Psytrance was born long before synthesizers defined modern music. Before jumping into its history, however, we need to look back in time to the ’60s in the United States. The wave of drugs and psychedelics, and the resulting political and law enforcement backlash, lead many hippies to seek out foreign locales to avoid scrutiny from the US’s invasive drug war. Many looked towards Goa and its people as a refuge for spirituality and a freer lifestyle. An early hippie capital, Goa’s love for electronic music was born in the ’70s, sparked by the sounds of Kraftwerk before being pioneered by Fred Disko, Ray Castle and Goa Gil. It took 10 years to develop into what we now call Goa trance and during this time Goa Gil dubbed the genre “electronic body music” or “EBM.”
Driven by an underground cassette tape market, the Goa scene blossomed without labels, spreading solely by being copied tape to tape by a tightly knit group of DJs and fans. The ability to keep a party going continuously without a break by using two tape decks revolutionized the beach’s party scene, giving birth to a wave of technodelia that lasted much of the ’80s.
By the early ’90s, Goa had officially landed on the map as a global party destination and the sound and styles associated with their booming scene expanded into the UK, Australia, Japan and Germany, officially gaining global traction in 1994. From there, the golden age of the genre followed until 1997.
A modernization of ancient shamanic rituals, the original goal of the genre was to help dancers feel at one with their body through use of steady, hypnotic rhythms. Make no mistake, its name and its early adoption were driven heavily by psychedelic drugs and creating soundtracks to the trips they induce. Utilizing an energetic 4/4 beat with a steady kick that hangs out in the 130-150 BPM range, psytrance focuses on building a steadily increasing energy by continuously stacking layers and tempos into a highly complex production. Proper psytrance flows steadily into one fully connected and intricate musical experience, one much more energized than its traditional trance cousin. Perhaps modern psytrance’s most prominent group, Infected Mushroom, compare trance and psytrance as “skipping around in a flower garden,” vs “jumping on all of the flowers in the patch.” [Ministry of Sound]
The sound itself may have never truly landed in the United States, but in Goa the genre still holds a place of high esteem. This year mark’s the first time that Sunburn will be dedicating a stage entirely to psytrance, a move meant to celebrate both the genre and its birthplace.