Roots of Goa (Trance): a sound that was both accessible and otherworldly
May 5, 2016 9:50 AM   Subscribe

... at the same time that Chicago was creating House and Detroit was forging ahead with what would become Techno, the roots of Trance were being sawn on the beaches of Anjuna and Vagator. And just as Chicago had Ron Hardy and Detroit had The Electrifying Mojo, Goa had a DJ called Laurent. If it wasn’t for him, it’s quite possible that the music played at parties in Goa would have been little more than a carbon copy of what was going on back in Europe and America. Unveiling The Secret: The Roots of Trance - before Goa was Goa, it was "new electronic music coming out of Europe and America," sliced and edited by Laurent to make one long, constantly morphing psychedelic groove.
To understand how a bunch of Western misfits, searchers, junkies and fugitives ended up dancing to a mutant strain of proto-techno on a beach on the Arabian sea, you have to go back to the late 60s. The story of how Goa became a magnet for freaks the world over, can be seen in the excellent documentary, Goa Hippy Tribe (NSFW photos in this intro clip; Facebook group that started it all).
Dave Mothersole, the author of the first history of Goa article, also put together a two hour mix for Bleep43, and talked a bit about his process in this DJ History thread. To enjoy more of the 1980s to early 90s Goa mixes, YouTube User COGOA / TheUAEcars has lots. For old school Goa trance, here's a mix from Goa Spirit's youtube video collection, which also includes more modern mixes.

For a really long look into one pat that took the old psychedelic blend of edits became goa trance as it is generally know now, you can read this 32 page biography -- DJ Goa Gil: Kalifornian Exile, Dark Yogi and Dreaded Anomaly.
posted by filthy light thief (64 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
Discussions of Goa Gil previously in the thread on Paul Oakenfold's annotated Goa Mix.

Also, Dance Cult(ure Magazine), previously.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is awesome. Thank you!!!!
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2016


As a Goa-head from way back, I thank you for this post.

A few years ago, I came across a great photo gallery of Goa Gil and friends in the early days of the Goa party scene. I always meant to make an FPP of it, but I could never find the page again.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:09 AM on May 5, 2016


...and for those who might be hearing of Goa trance for the first time:

If you like what you hear, then you should also check out psytrance. It's a very closely related form of electronic music – complicated, maximalist, psychedelic, four-on-the-floor trance music – but it eschews most of the mysticism and hippie trappings of Goa, in favor of full-on brainfuck.

Basically, Goa trance turned into psytrance, in much the way that jungle turned into drum & bass – there is still Goa being made, but psy has kinda taken over as the dominant, "current" form, and Goa is sort of a historical genre at this point.

(Actually, even psy is kinda the province of unfashionable oldsters like me these days, but that's beside the point.)

There are quite a few subgenres. Some of the bigger ones are psydub / psybient (elements of psytrance combined with elements of dub and ambient), suomisaundi (Finnish "forest trance" – slinky, slippery, sly), and – my favoritedark psy (frantic, cybernetic, atonal, pulsating, aggressively experimental – it's big in Russia, because of course it is).

There are also more pop/party-friendly variants of psy – for example, it's unaccountably popular in Israel, where it's commonly combined with (unlistenably cheesy, IMHO) vocals and metal guitars.

Point being, though – Goa is interesting in and of itself, but it was kinda the starting point of a whole branch of electronic music.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:35 AM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh wow. I used to love both goa and psy trance (a bit too frenetic for me these days, mostly), really looking forward to digging through this.

That said, there a few moments in any dance music anywhere that compare to this. I mean it's such a simple line, just one note with a nice filter sweep on it, and as a lead it is devastating.

suomisaundi

20 seconds in and I already know what I'm listening to for the next hour
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:40 AM on May 5, 2016


why don't i have drugs right now fuck
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heh. As someone who grew up outside Detroit, Goa and Trance were the cancer that were killing dance music, a title that I think has now shifted to Dubstep.

Still can't do it. Reminds me of too many head shops and patchouli. Also, not enough bass.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on May 5, 2016


escape from the potato planet: thanks for the expansion on this general theme! I was tempted to go obsessive and track goa/psy to its various extensions, but my knowledge of the genre is really limited to the early 2000s.


Also, not enough bass.

