Psytrance and the Spirituality of Electronics

Psytrance among other electronica

Electronic music is generally broken into techno, house, trance, hardcore, breakbeat, and ambient music, along with affiliated smaller genres that float between categories, like trip-hop, electro, IDM, and others. Ambient is easily recognized by its separation from dancing, which is normally manifested in slower tempos and less distinct rhythms. Breakbeat (of which drum'n'bass makes up most of the faster genres, while there are slower genres as well) is distinguished by an emphasis on ways of dividing a bar of 4/4 time other than the standard one. (Notably, there is a focus on the second half of the third beat, though this comes about in various different beat patterns.) Hardcore (an important subset of which is called “happy hardcore”) is distinguished by its extremely fast tempos (generally over 160 bpm) in 4/4 time. House is distinguished by its focus on the second and fourth beats of 4/4, though it also shares many stylistic characteristics with disco, funk, and other popular musics, that help distinguish it from trance and techno. Of these, techno is generally not as fast (around 100-120 bpm) and tends to be more minimalistic, while trance is more melodic. House and trance are by far the most popular genres of electronica, though house tends to be more popular in clubs and trance more popular at the parties often known as “raves”.1

Within trance, psytrance is distinguished by its generally higher tempo (135-145 bpm), more focus on sixteenth notes and exotic scales, and most noticeably, through the use of general sounds other than percussion and pitched sounds.

Stylistic traits2

Formal features:

Tracks tend to be between 6 and 12 minutes long, with most clustering around 7 or 8 minutes. Most of the tracks begin with about 30 seconds of very atmospheric sounds. These introductions convey some suggestion of the beat (but definitely not the bass drum), but in the tracks I have analyzed here, they are more beat-less than usual, and last much longer than usual, since several are the first tracks of their albums. Sometimes, there is a return to this ambient sound at the end of the track, but it is generally not as long.

Between this introduction and conclusion, the body of the track has two halves. The first introduces the major thematic material, while the second rearranges it, sometimes altering the bass. Most of the themes are eventually layered onto one another at the end of each of these halves, creating two climaxes. There is often some sort of transition or interlude between these two halves, but sometimes it is quite short.

The foundation of each track is some slight variant on a 4/4 bass drum rhythm, together with a pattern of repeated notes in the low register. This pattern is generally a single pitch, hit on almost every sixteenth note, though sometimes there is a second or third pitch that occurs a few times in the one, four, or eight bar pattern. If it is longer than one bar, generally all bars but the last are identical, while the last has a slight variation to indicate the end of the cycle.

In each of the major sections of the track, this pattern repeats many times, with either new sounds being added every four or eight measures, or the sound gradually building in intensity over a period of time. Intensity is increased either by adding new layers to the texture or by changing the timbral characteristics of some layers, generally by adding more overtones to increase the energy at higher frequencies. Any new melody is generally allowed to repeat for a couple measures (sometimes a couple four-bar patterns) before it begins to transform thus.

Melodic and Harmonic features:

Unlike other trance music (but like much other electronic music), chords and harmonies play a very minor role in psytrance. Instead, there is a focused drone pitch, and an implied scale from which almost all the melodies are drawn. The only “harmonies” are generally just juxtapositions of pitches from separate melodies that appear at the same time. In this sense, psytrance is related to some Indian music, though these connections are often exaggerated. Chords do make appearances, though this is normally only in some sections of a given track. (Three of the tracks analyzed here have chords at some point. “Reload” and “LSD” have prominent arpeggios in some passages, while “Release Me” has a melody that outlines tonal harmonies.)

In melodies, the interval of the augmented second is often quite prominent, though there is no specific place in a scale where it generally occurs. The second degree of the scale is usually flatted.3 Many melodies are just short ostinati, only a beat or a bar long, which repeat many times whenever they appear. However, there are also often melodies that last four, eight, or even sixteen bars. Normally, such long melodies have long individual notes, often sustained for several bars each, though sometimes these notes are made up of repeated pitches of very short duration.

