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The Vibe of the Exiles: Aliens, Afropsychedelia and Psyculture

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Abstract and Figures

This article offers detailed comment on the vibe of the exiles, a socio-sonic aesthetic infused with the sensibility of the exile, of compatriotism in expatriation, a characteristic of psychedelic electronica from Goatrance to psytrance and beyond (i.e. psyculture). The commentary focuses on an emancipatory artifice which sees participants in the psyculture continuum adopt the figure of the alien in transpersonal and utopian projects. Decaled with the cosmic liminality of space exploration, alien encounter and abduction repurposed from science fiction, psychedelic event-culture cultivates posthumanist pretentions resembling Afrofuturist sensibilities that are identified with, appropriated and reassembled by participants. Offering a range of examples, among them Israeli psychedelic artists bent on entering another world, the article explores the interface of psyculture and Afrofuturism. Sharing a theme central to cosmic jazz, funk, rock, dub, electro, hip-hop and techno, from the earliest productions, Israeli and otherwise, Goatrance, assumed an off-world trajectory, and a concomitant celebration of difference, a potent otherness signified by the alien encounter, where contact and abduction become driving narratives for increasingly popular social aesthetics. Exploring the different orbits from which mystics and ecstatics transmit visions of another world, the article, then, focuses on the sociosonic aesthetics of the dance floor, that orgiastic domain in which a multitude of “freedoms” are performed, mutant utopias propagated, and alien identities danced into being.
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Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5(2): 56–87
ISSN 1947-5403 ©2013 Dancecult http://dj.dancecult.net
DOI 10.12801/1947-5403.2013.05.02.04
T V   E:
A, A  P
G S J
G U (A)
Abstract
is article oers detailed comment on the vibe of the exiles, a socio-sonic aesthetic
infused with the sensibility of the exile, of compatriotism in expatriation, a
characteristic of psychedelic electronica from Goatrance to psytrance and beyond
(i.e. psyculture). e commentary focuses on an emancipatory artice which sees
participants in the psyculture continuum adopt the gure of the alien in transpersonal
and utopian projects. Decaled with the cosmic liminality of space exploration, alien
encounter and abduction repurposed from science ction, psychedelic event-culture
cultivates posthumanist pretentions resembling Afrofuturist sensibilities that are
identied with, appropriated and reassembled by participants. Oering a range of
examples, among them Israeli psychedelic artists bent on entering another world,
the article explores the interface of psyculture and Afrofuturism. Sharing a theme
central to cosmic jazz, funk, rock, dub, electro, hip-hop and techno, from the earliest
productions, Israeli and otherwise, Goatrance, assumed an o-world trajectory, and
a concomitant celebration of dierence, a potent otherness signied by the alien
encounter, where contact and abduction become driving narratives for increasingly
popular social aesthetics. Exploring the dierent orbits from which mystics and
ecstatics transmit visions of another world, the article, then, focuses on the socio-
sonic aesthetics of the dance oor, that orgiastic domain in which a multitude of
“freedoms” are performed, mutant utopias propagated, and alien identities danced
into being.
Keywords: alien-ation; psyculture; Afrofuturism; posthumanism;
psytrance; exiles; aliens; vibe
G S J is a cultural anthropologist and researcher of electronic dance music cultures and
festivals. He is the author of six books including Global Tribe: Spirituality, Technology and Psytrance
(Equinox 2012) and Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures (Equinox 2009), Adjunct Research
Fellow at the Grith Centre for Cultural Studies, Grith University, Australia, and Executive Editor
of Dancecult. His website is <www.edgecentral.net>.
F A
St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
P S’ (1996) hypnotic “Goaway” features the line: “music is dierent here, the
vibrations are dierent, not like planet Earth. And later, amid the driving rhythm, “we will
eect the vibrations. Sampling Sun Ra from the 1974 Afropsychedelic feature lm Space is
the Place, this mid-1990s Israeli Goatrance production evokes the desire among practitioners
and enthusiasts of the psychedelic aesthetic to build a marginal and expatriate lifestyle in
exile from the maligned parent culture; to fashion a dierence that is pressed into the social
aesthetic, the vibe, of the psychedelic trance dance party. From all-night party to week-long
festival, appealing to those hailing from many nations and speaking a multitude of languages,
the vibe of the exiles reverberates in the present with the proliferation of global psyculture.
