CHART BY DON PEPE

In this chart, we are exceptionally opening a page of the Psytrance grimoire. By doing so, we are following up on a thread posted last month in our Facebook group, where we discovered that numerous hypnotic techno lovers are also children of the Psy-community. It is therefore about time for us to cross the bridge between the two musical cultures, which have a lot in common, including the psychedelic roots. We are late in the process, as the bridge already existed way before our birth, yet we visualise it more and more in the zeitgeist, thinking for instance of Ness’ first album “Trancemigration“, highly influenced by OZORA, Feral’s 2023 live tekno set with Spekki Webu at MO:DEM, or Dozzy’s 2023 multivitamin remix on Samurai Music.

To cross the bridge, we need an infallible tour guide, well-involved in the rich Psy-culture. We found him in the above-mentioned thread: the one’n’only Don Pepe, nicknamed “Great Wizard”, for his infinite knowledge of Psytrance and music in general. 

Hailing from Sweden, he’s far from being unknown to us, as he’s one of the three musketeers behind the well-respected deep techno label Navigare Audio, which released Ness’ second album among other gems.

Accustomed to festivals, Don Pepe is also a luminous DJ, showing a clear commitment to brightening people’s spirits and making them chill. His series of mixes “Functional Music” nicely illustrates his sunny values and is worth a check, for its creativity, flow and inspiring cultural openness. Next to DJing, he has been producing for more than a decade under various aliases, the album “La Chorrera” as Pepe’s Bodega being probably his most important Psytrance work.

His participation in our threads never fails to impress us: we are mind-blowed by how connected he is to the sound and by his keen intelligence, shining through his well-inspired comments. Have faith that you are in good hands for an epic Psytrance tour…

THEMATIC SELECTION

CLASSIC

E​-​Rection – Out Here We Are Stoned (X​-​Dream remix) [TIP Records, 1998]


Don Pepe: Hearing Jim Morrison tell the crowd that “out here we’re stoned” is – has always been, and will hopefully always be – a rite of passage for a new-age hippie disco lover. First heard on the beaches of Goa in the early 1990s by the German duo E-Rection, it was X-Dream that made the sample, and the simple, hypnotic nylon guitar-like melody, legendary in 1998. X-Dream was untouchable in the late 90s, balancing between revolutionary and classic like no other. This track captures that balance perfectly, where the dark, sinister and industrial meets the epic fluoro wonderland of Goa. Those metallic, distorted synth stabs will shoot you to the stars in the right circumstances. New remixes have come out in recent years, and I suspect that it will happen every twenty years or so.

DEEP

Out of Orbit & Art of Trance – Imagine [Shamanic Tales, 2020]


Don Pepe: I’m both surprised and happy to admit that these are musically exciting times within the Psytrance community. There’s a lot of fresh high quality music being released in recent years, and in an even more surprising way, Israelis are leading the way. Although the Israeli scene has always been big, most of the music from the holy land has generally been quite shite. Yet change is possible, and probably the most important player for this shift is Eitan Reiter. Techno heads might have seen his name next to the Minilogue guys in the past, and I suspect that Sebastian and Marcus must have played an important role in his musical development. His current Trance alter ego Out Of Orbit is objectively great electronic music, independent of whether you listen to Trance or not otherwise. He offers excellent hardware production value, and a rawness of live jams that is not common within the Psy-community. The chosen track is the opening of his beautiful album “Wisdom Of The Crowds“, featuring legendary Platipus Records head Simon Berry. It’s essentially an Art Of Trance track from 1996, in a tight and highly sophisticated 2020s guise. Meditative, breezy, and uplifting, it is “morning Trance” done right.

MENTAL

Gorovich – Pinball [HOMmega HD, 2018]


Don Pepe: The approach to production and DJing is quite different between Techno and Psytrance. The concept of loops or DJ tools barely exists within the Psy-scene: a Psytrance DJ does not need three CDJs as the tradition is to allow each track to work its magic. Each Psytrance track is usually full of harmonic and rhythmic information, so there’s little or nothing to add as a DJ. Therefore, I approached the theme of a mental/repetitive track perhaps a bit differently than a classic Techno-DJ. However, yes, there are tracks with repetitive structures within the Psy-world, and yes, I’m collecting such tracks and playing them in my sets to create a certain feel on the dancefloor, “Pinball” being a fair example. Gorovich is for me one of the most interesting producers in recent years. Apparently a student of – and occasional collaborator with – Eitan Reiter, there’s definitely a kinship between the two musically. But if Eitan Reiter is a blissful and eye-opening micro-dose, Gorovich is a full 300-microgram experience. Although slick, his music is always deeply psychedelic, for body, mind and soul. I first heard “Pinball” when seeing him live at the Waha Festival in 2023, and I was certain it was a remix of some obscure Hallucinogen track of the past. It really has that kaleidoscopic Posford feel, although in a completely unique way. Subtle in its shifts, this is proper hypnotic music.