Rhythmic features:

The distinctive rhythm of psytrance is a constant stream of sixteenth notes over a steady 4/4 rhythm in a bass drum. In melodies, there can either be constant sixteenth notes, or repeated sixteenth notes and eighth notes, or occasionally very long notes of even duration. When beats are broken up in ways other than the standard one, it normally falls into groups of 3+3+2 sixteenth notes, and almost never 3+3+2 eighth notes, as is common in breakbeat music of all sorts (eg, drum'n'bass, hip-hop, etc). The actual rhythmic character of particular melodies is often obscured by an echo effect that is normally timed to be one sixteenth note long.

Timbral features:

Psytrance is one of the most timbrally-focused genres of music. While melodies and rhythms are also distinctive in psytrance, most of the focus in development is on the timbres involved. There are several distinct types of sounds that appear in psytrance, almost all of which are synthesized – more even than in much other electronic music, like house, breakbeat, and ambient.

Drum sounds – there is always a prominent bass drum, hammering on just about every quarter note (after the introductions and conclusions, the only exceptions are at occasional phrase endings, and a couple brief pauses in the middle). There are also generally other percussive sounds, normally including something like a snare, something like a hi-hat, and some low-register instrument. Sometimes some of these drums are pitched to reinforce the bass note, but this is hardly noticeable.

Pitched sounds in psytrance are generally contrasted by a combination of register and whether they tend towards more simple sine tones or towards more complex fm-synthesis sounds. It is very common for these sounds to also have a flanger/phaser effect, or to gradually shift one overtone to more prominence than another, resulting in a gradual change in octave, without interrupting the melodies. This is particularly effective when a short three- or four-note melody is repeated many times while gradually changing registers. Sometimes a melody that began in the bass line will end up several octaves higher after a few repetitions, just because of a redistribution of its overtones.

Beyond standard percussion and melodic sounds, there are the most distinctive part of psytrance – the generally non-pitched sounds. Many of the squeakier ones are derived from the Roland 303 bass synthesizers, played in a very high register rather than a low one.4 Some of these sounds also sound like they result from fm synthesis with very high modulation.

There are also a wide variety of recorded sounds in psytrance, even though they are less prominent among the instruments. Sometimes these include actual instruments other than oscillators and digital sounds, though this is uncommon among all but very few groups (like Infected Mushroom). There are also occasional environmental sounds that make their way into tracks (as in “Trance Africa Express”). However, these normally come with more noticeable recordings: spoken lines either from movies or other relevant sources. These texts often suggest something mind-expanding, whether it be a guru talking about meditation or some hallucinogenic drug (as in “LSD”), or a quote from a sci-fi movie about evolution or alien life-forms (as in “Release Me”). However, there are also occasionally just seemingly unrelated quotes that say something that might be of tangential interest, like the pilots in “Reload”. This spoken word sampling occurs in tracks by almost all groups, and is often the most noticeable feature for newcomers.

Performances5

Psytrance music (being almost purely electronic) has a different performance context than many other types of music. When actual producers of tracks go on tour, they normally travel with various samplers and synthesizers and create much of the music “live”. This creation generally involves layering premade loops and preprogrammed melodies, and often involves a computer as a central mixing station.

However, it (like other electronic music) is far more commonly “performed” by djs at all-night parties6. These parties tend to almost always feature several rooms with djs playing music of different styles, with the most common other styles being “breaks” (a kind of breakbeat music that is substantially slower than drum'n'bass and often features the same kinds of noises as psytrance) and some sort of “ambient” or “chill” music. While many types of these musics exist, many producers of psytrance also have side projects in these other genres that are designed to go well at psytrance parties. (For instance, Simon Posford releases psytrance tracks under the name Hallucinogen, and also creates chill-out music with Raja Ram under the name Shpongle.7) Other types of electronic music also often appear, though they are less common.8