With its diverse musicological roots, the psychedelic electronic dance music counterculture
emerging in Goa, India, in the late 1980s known as “Goatrance” was the wellspring for the
ourishing of psychedelic trance (or “psytrance”) around the world from the mid-1990s
(see St John 2012a). Psytrance shares music production technologies and DJ techniques
with other electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs), including “Detroit techno”. With
its distinct psychedelic sonic and visual aesthetics, organisations and parties, psytrance is
distinguishable from that which is popularly marketed as “Trance” (e.g. progressive trance,
eurotrance, hard trance). While producers and participants are predominantly, but by
no means exclusively, white, psytrance shares a largely unrecognised psychedelic aesthetic
heritage with Afrodiasporic musics.
Decaled with space exploration motifs, resounding with ascensionist discourse and
alien encounters lied and repurposed from science ction cinema, psychedelic event-
culture is richly inscribed with an o-planetary utopianism holding much in common
with Afrofuturist becomings. e article explores the interfacing of psyculture and
Afrofuturism, dissecting freak counterculturalist and Afrodiasporic imaginations, oering
commentary on the appropriation and remixing of the aesthetics of alienation. e
meaning of “alienation” I use requires unpacking here. In standard psycho-sociological
conceptualisations, “alienation” refers to the eects of disenfranchisement, exclusion, an
absence of authenticity. It is the disenchantment cumulating from oppressive social systems,
power’s limits on freedom, and the denials of humanity, from slavery to bureaucracy. But
the study of alienation has typically addressed the cultural artice propagating in the face
of power. And thus we observe the communities and artists in exile forming in response to
oppression, as can be observed in the posthumanist interventions of black science ction
authors, hip-hop artists and Detroit techno musicians. Neither denitively utopian nor
dystopian, here, the “Alien Nation” is decidedly heterotopian, if Mark Sinker’s (1992)
original whirlwind of digressions is any chart to navigate. In Sinker’s postulations, the chief
characteristic of these artforms is, nevertheless, “survival; by syncretism, by bricolage, by a
day-to-day programme of appropriation and adaptation as resourcefully broad-minded as
any in history”.
Such strategies are integral to the remixological praxis of EDM cultures, not the least
of all psychedelic electronica. In the language I adopt, where usage connotes the alien
Dancecult 5(2)
of extraterrestrial or interdimensional infamy, to be alienated is to access a potentially
emancipatory liminality not dissimilar to that identied by Sinker. I identify two not-
unrelated modes. In the rst, the gure of the alien is appropriated to gnostic objectives,
embodying an otherness the adoption of which may be integral to self-discovery. e alien,
typically but certainly not exclusively benevolent, is adopted within psycho-cultural arts as
a vehicle of re-enchantment. Alienation is then a performance of self-virtualisation, where
the journey (intergalactic or otherwise) is a narrative of self-metamorphosis and the alien
a transpersonalising device, enabling a self-transcendence achievable with the assistance of
a spectrum of sensory technologies (see St John 2013a). With the second mode that will
gure prominently in this article, and which is dierentiated here as alien-ation, we turn
the original meaning on its head. e gure of the alien, as a symbol of ultimate dierence,
collapses all distinctions, becoming a utopian (or indeed dystopian) signier, holding
appeal to the excluded, to the dislocated, to the alienated. Here we nd the practice of
alien-ation as a possible architectonic of salvation, where sensory technologies are adopted
to eect altered social conditions; a socio-sonic aesthetic, or vibe, the optimised aesthetics
of abduction, propagating the conditions of freedom desired in contradistinction to
those beyond the event. It is little wonder that Israelis, as we’ll observe, nd truck with
Afrofuturisms, and will deploy and appropriate such utopian constructs, despite the very
dierent histories of oppression.
