Posts Tagged ‘psytrance’

I was recently given some headphones for my birthday, the first decent ones I’ve had in…. maybe ever actually. I’m slightly shocked and elated and the effect they’re having on my music and I, but at the same time the realization that I’ve been listening to just a fraction of my favourite tunes for years, especially since I stopped going out and hearing music live as often as I used to, is a bit of a blow.

I like bass-heavy music but on the crappy headphones I’ve been using much of the depth and clarity was being lost, as well as the crispness that makes electronic music so immersive. These new headphones have literally added more joy into my day, every day. I’m excited to wear them, thrilled to listen to all my favourite albums again. Everything sounds so much better, so much more epic and exciting. And so life is more fun and inspiring. I can’t remember a new “thing” except maybe our first car, which made life so dramatically better.

As a lover of dance music and someone who has been attending events of various legalities in warehouses and forests for 12 or so years, dancing through the night or the day, with and without any assistance, I’m intrigued by the reaction some people have to dance music. For some, it’s barely recognizable as music at all, and the only way they can imagine anyone enjoying it is if they are intoxicated. “Is everyone on drugs?” I’ve been asked more times than I remember, and as recently as two weeks ago.

As someone who listens to bassy repetitive beats most days I can say that no, most people are not on drugs and do not need to be on drugs to enjoy music of this sort. We just really like it, y’know? And far from making us strange or difficult to understand, this enjoyment actually links us to most traditional cultures on the planet, to the most ancient of human artforms.

Dancing to repetitive music is the most ancient human cultural practice there is, a staple of traditional cultures the world over. The instruments vary, from tapping sticks in Australia to drums in North America, but the purpose remains consistent: to use sonic driving to help people enter a more trance-like state. Far from being a “you must be on drugs” music it is actually the original high on life music, where the music itself is designed to be intoxicating, to overwhelm the senses, to carry us away. Only our desire to make marks on walls has a similar longevity in the realm of human cultural and artistic expression.

The re-discovery of dance music in the West and its explosion in popularity from the 90’s onwards is part of a trend to bring more ancient knowledge and practices back into our lives, along with yoga, aromatherapy and the healing arts. Nowhere is this felt more strongly than at outdoor parties, one of my favourite cultural activities. Just like our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago we gather in clearings in forests to connect with our environment and each other through the stomping of feet into the ground, the releasing of everyday worries and concerns in the rhythm of the dance.

Dancing and dance music have always played a grounding and balancing role in my life. During the hard and relentless years of setting up Vibewire, overcoming intense disappointments and near-fatal setbacks along the way, going out into the bush and dancing with my friends was my main release valve, where I wasn’t in charge, wasn’t a “youth representative” or a “social entrepreneur”, where I could just play with my friends while listening to music we loved. It was incredibly liberating, inspiring and energising, fueled by contact with three of my great loves in life: music, friends and the Australian bush. The people and culture you find at outdoor parties is unique, a connected global culture which is a celebration of life, played out at 142 beats per minute.

I was meant to land back in Australia and head straight to the Regrowth Festival but with it postponed by torrential rain I have yet to make it out into the bush for a dance. I hope to sneak one in before the baby arrives, to reconnect with my home country and tribe, despite us heading into the wrong time of year for bush parties.

Meanwhile I’ve got some pretty rocking tunes keeping me company as I go about my day.

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One of my tribes.

I’m writing this on the train from Vancouver back to the Bay Area, sitting in the glass-encased observation carriage as farmlands and forests sweep by, dramatically snow-capped mountains in the distance. We are in southern Oregon and it feels like every few minutes we cross another river near-bursting its banks. It’s all so lush and gorgeous, characteristic of the Northwest Forests I’ve had the chance to experience in recent days. Trains really are the best way to travel. While yesterday I had wifi from Vancouver to Portland this 18-hour stretch from Portland to San Francisco is offline, which I don’t mind as it’s a good time for clearing my head and doing some writing.

The past couple of weeks have been unusually stressful, with my visa to re-enter the US initially being rejected, stranding me in Canada with my pregnant wife left back in San Francisco and time ticking down to our departure from the US back to Australia, unable to help with the tasks of relocation or say goodbye to my friends in person. This is all thankfully behind me as I steam towards the Bay, with 17 days once I get there to finish packing and depart.