Psytrance parties in the Bay Area are often in indoor spaces with multiple rooms for different djs (as are “raves” of all sorts) but psytrance parties in particular occur outdoors much more often than the other types.9 In the summer, there are often parties on beaches, and multi-day outdoor festivals in remote locales where many different djs perform at different stages. Through a much longer part of the year, parties occur in somewhat secluded areas near major cities (I have been to parties in several forests in the Bay Area, as well as some half-indoor venues in San Francisco, and in a forest near Los Angeles). Many of the outdoor parties are free for partygoers, as opposed to most parties in other genres of electronic music.

These parties generally officially start around 9 or 10 pm, though a majority of the partygoers don't show up until around midnight. Indoor parties end at various points generally between 3 and 6 am, depending on the venue and the number of available djs, as well as potential noise complaints. Outdoor parties often tend to go much later, not having neighbors. I have on several occasions left parties at 7 or 8 am with the sun risen well past the morning clouds, while the dance areas are still full of people.

All of these parties, whether indoor or outdoor, have very distinctive decorations. While these include some of the colored lights, disco balls, and strobes of other “raves”, the most characteristic feature is a collection of blacklights.10 In addition to the reaction of blacklights with standard white clothing, many partygoers wear clothing with additional blacklight sensitivity. But there are also many hanging cloths prominently displayed around the party area, mostly painted with blacklight-sensitive paints. Some of these are covered with purely geometric designs (normally related to fractals and other very complex patterns), while others have either nature scenes (sometimes with aliens) or mythological images. The mythology most often drawn upon is pan-Indian imagery, sometimes depicting actual Hindu deities, and sometimes images just reminiscent of them because of having multiple arms and “om” symbols. There is occasionally also Buddhist imagery (yin-yangs in particular) and once in a while Greco-Roman or even Aztec imagery.

Music Industry

The mainstream music industry has had little effect on the psytrance scene, because it has stayed relatively underground so far. The music very rarely makes it onto the radio, and appears primarily on a network of minor record labels, generally run by the artists and/or a group of people that put on parties.11 Party flyers (in both e-mail and print forms) generally include label affiliation of djs that perform, so that fans can get an idea of the style and talent of the djs, even if the names aren't familiar.

The main places I have found to purchase the music are either by ordering CDs on the internet from specialty sites (including homepages of artists and record labels) or by going to specialty stores. Most such stores (like Ceiba Records, in San Francisco12) sell not just psytrance music, but also associated paraphernalia.

The technology of the music production is very similar to that of most other electronic genres, though there is more synthesis and less sampling than in many other genres. While house has sampled melodies, drum'n'bass has sampled beats, and big-beat, happy hardcore, and mainstream trance often have vocals, psytrance is probably the most purely electronic genre of music other than pure techno and IDM13. The movie samples that are one of the most distinctive features of psytrance to newcomers actually make up a relatively small amount of each track, and are not present in all tracks.

Origins14

Psytrance (also known as Goa Trance) has roots stretching back to the 1961, when the Portugese colony of Goa was forcibly annexed by India. Soon afterwards, hippies and various other people from Europe and North America seeking spirituality of various sorts headed there on vacations, especially for elaborate winter rituals on the beaches, combining Christmas rituals of the Portugese Catholic heritage with Hindu ceremonies. Because of the nature of the festivals, the music tended to last very late, with sunrise being the focal point of the event. The expatriates started having their own parties on the beaches, year-round, playing music of various sorts over the decades. At first it was mainly psychedelic rock of various sorts, but by the early '80s, electronic body music and German industrial music were being introduced. By the early 1990s, a local genre had developed, and the scene had become even more international, involving many Japanese and Israelis, in addition to the Europeans, Australians, and Americans that had been there before.15