T V
E    is a product of the interfacing of European and
Afrodiasporic cultural aesthetics, social practices and sonic techniques. Over some four
decades, a techno-liberationism has animated EDM genres, scenes and movements (and
indeed other popular music forms). EDMCs are futurist technocultures whose post/
humanist forms are embellished with dramatic quests for freedom born from estrangement,
and ushed with a sensibility of transit, of movement, albeit so oen a “movement” without
objective, a revelation without content, and which is nevertheless potent, archetypally
liminal, which derives from the Latin “limen, meaning threshold. Cults of expectancy
have arisen in which a contingent technics is venerated by disaected populations in
the faithful application of a mechanics of transcendence enabling rupture from the past,
and an escalation into the future that is lived in an ongoing and dramatic present. With
Hermetic and Afrofuturist inspiration, these dance cultures are fashioned according to
repurposed design and chance arrangements, with sonic artice, computer technology and
sci- cinema appropriated in pursuit of the raceless ascension, cyborgian mutation, the
alien nation. Although variously expressed, the ultimate compulsion here is an expatriation
into universality, a merger with the divine, with electronic synthesizers the hallmark
instrumentation through which the ascension is sought and obtained. But while synthesis
orchestrates cosmic contact, it also facilitates contact with one’s fellow travellers. us,
while prosthetically enhanced fantasies may enable disembodiment or out-of-bodiment,
this synthetic-millenarianism is not removed from the domain of ecstatic sociality and
St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
embodied experience—from dance. Indeed, oen conceptualized as the Mothership,
pulsating womblike, the dance oor remains integral, pregnant with possibility. us, the
appropriate place to begin here is with the socio-sonic fusional aesthetic that would come
to signify an optimum dance-music experience: the vibe.
According to Sally Sommer (2001–02: 73), who attempts to dene the experience in
underground house clubs, the vibe is “an active communal force, a feeling, a rhythm that is
created by the mix of dancers, the balance of loud music, the eects of darkness and light,
the energy. Everything interlocks to produce a powerful sense of liberation. e vibe is an
active, exhilarating feeling of ‘now-ness’ that everything is coming together”. And EDMCs
have historically evolved technics to optimize the vibe. e Oxford English Dictionary (3rd
ed.) indicates that the vibe entered popular literature in 1967, more-than-likely a result
of the “happenings” and the psychedelic jouissance of the so-called Summer of Love. But
the experience inherited by contemporary EDM and other popular music cultures has
had a convoluted history. For one thing, the vibe appears rooted in African American
dance music culture, particularly jazz. But the roots of collective altered states in African
American dance music are much deeper; if we are to follow Shapiro (2005: 90), who traces
the “capitulation” to “machine rhythms” back through funk and New Orleans swing to
late 19th Century brass bands composed of freed slaves and immigrants from Haiti and
Cuba congregating in New Orleans’ Congo Square; or if we are to follow Robin Sylvan
(2002), who attempts to trace the “spirit” observed in popular music and dance forms to
West African possession cults. With the advent of underground dance music in New York
in the 1970s, the “vibe” would become especially “meaningful”, claims Kai Fikentscher in
You Better Work! (2000: 82), “for culture bearers of the African American tradition and
those who have learned its idiom”, the word becoming a likely carrier of the “subversive
intelligence”, which John Leland suggests, in his Hip: e History (2004: 6), was cultivated
by transplanted (slave) outsiders and their descendants, and lies at the roots of “hip.1 With
this history in mind, the “vibe” is inherently a subversive dance music experience, a virtual
world enabling a measure of cultural autonomy and even integration within an oppressive,
alien, world.
Yet, in a parallel development, the term “vibration”, of which “vibe” is a contraction,
has been in currency since at least the mid-nineteenth century, according to the OED,
designating an “intuitive signal” that may be picked up from other people and the atmosphere.
While the OED shows no connection, vibration is likely to have gained popular usage in
connection with the Eastern-inspired eosophical Society and varying “spiritualist”
traditions purporting to gauge, measure, reect, channel and translate “vibrations, to
oer readings of energy, the soul, spirit, nature, universe, God. Received traditions hold
varying recognition that divinity inheres in a “universal sound” or “undertone”, commonly
represented in the Hindu sacred syllable “Om”. Recognition that the self is realized, obtains
potential and maintains balance, through techniques such as meditating, channeling,
divining or amplifying vibration (or God) has been integral to the holistic-health and new-
spirituality movement, as well as “New Age” music. But notably, the idea that vibrations
Dancecult 5(2)
can be distorted or re-directed, are integral to musique concrète, noise artists and pioneering
musicians who have worked to “eect the vibrations, which Sun Ra associated with a
utopian “transmolecularization” to “another world”. In what Erik Davis (2002) calls the
“electromagnetic imaginary” from the late nineteenth century, inventions like the telephone,
phonograph, radio and theremin (and later synthesizers and samplers) were transmuting
sound vibrations into information with “technologies of perception” enabling new modes
of self-expression and social interaction.
