to the
younger generations of Israelis and soon new top quality
producers were popping up on the scene, the most famous of
which is Infected Mushroom. Other well known artists include
Intense Sanity, Astral Projection (group), IMIX, Elec3,
Alchemix, and 1200 Micrograms.
However, the police clamped down hard on these psychedelic
gatherings and with such a likely possibility of police
intervention it seemed that a new formula was needed,
one that would allow trancers to get maximum enjoyment from
the party before it was shut down.
This new formula became Nitzhonot, meaning victorious trance.
This formula was basic, fast, and cheesy, with short intense
sets; this allowed party goers to have a consistently intense
experience from the beginning of the party until it was stopped.
In ’96 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 ‘98’s album
Radio by X-Dream.
In ’02 however 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 also recently been a
movement attempting to ‘return to the source’ and bring back
the original Goa trance sound, such as Metapsychic Records 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.
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 prominent bass beats that pound
constantly throughout the song, and overlays the bass with
varying rhythms drawn from funk music, techno, electro,
Middle Eastern music, and trance using drums and other
synthesized instruments. The different leads, rhythms and beats
generally change every 32 beats.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 also makes heavy use of the cutoff frequency
control of the modulating filter on the synthesizer.
Reverb is also used heavily, with large, open sounding
reverb present on most of the lead synthesizers in the track.
Psybreaks or psychedelic breakbeat is a form of psychedelic
trance originating in the mid 2000s, splicing breakbeat
basslines and rhythms into otherwise heavily psytrance-influenced
Full on or melodic psytrance (also referred to as morning trance,
club psytrance and Isra-trance) is a form of psychedelic trance
that originated in Israel during the late 90's. Melodic psytrance
draws its main influences from more radio-friendly genres such as
uplifting trance (Nitzhonot and vocal trance) and electro house,
futuristic melodies, occasional electric guitar performances and
usage of vocals. 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.
Some other sources say it comes from the Fullmoon 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
The most easily recognizable element of full-on psy-trance is
the so called "rolling" bassline, which crams two or three short
bass notes in between each hit of the 4/4 drum.
Dark psytrance (killer psytrance, dark psy, horror trance,
horror psy, freak trance, trauma trance) is a darker, faster
and more distorted form of psychedelic trance music, with tempo
ranges usually from 145 to 180 BPM. Originating in Russia and
Germany, the style has recently expanded to other countries
With a slower BPM range of about 125 to 145, Progressive
Psytrance has a cleaner, crisper sound than other sub genres
and is better known for well constructed percussion underlying
a compliated series or evolution of musically rooted melodies.
At times up lifting Progressive Psy has made a home for itself
during the morning and day time sets of many outdoor dance
Particularlly the Australian Doof's. Labels such as Iboga;
releasing music from artists such as Ace Ventura,
Behind Blue Eyes and Sun Control Species as well as the
Australian music label Zenon; releasing music from artists
such as Sensient, Tetrameth and Shadow FX are but two reputable
sources of this sub Genre.
Suomisaundi or Freeform Psytrance
This is the "freeform" variation of psytrance where 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).
Stylistic origins :
Goa trance - Trance - Space rock - Industrial - Acid house
Cultural origins :
Mid-1990s, subcontinent India/Goa, Israel, South Africa, UK
Typical instruments :
Synthesizer - Drum machine - Sequencer - Sampler, Electric guitar
Mainstream popularity :
high in Europe, Brazil, Mexico & Israel
Derivative forms :
Uplifting trance - Underground trance - Suomisaundi -
Melodic psytrance - Uplifting psytrance - Full-on psytrance -
Psybient - Psybreaks
Finland - South Africa
Infected Mushroom - Astral Projection - X-dream - GMS -
Sesto Sento - Shpongle - 1200 Micrograms - Talamasca
Ektoplazm - Free music portal and psytrance netlabel.
Psyreviews - Unbiased bullsh1t-free reviews since 2001
Psynews - Major online community based around psytrance.
PsyDB - Psytrance release database.
Shoutcast - List of Goa & Psychedelic trance internet radio stations
Psyentifica - Free music downloads and Canadian psytrance artist.
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