Because of the heat and humidity, djs in Goa tended to use cassette tapes instead of vinyl records. As a result, beatmatching was very hard, and many of the oldest djs working in the genre don't bother trying at all (for instance, Goa Gil, who brought the music to northern California, whom I saw on Halloween last year). To ease this situation, psytrance developed a tradition of having relatively long atmospheric portions in each track, which allow one to easily mix two tracks of different tempos without having them clash. By the early 1990s, DAT tapes became common, but it is only recently that CD mixers with tempo controls have become available, and the music has already been shaped by this formative environment.16

The genre's origins in India (especially among spirituality tourists) explain much of the decorations and imagery associated with the music, as well as some of the scales that are quite popular. However, the sounds themselves probably owe more to the association of the music with hallucinogens of various sorts. While mainstream trance music is often associated with the drug ecstasy, psytrance is more associated with hallucinogens. (The “psy” in “psytrance” is normally said to stand for “psychedelic”, though it is also associated with the words “psychoactive”, “psychotropic”, “psychic” and anything else connected with the mind or brain.17) It's never clear what percentage of the fans are under the influence of some substance or another at the parties, though people who dance well past dawn may be taking advantage of something or other to keep them going. The effects of the drugs may be one reason why this genre of music focuses so much more on timbre and non-pitched sound than on melody, harmony, or rhythm, as most other music does. The basic tempo is significantly faster than most mainstream trance music, and this has been attributed to the fact that constant sixteenth notes at a tempo of 145 bpm gives a rhythm almost identical to that of the naturally occurring alpha waves in the brain.18

Psytrance played an important role in the development of trance music of all sorts around the world. Trance first emerged in the early 1990s, as a dark sound coming from German and Belgian producers. This almost broke through to the mainstream, but it was only when producers like Sven Väth and Paul Oakenfold started adopting the sound that had developed in Goa that it started to take off. However, Goa trance and psytrance were pushed aside (as was the original darker German trance) by brighter “progressive trance”, which has been perhaps the most popular form of electronic music in the United States since the late 1990s.19 Since the mid-1990s, the music has continued to develop, now largely in places like Israel, Europe, Japan, and the United States, and thus it is now often referred to as “psytrance” rather than “Goa trance”.20

Despite playing this important role in the development of electronic music, particularly that played at “raves” across the United States, psytrance is relatively unknown outside of its fans. At the same time, it is a very international style of music, with important artists coming from all corners of the globe. (In the four tracks I analyzed, Deedrah is a Ukrainian-Italian man, brought up in France, and working in Ibiza, Spain; Infected Mushroom is a pair of Israeli men who also have independent projects; Hallucinogen and Sheyba are British. While at these parties just in Northern California, I have met people from Spain, Russia, Israel, and the Netherlands.) This makes the fans feel like part of an exclusive community, which at the same time transcends national boundaries.

Thus, although psytrance has already once “emerged” and “disappeared”, it is still a thriving genre in locations around the world. Perhaps at some point in the future it will have more direct influence on other popular musics. But as long as it remains tied to its particular style of parties, it is unlikely that it will catch on among large audiences.


Footnotes:

1For more information on genres of electronic music, see Ishkur's Guide (which has sample tracks and brief descriptions of many styles) and McLeod (which explains the proliferations of subgenre names as a response to stylistic evolution, marketing strategies, cultural self-definition, and as a way to maintain exclusivity).

2See appendix 1 for analyses of four tracks and appendix 2 for transcriptions of some of the major themes.

3Cole and Hannan, section marked “Tonal and Melodic Devices”. However, I didn't find the predominance of flatted third and seventh degree that he did.

4This is derived from the genre known as “Acid House”. See Savage's discussion of Acid House for details.

5See pictures of the venues, decorations, and some partygoers at parties I have been to over the past few years. Pictures from other parties are available at Simon Posford's webside http://www.shpongle.com/hallucinogen/events-pictures.htm.