In the long prelude to the Summer of Love, it is likely that the vibe thus entered the
countercultural lexicon via the complex intersecting lines of African and European
trajectories. White hipsters, beats and their antecedents who had found the alienated
sensibility of jazz and bebop scenes appealing, and may have been among those Norman
Mailer (1957) admonished as “white negroes”, slouched into this groove. From cosmic
jazz artists, among whom Sun Ra and his Galactic Research Arkestra were meteoric, to
cosmic rock experimentalists e Grateful Dead, musicians manipulated oscillators and
produced feedback to simulate and enhance altered states appealing to participants in an
emergent psychedelic culture. Tim Leary and Stewart Brand (and thus Eastern mysticism
and cybernetics) were most inuential. With coauthors Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert,
Leary deliberated on source “wave-vibrations” at some length in e Psychedelic Experience:
A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964). By 1966, Whole Earth Catalogue
founder, Brand, along with Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and house band e Grateful
Dead, were organizing the setting for the “freak-out” at the Trips Festival on January
21-23 at San Francisco’s Longshoreman’s Hall. By sharp contrast to the soulless world of
bureaucracy and the military they railed against, in the “Acid Tests”, Brand had constructed
a world in which he and the dancers on the oor were part of a single, leveled social system”.
In the experimental, multi-media happening, “stereo gear, slide projectors, strobe lights,
and, of course, LSD, all had the power to transform the mind-set of an individual and to
link him or her through invisible ‘vibes’ to others” (Turner 2006: 76, 240). At this time,
the vibrations had also been raised in New York, where, with direct inuence from Leary,
David Mancuso operated proto-disco deprogramming rituals at e Lo at 647 Broadway
(see Lawrence 2003: 9–10) where Afro-American (and later legendary) DJs Larry Levan
and Frankie Knuckles (among others) hung out. Levan would become a radical-remixer
known for keeping the dance oor at the Paradise Garage in thrall like no other, and
Knuckles is a technical innovator who worked with reel-to-reel tape and manned the decks
at e Warehouse in Chicago. While the DJ-dancer interaction and the role of rhythm as
a “synchronizing” force have been observed as integral to the “collective energy”, or vibe, of
New York underground clubs (see Fikentscher 2000), as we scan the horizons of EDMC it
becomes apparent that motivation and intention modulate this “energy”. at is, additional
to music programming and response, and avant-garde technique, the vibe is conditioned by
manifold freedoms sought and obtained within its domain (see St John 2009). e aesthetic
that is explored here is that of the exile.
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
D: T V   E
EDMC      from oppression and prejudice
for marginal and excluded populations. One of the earliest New York dance clubs was
indeed called e Sanctuary, the converted German Baptist church where the inventor
of slip-queuing and beat-matching, Francis Grasso, worked the turntables. In e Secret
History of Disco, Peter Shapiro documents how a clandestine mood, a ight from fascism,
inuenced the style and architectonic of underground dance clubs long aer the Nazis
outlawed the Hamburg “Swing Kids” or sent the occupants of Parisian discothèques to
labour camps (Shapiro 2005: 14–15). at is not to say that the queer disco and house scenes
in New York and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s weren’t oases from oppression, for they
indeed enabled young men, many of whom were both gay and African-American, Italian-
American or Latino, opportunities to explore their identities and their sexuality beyond the
homophobic world of “straights”. Fikentscher notes that in venues like the Paradise Garage
and e Warehouse, “the idea of ‘paradise’ has been repeatedly invoked or pursued in song
and dance, to contrast it with that other nonparadise, the world outside, with its persistent
social inequalities and violent conicts” (2000: 62). e kinaesthetic maelstrom of the dance
oor provides a ritualized space for relatively uninhibited expression and re-inscriptions,
the spectacular performance and re-mastering of the self, the performance of dierence
maligned, scorned and censured outside. In this club culture, excluded populations could
“jack the groove” under metronomic rhythms, the machine sensibility purposed to “process
rather than result (procreation)” (Shapiro 2005: 111). As Tim Lawrence (2003: 233)
points out, in the “denaturalized sexual environment” of the temporary androgynous zone,
trancesexuals” came to ourish. From early-1980s house clubs through early-1990s raves
mounted across continents (McKay 1996, 1998; Silcott 1999; St John 2001), dance oor
habitués in exile from e Occupation, Babylon, Straights, e Law, Disenchantment,
Cheese, held sovereignty over mini free-states—an Altered State.
