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.

Vacuum straddles the boundaries between Goa trance and the minimalistic progressive sound that swept across Europe around the turn of the millennium. Melodies are few and far between; instead, the focus is on intricate rhythmic programming and the mesmerizing interplay of atmospheric motifs, evoking a sublime cosmic feeling. Rather than assault the listener with a frantic barrage of screaming leads (as many contemporary Goa trance producers had been doing with ever-increasing intensity), Tarsis emphasized the importance of the space between the notes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJL9aDZ4uhs

Nowhere is this refined approach more clearly heard than on the hauntingly beautiful opening song, The Snake, which vividly captures the emptiness of the starry void in sonic form. Underscoring its importance, The Snake was selected by Sebastian Krüger himself for Nova-Tekk’s Eternity Vol. 2, an all-time “best of” compilation. Although uncredited on the album itself, Victor Harder, one of the original members of Digital Sun, was also part of the studio session that gave rise to this classic track.

German producers are often overshadowed by X-Dream, one of the most consistently influential groups in trance history, but Tarsis should not go unrecognized for their contribution to the development of progressive and minimal psychedelic trance in the late nineties.

Photo by David Clode via Unsplash. This track can also be heard in my mix, Live at Re:Generate 2011.