6These parties are often known as “raves” by people outside the community, though rarely by those within it. In my discussions with fans, the term “rave” has been more often reserved for parties featuring “progressive” trance music, and occasionally house, techno, or drum'n'bass. It often has a pejorative connotation, indicating larger, more profit-oriented parties. This is all not to mention the popular conceptions of raves in mainstream media.

7See Simon Posford's website at http://www.shpongle.com/hallucinogen/life-who_is_si.htm.

8There are also occasional parties with just a single room, though they are uncommon. I was at such a party in San Francisco on Saturday, April 3.

9See Cole and Hannan section “Goa Trance in Other Locations” for evidence that outdoor parties are common in Australia and Europe as well. They seem to underestimate the extent to which outdoor parties are common in California and perhaps other climates as hospitable as that of New South Wales, Australia. They also seem to focus on the idea of a party having a single dj, as opposed to a new dj every two hours or so, as has been the case at almost all the parties I have been to. This may be a difference between the Australian scene and the California scene, or it may be attributable to the fact that I started going to these parties four years after their article was written.

10As a result, “fluro” or “fluoro” is another name occasionally applied to the genre, as mentioned in Cole and Hannan, section marked “Terminology”.

11According to McLeod, pg. 67, this is largely because “the primary music promotional machinery within the U.S. (commercial radio and music television) was not equipped to deal with artists who were relatively 'faceless.'” However, he also points out how subgenre fission is pushed by record labels of all sizes, not just the majors.

12Here you can buy our music directly from the farm and experience the full force of San Francisco Psy-creativity: techno art and sound, future fashion, jewelry, books, videos and more, all created by independent designers, artists and producers, inspired by electronic music, travelling, art and conscious living,” at http://www.ceibarec.com/newceibarec/CEIBA.html.

13See Ishkur for descriptions.

14Most of this information comes from Cole and Hannan, section marked “History of Goa Trance”

15Ibid.

16Ibid.

17See Cole and Hannan, section marked “Terminology”

18See Cole and Hannan, section marked “Tempo”

19All Music Guide to Electronica, p. 639-640. For more on the development of electronic music before the separation of trance as a separate genre, see Reynolds.

20See Ishkur for the possibility of making a distinction between the two genres.


Works Cited:

Bogdanov, Vladimir, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, and John Bush, eds. All Music Guide to Electronica. Backbeat Books, 2001.

Ceiba Records. “Ceiba Records – San Francisco Psy Trance Ambient Music Art.” http://www.ceibarec.com/

Cole, Fred and Hannan, Michael. “Goa Trance: A Psykotropic Trip Through Tribedelic Landscapes.” Perfect Beat 3.3 (1997). http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/carts/contmusic/mh/goa.html

Ishkur. Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music. http://www.ishkur.com/features/music/

McLeod, Kembrew. “Genres, Subgenres, Sub-Subgenres and More: Musical and Social Differentiation Within Electronic/Dance Music Communities.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 13.1 (2001): 59-75.

Posford, Simon. “The official Hallucinogen site.” http://www.shpongle.com/hallucinogen/frame-main.htm

Prendergast, Mark. The Ambient Century - from mahler to trance-the evolution of sound in the electronic age. New York: Bloomsbury, 2000.

Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstacy - into the world of techno and rave culture. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Savage, John. “Machine Soul: A History of Techno.” Village Voice Summer 1993 “Rock & Roll Quarterly” insert. http://music.hyperreal.org/library/machine_soul.html


Appendix 1: Analyses of selected tracks

Deedrah – Reload
Themes

8:19 in duration

0:00 choral chords, almost tonal

0:09 bass sounds

0:17 chorus returns

0:26 atmospheric

0:30 voice comes in saying “altitude...”, and rhythm starts to be set

0:43 diminished fifth (F-B)


0:47 actual start, main bass theme

1:00 “hai” with main treble theme

1:28 transition sound (descending minor second, descending augmented second)


1:40 pause, then violin melody comes in at a different tempo over bass theme


2:08 “hai”, back to main bass and treble themes, but with extra overtones of the pedal E on the off beats.