is state of virtual secession in which liberty was experienced in the sovereign realm
of the dance oor demonstrates evidence of an evolved longing, a disctopianism raised and
sustained from an assemblage of scenes, drugs, musics, technologies and mythologies; a
cultural timbre resonating with Afrodiasporic futurism and Romantic asenscionism. is
discultural utopia would be fueled by LSD liquefying the edges of jazz, rock, soul, funk,
disco, electro, techno and ambient musics holding pastoral (see Reynolds 1997), cosmic,
and/or hybrid pretentions. It has received considerable input from the cosmic rock tradition
pursuing electronic and percussive experimentalism, notably e Jimi Hendrix Experience,
e Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Can and Faust. e Altered State is founded
in experimental electronic music scenes whose o-world Arcadias and Futuramas were
dreamt up with the aid of “the fantastic sounds of the new machinery. . . . e hypnotic,
other worldly quality of the timbres and the rigidly insistent mechanistic throbs of the
Moog and Arp synthesizers used by disco producers like Moroder, Cowley, and Bobby O
[which] summed up an aesthetic that sought to upset the ‘natural’ order of things” (Shapiro
Dancecult 5(2)
2005: 111). If utopias are extended ruptures from non-ideal worlds, then those departures,
those “breaks”, were prized open in 1970s New York with the assistance of Bronx block
party legend Kool Herc, disco remix pioneer Walter Gibbons (Lawrence 2008), turntablist
Grandmaster Flash and others whose artice was to mix between the percussive breaks (the
breaks between vocals and melodies) on copies of the same records, editing the breaks on
reel-to-reel tape and pressing them to acetate, pressing the longue disco durée onto the 12-inch
record, and more generally forging a culture in which the beat was matched, cut, sampled and
remixed—in which now, the liminal state of transit, was getting a permanent encore. is
sensibility is intimate with the unrequited longings of soul passing into electro and hip-hop,
and enhanced through sound synthesizing technologies such as the vocoder virtualizing the
(black) human voice (and body) to produce “hypersoul” (see Weheliye 2002). e citizens
of this freak nation were commanded to “give up the funk”, notably through the directives
of P-Funk leader George Clinton, a process not dissimilar to the injunction to capitulate to
the rhythm under House rules. And this was despite Dr Funkenstiens fears, expressed on
Uncle Jam Wants You (Funkadelic 1979), that the “sexless grooves” of disco were “denuding
black music of its funk and, by extension, black people of their humanity” (Shapiro 2005:
89). It would be characterized by stylistic miscegenation, fusions of disparate genres and
their aesthetics, from funk, soul, synthpop, and Afrobeat, as evinced by North Italian Afro
cosmic or Afro disco.2 Passengers onboard e Mothership were intimate with computers,
a circumstance apparent in the early-1980s Electro-envelope pushed by Afrika Bambaataa
& Soulsonic Force, whose Planet Rock 12-inch (1982) sampled Krawerk’s Trans-Europe
Express (Nesbit 2005; Toop 1984: 130–1). e sensibility of the exile is redolent within the
Detroit techno tradition adopting European synthpop, especially motorik experimental
sounds fomenting with Krawerk, but also Tangerine Dream producer Klaus Schulze, and
English New Wave acts like Depeche Mode, New Order and the EBM outt Nitzer Ebb
to produce a “deterritorialised musical sensibility to combat the fall-out of both racism
and post-industrial ruin”, which enabled youth cultures in Manchester, London, Berlin
and elsewhere to “make sense of their experience of alienation in the rapidly emerging
global technoculture” (Rietveld 2008: 17, 8). ese acid house techno scenes possessed an
empathetic rave-o-lutionary attitude which grew in the wake of the Ecstasy explosion at
the turn of the 1990s, and was later fed by the polyrhythmic distillations of breakbeat and
jungle/drum & bass sounding out a techno-futurism (see Eshun 1998).
It should be recognized that the interior of the Mothership was therefore resonating with
dubstreams indebted to the work of King Tubby, the 1960s King of Dancehall (Partridge
2007), Black Arc studio engineer Lee Perry (Katz 2000), and other midwives to the birth of
remixology. And thus, the disctopia is steeped in the tradition of the “sound system”, which,
in Kingston from the 1960s, saw the likes of Tubby cobbling together monstrous rigs of solid
bass and reverb. ese “sounds”, as they were known, would hold a gravitational inuence on
their population, with those called to gyrate and grind identifying with its corporate spirit,
moving to defend it against other sounds. Talking on “suerah music”, reggae producer
Derek Harriott states that “the equipment was so powerful and the vibe so strong that we
St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
feel it. Like when we were dancing you were actually part of [the music]. . . . It was ours
and so many of us wanted to do something to contribute to it” (in Slater 2006). ese
competitive sound-rig communities evolved over decades as local grounds of identication
emigrated from Jamaica and were smuggled into hip-hop, rave and their many aer parties
inected with a Rastafarian sensibility of freedom in exile. Luton’s Exodus collective, for
example, demonstrated a commitment to break free from Babylonian oppression (Malyon
1998), a theme invoked in the remit of a deluge of post-rave formations, including mobile
“tekno sound systems” like Spiral Tribe, who, hunkering down with the travellers of Albion
and their free festivals, trailblazed the international teknival movement (St John 2009).
