12 December 2008

Raving, Ranting and Aging: 1998 and 2008

I came across a long email thread the other day, a heated debate about the decline of psytrance music. On the one hand, there were those who complained about the enormous amount of bad releases; on the other, aficionados who maintained that this genre is still very enjoyable (psytrance.tribe.net). Some of these postings were quite reflexive, with fans pondering about how their aging in the scene and in life may interrelate with taste saturation, musical skills, the "intrinsic quality" of the music, the market, etc.

I was struck. For a reason, I recall quite similar debates back in the late 1990s. Veterans will remember, those were the years when candy ravers loved each other while prophesying a Techno revolution of love and understanding. Nonetheless, some slightly older kids were already posting complaints about the "decline" of rave music and scene (and particularly about the worsening quality of pills, a topic that has interestingly disappeared from online rave/club discussions).

Yes, subcultures rise and decline. Some reappear, or die. Ironically, I'd say that 9/11 terrorist attack contributed to the rise of psytrance in urban centers, in lieu of the sugary P.L.U.R. ideology. Not only in the U.S. but in the West overall. Notice the growing interest in Batman, the Gothic, all of which indexing times of darkness, fear, uncertainty. There never was huggin'-kissin' on a psytrance dance floor, but mostly the guerrila theme... That's the Global Gothic of psytrance in times of global, wild capitalism.

Techno Trance scenes were already hardcore way before 9/11. So it perhaps makes sense that this genre would overflow the underground, though I'd never call it "mainstream"... I just wonder what will happen with these trends, now that neocon warmongers leave the White House, for a more hopeful Obama (yet amidst a big global recession...).

Back to the curious recurrence of the "decline" theme in online debates - I've always heard that "old skool" clubbers and ravers gradually get into trance music as they age. And I did notice this happening to many people back in the years.

However, I do not see this psytrance conversion happening to post-House folks nowadays. Perhaps the quality of psytrance music has indeed deteriorated; perhaps we are in a different generational timing which makes people deaf to sophisticated transitions; perhaps electronic music has lost some of its mind-altering appeal as it becomes more socially pervasive... Perhaps all of these and else...

I still listen to psytrance while pumping the iron or running at the gym. But my iPod helps a lot. I dumped hundreds of old and new psytrance tracks in it. I enjoy many, but, in between sets, I also press skip-forward a lot...

In what ways have your taste for electronic music evolved over the years?... (Feel free to post below, thanks).


  1. Well, Tony don't forget too that psytrance started with the sampling and evolution of industrial music in the 1990s. That revolutionary style bucked the get rich selfish optimism of the 1980s and also was a dark, aggressive, skeptical styling. Industrial and rave never mixed, but many of my psytrance friends who happily cry out, "Die, hippie!" are also fans of industrial.

    As somewhat who is definitely not in his twenties, psytrance always appealed to me because there was never any obvious age-ism at psy parties and the international parties had a large contingent of older people, generally people who had come to age in the sixties. And while the late fifties-early sixties crowd usually grouse a bit about how loud the psy parties are, you see them at the parties, at least in the early evening. And quite a few at the outdoor events.

    As long as psy parties last I think they will always have an intergenerational calling. I only regret that more older people don't brave the scene and take a risk by attending.

  2. I listened to goa / psytrance for the past 10 years, Nowadays, I find myself listening to a wide range of music: jam bands, electro, mainstream trance, classical, chillout, ambient. Although, I have been and probably will always be a trance music lover, I find myself looking for the trance vibe outside of psytrance. I would consider myself to be on a psytrance hiatus not because of a deterioration in quality but rather a curiosity for something different.