Really? One thing that bothered me about modern goa/psy/dark psy is the pounding bass. Seriously, the 4/4 thuds wear me out faster than I would expect.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


it's unaccountably popular in Israel, where it's commonly combined with (unlistenably cheesy, IMHO) vocals and metal guitars

Uuuugh, modern Infected Mushroom kills me. SO BAD. SO VERY BAD. Like NuMetal + Psy Trance - WTF?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's pretty godawful.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:07 AM on May 5, 2016


Oh man. I had zero interest in electronic music at the time, so I don't really know why, but in high school I bought Distance to Goa 5 from Tower Records. Maybe it was really cheap.

Anyway, I don't listen to music while I work, usually -- I find most music really distracting -- but sometimes I needed to block out ambient noise and that album was usually the go-to. I really love trancey instrumental music with a good beat.

Really cool to hear the "classics" of the genre.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:20 AM on May 5, 2016


For those interested in taking a deeper dive, here are some starting points...

Labels (most of them now defunct):

TIP
Flying Rhino
Transient
Dragonfly
Blue Room Released

Artists with representative tracks:

(I'll be the first to admit that there's a hefty dose of cheese in many of these tracks. In our defense, it was the 90s and we were on drugs.)

Transwave
Cosmosis
Etnica
Blue Planet Corporation
Pleiadians
The Infinity Project
Prana
Orichalcum
X-Dream
Space Tribe
Hallucinogen
Koxbox
Astral Projection
Doof
Electric Universe
S.U.N. Project
Total Eclipse
Slinky Wizard
Green Nuns of the Revolution
Shakta
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:47 AM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


That list of artists makes me so happy - that's my view of psy. I saw Simon Posford as Schpongle recently, and it was fun, but it was no Hallucinogen - more diverse sounds worked in, kinda jam-bandy at moments, but I really enjoyed myself because it was such a nostalgia kick.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:38 PM on May 5, 2016


I got to see Juno Reactor a bajillion years ago doing a live set, a lot of psy/goa elements. (Plus a drumming and dancing group from somewhere in Africa, I forget where exactly, jamming with the music). SO GOOD.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


So for those of us that fall more on the Shpongle (I suppose this is "psybient") end of the divide, has there been anything new/good/notable since [I last checked into this scene]? I've heard Ott, Entheogenic, Mystery of the Yeti -- good stuff.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 1:04 PM on May 5, 2016


yay google this was the event, no recordings of the set that I can find, unfortunately.

And... huh. Turns out I turned down seeing Mauro Picotto that night in favour of JR.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:05 PM on May 5, 2016


a hefty dose of cheese in many of these tracks.

Yah but no need to apologize ... the beginnings of any great wave in music - 1990s, 1960s, 1930s, 1750s, 1500s - are often rough. Finding its way in the dark, *genre-sensitive* listener feedback decides what works. Too, the filter of daily consciousness is a completely unfit judge. Of *anything*.
posted by Twang at 3:24 PM on May 5, 2016


I had a few nth-generation cassette copies of goa-trance mixes back in the 90s. They were good coding music, though the main downside was that, was one to listen to them whilst driving home at night, one could easily go some 40+km/h over the speed limit on the freeway without noticing.
posted by acb at 3:43 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


acb, I know most of how that is - I wore my copy of DJ Ellis Dee's Acidfest out, and I was super stoked to find a copy, plus other mixes from him, online. Upside: now I can listen to it again without the dying tape warp distortion. Downside: 128 kbps MP3s.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:04 PM on May 5, 2016


Uuuugh, modern Infected Mushroom kills me. SO BAD. SO VERY BAD. Like NuMetal + Psy Trance - WTF?

I bought an Infected Mushroom album sight unheard because it came up on a list of recommendations. I like Metal, I like trippy Dub, I like various forms of electronic dance music (not capitalized) and only briefly saw the "in a blender" description. This is not what I imagined that meant. Did you peel this first? You didn't even take the packaging off! I had no idea there was going to be so much bro juice and cheese in there.
posted by bongo_x at 7:59 PM on May 5, 2016


Goa trance was the first genre of electronic music I really got into. Potato Planet covered a whole lot of the artists I'd recommend, though I could throw in some more favorite tracks - except he seems to have left out this absolute classic. If you're new to this start with Hallucinogen - Twisted which holds up very well production-wise despite being a fairly early release in the genre.