3:11 break melody alone (no bass)

3:15 main bass theme with break melody

3:39 transition sound (incomplete)

3:50 cadence, main bass theme continues with transition sound, with break melody and main treble theme.


4:17 return to very minimal main bass theme

4:26-28 low pitched sound

4:34 diminished fifth

4:43 atmospheric

4:45 start of Em7 arpeggios (sixteenth notes, not grouped by fours)

4:51 diminished fifth, followed by handclap sounds

5:03 arpeggios start going to higher octaves

5:11 diminished, followed by crescendo to 5:30 of just main bass theme with some new metallic sounds in the rhythm of break theme


5:30 just arpeggios (Em7, Bm7, D, Em7, Bm7, eventually stranger harmonies)

5:47 break theme as arpeggios end


5:50 return to main bass and treble (only once) themes, with break melody from 3:10 and transition noise (plus one time without transition noise).

6:17 closing theme over altered bass (just an E pedal, no F# now)

6:43 extreme filter suddenly applied to mix

6:50-7:04 transition to more atmospheric sounds again, fade

7:03 voice with altitude again

7:08-7:09 silence


7:09 break melody together with arpeggios

7:13 main bass theme plus break and transition sound (twice complete, though second time it has an alternate ending) treble theme as well. Climax.

7:40 closing theme over altered bass

7:57 break theme over closing theme

8:05 back to just atmospheric sounds to end

0:00-0:47 Introduction

0:47-4:17 Exposition

4:17-5:50 Interlude

5:50-7:10 False Ending

7:10-8:19 Actual Ending


The introduction is thematically quite separate from the rest of the track and serves primarily to show that a new track is starting. The exposition itself falls into four parts: the first part introduces the primary bass and treble themes of the track, while the second continues the bass theme with a violin melody that is never heard again. The third part of the exposition returns to the themes introduced in the first part, building to a higher intensity, while the fourth part completes the thematic material of the track with two new melodies, building to the climax of the first part of the track.

The first half of the interlude returns to a simple demonstration of the bass theme without any of the additional thematic material of the exposition, but includes reminiscences from the introduction, marking the start of the second half of the track. The second half of the interlude is the most distinctive section of the track, introducing a new arpeggio motif that halts the relentless motion of the track. But inevitably, the harmonies diverge from their consonant sounds, and the track continues on its way.

The false ending reintroduces all the thematic material of the exposition, but after introducing a closing theme (with a stationary bass line to indicate finality), it fades away without reaching a climax. The actual ending begins the same way the false ending does: with the break melody over the arpeggios from the interlude. This time, the transition sound is modified to indicate a resolution of the dissonance it outlined before, and things last long enough to create a true climax while winding down to the end.


Infected Mushroom – Release Me
(The Gathering – track 1)
Themes

8:28 duration

0:00 four-tone theme

0:07 voices

0:13 main melody

0:23 sounds and voices again

0:40 main melody again (with countermelody) and voices start

0:53 “peace, no peace”

1:07 melody ends, more voices


1:13 actual start with bass drum, four-tone theme and guitar riff

1:28 snare comes in

1:40 maracas come in

2:00 new phrase

2:08 movie sounds

2:14 descending squelches start and guitar stops


2:54 “release me” and bass, four-tone theme (shifted between left and right channels) starts to ascend

3:08 movie sounds again, sounds like a fight

3:16 guitar riffs in different rhythms now between samples

3:35 descending squelches come back again in a new rhythm, this time with guitar too

4:02 new treble theme, though bass and four-tone themes continue, as do squelches


4:30 new squiggly sound in high registers, four-tone theme is gone forever (just bass E)

4:36 E-G#

4:42 main melody (F dim. 7 harp arpeggio at 4:50, guitar riff at 4:56)

5:06 bass drum drops out briefly

5:10 squiggly sound and bass, melody again with treble countermelody as well, melody punctuated by metallic percussion

