On one stage this Summer you can catch some of the best in American bass music from Jade Cicada, CharlestheFirst and Bogtrotter, international OGs like Hedflux, Rumpistol and Ott, and a living legend like Solar Fields; the Chill Out stage at Psy-Fi Festival: Seeds of Science, returning in its seventh year to Leeuwarden, Netherlands this weekend, August 28 to September 1.
As one of the larger transformational psytrance festivals in Europe, Psy-Fi has drawn people from 114 different countries. They come for good reason. According to the festival’s website, Psy-Fi invites “most of the best known live acts and dj's” to perform. That’s absolutely true of the Chill Out stage. They’re hosting the worldwide vanguard in psychedelic bass from Bluetech and Hedflux to Kalya Scintilla, Kaya Project, Bumble and ATYYA. Most of the performances from artists based in the United States, including MALAKAI and Schmoop, are European debuts.
Fully developed, highly produced chill out stages are less common stateside than they are internationally. They’re really a product of the trance scene, but there’s few psytrance festivals in the states. How does it work from a booking perspective or from an experiential perspective? The UK producer Steve Young aka Hedflux, one of the more well-traveled Chill Out stage performers at Psy-Fi, breaks it down this way:
In the trance world, chill essentially means “anything but trance.” Sometimes it's referred to as the "alternative" stage since it's not necessarily always chilled out. As a DJ you generally have free license to play whatever you want, whether it’s more sit-down chill music, or more deep dance vibes. There's no pressure to get the party rocking, but you can still get it rocking if you want to. Obviously the idea is to keep it psychedelic…but take artistic advantage of the great musical freedom you have to explore different rhythms, tempos and energy levels, and bring in musical influences from elsewhere. At the trance stage, there is a universal sense of expectation among the crowd that the next drop will be a trance beat, and if you mess with that, they'll get annoyed (understandably so). At the chill stage however there is no expectation, people are more fluid and you can take them from an ambient cuddle puddle to a frenzied ecstatic dance and back again without anyone shouting "where's the drop?".
Hedflux is a great representative of the groundbreaking global glitch at Psy-Fi. His Eclectic Psychedelica mixes arguably curate and mix through the best midtempo psychedelic music in the world. His appreciation for Itay comes through as well. “He is an amazing agent, producer and DJ and a curator of the finest psychedelic chill-out line-ups,” Steve says. “For me now, the chill stage IS the main stage.”
Itay of Feel Life Music, with his selective taste and a global roledex of bass musicians, is the mind behind the Chill Out stage. He’ll also perform there through his Kukan Dub Lagan project. While the lineup may astound someone seeing it for the first time, those who know Itay say it’s par for the course for this sommelier of psychedelic music. “I was certainly surprised, but at the same time, I’m not surprised Itay would pull something like this off,” writes Søren Thygesen, the Danish producer Bwoy De Bhajan. “I remember seeing the lineup for the first time. One act after the other made me raise my fists in joy.” This will be Søren’s fourth year at Psy-Fi. “They dare to take some chances with the lineup and not recycle the same group of acts year after year. It’s very refreshing, and i'm starting to see more festivals in Europe taking risks. You don't forget those moments where an unfamiliar act takes you by storm.”
“The amount of North American acts making their way over here is great, this rarely happens, if ever,” says Søren. Psychedelic electronic music started and first rose to prominence outside of the states. The states has its own robust electronic community, Chicago house and Detroit techno, plus the countercultural mecca Burning Man. But in the popular imagination, UK clubs, Goa beaches, Australian doofs or blowouts like Boom Festival in Portugal or Shambhala Music Festival in Canada have always eclipsed the stateside scene. Psy-Fi’s bookings recognize though that theres a growing group a forward-thinking producers from the States that’s worth integrating onto the international circuit. “I hope we keep that trend up for years to come, and build a foundation for them to come back and make their way around the European scene.” He’s excited about Schmoop in particular, producer Will Russek from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. “I met the young dude in Florida back in April, where he told me he's playing his first set abroad at Psy-Fi. The sheer excitement from his side was just amazing.”
We asked Will how he’s planning to approach his first international set. “The plan is top secret,” he wrote, but he’s playing a little bit of everything (check out his destructive single “Charge”). One thing you won’t see at Psy-Fi is a set from Wonky Llama, his collaboration with Jade Cicada. “Saving that for the future,” he wrote.
We’ll be on the lookout for feedback from this thoughtful event. It’s enabling cross pollination between producers from every corner of the world, and that’s encouraging. Speaking of pollination, what of the name “seeds of science”? From the festival’s website: “The quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson ‘men love to wonder and that's the seed of science’ shows that our imagination and our curiosity are at the base of all that men has ever created. We encourage you to find out how science can help you and others to create a better and more sustainable world.” For the full Chill Out stage lineup and more details on the festival, visit their website.