The later trajectory of this branch of music is a damn shame in my book - most boom-baddadumb-addadum Psytrance bores me to tears. Once in a while there's a track that captures the spirit for me though so if anyone thinks they know something I'd like let me know. Anything that doesn't use the same bassline, especially, or stuff with truly interesting sound design, or more intricate Goa-style melodic leads. Finnish psy is fun because obviously it doesn't take itself too seriously but I'll never like happy dance music as much as dark dance music that's done right.
posted by atoxyl at 10:29 PM on May 5, 2016


That was kind of negative so (not all of these are available in great quality I'm afraid):

Hallucinogen - Snarling Black Mabel / Solstice
Pleiadians - Maia / Asterope
Astral Projection - Kabalah / People Can Fly
Shakta - Lepton Head
posted by atoxyl at 12:35 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bypass Unit - Distorted Frame

Been looking for that one for a while.
posted by atoxyl at 12:40 AM on May 6, 2016


I love psybient and yes goa sounds nicely similar, but psy trance itself has these really nasty annoying discordant features.

Anything can influence anything musically of course, but it's kinda like describing goth as a sub-genre of punk. Yes, it's true if you go back to Joy Division, and goth culture retains the defining DIY ethic of punk culture, but mostly punk is god awful due to being discordant in stupid ways, while goth cleaned it up somewhat.

I enjoy enough industrial that if I'm complaining about discordant sounds then it's pretty bad. Appears I'm not hte only one as supposedly one big sound camp at a regional burn I like tends to boo psy trance DJ off stage. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 3:27 AM on May 6, 2016


Anything can influence anything musically of course, but it's kinda like describing goth as a sub-genre of punk. Yes, it's true if you go back to Joy Division, and goth culture retains the defining DIY ethic of punk culture, but mostly punk is god awful due to being discordant in stupid ways, while goth cleaned it up somewhat.

Meanwhile, electro-industrial/EBM came out of goth and synthpop (or rather got redefined as “goth” by virtue of the fans wearing the uniform and going to the clubs, despite not sharing lineage with the Batcave kids, Bauhaus/Sisters-style gothic rock or such); a decade or so later, this merged with goa/psytrance and the result was Assemblage VNV and such.
posted by acb at 3:56 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anything that doesn't use the same bassline

It's trance. There are maybe 4-5 standard trance basslines. You've got your basic off-beat:

k-b-k-b-k-b-k-b

rolling:

kbbbkbbbkbbbkbbb

housier:

k--bk-b-k--bk-b-

and a couple variations of the above. (Each character above is a 16th note in a bar). Basslines just aren't that super important in trance; they're virtually part of the percussion. I read a thing a zillion years ago that the kick tells you when to move and the bassline tells you how.

Anyway, point being, trance has always been about:

a) repetition
b) predictability (obviously you can do surprises, but at the end of the day the people dancing need to know what's coming)
c) melody prized over percussion

The third point is why the basslines are repetitive. When trance hived off from techno it was because people started writing more melodic techno and it eventually became its own thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:30 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Right but late-stage psytrance seems to narrow it down to pretty much just the rolling bassline - or especially the triplet variation - and a very narrow sound palette as well. The sameness of sound design is the thing that gets me really. Compare to that first Hallucinogen track I posted - "Snarling Black Mabel." I chose that one for a reason because it's really a similar approach but with 10x more personality.
posted by atoxyl at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean I get that there's a reason people like it - it just hits a certain way played out on a system and it blends into the other psytrance playing all night. It's a very functional thing. But I find it much less interesting than the experimentation that was going on in earlier days.
posted by atoxyl at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I was in a different mood I might say that the combination in pay of a tendency toward minimalism with a standardization of the bassline and the beat represents the essence of dance music, that the interchangeability of songs is intentional. I just personally find this era where trance was acid to be the peak of both trance and acid - even though I didn't actually even get there until it was ending - so it saddens me that I can't really get into its nominal children.
posted by atoxyl at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2016


I'm not super involved in the scene anymore, but it's always been true: look off the beaten path for the interesting stuff. Soundcloud is really useful for digging through, and people are always putting old vinyl on Youtube.

Also, you could write your own ;)

Plus I think part of what you're missing, probably, is the slightly-less-polished production values. These days even many bedroom producers have access to software that people even a decade ago would have given some of their favourite body parts for, so it's really easy to get a nice polished sound--and harder to have the, for lack of a better word, organic mistakes that make for fun weird sounds.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 AM on May 6, 2016


I think the transition to production on the computer had a lot to do with it, yeah. Which is funny because I'm a hardcore in-the-box guy for my own music. But I think people went from using the SH-101 and the MS-20 and the OSCar and Eventide effects units and distortion pedals to using early ITB tools that were pretty limited sonically. Now the software has caught up and I kinda feel like I must be missing something because we've had this whole era of crazy automated talking bass patches yet - when I search YT for a psy mix it still seems to be focused on the constant bump-badadda with stuff occasionally happening over it? Which is... very dancy but not that psychedelic to me.