5:37 just squiggly sound


5:43 beat comes back, with snare drums and squiggles

5:57 squelches come back

6:23 new treble theme again, in different timbre (occasional A#)

6:56 fade

6:58 breakbeat snare drum, with movie sounds

7:07 guitar riffs


7:11 bass drum comes back, new treble theme in even brighter timbre, rising in register, more irregular rhythms

7:39 squiggly sound too, climax

8:06 music fades as the voices come back, dropping out at 8:19

0:00-1:13 Introduction

1:13-2:54 Exposition

2:54-4:30 Variation

4:30-5:43 2nd Half Intro

5:43-7:11 Recapitulation

7:11-8:28 Conclusion


Sampled text:

“Release me”

“Open the door, get him out of there.”

“There is much we can learn from each other if we can negotiate a truce. We can find a way to coexist. Can there be a peace between us?” “Peace – no peace.”

“What is it you want us to do?” “Die.”


The introduction starts with a set of noises sampled from some movie, and then introduces a slow theme in strings. While this theme is played the second time, the complete sampled text is spoken to set up a scene in the listener's mind. The exposition builds on the four-tone theme that has been playing throughout the introduction, layering it with guitar sounds, and then a squelching sound, both of which will be developed later. The variation reintroduces the movie sounds to the texture, and alters the rhythms of the thematic material introduced so far. Towards the end, the final thematic material of the track is introduced, which introduces hints of major tonality to counteract the minor mode implied by the four-tone theme.

The introduction to the second half starts by clearing away most of the textures, and in particular the four-tone theme, to emphasize the major mode of the new theme. Then it repeates the main melody of the actual introduction to show that the second half of the track is beginning.

The recapitulation runs through the thematic material of the exposition more quickly (without the four-tone theme), allowing greater emphasis on the new major tonality, though occasional A#'s disturb this harmony. The last few seconds of this section form a break before the final section of the track. In the conclusion, all the remaining thematic material is layered and the energy level reaches a peak, and the sampled voices are finally brought back to end the track. (The A in the bass at the end of the track isn't a development in harmony – it is the main bass note for the following track on the CD.)


Hallucinogen – LSD
(Twisted – track 1)
Themes

6:44 duration

0:00 atmospheric sounds (Terence McKenna)

0:15 chords in D major


0:53 beat starts with bass line

1:06 hi-hat comes in too as bass line ascends

1:21 beat with bongo

1:35 main melody in hesitant sounds

1:48 downwards arpeggios G-E flat-D

2:03 they change to D minor triad (hints of B-flat M7?)

2:10 back to G-E flat-D

2:15 voices


2:17 beats and main melody (without A)

2:31 melody repeats with countermelody


2:58 drum drops out, bass and new speech sounds, with countermelody

3:13 atmospheric sounds

3:19 drums back with just bass and new treble contour

3:48 descending Dm7/B-flat M7 arpeggios (the bass now plays D-E flat in a new rhythm)

4:01 arpeggios doubled in new octaves

4:15 hint of main theme (many more repeats before notes change)

4:29 bongo melody with aerial stuff while bass drops out



4:43 Dm7/B-flat M7 arpeggios over new bass

4:57 new sounds with Dm7/B-flat M7 arpeggios over beats climax with extra sounds


5:53 Terence McKenna again over new bass (no bass drum) and other sounds

6:07 bass drum returns, bongo melody while bass holds a D (hints of atmospheric sounds)

6:22 just atmospheric chords from beginning, two fake cadences, and then one that arrives at the beginning of the next track on the CD

0:00-0:53 Introduction

0:53-2:58 Exposition

2:58-4:43 Transition

4:43-5:53 Climax

5:53-6:44 Conclusion


The general outline of this track gives a development from D minor to B-flat major tonality. However, the very beginning and very end have vague hints of D major, but are mysterious enough to leave the context mysterious. The introduction sets up this mysterious context while playing a sampled speech by Terence McKenna, an advocate of using hallucinogenic drugs to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

In the exposition, first the initial bass line is developed with a variety of motifs and themes that will recur throughout the track, including suggestions of some arpeggios that will occur more prominently later. After the sampled voice returns, the main melody of this section is repeated several times, together with a new countermelody.

