Welcome to the first entry of my newly relaunched Essential Selections project. This list features some of the most notable albums of 1995, a pivotal year in the history of electronic dance music, particularly for those of us with deep roots in the psytrance scene. The phrase “Goa trance” was already in circulation, but it described the peculiar mix of styles heard at the legendary beach parties of the former Portuguese colony in India, not a discrete a genre of its own. Only in 1995 did the parameters and boundaries of this new style of electronic music begin to coalesce in the form of record releases. Many of the most iconic producers and record labels of the golden age of Goa trance made their first full-length forays into the unknown before the year was out, laying the groundwork for the explosion of artists and labels to come.
Although this project is organized around psytrance as a central pillar I am also interested in featuring selections from further afield. My musical interests have broadened over the years so you will also find techno, IDM, breakbeat, industrial, ambient, and other adjacent styles on this list. There is a common thread running through this project—I intend to create connections between disparate genres and movements on the basis of mind-altering, trance-inducing, and sufficiently underground sounds. Anything I might play as Basilisk, my psytrance and old school DJ name, is fair game here.
On a technical note, some of the best releases of the year won’t be listed here; I am focusing on full-length albums, not singles or compilations filled with licensed material, so plenty of great stuff will be missing. Read more about the scope and methodology of this project in this introduction.
Union Jack is a UK trance act formed by Simon Berry (Art of Trance) and Claudio Giussani (Terra Ferma). Their debut full-length album gathers up several of their peak-time dream trance hits as well as an assortment of downbeat and chill out tunes. The production style is quite simplistic and not particularly detailed, but there are many moments where this naive approach produces appealing results. That being said, the glue that binds this album has not aged well, and plenty of it sounds a little too saccharine for my taste. Snap this one up for the widely-acclaimed highlights and skim the rest. Highlights: the eternal Two Full Moons & A Trout, Cactus, Red Herring, and (on the chilled side) Water Drums.
Dromed is a deep dive into downbeat, dub techno, IDM, chill out, and ambient produced by Bernd Friedmann , also known as Nonplace Urban Field. Although diverse in style and approach, the album is united by an emphasis on intricate details and darkly mysterious atmospheres. Some of the strongest tracks sound like forays into softly-whispered trip hop reminiscent of Alan Wilder’s Recoil project, particularly the stand-out Moon On My Screen. While it isn’t exactly essential, this long-lost obscurity will reward attentive listening.
Formed in 1994 by Austrian producer Michael Kohlbecker and Pascal Mollin (who later left the project), Eternal Basement achieved some notoriety with the release of Taking Place in You on Sven Väth’s legendary Harthouse imprint. This full-length follow-up features several fast-paced tracks in the hard trance style popular at the time, but the bulk of the album delves deeper into hypnotic and minimalistic acid techno. This combination is somewhat jarring, and I seldom find myself listening to the entire album in one go, but there’s still plenty of magic to be heard here. The relatively high production value also gives this album lasting value; most tracks sound quite nice, especially on headphones. Highlights: Mind Out and When Sadness Comes.
The First Orbit is the debut full-length release from Planet Rhythm Records, originally founded in Sweden in 1994. Gathered here is a solid collection of hard trance and fast, upbeat techno, most of which had already been released on vinyl. The track listing might seem unfamiliar at first—but behind these projects are some of the biggest names in Swedish techno: Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Jesper Dahlbäck, and Robert Leiner, among others. In the early 1990s these producers were still developing their style and experimenting with a wide range of tempos. This approach briefly intersected with a somewhat more teutonic, trance-inducing vibe before veering off into slower, more stripped-down, funk-oriented, and mechanistic realms in the years that followed. Definitely worth a listen if you’re already a fan of Harthouse and other labels exploring the interface between early 90s hard techno and trance music. Top picks: Genecom’s Sunchase and Silicon Dreams, Leiner’s I Come in Peace, and Vector’s Mental Hunter.
Boris Blenn’s only full-length release as Paradise Connection features an assortment of analog sound experiments spanning an enormous tempo range. Much of the album dwells at the deeper end of trance, with simplistic arrangements that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the ambient techno labels of the early 1990s. Highlights include the euphoric 160 BPM adrenaline rush of Portamento and its total opposite, the soothing 21 minute-long epic Source of Emotion. Some of the others are adequate but forgettable experiments, sounding very much like early, unpolished drafts of Blenn’s later work as Galaxy and Electric Universe, a project that debuted that same year with One Love.
The debut compilation from POF Music (an acronym derived from “Product of France”) was a respectable effort but it hasn’t aged as well as some other entries on this list. In terms of style these selections consistently emphasize the more upbeat and melodic side of the emerging Goa trance sound, with soft, pulsating rhythms and synths that seem to flutter around. Blue Planet Corporation’s Antidote and Amanite FX’s Secrets of Mana are the best examples of the French trance touch on this compilation, while Prana’s bubbling tribal twister Mugen also merits a mention. Finally, Emmanuel Top ends the compilation with a heady dose of mid-1990s acid techno minimalism at its finest, a fine reward for crate-diggers patient enough to unearth this rarity.
Earth Nation is one of many projects from the prolific German trance and ambient producer Ralf Hildenbeutel. Although he collaborated with guitarist Marcus Deml on Earth Nation this album appears to feature only Ralf’s solo productions under this guise. If you’re already familiar with the Eye Q Records sound you know what to expect: dreamy electronic dance music and chill out on the boundaries of conventional progressive trance and its more psychedelic manifestations. Personally I prefer hearing several of these songs outside the context of the album—those disposable interludes do nothing for me—but there’s no arguing with the obvious quality of this release. Highlights: Elucidate, Green Sky is Red, and An Artificial Dream.
Canadian industrial pioneers Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, better known as Front Line Assembly, quietly released several albums under the name Synaesthesia in the mid-90s. With this side project they turned their attention to dark ambient and glacial chill out, picking up where they had left off with Delerium, which was rebranded as a radio-friendly New Age pop act around the same time. Embody, the shorter of two Synaesthesia releases from 1995 (the other one is the 2CD Desideratum), almost feels like a compilation of tracks from the cutting room floor, but it was also produced while Leeb and Fulber were near their creative peak, so it’s certainly worth hearing. Not all tracks hit the mark, but there are plenty of great moments here for fans of futuristic downbeat music.
Despite being listed as an “EP” or “mini album”, Transwave’s debut clocks in at 63 minutes in length, more than enough time to demonstrate the raw talent of French producers Frédéric Holyszewski (later known as Deedrah) and Christof Drouillet (Absolum). Most of these tunes sound rough around the edges and pretty much all of them were eclipsed in quality and concept by twin albums released the following year, but Hypersphere, Goacore, and Adoration to the Aum should be of interest to collectors and fans of early Goa trance.
Lucky People Center is an obscure Swedish media collective active throughout the 1990s. They are perhaps most known for their film International (presently available for viewing on YouTube), but they also made several interesting releases in a variety of styles. This particular album is an eclectic jumble, meandering from chill out and ambient techno to progressive house and hard trance. The results are not always good, but the production style remains remarkably consistent, and several tracks are undeniably excellent. Top picks: Woman is Like a Fruit, It’s Good For You, and To The Space.
Aural Float was formed in 1994 by Gabriel Le Mar, Pascal F.E.O.S., and Alex Azary to explore the deeper end of electronic dance music. On Introspectives, their debut, they combine elements of ambient, electro, and dub techno to create sublime and hypnotic soundscapes that seem to go on forever. Indeed, this album only contains five tracks, all of which are more than ten minutes in length, so you have to be in the mood for long journeys to really enjoy it. Thankfully the high production value makes it worthwhile, particularly on headphones or a nice booming sound system. Le Mar and Azary would go on to produce more interesting work as Saafi Brothers but this is a solid early entry in their respective discographies.
Fluke were among the biggest names in UK progressive house in the early 1990s. As with their compatriots Leftfield and Underworld they began branching out into more radio-friendly breakbeat and trip hop as the middle of the decade approached. Oto (Greek for “ear”) is a rather brief album that captures them in transition. Bullet is the only real dance floor banger to be found here; most of the rest dwell in the murky depths of downbeat grooves with softly whispered vocals. Among these, Tosh and Cut emerge as stand-out tunes, but inasmuch as I am a huge fan of Fluke, this album struggles to arouse my usual enthusiasm. Their best work was simultaneously ahead and behind of them at this point, or simply secreted away on the many singles this album spawned.
Indoor was an early Israeli trance project uniting Avi Algranati (AKA Space Cat), Ofer Dikovsky (Oforia), and Marko Goren (most famously part of Tandu). Progressive Trance, their only major release, captures an innocence and naivety seldom heard in the genre today. Although the production quality is raw and the arrangements are often uneven this album still contains many enchanting moments, and it’s not one that fans of melodic Goa trance should miss. Highlights: The Key, Shiva, Camel.
This is an obscure compilation of remixes for Soft Ballet, a Japanese electro pop band by some of the finest names in IDM, electro, and downbeat techno. Autechre, Carl Craig, Plaid, and Global Communication appear here with intriguing and unusual interpretations of the original source material, but I’d like to highlight Greg Hunter’s ambiguously-credited U (Double U) for its dark, majestic quality, and the elusive Stranger’s spacious yet insistent take on You. A pleasant surprise for dedicated crate-diggers.
This smooth and highly-refined album features an unusual blend of ambient techno, deep trance, and electro-industrial pop produced by Code, an obscure quartet from the UK. There is an obvious human touch to these compositions, and what vocals can be heard here are often whispered and always unobtrusive. The group cedes considerable airtime to the machines, constructing layered electronic soundscapes filled with warmth and nuance. On some level this sounds like Fluke or Underworld meets Kraftwerk, albeit with a greater degree of British reserve. Cities Part 4: Workers and The Grand Architect are obvious entry points for those who prefer a steady beat, but the spellbinding No Resistance is also worth a listen.
This curious album unites the skillful audio manipulations of Mind Over Rhythm (Alan C. Hill and Dave Hill, presumably brothers), who provide roughly two-thirds of the material, with several contributions by IDM legends Plaid. The style is firmly rooted in the British tradition of warm, analog techno experimentations, focusing more on regular beat patterns than the abstract breakbeats you would normally expect with Plaid’s involvement (although there are hints of that as well). Ambient techno had peaked by 1995 so this album feels like something of an afterthought, but it shows considerable maturity and is plenty of fun to get lost with for a while. Even the title is quite whimsical; though I have shortened it somewhat, the text on the cover reads Mind Over Rhythm Meets the Men From Plaid on the Planet Luv. Top picks: Uncharted Territory and Departure.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Etnica’s debut album—most of it sounded too tinny and insubstantial for my liking—but the deluxe re-issue on DAT Records in 2018 made me reconsider my long-held view that this album isn’t very good. Even though it was rapidly eclipsed by Alien Protein (1996) and especially I.F.O. (1997, under their Pleiadians guise), this album still merits a mention, especially if you enjoy this innocent, stripped-down style of early Goa trance. Don’t bother with the extremely overpriced originals, just pick up the remastered/extended version and enjoy!
Desideratum is a mammoth 2CD album released under the name Synaesthesia. Behind this project is the prolific Canadian duo Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, better known as Front Line Assembly and Delerium. It is similar in style to Embody, also released in 1995, but has a slightly different range and temperament. Here the producers continue their exploration of dark ambient and cinematic chill out with the addition of three moody techno-trance tunes, a formula that sounds oddly like something from Ultimae Records. Although the Blade Runner inspiration is obvious, “R. Deckard” is listed in the production credits to make this connection explicit. An overlooked gem worth seeking out for fans of science fictional ambience.
Numinous Island is a collaboration between ambient techno and trance producer Susumu Yokota and psychedelic trance pioneer Ray Castle, one of the original DJs at the beach parties of Goa in the late 1980s. Produced in Tokyo in the summer of 1994 (a studio session that also yielded the Sonic Sufi album Sacramental), this album contains 20 ambient compositions arranged into a continuous mix. Each track blends smoothly into the next, tantalizing the listener with exotic samples and tribal percussion, almost sounding like Muslimgauze for the Asian tropics. Despite the simplicity of many of these arrangements they are never bland or boring; there is a visionary weirdness to this cult classic that still has the power to mesmerize and transform.
Blue Room Released was founded by Simon Ghahary in 1994 to provide a “futuristic soundtrack” for the trailblazing loudspeaker company of the same name. Outside the Reactor, their first full-length release, was compiled by Mike Maguire, who remains entirely faithful to this mission. His selections trend toward the more techno-oriented side of trance music, and the overall vibe is relatively dark and mysterious for 1995. Juno Reactor’s instrumental remix of The Loyaliser is an obvious highlight, but I also appreciate both contributions from Jean-Loup Kehrig and Thierry Gotti, who appear here under their Spectral and Moog aliases. Voodoo People’s Quadsep is a bittersweet classic, doubly so since the full-length album mentioned in the liner notes never saw the light of day, and Ausgang’s Wires provides a prescient template for the entire psychedelic techno movement. Several of the other tunes aren’t exclusive to this release and add little to its collectability but still sound great. Overall it’s a solid effort, although this now-legendary imprint would go on to release much more impressive and influential material before long.
Jochem Paap explores the more atmospheric side of ambient techno on G Spot, his sophomore album. Clocking in at just over an hour in length, this album is book-ended by a pair of fantastic techno-trance hybrids: the sublime Ping Pong (which wouldn’t sound out of place in an old school Goa trance set); and the title track, which simmers and churns at the moderate pace of 130 BPM. The rest of these tunes meander through sublime chill and blissful ambient, amply demonstrating Paap’s studio craftsmanship. Remarkably accomplished for 1995; my only complaint is that it’s over far too soon.
In Trance is an obscure early Goa trance album by Israeli pioneers Guy Sebbag and Gal Carmy. Although Carmy has few other credits to his name, Sebbag regularly collaborated with Israeli heavyweights Har-El Prussky, Yan-Iv Haviv, Avi Nissim, and Lior Perlmutter (better known as Astral Projection). Despite these associations this particular album is often overlooked, possibly because of its rarity, or perhaps the pure and innocent style sounds unremarkable at first listen. Whatever the case, this is a surprisingly polished album that has held up remarkably well over the years, particularly for fans of pure melodic and morning trance. Highlights: The Golden Way, Vacuum Planet, and Over Seas, which includes a guest appearance by Serge Souque of Total Eclipse.
Last Train to Lhasa is perhaps the most ambitious album in Banco de Gaia’s extensive discography. The original release was a double-CD, but there are many other versions floating around, including the definitive 20th Anniversary Edition released on four discs in 2015. So what have we here? Ambient techno meets world music, essentially. It is very much in the same ballpark as The Orb or The Future Sound of London but more overtly multicultural, sampling instrumentation and vocals from a wide assortment of mostly Eastern sources. Despite the title there is no particular emphasis on Tibetan sounds; this is an ode to transnationalism. And the music? Almost universally warm and soothing, but not especially memorable. I happen to enjoy the title track and Amber, possibly because of my affinity for beat-driven electronic music, but there’s plenty to explore here for any fan of “ethnic” downtempo.
Exit Planet Dust might not be the most compelling album from The Chemical Brothers, legendary acid house and breakbeat manipulators from the UK, but it has aged nicely, even accounting for nostalgia. Despite tempos trending toward the low end, this album still packs a punch, as the brothers work it out with brawny beats, clever sampling, and hints of radio-friendly vocals. Alive Alone, Leave Home, and In Dust We Trust still sound as great as they ever did. Definitely worth the price of admission.
Electric Universe was originally a collaboration between German producers Boris Blenn and Michael Dressler, who left the project around 1997. One Love, their debut offering, is a cosmic collection of unpretentious analog trance and breakbreat soundscapes. Nothing here is overly complex; the arrangements are simple and straight-forward, and the production style is smooth and hypnotic, but there’s no shortage of charm and nostalgia for anyone who appreciates the naivety of early trance music. There are a few weak tracks on the album but most of these tunes have held up quite well over the years, and this is obviously superior to Blenn’s solo effort, the Paradise Connection album, released that same year. With bubbling acid lines, emotive melodies, and shimmering atmospheres, Blenn and Dressler capture the essence of the old school vibe. Highlights: One Love, Virtual Landscape, and Electronic Pulsation.