I've totally tried to make some stuff but my interest has shifted toward early dubstep and hip-hop and instrumental beat stuff and even DnB so I'm really no good at making trance music.

Anyway I'm kinda taking over the thread with this tangent so - I'll put on some psy at work today and see if I can't enjoy it. And maybe I can come up with more classic tracks. What's the one on the second Hallucinogen album that shifts into triple time in the middle and back? Is acid trance that isn't quite Goa appropriate?
posted by atoxyl at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2016


no continue with this tangent please!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2016


These days even many bedroom producers have access to software that people even a decade ago would have given some of their favourite body parts for, so it's really easy to get a nice polished sound--and harder to have the, for lack of a better word, organic mistakes that make for fun weird sounds.

A lot of people in these kind of specific genres are using pre "produced" samples and loops and generally it's just a paint by numbers situation (that is in no way an exaggeration). I'm not at all anti loops or samples, I'm not one of those people, but I think often the average music listener doesn't realize that there is a situation where you just buy the pieces and put them back together. Not like "I used part of this other song in a creative way" but literally "here's the parts for your track, that will be $X" These things have been around for many years, but nowhere as big as they are now. Where you used to buy parts and sounds, now you buy complete tracks and they are much more professionally finished than they used to be.

There are many, many sets of "top loops" which is all the percussion and more of the track except the kick, so you add your own kick (that you got from another sample set) and it's yours! Like adding the eggs to cake mix, it makes people feel more like they created something.

In the older tracks people were working with the raw instruments and sounds so their technical skill or lack of came more into play. Many of them didn't know what they were doing so it made it interesting in a punk kind of way. If you read message boards where beginning electronic musicians hang out now they will throw a fit and/or are completely baffled if an instrument or sample doesn't sound like a finished track from the first moment.

There are also of course people who labor long and hard to make interesting creative electronic and dance tracks, much longer than you would recording people playing traditional instruments. But not everyone knows the difference.

If you ever thought a lot of these types of tracks (or games, TV shows, and movies), sound alike it's because many of them are using the same pre-made sounds from the same libraries. And though there are tons of libraries, the majority of them stick with the same limited selection of sounds because that's what sells.

As an example; the limited number of bass lines mentioned earlier. A not insignificant number of those were just complete bass tracks dropped in there and then maybe fiddled with a bit. It's not just that there are people using the same instruments to play the same parts, there are many people just using the same commercial pre made bass tracks over and over again.

Go to any of these sites and click on anything that says "cinematic" to hear the same freakin half dozen sounds you've been hearing in movies for the last 15 years. There's a lot of these and a lot of libraries are aimed at TV and especially movies because movie people have money and tight deadlines.
posted by bongo_x at 12:13 PM on May 6, 2016


Well yeah I know about those packs. And hell, sometimes they can be useful as jumping-off points, imagination starters, whatever you want to call it. I guess the bedroom producing community I'm part of (tranceaddict) pretty much eschews that stuff. Nobody balks at using drum samples because, come on, building your own kick from scratch is just silly. (And let's not devolve into the ridiculous argument about presets because eventually you end up herding goats with no time to make music.) Premade loops can be useful for figuring out something rhythmic and then remaking it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2016


Really? One thing that bothered me about modern goa/psy/dark psy is the pounding bass. Seriously, the 4/4 thuds wear me out faster than I would expect.

Compared to stuff like Bug in the Bassbin by Carl Craig, which is absolutely transporting live, Goa/psy/trance never seemed to have the depth and range of bass that a lot of contemporary techno did. Or for a more trad techno track, UR's Final Frontier, or Kevin Saunderson/Reese's "I Just Want Another Chance". Or a more modern, minimal Who's Afraid of Detroit by Claude Von Stroke. Some of this stuff morphed into DnB, some into minimal techno, some into electro-revival stuff, and there are still folks doing trad techno out there. I just remember a time when this was the dominant sound of dance clubs, and then Goa/Trance swept in really quickly and seemed to totally lose any sense of bass tone in favor of endless synth arpeggios over flat thuds. Hip hop was crossing over to clubs/raves more and more about the same time, and I wonder if producers that might have otherwise been making dance music shifted there as DJs like Oakenfeld took over the dance world.

