Global Psychedelic Chill Out (series)

Launched in 1994 and lasting a little over ten years, German-based label Spirit Zone was much loved and respected in underground circles for its championing of both progressive and full-throttle psychedelic trance...less known but equally worthy is Spirit Zone's downtempo material, which draws on electro, dub, old-school ambient, world beat and dancefloor trance.

series:
Global Psychedelic Chill Out

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Psytrance, Goa trance, ambient dub, psyambient, ethno-ambient, progressive trance

decades active:
90's -00's

essential releases:

  • Global Psychedelic Chill Out vol. 2 (2001, Spirit Zone)
  • Global Psychedelic Chill Out vol. 3 (2002, Spirit Zone)
  • Global Psychedelic Chill Out vol. 4 (2003, Spirit Zone)

Reviewed by Mike G

Launched in 1994 and lasting a little over ten years, German-based label Spirit Zone was much loved and respected in underground circles for its championing of both progressive and full-throttle psychedelic trance from an international roster of artists. Spirit Zone's founder and guiding light was DJ Antaro. He was one of the first DJ's in Europe to organise the outdoor dance parties for which came to define the psy or "doof" scene, parties inspired by intensely hedonistic - or spiritual, depending on who you ask - musical gatherings that originated in Goa, India in the early 90's.

Less known but equally worthy is Spirit Zone's downtempo material, which draws on electro, dub, old-school ambient, world beat and dancefloor trance. Although modest in quantity, it is often very good and occasionally jaw-droppingly brilliant. Global Psychedelic Chill Out is a diverse and artfully packaged series of double CD's that was complied annually by Antaro between 2000 and 2003. Many tracks are breakbeat driven and flavoured with the Vedic, Mid-Eastern and rock sounds that distinguish this trance style from the ambient remixes of 90's trance anthems heard on labels like Lost Language and Hooj. Not that the remix work of UK producers like Solar Stone or Michael Woods is necessarily of any lesser quality, just different from its more psychedelic, underground cousins.

The first volume in the series is actually rather tuneless and not recommended; the series hit its stride with Global Psychedelic Chill Out Volume 2 (2001), a gently melodic set of beats, dub grooves and trancey electro. At the uplifting end of the spectrum is the breathtaking and luminous "Stardust" by Spacefish, a duo whose contributions to the series have been consistently outstanding. Imagine the sound of a hammond organ in a wind tunnel with washes of electric guitar, carried on a slow rolling dub groove. Etnica's "Trip Tonite" is the album at its weirdest and most overtly psychedelic. An eerie melody rises and falls in a long arc over a slow drum break, punctuated in parts with a droning sample from Jim Morrison about a ceremony in which the participants experienced "an intense visitation of energy".

The cinema of unease evoked by Etnica on Volume 2 is more dominant on Volume 3 (2002), an album that's distinctly uneasy listening at times with its creepy sci-fi undertones and intriguing film and TV samples. Younger Brother's "Evil and Harm" has become a all-time favourite with its weird juxoposition of demonic sermons with sweet, liquid melodies from slide guitar. Tracks from Grey Area (Australia) and Ooze (Sweden) occupy a kind of shadowland between darkness and light, painting their understated melodies against dark electronic squelches and echoes. For all the darkness, though, both discs of Volume 3 do end with two of the most cosmic, sense-smooching beautiful tracks in the entire series care of Electric Universe and (once again) Spacefish. 

Volume 4 (2003) the the last in the series and is overall more generous with it's melodies. Aural Planet delivers spine-tingling breakbeat-trance, the duo Dual Systems sound a bit like Enigma but a while lot better, and Lider & Raichel have fashioned a vocal track of such longing in "Strong World" that it could quite possibly make you cry. The second disc includes some deeper, bass-driven tracks that echo Jamaican dub. Highlights include - yet again - a track from Spacefish, the bluesy guitar licks on Olivier Orand's "Flashback", and a ten minute epic from Ooze which hypnotises with a simple accordion phrase and a stoned tribal drum loop. It all ends with the deep, gorgeous keys and monastic chants of Safran's "Sole e Praia", a fitting close to a great series.

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