Despite the stress and frustration when in the future I look back on this time I don’t think this is what I’ll remember at all. Instead I think I’ll have overwhelming positive feelings about these two weeks, remembering the incredible support and love our friends showed both K and I, which managed to turn what could have been an awful experience into truthfully one of the most moving and uplifting of my life.

When we first announced the visa rejection on Facebook, the response was immediate and near-overwhelming. Offers of support and advice poured in. I was connected to Australian, American and Canadian diplomats, immigration lawyers, and people who had gone through the process before to get advice. I was offered numerous places to stay and people to connect with in Vancouver and Calgary. Our friends in San Francisco really stepped up to help K with packing up our house, at one point she had seven of them working under her direction, or just to deliver her food and offer her company and support.

Beyond these specific actions was the unbelievable sense of love, concern and solidarity we both experienced. When we could have felt very alone, kept apart by border and bureaucracy, we instead felt deeply connected to our community. It’s a feeling I will always treasure. Thank you to everyone who reached out and offered comfort during this time.

In the most practical and necessary way possible I also experienced incredible hospitality while in Canada. In Vancouver I stayed with a new friend who I had only met at a street party in San Francisco this past New Year’s Day. It’s not as random as it sounds, we share a mutual close friend who was at the party and she spent five years in Sydney previously.  While we never met we were part of the same cultural community in Sydney, the outdoor psytrance scene, and this sense of being part of the same tribe, despite having only recently met, was powerfully connecting, even as my intended 3 days in Vancouver stretched to 11. Last Saturday night we went to a psytrance party in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, and the feeling of the community there was reminiscent of the tribe we both missed in Sydney: open, fun-loving and expressive.

I had the same experience in Calgary, staying with a relatively recently-met friend who I share many social ties with, both having been part of the beautifully close-knit Burning Man community in Washington DC, but never having lived there at the same time. While in Calgary I also met a group of the local burners (Burning Man devotees) and the ease with which we bonded was both unusual and yet also expected.

The lesson: when you are part of the same tribe, you take care of each other.

I’ve thought a lot about tribes over the past several years, and it’s my belief in the power and abundance of our communities that inspires me about crowdfunding (or tribefunding as I increasingly think of it).

I believe a deeper sense of tribe is only possible when you share a form of cultural expression which is sub-mainsteam. In other words it is sub-cultures that form community. Sub-cultures tend to be based on participation, whereas mainstream cultures are based on consumption. Once a culture gets too big a certain level of intimacy and sense of connection and participation, of having something important and vital in common, gets diluted then lost. You can feel this even in San Francisco, where Burning Man culture has become mainstream, and the truly tight-knit communities are the next sub-cultural level down, groups of burners based around specific camps or sounds.

I also had the chance to connect with my other community, social entrepreneurs and changemakers, when I presented at events in Vancouver, Calgary and Portland, and loved the energy and passion of the people I met. I hope we’ll be able to support many of them on StartSomeGood soon.

It is my connection to these tribes, my pursuit of the subcultures I love to participate in, which has provided a platform for my last four years in America, which has allowed me to quickly make friends and find community in each city I arrive in.

I am so grateful for the support of friends new and old over the past couple of weeks, and for the tribes and cultures which connect us.

“True [dance] music consists of four main ingredients: a cup of spirituality, a tablespoon of love, a dash of togetherness, and a pinch of soul-penetrating beats.” – Bamboo Forrest.

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My favourite new act discovered this week: Save the Robot. Really fun and creative full-on and progressive psy Save the Robot is a collaboration between heavyweights Alien Project and Quadra. I only found them this week but they’ve got two albums out already on the TIP World record label – 2005’s Battle of the Mind and last year’s Love Machine.