"Anything can influence anything musically of course, but it's kinda like describing goth as a sub-genre of punk. Yes, it's true if you go back to Joy Division, and goth culture retains the defining DIY ethic of punk culture, but mostly punk is god awful due to being discordant in stupid ways, while goth cleaned it up somewhat. "

Thank God the internet can still provide people being hilariously wrong about music after all these years. Goth is better because it cleaned up punk somewhat?

"Compare to that first Hallucinogen track I posted - "Snarling Black Mabel." I chose that one for a reason because it's really a similar approach but with 10x more personality."

I've been playing things out of this post on and off, and that's my favorite track by far out of the ones that I've heard.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2016


Here's the rest of Twisted, the source of "Snarling Black Mabel." The opening track drops me back into the mix of Acidfest.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:41 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had a bedroom synth studio in the 90s, but ended up selling off all my gear. Lately I've been getting back into it – once again focusing on hardware, rather than software – and I haven't yet run into much of the prefab loop stuff.

I mean, that stuff has existed for as long as samplers and DAWs have existed – but I never knew anyone who used it back in the day, and I don't know anyone who uses it now. I've never known it to be a significant part of any "real" releases – in my own experience, it's always been strictly for amateurs and, like, musicians who churn stuff out for commercials and incidental music. I reckon you'd get laughed out of the room if you mentioned the Phatt Tekkno Loopz Vol. 4 library in a room full of real synth heads. Heck, using presets on a real synth is sometimes regarded with suspicion. Real Synth Nerds program their own sounds from scratch.

Then again, I recently talked to a guy online who insists that no one wanted analog synths in the 90s because they were seen as outdated trash. So it seems that two people can travel in roughly the same scene, yet have verrry different experiences. I'm not saying there isn't a scene of musicians who mostly use prefab loops – I'm just saying that if there is, it's a surprise to me, and it must exist in some parallel universe that has little contact with the electronic music scene that I know.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:14 PM on May 6, 2016


atoxyl's mention of Shakta's "Lepton Head" reminded that Deedrah's remix is one of my favorite Goa/psy tracks of all time.

I also neglected to mention the subgenre known as psybreaks:

Blazer—Toxic Girl
Unconscious Mind(s)—FD Psybreaks
Funkopath—Skwirm
RMS & Peak—Ten Dimensions
Neurodriver (& Sense Datum?)—Sidewinder
Mubali—I Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own
Digipack—Bleepwalker

And, just a few random, good things that this thread has reminded me of:

On the darker end of the spectrum, Ocelot and Gappeq are worth checking out.

Some lesser-known (but excellent) names in classic-style Goa:

Merr0w
Filteria
Toi Doi
Cosmic Dimension
Artifact303

And, pretty well known, but just a great track:

Electric Universe—Mind of God
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, that stuff has existed for as long as samplers and DAWs have existed – but I never knew anyone who used it back in the day, and I don't know anyone who uses it now.

I'm going to second that this stuff gets used and in hit tracks too. And presets? Hahahahaha. Obviously there are degrees of sampling though. I kind of associate the use of the big pre-sequenced melodic stuff with EDM over-night sensations or hip-hop producers who churn out a beat in 30 minutes. I don't know if the situation is better or worse in a niche genre like psytrance - on one hand there are probably fewer packs to buy (torrent) but on the other hand it's probably easier for an essentially amateurish producer to get a little bit of visibility in a smaller scene.

atoxyl's mention of Shakta's "Lepton Head" reminded that Deedrah's remix is one of my favorite Goa/psy tracks of all time.

I had actually meant to post that one but I ended up going with the original instead.

Meanwhile, electro-industrial/EBM came out of goth and synthpop (or rather got redefined as “goth” by virtue of the fans wearing the uniform and going to the clubs, despite not sharing lineage with the Batcave kids, Bauhaus/Sisters-style gothic rock or such); a decade or so later, this merged with goa/psytrance and the result was Assemblage VNV and such.

EBM was one of the major influences of Goa trance in the first place!

Here's the rest of Twisted , the source of "Snarling Black Mabel." The opening track drops me back into the mix of Acidfest.