DARK

WHRIKK – Sunken Beta [Parvati Records, 2012]


Don Pepe: Whrikk has been a bit of an unsung hero for a big part of the Psy-scene for some fifteen years. Perhaps it’s because of his uncompromising genre-bending that his genius has gone quite unnoticed for the wider audience he truly deserves. Any listening session to his music is an adventure; a deep dive into the unknown, where Trance, IDM, Ambient, Techno, House, Breakbeats, etc. are effortlessly fused together through both a punky, jazzy and psychedelic mindset. I’ll never stop telling him that I’m his biggest fan, and whenever I’d do a nighttime Psy-set, I’d bring a big folder of his more “traditional” Psytrance tracks. “Sunken Beta” is one of those subtle masterpieces that I’ve both played and listened to privately countless times, yet I’ve never gotten tired of it. It’s a multifaceted journey, seemingly pitch black for an untrained ear; but once you’re deep into the acid dance marathon, it’s an explosion of colours and patterns, ending even fairly emotionally. It’s a track that I’d play long into a set, not too early and not too late throughout the journey. It’s not super intense physically, but more of a “mind funk” track. The sound design is simply jaw-dropping, and combined with the overall groove and chapter-like arrangement, it’s a “Forest” track for the ages; something that sophisticated music historians will dig up in fifty years and explain its magic to our grandchildren’s generation. Mark my words…

EXPERIMENTAL

Tamlin – Fjaqek [Gi’iwa Productions, 2004]


Don Pepe: Tamlin had a brief visit within the Psy-scene in the mid-2000s. It is said that he had very basic knowledge of the scene, and a friend of mine had to help him mix his tracks, so you couldn’t even call him a “professional” in the studio. Still, he made some of the most legendary psychedelic Trance on this side of the millennium. His LP “Spectogram” played a huge role for me when I started taking DJing seriously, and I’m still looking for good reasons to play his soulful music for an uninitiated dancefloor. The last time I got to play this masterpiece was a year ago, and I already knew what the reaction would be beforehand. As expected, on two occasions, people came up to me and asked “What is this?!”. I haven’t really counted, but I believe it’s got a 7/8 rhythm, making it completely illogical and close to impossible to follow with your mind and body. Using or abusing this dadaist approach, the track has – as someone commented on Discogs – a “severely retarded bassline”, and ultimately, the track is a bit like an Andy Kaufman sketch: some will get confused, but those who get it are absolutely stunned, as the track just builds and builds. In all its psychotic framelessness, there is actually a method to the madness.

DOPE BASSLINE

Procs – Comatoast [Self-released, 2013]


Don Pepe: Any serious connoisseur of psychedelic Trance will eventually find his or her way to the music of Stockholm-based Procs. Following his development over the past twenty-five years, with four LPs, an infinite number of compilation tracks and EPs, as well as his truly remarkable mid-tempo side project Stellar Ink Pony, his music will keep you busy for decades. His sound is so unique that he stopped delivering tracks for compilations, as his work would always stand out in an ocean of formalism. I’ve been a dedicated fan to all of his very eclectic output, but as a DJ, I’ve always struggled to play his music for this specific out-of-the-box reason, with ONE exception: “Comatoast”. It was actually never formally released, although legendary “Forest” label Sanaton Records included it in a small MP3 package many moons ago. He kindly sent me a lossless version of it at the beginning of our friendship in the early 2010s, and ever since it’s been a bit of a secret weapon in my sets. Yes, it does sound twenty years old, but the “Tech” aesthetic and masterful storytelling, ending with this quirky, euphoric mayhem, will ALWAYS keep the dancefloor focused and energised. And most importantly, it’s got one of the grooviest basslines I know of. I’ve surely heard more complex ones, but there’s just something about this slap-like bassline that does the job.

OLD SCHOOL

Orichalchum – Alien Homes [TIP Records, 1997]


Don Pepe: Some weeks ago a Belgian DJ colleague of mine asked an open question on Facebook: “What’s your top-five favourite Goa Trance tracks of all time?” Having been a defined genre for more than thirty years there was of course a wide range of artists, sub-genres and eras presented in the thread. What really struck me when reading through the answers was that I was far from the only one to mention this specific track.” It’s not a “hit”, and it is probably quite forgettable for an untrained ear, but for me, and apparently for many others, there’s a certain magic here, that keeps on enchanting me after countless listening sessions. I guess I don’t need to emphasise how much I love playing it as a DJ. Contrary to most epic “Goa” from the era, the magic of the track, originally released in 1996, lies in the subtleties, the elegant progression, the masterful engineering and, of course, the overall “alien” atmosphere. Like the best bottles of wine, it doesn’t only survive the ages, but it matures and will give you even richer rewards as the years pass.

