chapter  4
20 Pages

Infi nite Noise Spirals: The Musical Cosmopolitanism of Psytrance

WithHILLEGONDA RIETVELD

This chapter will investigate psytrance in the context of cosmopolitanism through a rhizomatic musical genealogy, highlighting the complexity of the scene’s discursive fi eld. The musical format of psytrance is an example of acute emotional response to an electronic and increasingly digital infosphere (Toffl er 1981) that, arguably, goes hand-in-hand with processes of globalisation, enabling participants at a local level to make emotional connections between their cosmopolitan experiences of technological acceleration and the everyday. This is articulated in the electronic production techniques of psytrance and in the use of futuristic sonic palettes, which foreground a repetitive digital machine aesthetic that it has in common with trance, techno and acid house. With the exception of an occasional atmospheric break, the musical structure moves on relentlessly, in a repetitive weave of disco/techno kick drums (providing the motorik 4/4 beat), a hypnotising drone-like bass pattern and mid-range digital sequences in a pulse-rhythm of sixteenths in phased tonalities and resonant textures that produce the “acid”, or psychedelic musical element. Such seamless sequencing creates a sense of being hurtled forward, at an average speed of 140-155 BPM (beats per minute), the heartbeat of an excited person who is running fast. This is combined with cyclic structure, looped phrases that lull the listener into a sense of timeless “now”; “this predictability is what allows the mind to disengage and ‘trance out’” (Reynolds 1998: 184). By propelling itself forward, yet simultaneously repeating itself, the subjective experience is of

travelling through an endless spiralling tunnel, into an infi nite vortex, a hitech sonic mandala, hypnotising the dancer into a trance. This sensation is often enhanced by the use of digital delay, which generates a soaring sonic space that seems much larger than oneself, comparable to a cathedral or the call to prayer from a minaret, reaching out to infi nity.