It's from 1995, too! Something I realized a little while ago is that 90s electronic music does not age uniformly at all, and that it probably has to do with there being a lot of variation in the level of equipment/studio that producers had access to, before everything was ITB. This came to me when I was listening to Adam F and thought about how much better that sounds than a lot of other DnB/jungle from the era. Also a big thing that dates tracks if if they're too simple/repetitive compared to modern entries in the genre. Simon Posford's layering and sound design avoids that easily. The other Hallucinogen album is good too but I don't like it quite as much.
posted by atoxyl at 4:36 PM on May 6, 2016


Maybe not technically part of the Goa scene but another peak acid trance classic I wanted to post:

Union Jack - Red Herring
posted by atoxyl at 4:37 PM on May 6, 2016


I'm going to second that this stuff gets used and in hit tracks too

I dunno, I really doubt it. The big names, even the overnight sensation names, tend to be pretty public about their studio setups and workflow. Even Martin Garrix, who is more or less the definition of overnight EDM* sensation, has done YouTube videos of how he wrote Animals etc.

I mean sure, it's pretty easy to reverse engineer that stuff but... eh. I doubt it. And in the absence of proof, I'm going to keep believing that. Ditto with hip-hop producers cranking out a beat in 30 minutes. There are only so many variations on a beat in a given genre. If you have a good working knowledge of your sample (individual hit samples) library, it's probably not difficult to slot that all together really quickly. Doubly so if, as I know many professional producers do, you have a bazillion midi templates set up that literally all you have to do is slot in the sounds and fiddle with some FX. Huge major dance tracks are written from 0 to fully produced in like two days (there was an article a couple years ago about a studio in NYC that cranks out massive hits), it's not hard to believe a pro can crank out a beat in very little time.

And presets? Hahahahaha.

I give exactly zero fucks about preset snobbery. This thing that's been floating around forever is why:
I thought using loops was cheating, so I programmed my own using samples. I then thought using samples was cheating, so I recorded real drums. I then thought that programming it was cheating, so I learned to play drums for real. I then thought using bought drums was cheating, so I learned to make my own. I then thought using pre-made skins was cheating, so I killed a goat and skinned it. I then thought that that was cheating too, so I grew my own goat from a baby goat. I also think that is cheating, but I'm not sure where to go from here. I haven't made any music lately, what with the goat farming and all.
The most bizarre thing about electronic music production, to me, is that weird reductionism. Rock bands, e.g., use the same few instruments over and over and nobody complains about the piano sounding the same or that there are distinct stylistic similarities between their songs. But man, one producer uses the same lead sound more than once and HACK YOU ARE TERRIBLE comes the cry. It's so annoying. (Yes, some producers evade this--PVD, for example, really loves those piano-y/plucky sounds; Airwave loves huge fat supersaws; etc).

* god I hate that as the term for the big-arena dance sound now. EDM is literally all music made electronically for dancing to aaaauuurghegrluiwehoiw4hyx;mi4o
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think there are a lot of serious musicians that other musicians take seriously (whoa, I'm looping) that use a lot of prefab material, but I think there are a lot of people that crank out volume that do.

I was really just ranting a bit, and pointing out the difference in variation and originality in old tracks and new was that 20 years ago you mostly had to make your own tracks from scratch, so there was more variation. I think the availability of prefab is more of a factor in commodifying and consolidating styles than DAW's.

I remember an interview with The Orb (Orbital? Obviously I don't remember) where they said they had made several records before they understood how compressors worked, and couldn't figure out how everyone else got those drum sounds. This obviously influenced the sound of their records.

Even if you buy something as basic as 808 samples today they have often been run through classic pres, compressors and sometimes tape to get different sounds to the liking of the person selling them, you flip through them and find one you like. It's a different process than starting with a raw 808 kick and deciding what you're going to do with it.
posted by bongo_x at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rock bands, e.g., use the same few instruments over and over and nobody complains about the piano sounding the same or that there are distinct stylistic similarities between their songs.

There are infinite steps between using all prefab material and going all from scratch, and really I just judge on how interesting the result is. In that it's like sampling. If you sample the shit out of something but make something new and original I'm excited. If you loop a long piece of someone's track and add a shaker I'm not. I don't have any hard rules about what's correct. I'm not in the least put off that Prince used presets, it comes across as a strength because he did something so interesting with them.