TO START A MIX

X-Dream – Intercorporal Stimulator (Midimiliz Remix) [Boshke Beats, 2017]


Don Pepe: As the Goa/Psy-scene actually originated in the tropical paradise of Goa, India, the tradition of well-written song intros has a very pragmatic origin. The typical medium of the 80s and 90s DJs was vinyl, but vinyl would first of all be way too heavy and expensive for the vagabond DJs, playing at the free Goan beach and jungle parties. Secondly, vinyl wouldn’t survive a day in the dusty heat of Goa. Hence, the early Goa DJs used DAT tapes, copying vinyl records from Europe in the summer, or receiving unreleased recordings on tape from their producer friends. The medium had its limitations when it came to beatmatching, so the DJs tended to create smooth transitions between the beatless intros and outros of the tracks. With this long introduction, I simply want to say that finding great “intro tracks” for a Psy-set is relatively easy. Of course, a good opener isn’t merely the 10-120 seconds of ambience in the beginning, but the overall structure and atmosphere are even more important. One intro track that comes to mind for me is this strangely unnoticed remix of a monstrous X-Dream masterpiece by none other than Midimiliz, more known for the Techno heads as Extrawelt. I’ve used the track once as an intro after a 135 BPM Techno set (an “acid wedding” where all of us had been spiked some hours prior), and once as a kickstart after a ten-minute silence in the middle of the night due to sound system issues. There are so many superlatives to say about this track, but just have a listen and I hope you’ll understand why it’s such a perfect intro and bridge.

FOR THE PEAK TIME

Maniac Bubbles – Maniacs On The Run [Digital Shiva Power, 2010]


Don Pepe: The city of Aarhus in western Denmark has been a hugely important geographical place for the development of the psychedelic Trance scene since the early 2000s. Apparently there was, or maybe still is, a production or engineering school there, of where a whole bunch of young, pioneering producers went to. And by “mere coincidence”, an elderly Italian Goa traveller named Giuseppe lived in the area and decided to launch a humble record label called Parvati Records to gather all of this talent. Like Hypnus for Hypnotic techno lovers, Parvati Records is today one of the scene’s cornerstones, a musical genre, an institution, a “brand”. Like all musical scenes, there comes a time when the music starts repeating itself, when new kids try to imitate the originators, and I personally have a loose relation to the label and genre, these days. But the quality is still always high, and from what I see, Giuseppe and his people keep on pushing the “brand” with grace. The early Parvati sound, from the core Aarhus-based network, is still a rush in the right circumstances, and here and there, that original punky and extremely groovy sound continues to resurface up until today. Back when I was mainly playing similar music as a DJ, “Maniacs On The Run”, in particular, and the producers involved, was a reliable go-to for raising the energy on the dancefloor. Merely the kick-bass section is enough to light up the spirit, and the patient build-up creates such a perfect sense of release once it truly hits at the 2:30 mark. For the next four minutes, you know you’d have even the cool kids at the back of the dancefloor under the spell. The track is a slap in the face that would awaken anyone in the right circumstances.

BONUS – TOPIC BROUGHT BY OUR GUEST

WHEN 2 BECOME 1

Whrikk – Geoglyph [SACRED INTERFACE, 2024]


Don Pepe: Presenting the world of psychedelic Trance to a crowd of Techno enthusiasts has been both fun and challenging for me. Being a bit of a Techno head myself (a music lover raised in Stockholm must study Svek Records in general, and Cari Lekebusch more specifically), I believe I understand the aesthetic differences and similarities fairly well. There have been many “crossovers” over the years that I’d wholeheartedly recommend for the Hypnotic Techno lovers, both old-school and current. Der Dritte Raum, Montauk P, Krumelur, Robert Leiner, The Delta/X-Dream, Midimiliz/Spirallianz, Kopfuss Resonator, early Juno Reactor, later Son Kite, more recent stuff by Eitan Reiter etc. It’s all truly great “Trance” for “Techno heads”, or “Techno for acid heads”. It’s been a big surprise to notice that “Trance” has become hip over the past four-five years. The Deep Techno scene is only one corner, also hipster scenes of Melbourne, Montreal and Holland have embraced the faster tempos, warmth and harmonies of Trance. I never imagined it would ever happen in my lifetime, but I see and hear it everywhere these days, and it has created some truly curious “mutations” with this unexpected interest in our scene. One, of many, that could interest the Hypnotic Techno lovers is the Copenhagen network of Sacred Interface and BunkerBauer. I know little about them, but I understand some of them have been invited to Tresor and Berghain, and that should say something. So to anyone curious, just dig and dig again: the rabbit hole goes deep through both space and time. Here’s another brilliant, and very recent, track by Whrikk, on above mentioned Sacred Interface, capturing this marriage perfectly. Trance is Techno is Trance is Techno is……

WRITING BY: SIMON BOHLIN & CEDRIC FINKBEINER | 30 MAY 2024

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