In the summer of '97, I was unknowingly initiated into psytrance via a track by Hallucinogen, called "L.S.D.". I couldn't define the music back then, but it was a welcome change from The Prodigy and its various clones . In early 2000, I downloaded a few tunes by Juno Reactor, who were creating a style of music called Ethno-techno. I first came across these guys on the Lost in Space OST, which featured their collaboration with The Creatures, "Another Planet". I was hooked. Later that year, a friend introduced me to a band called Astral Projection. I disliked the CD, but it was probably because I disliked the person. But, when, I came across a track called "Mahadeva" by Astral Projection, featured on the Y2K MP3.com sampler CD, the Goatrance sound had me captivated, finally.
Another chance to explore the genre came when I was editing the Electronica category at DMOZ.org, the Netscape Open Directory project. While sorting sites, I came across quite a few psy bands. Audiogalaxy.com gave me a chance to interact with other Goa and Psy fans, and suddenly, Boom Shankar was beginning to sound like the mantra for Kalyuga. Artistes and bands like Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection, Halllucinogen, Juno Reactor, and Yahel were fast becoming regulars on my playlist.
So what exactly is Goa-Trance?
The term refers to the style of psychedelic trance music popularized in clubs across Goa, India, an erstwhile Portuguese colony, which is the Ibiza of Asia. The music isn’t Goan as such, and most of it isn’t even created by Indians, with Israelis, Germans, Australians, and Americans being the chief culprits. Lately, the term Goatrance has become "uncool" and archaic, but that doesn't take away the genre's status as the forerunner to the Psytrance genre.
Its features include:
- The tunes generally start off with only a handful of layered sounds [Acid 303s, bleeps, whooshes]
- An uplifting, colorful synth patterns kicks in, along with harder-than-the-average bass lines, and a pumping 4/4 kick.
- The build-up is gradual, probably to match an LSD high.
- An extensive range of weird samples, ranging from animal noises [frogs, elephants] to dialogues from some famous Hollywood blockbusters, and even speeches and interviews by 60s psychedelic gurus like Terrence McKenna and Timothy O'Leary find their way onto Goatrance tracks.
- The focus, as one reviewer says, is on harmonics, rather than rhythm, as is the case with Detroit techno.
- Another distinguishing feature of the genre` are its spiritual roots, which range from traditional Hinduism, to radical forms of Buddhism. You might often hear traditional Indian chanting, or references to Hindu deities, combined with cutting-edge, trippy trance, leading to a true and complete transcendental experience.
- Most tracks clock in around 8 minutes and 30 seconds.