But the rock band comparison would be more like, or exactly like if your rock record was simply throwing together the pre played Garage Band loops of drums bass and guitar. I don't think anyone cares that electronic musicians use the same instruments over and over either (808, 909, 303) more how creative the outcome is. If I can't distinguish a track from construction kit then I'm not that interested.
posted by bongo_x at 5:11 PM on May 6, 2016


Even Martin Garrix, who is more or less the definition of overnight EDM* sensation, has done YouTube videos of how he wrote Animals etc.

Yes and if you watch that exact video you'll see that the main synth in the intro is a slightly processed Vengeance loop!

Ditto with hip-hop producers cranking out a beat in 30 minutes.

I'm not picking on these guys - it's a genre built on sampling and a genre that's not "about" the producer. I mentioned this because you can find lots of videos or forum posts where people identify the pre-sequenced-arpeggiator presets or royalty-free samples used by "name" beat-makers. Some of those same producers have demonstrable musical or instrumental skill it's just a scene that's much more "whatever works."

And presets? Hahahahaha.

I'm not a preset snob at all, I'm saying that people who are presets snobs are hilariously naive about how often presets are used and the extent to which nobody actually cares.
posted by atoxyl at 5:16 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Link to the moment in the Garrix video that I was thinking of. I think that's the most blatant one though there might also be some MIDI borrowed from somewhere? I forget. Lots of FX and little sounds from packs and everything presets (with some visibly cracked plugins heh) but that's not something people tend to be snobby about and a few creative uses like the reverse-tape-stop ticking thing.

I think that's pretty middle-of-the-road for the sort of thing he does. Here's an example I saw a while ago of a (marginal, but he did get played once by AVB) trance producer going all out with loops. The other end of the spectrum is, like, Noisia - people who do even make their own drum hits from scratch. Or this track was apparently an exercise in making every sound with one synth (FM8)!
posted by atoxyl at 5:41 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


And I realize this is a derail, but an interesting one. I just want to say that I did enjoy the original movie a lot and the history, I've only had a half assed idea what went on there before, so thanks for posting this.

The Garrix video is interesting because;

A. He shouldn't make videos. There's nothing to see here that he should want anyone to see.
B. He's pretty much construction kitting it. He says all through it what loops and presets he's using. "The great thing about these presets is they sound just like other tracks, and they have the names of the tracks so you know"!
C. So what? He's making a generic dance track, for clubs. No one's expecting him to reinvent the wheel (although I'd be more impressed if he didn't just use someone else's wheel). The only part of this track that matters is the melody riff, which I'm assuming he wrote and is very catchy, everything else is frosting.

A dance track like Animals has a completely different audience than Aphex Twin (although my wife can't tell the difference). Many electronic productions are mainly about sound design, so if you find out it's all prefab it kind of defeats the point.

This is like a discussion I saw on a DAW board about how VSO was a sin, for cheaters. This was coming from musicians who listened mostly to hear the technical ability of other musicians, and were convinced that the main use of VSO was to pretend to be able to play something you couldn't actually play. It took an amazing amount of explaining for them to see that other people didn't give a shit about that and saw it mostly as a creative tool for sound design.

If you sell yourself as a guitar shredder and you construct all your solos in the box then people are going to be disappointed, rightly so. But if you are a pop band and you construct a guitar part who cares? The dividing line is the same for me with electronic music and prefab parts. It depends on what you're selling.
posted by bongo_x at 6:28 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


And FFFM, the Tyranny Of The Fans is just as bad for rock bands, thanks to the rise of the internet critic. Most rock bands both love and loathe their fans because of the constant criticism and second guessing.

"No, we can't put a keyboard on this because we don't want to hear our fans complain".

"No we can't play this differently or do that other song or I'm going to have to hear about it forever".

It's a real thing nowadays, and influences what you hear. The difference is rock fans always want everything to sound the same all time.
posted by bongo_x at 6:39 PM on May 6, 2016


Huuuuuuuuuuh. I remembered that Garrix video totally differently. Fallibility of memory I suppose.

Now I need to track down the video I'm actually remembering.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:48 PM on May 6, 2016


A couple of more recent Posford/Hallucinogen (I'm not as big into Shpongle) DJ Sets.

I totally did find some recent psytrance I like btw - well I already knew about a little but only a little. Maximal over minimal, interwoven acid lines a plus, changing up the bass pattern a plus.
posted by atoxyl at 11:23 PM on May 6, 2016


Also maybe I'm dumb but what does VSO stand for?
posted by atoxyl at 1:52 AM on May 7, 2016


It stands for vari speed oscillator, the device by which you change the speed of tape decks, but the term is commonly it's used to mean speeding up or slowing of audio with the natural pitch shifting intact, like a tape deck does, even if you are using a computer.

