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Ray Castle on oldschool Goa


Blair Thaumic
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I read this recently and wanted to give it a little more exposure:

 

http://www.doofcentral.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=52&Itemid=25

 

What do you think of his argument? Personally, I think Ray describes an attitude and philosophy that we could use more of today. Shpongled247's post on good vs. bad parties made me think of this. Why do we feel that music, in order to be 'psychedelic' or 'trancy', must not deviate by .0001 BPM or use more than one different bass sound? I've heard everything from 'psy needs a monotone bass' to 'repetitive rhythms are the basis of trance' to 'exact BPM stimulates brainwaves'. I once spoke to a very talented and well respected psy artist who assured me that 90s Goa could never be hypnotic because of MIDI clock drift.

 

I've never really bought into perceptions in the psytrance scene about what is and isn't suitable for trance; I see trance as more of a journey, not a loop, and as much about repetition of tones (which is not necessarily to say melodic) as repetition of rhythm. I'm not saying that makes me more enlightened... for all I know, the psytrance scene could be right about what works and doesn't work for the majority of people. Still, I find it interesting that Ray's concept of trance dance was so different from the one I came into, where tracks having their own personality is actively discouraged, and rhythmic variation is seen as something that breaks the trance. Maybe people in the 80s and early 90s just had fewer preconceptions of what a trance party should be.

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I didn't bother to visit the link, but...

 

Why do we feel that music, in order to be 'psychedelic' or 'trancy', must not deviate by .0001 BPM or use more than one different bass sound?

 

People feel that way? I sure don't.

 

As far as what's 'psychedelic', that's such a vague, broad term that just about anything can be included. On the other hand, I personally think 'trancy' indeed requires some limitations. 'Trance' as a musical genre may have a broad range of sounds, but if you go back to the roots, to WHY the music was called 'trance' in the first place, there are some generally-accepted sonic and rhythmic qualities that tend to induce a state of trance. So, for me, just because a particular song is included in the 'trance' musical genre, doesn't necessarily mean it's 'trancy'; ie., doesn't necessarily mean it has qualities likely to induce a mental trance. Some trance songs CAN BE like that, but not all.

 

And on another note, 'psychedelic' isn't at all synonymous with the concept of mental trance. The two may meet sometimes, but they are separate and discrete concepts.

 

 

 

I've heard everything from 'psy needs a monotone bass' to 'repetitive rhythms are the basis of trance' to 'exact BPM stimulates brainwaves'.

 

Well the monotone bass comment is just silly. Sounds like it came from someone who has a very narrow-minded view of psytrance. I do agree that repetitiveness is a basis for the state of mind that is trance, but trance as a musical genre should be considered a completely separate concept. I don't know if I've heard the brainwaves comment before, but there's never been a lack of people who, when they feel passionate about something, will make up pseudo-science to justify their passion. A more realistic physiological correlation is the 140bpm tempo that is common in trance: it is right in the range of a typical elevated/exercising heart rate, and thus good for synchronizing with the heart rate of people who are dancing.

 

 

 

I once spoke to a very talented and well respected psy artist who assured me that 90s Goa could never be hypnotic because of MIDI clock drift.

 

That's just silly on a variety of levels. For one, MIDI tempo is probably many orders of magnitude more precise than the average human playing a drum, which is the historical method for inducing hypnotic trance. Second, MIDI has no inherent clock drift, because MIDI is clocked from an external source, and thus any clock drift is entirely dependent on that source. Different clock sources can have widely varying levels of precision. That comment, to me, shows a complete lack of understanding of hypnotic trance, even though it may be largely true that 90's goa (or goa today) is on average not very hypnotic (in my opinion).

 

If one were really serious about timing, there are worse culprits than clock drift: I've discovered on my x0xb0x that turning the filter resonance from minimum up to maximum causes the audio to be delayed by about 20ms. MIDI messages (full 3-byte message transmissions) take just under 1ms. This shows my x0xb0x is WAY more of a timing problem child than anything MIDI could cause. You can probably consider a real TB-303 to be no better than the x0x as far as timing, and likely worse.

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As far as what's 'psychedelic', that's such a vague, broad term that just about anything can be included. On the other hand, I personally think 'trancy' indeed requires some limitations. 'Trance' as a musical genre may have a broad range of sounds, but if you go back to the roots, to WHY the music was called 'trance' in the first place, there are some generally-accepted sonic and rhythmic qualities that tend to induce a state of trance. So, for me, just because a particular song is included in the 'trance' musical genre, doesn't necessarily mean it's 'trancy'; ie., doesn't necessarily mean it has qualities likely to induce a mental trance. Some trance songs CAN BE like that, but not all.

 

And on another note, 'psychedelic' isn't at all synonymous with the concept of mental trance. The two may meet sometimes, but they are separate and discrete concepts.