The transition achieves the transformation of the track from D minor to B-flat major. At first the countermelody plays over a bare bass with the atmospheric sounds and sampled voice of the beginning (to indicate this is a new beginning in the track). Then, a new shape arrives in the treble, which includes a prominent B-flat, though it still supports a D minor tonality. Soon, the arpeggios from before reappear, this time more clearly outlining a B-flat major seventh chord, though the D and E-flat in the bass prevent the ear from hearing a change in tonality.

Only after all the thematic material has been revisited and the bass has dropped out, does a new bass line enter that suggests B-flat major more than D minor. At this point, the arpeggios gain many new sounds as accompaniment, creating the climax of the track. This climax is unusual in that it doesn't use much of the thematic material of the exposition, but it is nonetheless quite satisfying, as the bass line now creates harmonic motion instead of being fixed.

But eventually the sampled speech returns, the bass becomes fixed, the bongo sound makes one last appearance, and everything dissolves back into the atmospheric sounds of the opening, leaving us back in an ambiguous D-centered tonality.


Sheyba – Trance Africa Express
(First Flight – track 5, Flying Rhino Records)
Themes

9:26 total length

0:00 sounds

0:26 tempo set by ostinato

0:40 elephant sound, and then new instrument

0:49 first bass drum hit

0:53 more rhythm starts


1:05 bass drum starts for real

1:19 animal sounds over bass drum rhythm, ostinato drops out

1:42 bass pre- noodling (C-D flat-E flat-E-B flat)

1:56 ostinato

2:08 melodic theme (C-D flat-G)


2:35 bass drops out for an animal sound

2:39 melodic noodling (with shift to E-flat key center on bars 5 and 6 of 8 now)

2:45 new lower octave

2:59 bass drum comes back

3:12 main theme

3:32 noodling

3:45 cymbals and all with main theme (first half climax)

4:04 main theme starts again


4:25 drums drop out, just melody with animal sounds

4:36 single drum hit

4:39 chanting, wooden percussion

4:48 bass drum comes back, still some chanting and noises

5:06 drums drop out, just chanting

5:14 new bass (C-E flat-B flat) with drums and chanting plus wooden percussion

5:40 monkey sounds


5:43 lion roar and old bass (pre-noodling) comes back

5:57 noodling

6:16 main theme finally returns

6:36 new theme (synthesizers)

6:56 drums drop out

7:00 new bass melody builds to 7:10


7:11 elephant roar and bass drum comes back with new bass melody

7:24 squiggle sounds

7:30 animals alone

7:34 main melody

7:49 main melody again

8:07 melody again with laser sounds

8:26 synthesizer theme

8:40 cymbal hits, back to just noodling

8:53 elephant and noodling

9:03 bass drums drop out, just noodling and animals

9:15 a lion roars and the noodling ends in E-flat before returning to C

0:00-1:05 Introduction

1:05-4:25 Exposition

4:25-5:43 Interlude

5:43-7:11 Retransition

7:11-9:26 Conclusion

This track was substantially harder to transcribe and analyze than the others. However, like the others, it breaks prominently into two halves, with a climax in each half. Again, there is a new theme towards the end. Like the Deedrah track, but unlike the other two, there is no implied change in tonality. However, the “noodling theme” contains a change in tonality within it, being in C minor in measures 1-4 and 7-8, but E-flat minor in measures 5 and 6. In addition, the interlude contains some distant harmonic regions, based on sampled wooden percussion and chanting of various sorts.


Appendix 2: Thematic materials of selected tracks
page 1, version b
page 1, version a
page 2, version a
page 2, version b


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