Follow those album links to have a listen, here are a few stand-out tracks:

Love is always free (Open Air Remix):

Battle of the Mind:

Communicate (epic remix of Coldplay’s Talk):

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I’m kinda proud of this mix, the first I’ve properly put together, which I played on NYE. It was planned for two hours, which is the length of the mix posted here, but ended up being almost three hours on the night, with me extending it with additional tracks, mostly by Protoculture, given the lack of anyone to play after me and the presence of people still dancing. I hope you enjoy it, there’s some seriously rocking material here. It’s starts and ends a bit silly but in-between it travels from deep electro to tech house and into a solid hour of psytrance via an obligatory “New Years Day” remix. BPM goes from 125ish to 146ish. My advice: put on some good headphones and listen to it the whole way through.

NYE 09-10 Mix

Track list:

1. French Emotions – Peter Godwin

2. Really awesome track from a mix my friend Morgan put together that I don’t know the name of UPDATE:  Mr. Dry – Tim Green

3. Poor Leno (Silicon Soul remix) + There is a light that never goes out (acapella) – Royksopp + Erlend Oye

4. Good sluts factory (let it CIA mix) – Kiko and Ginos

5. Strip Joint Mathematics (Jet Project remix) – Deepchild

6. Love is going to save us – Benny Benassi

7. New Year’s Day (Paul Oakenfold remix) – U2

8. Born on Mars – Mr Peculiar

9. Ain’t Talkin Bout – G-Light

10. Inside the Sound – Ananda Shake

11. Hear the Noise (Quadra remix) – Alien vs The Cat

12. Slayer – Toast3d

13. Dismental – Raz

14. Radio Trance – BBP

15. The Frequency (feat Nomad) – Talamasca and XSi

16. Analog – Planet B.E.N. vs Didrapest

17. Illusion – Exordium

18. I Wish (SKAZI remix) – Infected Mushroom

19. Becoming Insane – Infected Mushroom

20. Take Me Home (Benza’s Philthy mix) – Phil Collins

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So I was thinking last night about how much I wanted to go up to Desiderata Festival in NY State and see Infected Mushroom but also how I probably can’t really afford it and how we’d be pushing it to get there in time to catch their Friday night set. And I thought to myself, “I wonder if they’re playing any other shows nearby around that time.” So I looked up their tour dates for August and, alas, nothing any closer or any more convenient. Then, while I was there, I figured I’d click on “show all tour dates” just for the hell of it. And then I saw it:

“Sept 3, Gerlach NV”.

Holy hell, Infected Mushroom are playing at Burning Man this year!

For the uninitiated Gerlach is the tiny town that is the closest civilization to the Black Rock Desert, the site of Burning Man. There’s no way IM are playing there, they could only be performing at Burning Man itself. I am, shall we say, quite excited.

IM are one of the most innovative and exciting acts on the planet, emerging from the Israeli psytrance scene and now forging new ground as some sort of hybrid psy/rock electronic band.Their new music is an obliterating blend of psytrance, rock, hip hop and, occasionally, classical. IM were the first psytrance act I really got into – their album Classical Mushroom, released in 2000, defined the genre when I first started listening to it. Their subsequent album, BP Empire, contained the first hints of how unique they would become as they started really busting out of psytrance orthodoxy, and being criticized for it by the purists, as such artists always are. The track “Dancing with Kadafi”, in particular, brought in ambient and world influences, and remains one of my favourite tracks of all time. Have a listen. If you haven’t heard it before you’ll be glad you did.

Their subsequent albums “Converting Vegetarians“, “IM The Supervisor” and “Vicious Delicious” (follow links to listen to tracks) continued a trend towards more rock (and sometimes hip hop) elements and use of percussion, instrumentation and vocals, with their current style and live show being an exhilarating blend of psytrance and metal,always maintaining an extraordinary inventiveness and disregard for music boundaries.

I’ve seen them three times but never outdoors. Never at bloody burning man, with ten thousand of my closest friends, flame throwers accentuating the breakdowns with massive bursts of fire over our heads, the desert stretching away into the darkness behind us, giant ducks with spotlights for eyes and fire for hair watching over us.

NB: My mental image is basically the Carl Cox gig at Opulent Temple at Burning Man last year but with better music:

This is what Infected Mushroom do live:

and, for a rawer vibe:

For those coming to Burning Man: prepare to be infected.

This year’s event just get’s more and more exciting as we approach the home stretch for preparations. I’ll have to run down our full plans in a future post, we’re all over it this year, I can’t wait.

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