 

They are. Most psychedelic and melodic trance doesn't have a very trancy effect; it's a name kept for historic purposes. But it's weighed down with all these extraneous meanings in the psytrance scene. I realize the average psynews poster will have a broader idea of trance, yes. That was sloppy of me.

 

I don't disagree that there are known ways of getting into trance. I do think that what's hypnotic to different people is going to vary somewhat, though. I always thought Noosphere - Noosleap was a very hypnotic track, and very tightly focused on inducing a trance state. It has a dramatic change in rhythm (not tempo, but rhythm) partway through, but that doesn't break my trance; if anything, it deepens it. Why I mention this is because a lot of artists and DJs are very conservative about hewing to the psy-formula, and the reason I most often hear that it's for the sake of trancing an audience.

 

What I found most interesting about Ray's manifesto (which is very short, you should read it) it was that 'experimental' and 'pushing the envelope' were not opposed to 'hardcore' at all, but taken as one and the same. This is totally contrary to how the music is categorized and presented today. It seems like the psy party scene (again, I don't speak of the people on psytrance forums) has flipped from a neophilic to neophobic attitude. You could argue that more strictness is inevitable as musical scenes refine themselves and develop a firmer idea of their own identity. But if psytrance is operating on the premise that 'it won't be psychedelic' or 'it won't be a trance dance' unless some very strict parameters are met, then it's suffering from a kind of obsessive complex.

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It seems like the psy party scene (again, I don't speak of the people on psytrance forums) has flipped from a neophilic to neophobic attitude.

 

I completely agree, but this is also nothing out of the ordinary. I think anything, be it an artistic movement, technological advancement, or political ideal, shows the most change and innovation near its inception, and later on the changes are more incremental, more refinement than innovation.

 

 

 

You could argue that more strictness is inevitable as musical scenes refine themselves and develop a firmer idea of their own identity. But if psytrance is operating on the premise that 'it won't be psychedelic' or 'it won't be a trance dance' unless some very strict parameters are met, then it's suffering from a kind of obsessive complex.

 

I agree, and I think this is at the root of the criticisms of today's psytrance scene. In the early days, artists would do whatever the fuck they wanted because they were exploring new ground, and if they thought a particular thing was psychedelic, or even just interesting, they would do it. Early psy was about the artists. But, inevitably, as time went on psy became more about the fans and what they wanted; and, again inevitably, any established artistic endeavor catering to a wide and varied fan base will begin to cater to the lowest common denominator. Thus, while we may see lots of praise of neogoa releases for being quality music compositions (which the often are), we also see lots of negative criticism about them lacking innovation (which they often do).

 

Unfortunately, most of the true innovation in today's psy scene is in the hard, fast dark scene, which is an area that turns off a lot of goa fans (myself included).

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It's difficult to nourish something and expecting it to evolve without it going further than outlined. I've planted a tree and the roots are now in the neighbours field. I've never ment it to happen.

 

We subordinate everything in favor of constant progress. Thats the western philosophy. Mabye thats where we should search origin of our wish for psy to progress.

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I completely agree, but this is also nothing out of the ordinary. I think anything, be it an artistic movement, technological advancement, or political ideal, shows the most change and innovation near its inception, and later on the changes are more incremental, more refinement than innovation.

 

In the early days, artists would do whatever the fuck they wanted because they were exploring new ground, and if they thought a particular thing was psychedelic, or even just interesting, they would do it. Early psy was about the artists. But, inevitably, as time went on psy became more about the fans and what they wanted; and, again inevitably, any established artistic endeavor catering to a wide and varied fan base will begin to cater to the lowest common denominator. Thus, while we may see lots of praise of neogoa releases for being quality music compositions (which the often are), we also see lots of negative criticism about them lacking innovation (which they often do).

 

Unfortunately, most of the true innovation in today's psy scene is in the hard, fast dark scene, which is an area that turns off a lot of goa fans (myself included).

 

It could also have do with the fact that, before the 1980s, most of the good synths/drum machines/sequencers for making trance and techno didn't even exist. I think the 80s/90s were all about "hey we can do this", where the 2000s were more about 'let's do this this way'. Look where we are now. The greater EDM scene looks to the 80s (and the 70s) for inspiration, like psytrance looks to the 90s for inspiration. I think that's a reaction against the conformity of recent years.

 

Ironically the scene Ray Castle talks about, while musically heterogenous, was more homogeneous than the present day... maybe more risks could be taken when the audience was limited to three or four hundred people, all into the traveller lifestyle, and mostly into the same drugs as well. You can't take it for granted that you have an up-for-anything, acid party vibe now... polydrug abuse and a broader spectrum of attitudes make it riskier to experiment musically. So DJs and promoters are more inclined to hedge their bets to appeal to more people. I guess that's the lowest common denominator you mention. Maybe, too, certain subcultural memes in psytrance (e.g. the idea of exact BPM altering brainwaves) are a rationalization of this fear.