Not dumb at all, I was just rambling off topic.
posted by bongo_x at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2016


Oh okay I have heard of vari-speed in the context of tape but in digital auto I'd call that "time stretch" or "time independent pitch shift."
posted by atoxyl at 12:07 PM on May 7, 2016


Right, it's time stretch but without any pitch correction, like the tape stop effect which is VSO ramping down. The term VSO is just easier to say and more specific. Even if it doesn't actually involve a VSO and tape, it's still a VSO effect, like how you call it "flanging" even though there is no tape involved.

When you do "VSO" in a DAW it's really just a sample rate change, playing the audio at the wrong sample rate. It's a different process from pitch shifting or time stretching algorithms so it's clearer to use that term. For me anyway.

To continue on the tangent, the discussion I alluded to was because some DAW's don't actually have a VSO option, only actual pitch shifting or time stretching, which is dumb. It's a different sound. It's like saying "you don't need a flanger, just use the phaser". Only dumber.
posted by bongo_x at 12:40 PM on May 7, 2016


Oh sorry I misread you I thought you meant it was a synonym for time stretching. The idea that plain 'ol pitch shifting like we've had since the introduction of recorded audio could be thought of as nothing but a device for musicians to "cheat" is super weird to me.
posted by atoxyl at 2:34 PM on May 7, 2016


Like I know people do that, speeding up solos, but it's hardly the first thing that comes to mind.
posted by atoxyl at 2:38 PM on May 7, 2016


Yeah, it's weird to me too, but there were many people arguing just that.

I guess my point was that it all depends on your perspective and what you're listening for. FFFM had pointed out the preset judging thing, which I guess if your whole perspective is aligned around making original synth sounds then that seems like cheating. If you just want to make a song you don't give shit. But like I said I tend to be flexible in judgement depending on what the intent is and what's being sold.

Trance tracks? That's a tough one. They mostly share a very limited range of sounds. Are you required to reinvent the wheel every time? I don't know, but I do know that I like the style but I'm less interested because too many of the tracks sound too much the same. But that's my perspective, the people dancing on the beach do not care. They would not enjoy the evening more because you created all the drums with an Arp 2600.
posted by bongo_x at 2:46 PM on May 7, 2016


I'm also too lazy to do a lot of research most of the time, but I would interested learning about more Trance styles that weren't as upbeat and frantic. Often there's a bit much cheese for me.
posted by bongo_x at 2:50 PM on May 7, 2016


For sure, trance has tended towards greater and greater homogeneity. The range you'd hear on a single album like Tranceport (which, yeah, was mainstreamish but it's a useful touchstone and was absolutely seminal) just doesn't quite exist anymore.

Also, I found this fascinating essay deconstructing psytrance.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:06 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nice find FFFM.

Transport 4 is one of the few albums I have that I really like, I don't know how it compares to the earlier ones (and I don't know why they changed the spelling).
posted by bongo_x at 3:37 PM on May 7, 2016


I realize that album is in a slightly different vein, but that's what I lean more towards. I would have a hard time describing the difference between progressive and trance.
posted by bongo_x at 3:41 PM on May 7, 2016


The original is pretty much perfect from start to finish. Production-wise, every track had that 'lighter' feel of late 90s trance, not the 'thick' feeling (if that makes sense) of more recent stuff. T2 I flip back and forth on, T3 is very patchy--some very good tracks, and the first track is Astral Projection (Intro/Liquid Sun [Cass & Slide Mix]). I've never listened to T4 I don't think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:46 PM on May 7, 2016


I'll get a copy of the first one and check it out. Yes, a CD. I'm old like that.
posted by bongo_x at 5:59 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Max Graham posted CD 1 of Transport 4 on Soundcloud, and included the tracklist there, too. You'll have to look elsewhere for CD 2.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:26 PM on May 10, 2016


Oh wow, yeah, very different stylistically. Still good (and Max is amazing live, at least the one time I saw him. Tore the damn roof off the place opening for Oakie.. who then nailed the roof right back on. One of the most boring-ass sets I've ever witnessed.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:45 AM on May 13, 2016


« Older IF I DIE I DIE   |   it has to be seen at least once. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments