Netlabels and the Adoption of Creative Commons Licensing

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This comment is in reference to Creative Commons in Practice: Notes from the Trenches of the Independent Electronic Music Industry by Björn Hartmann, founder of the Textone netlabel. At the time of publication I called it required reading for anyone interested in the ideology behind Ektoplazm and the free music movement in general, but it doesn’t appear to be online any more.

At any rate, Hartmann delves into the history of EDM netlabels and explores what motivates artists to release their creations under the Creative Commons licensing regime. I was particularly moved by a passage that examines why it is that so many people devote themselves to niche genres despite the economic hardships involved:

There is the fervor driving the individual to create, and beyond that, a rich network of social interaction to partake in. If one looks at music not as a business, but as a communication medium, a more valuable social payoff comes into sight. It is the function of music as a universal connector, a topic for community building, a nexus for artistic exchange and creative experimentation that marks its true value. Turning away from unaccommodating commercial networks, a number of artists realized this potential and moved towards its realization online, avoiding the pitfall of merely replicating the restrictive brick-and-mortar model of music distribution in the digital domain.

In Focus: Sibilant – Screecher Creature

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In the mid-nineties, the legendary Mazzo nightclub in Amsterdam formed several record labels to showcase a diverse array of electronic music styles heard within their walls. Founded in 1995, the M-Track imprint was chartered to release trance and techno—most of which was written by local Dutch producers like Synchro (Jeroen van Garling), Cwithe (Jens Waldebäck and Anthony Koppenaal). Shortly after the formation of the label, Mazzo resident DJ Lucas released a CD mix entitled The Gathering Volume One. This marks the debut of Lorenzo Zoeter, the influential producer behind Sibilant, his solo project, and Metal Spark, a project formed alongside Lucas Mees (DJ Lucas) and Patrice Van Den Berg (Syrinx). Zoeter’s appearance on the scene coincides with a noticeable increase in the complexity and sophistication of the nascent Dutch “break-trance” movement, which arguably peaked with the release of Metal Spark’s Corrosive on Blue Room Released in 1998.

In Focus: Tarsis – The Snake

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Sebastian Krüger (SBK), Linus Wessel, and Victor Harder began working together in the mid-nineties as part of the group Digital Sun, eventually releasing their full-length debut The Spiral of Power on Polytox Records in 1997. That same year, Wessel and Krüger founded Tarsis to explore a more progressive approach to trance music, emphasizing slow-building arrangements and (at that time) cutting edge production techniques. After signing with DJ Antaro’s Spirit Zone Records in Germany, Tarsis debuted on the Tathata II compilation with the original version of Atomic Children. Instead of merely elaborating on the melodic exuberance of the Digital Sun project, Tarsis challenged listeners with sleek, stylized grooves and subtle hypnotic effects. This paved the way for Vacuum in 1998, the first of several full-length albums from Tarsis.

UK Channel 4 News Report on Goa Trance

Youtube users have been incredibly resourceful in unearthing video content previously unavailable to anyone interested in the history of trance. The following clip, dating back to 1994, is a brief Channel 4 (UK) news report on the emergence of Goa trance as a social phenomenon, right around the time it first oozed into the public sphere of awareness. Since this is British programming, the emphasis is on Dragonfly, TIP, Flying Rhino, and Return to the Source, with soundbites from trance pioneers Simon Posford, Youth, James Monro, Chris Deckker, and Raja Ram.

Trancer’s Guide 2007: Toronto Edition

The following piece is an article I wrote about the Toronto psytrance scene for the 2007 edition of the Trancer’s Guide to the Galaxy, an annual publication with a circulation of 30,000 copies worldwide. This 80 page postcard-sized magazine provides a high-level overview of trance activity around the globe. It is aimed at the neo-hippie jet set: globe-trotting “trancers” keen on discovering the character of gatherings in distant lands. As the content is divided along national boundaries and proportioned according to overall activity, a large and regionally disparate country such as Canada is seldom profiled in any depth in the print version. Naturally, given all of the content that is written for the guide, editors must make difficult decisions since space is at a premium. From what I have heard, my article concerning Toronto has been amalgamated into the Canada-wide profile and reduced to little more than a brief mention that we exist.

Seven Years of Darkrave

This coming Saturday I will be playing a special Y2K retrospective set at the Darkrave 7 Year Anniversary party, their 80th. Expect to hear old tunes from The Delta, Infected Mushroom, Tim Schuldt, Cydonia, Logic Bomb, and other big names from the turn of the millennium.

In hindsight, it can be said that the regular Darkrave and R351570R events helped to shape the nature of psychedelic nightlife in Toronto in the early part of this decade. An unlikely fusion of high-tech industrial and mind-altering trance resulted in a rare hybrid: the cybergoth aesthetic. This countercultural crossbreed, still thriving in cities like London and San Francisco, has never been very widespread. Toronto is one of the few places in the world where you could find fluorodelic hippies stomping alongside cyborgs decked out in gas masks and big furry boots.

Although such observations are usually beneath notice, I have long held an appreciation for the diverse qualities of my hometown dance floors. As the one who channels the music, it is always a thrill to see everyone stomping to the same beat. I have been working hard selecting the right mix of classic material to share this Saturday, and hope many will be in attendance to celebrate seven long years of Darkrave.

Chaos Unlimited Closes Shop

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The biggest shop in the U.K. is shutting down at the end of the month! From their mail-out:

Chaos Unlimited, the original Psy Trance webstore, will close on 31st August 2006 after 10 years in the Psy Trance scene. This is due to personal health issues combined with the continued decline in Psy Trance CD sales.

When I began to collect back in the late 90s, CU was an essential stop-over for buying fresh material. I must have ordered over a hundred vinyls from them as the years went by. One has to appreciate their dedication to a business which promises little more than hard work and getting by. It will be sad to see them go, but they’ve had a good run!

The mail-out suggests that customers seeking music in the future should check out psymp3.com, which says a great deal about the way the psytrance industry is shifting gears to adapt to the changing times. After a quick look, my first thoughts are that £1.25 for a 320k MP3 seems a bit steep, and the selection isn’t great. They are sure to regret their choice of domain name in the years to come, as MP3s are gradually phased out, but it must be remembered that this is only the beginning for digital download shops. Just as the emerging online shops of the late 90s went through frequent upheavals as the technology of the web advanced, so too will the digital music emporiums adjust to new developments and buyer preferences. I wish them luck in the years to come!

Ten Years in Trance

Late April of 2006 marks a full decade since my first experience of trance. Ten years ago I attended my first electronic music event: a party thrown by Syrous, one of Toronto’s early large-scale rave production organizations. The party was held in a huge warehouse complex in the industrial wastelands of the west end. Three rooms featured jungle, house, techno, and other forms of electronic dance music. I had never experienced anything like it; here were thousands of people dancing, shouting, jumping around, and going completely mad to the sound of the omnipresent drums. While the various styles of music played in the big rooms failed to intrigue my interest at the time, I made a deep and lasting connection with a few of the sounds I heard in the smaller third room. “Mr. Nivok” (more properly known as Nivoc) from Montreal was there playing an old school Goa trance set.

After this first taste of Goa trance, it took me about a year to reconnect to the psychedelic underground. Few events in Toronto seemed to feature the style, or perhaps I was simply unable to locate the relevant information. I attended gatherings organized by Moonshadow and Resonance in 1998, checked out the first BLA parties when they started up, and later on, became a regular at R351570R and Deep Sea Fish. I must direct some appreciation to all these crews for many excellent nights. What a long strange trip it has been. Thank you, everyone!

EAC Tips and Tricks

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EAC or Exact Audio Copy is a very handy tool for music fans. Every time I receive an order of new CDs, the very first thing I do is rip and burn two copies of every CD–one for the backup spool, and one for the binder that I bring out to gigs. Making backups and copies for playing out ensures that originals will stay in the very best condition. Additionally, as a DJ, it is a sensible precaution to avoid taking originals from your home. It is every DJ’s nightmare to have their record bag or CD wallet stolen, but nowadays, the risk can be minimized. This article compiles some tips and tricks I’ve picked up from using the software, which also has several uses beyond merely backing up your discs.