Aural PleasureBy Sumit Basu
If your dreams are laced with the sounds of electronica, if your heart beats to a solid techno groove, if you long for a secret weapon that will turn the next ho-hum house party into a mini-rave, you must have Hallucinogen’s Twisted. The first full-length work by Simon Posford (a.k.a. Hallucinogen), it was originally released in 1995 under the tiny Dragonfly (U.K.) label. The current release under Twisted Records came out in the UK in 1999 and brought Posford’s sonic explorations to the rest of the world.
In eight solid tracks, Twisted delivers 64 minutes of relentless goa trance. For newbies to the dance world, goa trance is the unique brand of psychedelic dance that originated in Goa in the mid-1990’s: a blend of positive energy and mystical refrains that has been rapidly infecting its way into the U.K. (and now U.S.) dance scenes for the last several years. Basically, if you love dance music but are tired of the monotonous drudgery of techno, this is what you’ve been waiting for.
Hallucinogen is a prime example of this new breed of melodic dance. Posford leads us into the goa scene as both an artist and a DJ, elegantly blending from one mind-bending track to the next. The downside of this is that the tracks are not completely independent -- many include the closing refrains of the previous piece, so if you want to do your own mixing, you’re going to have to spend some time marking out transitions. The upside, though, is that you could easily pop this bundle of joy into the carousel and just let it go for the next hour. The rest of the party will thank you for it.
The first track, “LSD,” begins quietly but builds into a comfortable groove. Holding back on the hard drums, Posford makes this piece a melodic introduction to the heavy dance ahead. The next track, “Orphic Trench,” is perhaps the least interesting of the set. The sound here is harsher and more industrial with a heavy dose of distortion lining most of the melodies -- not a good one for hangover mornings. It’s very danceable, but at times displays some of the repetitiveness of its inbred techno cousins. “Alpha Centauri” quickly dispels any doubts the listener may have formed during the second track. A series of simple melodic themes come in and out of a heavy drum and bass substrate, making for a very pleasurable dance groove. Though over ten minutes long, substrate and melody are constantly evolving, keeping things fresh at every step. With “Dark Magus,” the world gets dreamy again. This track begins with a laid-back theme and quiet rhythm, but this soon gives way to the ominous promise of its title. By the end, it has built itself (and its audience) into a dancing frenzy.
The last four tracks take us into the outer atmosphere. More experimental than their predecessors, these pieces may be the pioneers that lead goa trance into its next stage of evolution. “Shamanix” is imbued with a distinctively vocal character, both in its core rhythmic base and in the accents (speech, screams, and more) that fill out its signature. “Snarling Black Mabel” is another piece with a heavy distortion edge. Though rough to the touch, this piece is far from painful to listen to. The patterns are moving targets, changing almost from measure to measure in this very dynamic piece. “Fluoro Neuro Sponge” then softens things with the purity of electronic space music, bringing the aliens home to us for a seven-minute trance ballet. Innocent in its sound but relentless in its motion, this is a song to go wild over -- I challenge anyone to remain in their seat through its entirety.
The album closes with “Solstice,” which winds things down and closes with a heartbeat. However, it doesn’t let go without a fight. While this piece shares the softer sound of the previous track, holding back on the snare and the distortion, it still packs a serious punch. It asks you to come out to the floor for one last set before you collapse from sheer exhaustion. The title comes from the six-minute gap after the “official” end of the song, leading us into a beautiful hidden track that echoes with haunting, technofied Hindustani refrains weaved through with disembodied whispers.
It’s rare to find a dance set with so much variation and innovation from a single artist and in a single album, and, as a result, I believe Hallucinogen will headline the dance scene for many months to come. Whether you’re looking for music to do problem sets to, new dance tracks for your next party, or just music to make your life better, I strongly suggest a dose of this heavy-duty acoustic drug. If you’re still not convinced enough to buy the album, at least check out some of the tracks online -- track samples can be found on several online CD stores, including <http://www.cdnow.com.> More info, new sample tracks, and booking requests (hint, hint, Spring Concert Organizers ... ) can be found on Twisted Records’ web site at <http://www.twisted.co.uk.>