Before Shpongle there was The Infinity Project’s Mystical Experiences, a full-length exploration of realms of sound that would eventually become “psychill”. Although ambient and downtempo electronic music was nothing new, seldom before had it been expressed in such a multi-dimensional fashion, with the sounds of galloping horses and samples about objects drifting through outer space vividly conjuring specific mental imagery. Absolutely divine.
Leftfield established themselves as one of the leading producers of progressive house before branching out and experimenting with breakbeat rhythms on their widely-acclaimed debut album, Leftism. Despite jumping between genres and embracing an eclectic set of influences there’s nothing overly daring or experimental to be found here, a quality that probably contributed to its mainstream commercial appeal. Smooth and palatable, this landmark of UK electronic music still retains plenty of charm. I recommend snapping up the remastered and remixed version released in 2017.
TIP Orange landed in the summer of 1995, following hot on the heels of the incredible Yellow Compilation. This sophomore collection contains another strong batch of sizzling Goa trance classics: Angelic Particles, Mars Needs Women, Let There Be Light, Alien Airport, and Intellect among them. While it is much more diverse than Yellow, it is also far less consistent, with a handful of forgettable tunes and at least one total flop. Simon Posford’s reduced role in this compilation has a lot to do with it, but his absence also lets several other old school giants make their mark. All things considered, the Orange Compilation is a very strong effort for 1995, and contains several absolutely essential tunes from the dawn of Goa trance.
The second label compilation from UK dream trance pioneers Platipus Records is absolutely packed with classic tunes. All of these were previously released on vinyl but it’s great to find them in one place. Man With No Name provides the biggest highlight with his epic remix of Octopus, and Simon Berry’s many contributions (seven in all) are among his best work. Platipus was not always consistent, and later veered into mainstream trance territory, but this particular collection captures them at their absolute best.
Hypnotic, tribal, and richly atmospheric, this pioneering techno-trance album from Danish producer Kristian Thinning remains one of the classics of the genre. There is an alluring softness to this album, a haunting sense of mystery that keeps me coming back year after year. Sampled chants, drums, and instrumentation give this album a worldly feel (ages ago we would have called this “ethnic”), but it never feels forced or contrived. The original release might be difficult to procure but Avatar Records released a 2CD deluxe version with additional material in 2005.
Concept In Dance was a short-lived division of XL Recordings responsible for releasing Man With No Name’s debut album and two compilations essential for any old school Goa trance fan. Featured here is an all-star line-up of some of the biggest names in trance then and now, with stellar contributions from Simon Posford, The Infinity Project, Psychaos, and Cydonia. Tribal Science is a solid sequel to Digital Alchemy and should be considered essential for any fan of the more hard-hitting and acidic side of early UK Goa trance.
Here we have an extremely rare compilation absolutely stacked with classics from some of the biggest names in Goa trance. Transwave appears here with two of their best, Cycles of Life and Rezwalker; Pleiadians provide three solid tracks (including their eponymous debut), of which Boarding Pass to Balangan is the highlight; while Rainbow Spirit (Boris Blenn of Electric Universe) teams up with DJ Sangeet to launch us into space with the fantastic Sirius Shuttle. This is perhaps the finest release from Symbiosis Records, which folded after Flying UK, a major distributor, went out of business.
The second edition of Trust In Trance is an important milestone in Israeli trance history. Although billed as a compilation featuring four separate acts, this release was the work of three producers: Lior Perlmutter, Avi Nissim, and Yan-Iv Haviv (with a guest appearance by DJ Jörg Kessler on the eternal Mahadeva). In their shifting permutations as SFX, Aban Don, and Mantra, this release captures the legendary Astral Projection at the moment of formation, channelling divine inspiration into shimmering, emotive melodies and pulsating trance rhythms. Blasting tunes like Power Gen and State of Mind still pack a punch, while songs like Celestial Groove and Hypnotica demonstrate a softer, more sensitive touch. While the entire compilation (or album, if you prefer) remains quite listenable, it is not without weak moments, and the flow is somewhat inconsistent. The group was clearly searching for their sound, which ultimately crystallized on Dancing Galaxy in 1997. Even so, this landmark release still ranks among the best of 1995.