But what will concern me more directly here is the contemporaneous quest undertaken
by those who sought the way out through travels in (actual and virtual) space, those whose
direct forebears might have been the “frontiersmen in the Wild West of American nightlife”
(Mailer 1957: 277), or the “travelers of Albion” (McKay 1996) searching for an existential
sound system. e vibe of the exile is redolent in the Goa psychedelic trance movement,
whose disparate expatriates,3 “displaced peoples with displaced minds” (D’Andrea 2007: 9),
discover unity in exile from life-world crises under the soundtrack of neo-psychedelia. Goa,
India, would be the exoteric site of propagation through the 1980s as one of the worlds
principal freak-destinations since the 1960s absorbed developments in global electronic
dance music culture, expatriatism and psychedelic tourism through the decade. e scene
there peaked in the early 1990s, aer which mass tourism and criminal and regulatory
forces have conspired in its demise as a genuine location for the radical immanence that has
long motivated traveller enthusiasts and new-spiritual seekers (DAndrea 2007; Saldanha
2007; Elliott 2010, St John 2012b). But as Goa declined as a scene-maker, it proliferated
in a liminal-lifestyle expressed through a multitude of national scene translations (St John
2013b). e transnational Goa-diaspora was infused with an Orientation of the self, itself
shaped by the quest for disorientation and self-alienation with the assistance of psychoactives,
as carried in imagineer Simon Posfords (aka Hallucinogen’s) journey into “Demention”,
the nale on e Lone Deranger (1997), and as found in multifarious projects celebrating
and/or mobilizing Learys goal of establishing the conditions for vacating the ego’s “routine
game reality. e departures from home, everyday life, sobriety, one’s skin, one’s self, the
planet, enabled a resounding “yes” in response to the question posed by Hendrix, whose
seminal 1967 LP, Are You Experienced, provided the inspiration for the title of the debut
release of psyculture’s most renowned act, formed by Posford and Raja Ram, Shpongle (Are
You Shpongled?, 1998). As mentioned, “space” oers one of the critical domains of such
experience, such virtuality, such enshponglement, with travel in outer-space—perhaps even
“Outer Shpongolia” (from Nothing Lasts... But Nothing Is Lost, 2005)—becoming a complex
narrative device for inner travail, the avatar’s quest, the shaman’s journey, self-realization.
As evinced by the popular mid-1990s London label and club, Return to the Source,
Goa/psytrance became prominent within an electronic artice applied as part of an
assemblage of techniques adopted in the interests of consciousness expansion, and in the
cultural business of re/mastering the self which pervades the rave imaginary (St John 2004).
Dancecult 5(2)
ese are processes that are consistent with alternative spiritual paradigms that have, as Paul
Heelas and Linda Woodhead (2005) identify, become ush with a contemporary culture
that has undergone a “spiritual revolution. is is not far removed at all from the practices
Kodwo Eshun conveys in his study of the popular “science of sensory engineering” within
Afrodelica”, which, in More Brilliant than the Sun, he claims harnesses the “mythillogical
principles” of sound, rhythm and vision technologies, repurposed to intensify sensations
and propagate “new sensory lifeforms” (1998: A[177], A[185]). Such eorts to “technofy”
thy self, evoke the ourishing technoccult reliant, like Christopher Partridge’s popular
“occulture” (2004), on the contemporary proliferation of cultic practice through literature,
lm and music, but which is here dependent on ever-newer and recombinant technics,
ascensionist techno-rituals, enabling journeys towards the unknown, transcendence and
metamorphosis. EDMC is replete with such alchemical techgnosis (Davis 1998), with mixing
desks, turntables, synthesizers and especially the sampler—techno-alchemical devices par
excellence enabling the transformation of found sound through the remix. Indeed the remix
is the underlying logic here. As a voracious genre of the sonic crossroads, psyculture has
absorbed a library of Afrodiasporic and other “sonic ctions”, a process paralleled by the
voracity, for instance, of techno, whose Detroit lineage was founded by African-Americans
themselves motivated by a variety of futurist resources. EDMC is built on remixology,
hacking new ware to reassemble old rites, repurposing old tech to break new sonic and
kinesthetic ground. It is a sampladelic universe in which origins are notoriously dicult,
sometimes impossible to trace (see St John 2012c), and where bodies are continually
carving into a future that arrives in a squall of bits and a wall of bass. ese genres are more
accurately “meta-genres” which, in the case of psytrance, has drawn manifold aesthetics into
its psychedelic orbit (Lindop 2010) among which can be included jazz, rock, ambient, funk,
breaks, dub, electro, techno and industrial.4 In the process of psychedelicization, which oen
involves styles already liqueed by LSD, musics are modulated to the task of self-alienation.