 

The good thing about the internet and retro parties (like Feeling Weird) is that more people have the opportunity to be exposed to alternative and 'lost' ways of doing things. I think a lot of fans would be receptive towards a broader psy sound and party aesthetic, but have been second guessed out of it by the artists, promoters, and DJs. It's a feedback loop where doing something different will get some negative feedback from fans, but it's the people delivering the music who are in the best position to break that loop.

 

Darkpsy and psycore are an area where the idea of 'avant garde for the dancefloor' has been kept, at least in theory. Once again, though, I think darkpsy is working off of a set of premises I don't agree with. Most of it uses the same rhythmic base and a similar palette of sounds to conventional psytrance, just in a lower register, more chopped up, and with more noises in place of the melodic lead. I think darkpsy would be far more avant garde and transgressive if it went back to the roots and incorporated acid rock, old school industrial, and synth-pop elements, and kept the high tempos and interesting processed sounds while ditching the kbbb and the nordvirus squiggles. That's my opinion as a non-producing music fan, anyway.

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It's difficult to nourish something and expecting it to evolve without it going further than outlined. I've planted a tree and the roots are now in the neighbours field. I've never ment it to happen.

Nice first post, welcome to Psynews.

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They are. Most psychedelic and melodic trance doesn't have a very trancy effect; it's a name kept for historic purposes. But it's weighed down with all these extraneous meanings in the psytrance scene. I realize the average psynews poster will have a broader idea of trance, yes. That was sloppy of me.

 

I don't disagree that there are known ways of getting into trance. I do think that what's hypnotic to different people is going to vary somewhat, though. I always thought Noosphere - Noosleap was a very hypnotic track, and very tightly focused on inducing a trance state. It has a dramatic change in rhythm (not tempo, but rhythm) partway through, but that doesn't break my trance; if anything, it deepens it. Why I mention this is because a lot of artists and DJs are very conservative about hewing to the psy-formula, and the reason I most often hear that it's for the sake of trancing an audience.

 

What I found most interesting about Ray's manifesto (which is very short, you should read it) it was that 'experimental' and 'pushing the envelope' were not opposed to 'hardcore' at all, but taken as one and the same. This is totally contrary to how the music is categorized and presented today. It seems like the psy party scene (again, I don't speak of the people on psytrance forums) has flipped from a neophilic to neophobic attitude. You could argue that more strictness is inevitable as musical scenes refine themselves and develop a firmer idea of their own identity. But if psytrance is operating on the premise that 'it won't be psychedelic' or 'it won't be a trance dance' unless some very strict parameters are met, then it's suffering from a kind of obsessive complex.

Yes x a million.. It's only as I get older and have been around the scene for a while that I'm really starting to notice such things though.. Perhaps at first you just are so overwhelmed and enthralled that 12 hour slots of the same sounds are ok lol..

 

I think it's easy for us though to point out what's wrong but its hard for me to identify what can be done to swing things back the other way? :/

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Yes x a million.. It's only as I get older and have been around the scene for a while that I'm really starting to notice such things though.. Perhaps at first you just are so overwhelmed and enthralled that 12 hour slots of the same sounds are ok lol..

 

I think it's easy for us though to point out what's wrong but its hard for me to identify what can be done to swing things back the other way? :/

 

Yeah, I agree it's a very good post by earwall. I pretty much agree on everything.

 

To answer your question shpongled: I don't think we can. The global scene is too big to be under control. I think the only thing we can do is reflect on an individual level and act accordingly and in that way contribute a little to the evolution of psytrance. There will always be good music, whether a scene is fucked up or not.

 

Aside from that... You were at Lost Theory, right? It wasn't the biggest festival, but you can't say there weren't enough people. The vibe was good, the music was good for the most part, and it was international. As long as there's this kind of festivals in the world, and good music, everyhting is fine by me :)

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Yeah, I agree it's a very good post by earwall. I pretty much agree on everything.

 

To answer your question shpongled: I don't think we can. The global scene is too big to be under control. I think the only thing we can do is reflect on an individual level and act accordingly and in that way contribute a little to the evolution of psytrance. There will always be good music, whether a scene is fucked up or not.

 

Aside from that... You were at Lost Theory, right? It wasn't the biggest festival, but you can't say there weren't enough people. The vibe was good, the music was good for the most part, and it was international. As long as there's this kind of festivals in the world, and good music, everyhting is fine by me :)

Heh, yup i agree there, Lost Theory was the best example of how to do a festival just about perfectly, for me anyways :) Perfect intimate size without being toooo small, great variety, great sound system, great music, and goa hehe.

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