Download began as an outgrowth of the infamous Canadian industrial band Skinny Puppy. Furnace, their debut album, was released as the group was being torn apart by creative differences and personal tragedy; band member Dwayne R. Goettel died of an overdose shortly after primary recording was complete. Against the backdrop of this bleak origin story this album spans an incredibly vast range of electro-industrial territory, alternating between sublime breakbeats and sheer sonic chaos. Try it and hear for yourself, there’s absolutely nothing else like it. Highlights: Beehatch, Omniman, Noh Mans Land, Cannaya.
Formed by Graham Wood and Raja Ram, The Infinity Project were true pioneers, laying down some of the earliest sounds that are recognizably and unequivocally Goa trance. TIP were frequently joined in the studio by a list of contributors that reads like the Who’s Who of early Goa trance: Nick Barber (Doof), Simon Posford (Hallucinogen), Paul Jackson (Voodoo People), Martin Freeland (Man With No Name), and so on. Together they released this strong yet inconsistent album packed with previously-released material (making it more of a compilation than a proper album). There are many moments of sheer sonic brilliance as well as occasional misfirings, but overall it still ranks as one of the best of 1995.
The debut album from Total Eclipse, a French triumvirate formed by Stephane Holweck, Serge Souque, and Loïc Van Poucke, is one of the finest products of the golden age of Goa trance. Every song exudes their signature sound but there’s an incredible variety of moods explored across this uniformly excellent album. From dark and menacing to bright and funky, this album has it all! Highlights: The Crucible, Can’t Do That, Le Lotus Bleu, Blade Runner, and Free Lemonade. But really, the entire album still sounds fantastic and unique.
The debut compilation from TIP Records captures the essence of Goa trance in all its shimmering, hallucinogenic glory, at its moment of stylistic genesis. No formal name appears on the release but initial test pressings described it as the “Yellow LP”. Nowadays we generally call it TIP Yellow or the Yellow Compilation, as it was the first of many classic releases to feature the same graphic in different chromatic permutations. As for the music, just have a glance at the track list: all but the last two are all-time classics, and it would be impossible to name only a few favorites. What explains this consistent level of quality? Simon Posford produced or engineered seven out of the eleven tracks on this compilation, which probably has something to do with it. At any rate, if you want to hear the absolute best of the old school, this genre-defining triumph should be your first stop.
Koxbox’s debut album Forever After is a beguiling collection of space age techno and psychedelic trance that transcends time. From the very second the needle drops on Point of No Return we are cast into the void between worlds, drifting on waves of warm bass and dazzled by alien melodies. There isn’t a weak track on the album, and even the contemplative Neurobic, at 14 minutes in length, maintains interest. Undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary electronic dance music albums of its day, in any genre. (Then again, perhaps I am biased; this was one of the first trance CDs I purchased, mainly because of the cover design!)
Twisted sent seismic shockwaves throughout the scene when it was released on Dragonfly Records, and its many-layered lysergic soundscapes continue to dazzle and bewilder listeners today. Although Simon Posford’s timeless debut album is renowned for being one of the darker examples of Goa trance circa 1995 there are many moments of sheer unadulterated euphoria, often in the midst of tracks otherwise simmering with sinister energy. My only criticism is that the production value sometimes sounds a little thin, but that’s understandable given how old it is. Despite these minor misgivings there’s no question this legendary album is an all-time classic, and all trance fans should be intimately familiar with its surprising twists and turns.
Ben Watkins’ second album as Juno Reactor is a collaborative extravaganza drawing upon the burgeoning talents of Paul Jackson (Genetic/Voodoo People), Stephane Holweck (of Total Eclipse), Mike Maguire, Johann Bley, and Jens Waldebäck (Cwithe). The album is named for the final sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and most tracks are anchored by clever samples from film (Dune, The Doors, and The Swimmer, among others). Many producers have sampled movies, of course, but a close study of Watkins’ discography will reveal a degree of cinephilia that obviously informs his approach to composition. There are no really weak moments on the album, although tracks like Rotorblade, Guardian Angel, Samurai, and Feel the Universe stand out as clear fan favourites. Overall it remains the most forward-thinking full-length album of 1995 and a crowning achievement of electronic music.
Your feedback on this chart is welcome! Use the comment form below if you have a release to recommend, a memory to share, or if you respectfully disagree with my recommendations and ranking. This list also appears on Discogs.