C L   I T M
In Space Age popular music forms, outer space is a realm that exiles of varying backgrounds
seek to inhabit. is “space” that is the “place” is external and internal, extraterrestrial and
psychosomatic. A cosmic threshold. Within the psychedelic imaginary, the realms of the
physical and the imagination interface such that space becomes the terrain across which
one physically, or within which one psychically, travels. And the farther from routine
consciousness one ranges, the more other one might become from one’s self. While travel
in exotic locales might potentiate self-transcendence—and such topoi have been variously
simulated and achieved, from “exotic” jazz nightclubs (see Adinol 2008) to temperate and
tropical “contact zones” (see D’Andrea 2007)—there is no farther to sojourn from one’s
physical-ontological routine than the space beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. As it transpires,
the exosphere was rst subject to human exploration and conquest in the period that LSD
(and other techniques of self-expansion and out-of-body experiences like meditation, yoga
and otation tanks) achieved popularity.5 From the early psychedelic period, the LSD “trip”
St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
gave users the impression of oating in space, a disembodied sensibility imagined with the
assistance of astronauts operating in weightless conditions care of the earliest missions into
orbit transmitted into homes via television (or indeed with the assistance of scenes from
Stanley Kubrick’s classic gnostic space opera 2001: A Space Odyssey). If, as Victor Turner
had argued, marginal conditions are essentially liminal conditions, with the Space Age,
humans were accessing the most physically marginal regions to date, a marginality appealing
to musicians already marginalized, and who from this period onwards were building what
Eshun called the “futurhythmachine”.
Outer space would exert inuence on psychedelic artists of many backgrounds, including
those who Mark Dery (1993: 736) described as “descendents of alien abductions, those
Afrodiasporic artists for whom extraterrestrial aliens would signif y possibility, a controllable
future, outer space becoming a “realm of pure possibility”, as Turner (1967: 97) would have
had it, a theme capitalized upon in science ction and space-operatic cinema and television.
If space is “the place”, as in the theatre, to dramatize one’s cause (one’s alienation), in the
Space Age, the curtain was up and the place was humming. And so, in the sonic ction
of the Afrodiaspora there emerged a script with multiple authors/actors, none more
signicant than perhaps the most psychedelic non-drug user in history, “mythscientist” Sun
Ra—who we might envision seated before his rocksichord and minimoog transcendence
machines in gold winged-orb crowned Pharaohs garb conducting the Universal Arkestra
into an electromagnetic “polyrhythmaze”. Sun Ra, we have heard, was raised on the science
ction comic book and screenplay narratives of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and later
studied the Science Fiction of the Nation of Islam along with Egyptology and the Bible
(Szwed 1997; Zuberi 2004: 80). On a mission from Saturn, if Sun Ras was a redemption
strategy evoking theosophical beliefs about “ascended masters” intervening in and guiding
humanity for millennia, he was a rogue interventionist, a sonic esoterrorist adopting “space
music” to chart a course into the unknown. He announced in the 1960s that the “Space
Age cannot be avoided and SPACE MUSIC is the key to understanding the meaning of the
IMPOSSIBLE and every other enigma” (Eshun 1998: 09[157]). Intervening on behalf of
e Intergalactic Council of Outer Space, Ra was not alone, for occupying the rmament
of Black sci- were a motley eet of iconoclasts, including: the Star Child himself, George
Clinton, captaining the Mothership Connection and commanding the Parliamentary
“funkentelechy”; Africa Bambaataa casting black vinyl UFOs towards Earth (on the cover
of Planet Rock—e Album, 1986); and the vanguard of Detroit techno, whose earliest
member, Juan Atkins (a.k.a. Model 500), was producing proto-techno in the year NASA
launched the rst black man into orbit (Guion Bluford Jr, in 1983 as a crewmember of the
Space Shuttle Challenger).
