Arcadian Electrickery: Locating “Englishness” in England's Psytrance Culture and Sonic Aesthetic

Arcadian Electrickery: Locating “Englishness” in England's Psytrance Culture and Sonic Aesthetic

Gemma Farrell
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8665-6.ch012
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Psychedelic Trance (psytrance) is a sub-genre within electronic dance music (EDM) that is notable for its longevity considering EDM mutates and evolves so rapidly. It has flourishing scenes worldwide and for many participants it constitutes a lifestyle and an integral part of their identity. Psytrance has been discussed in terms of its global and local expressions; this chapter seeks to explore how England as a local node reinterprets the culture of a global scene. Some key characteristics of English psytrance are discussed via types of national identity outlined by scholars like Martin Cloonan and a further attribute specific to English psytrance, a humorous psychedelic sensibility, is argued for.
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Contestation has defined psytrance from its earliest Goa beginnings, where an early schism developed over live-ness and authenticity between the original ‘freaks’ of the late 1960s and 1970s, whose parties were accompanied by psychedelic rock and soul music and the new influx of nomads in the 1980s who brought their club music with them in the form of artists like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream (Mothersole, 2012). This newly imported electronica blended with the spiritual music found in India and other countries on the hippie trail, retained much of the progressive psychedelic sensibilities of its predecessors and would eventually become the prevalent musical style at Goa’s beach parties (St John, 2012b). A cultural nexus formed in Goa, a site of discourse with music scenes all over the world. Diverse electronica like Chicago house, Detroit techno, New Wave, Electronic Body Music, Goth and Industrial collided there and DJs, such as French innovator Laurent, extracted and recontextualised vibes, cutting out vocals and looping instrumental breaks with tape decks to create a pastiche of continuous hypnotic music which would form the characteristic Goa trance sound (Mothersole, 2012). Another pioneer, DJ Goa Gil, was one of the original freaks who began DJing mixes of psychedelic rock and soul in the 1970s and would prove instrumental in the development of psytrance. His continued involvement in the scene over the years is a unifying thread running through the different permutations of psychedelic music that have arisen in Goa.

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