Dancecult 5(2)
F . C   A B  S F, Planet RockTh e A lbum ().
In the mid-1980s, as a Detroit techno legend, Atkins, was producing material like “No
UFOs” (Model 500, 1985), the title suggesting identication with extraterrestrial aliens
as oppressed and segregated others, a similar attitude that would be adopted towards
machines in the wake of Krawerk. While prior to this period, the Afrofuturist Space
Program was ecstatic, ad hoc and amorphous,6 with the advent of techno, it would adopt
more Apollonian characteristics like restraint and control. Such would be apparent from
the onset of the Detroit techno juggernaut and advanced by Underground Resistance,
as evinced on 12-inch releases like e Final Frontier (1991) and through the UR outt
formed by Mike Banks, Robert Hood and Je Mills, X-102, whose debut Discoers e
Rings Of Saturn (1992) featured tracks named aer Saturns moons. Banks also had a key
role in e Martian, the outt in which various UR members participated to produce the
Red Planet 12-inch series. is was cosmic techno, with early releases like “Star Dancer”
(1993) and “Lost Transmission From Earth” (o their debut Meet e Red Planet, 1992)
possessing maximal electro-trance atmospherics. Mars has long been imagined the likeliest
source of life in the Solar System beyond the Earth, a mystery provoking the imagination,
a Red Planet pregnant with possibility. Many of the releases in e Martian series had the
Zen Buddhist-like instruction “e red planet will appear only when your mind is open”
printed on the vinyl.7
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
F . T M’ Meet The Red Planet ().
For innovators within the Afrospace Program, pre- and post-techno, outer space is a
source of mystery and hope, fusion and metamorphosis. Space was the place of becoming,
new worlds forming from the dissonance generated by lters and oscillators. e odyssey
would persist with New York’s illbientalist DJ Spooky, and continue in, for example, the
rhythmic breakbeat fusion of West Londons Orin Walters (aka Afronaught). Inhabitants
of the cosmic margins are readily identiable as compatriots, as “space brothers, fellow
exiles, and common themes appear across the sonic ctions of these technocculturalists,
afrocosmic heads, amboyant futurists and star sound collectives, not the least of which
was the understanding that space is a cosmic canvas under whose proscenium arch the
alienated could enact “cosmo-dramas” (Hollings 2002: 101) of empowerment, liberation
and becoming-alien. e identication with the oppressed non-human in the form of the
extraterrestrial or machine, or both, is endogenous to the Afropsychedelic trajectory, in
which the alien/UFO or robot is scripted, embodied and deployed as a symbol of resistance.
Indicative of the inuence that celestial bodies, especially Mars (along with the Sun
and the Moon), have long exerted on artists within the psychedelic milieu, the Red Planet
would pull Dino Psaras, Steve Ronan and Iain Rive into its gravity eld. eir Goatrance
act, Cydonia,8 was a dedication to Mars as conveyed on two major releases, Mind Hunter
(1997) and the dark atmospheric In Fear of A Red Planet (1999),9 with the jacket graphics
Dancecult 5(2)
oering co-ordinates and grids templating the dimensions of a Martian civilization. e
album conveys how Goa artists were sharing o-planetary trajectories with the afronauts of
astro jazz and cosmic funk, with Jamaican dreadnauts and Detroit techgnostics. Yet this was
an odyssey in space also imbued with Eastern mysticism, Hindu iconography, yogic practice
and the possibility of merging with the divine. is galactic Orientation was apparent,
for instance, in the work of Jörg Kessler, label manager at Shiva Space Technology, or in
e Overlords (Ian Ion and Rune Bendixen), whose cover design for All the Naked People
(Arista, 1994) featured three sadhus and an astronaut. While overt Hindu symbolism
(i.e. the Om symbol) might have lost popularity by the late-1990s as the scene receded
from Goa, producers and psychonauts were remaining true to their roots. us the Oming
sequences on Astral Projection’s space-operatic “Cosmic Ascension” (Dancing Galaxy,
1997) le little doubt that the launch sequence for their full-powered mission was initiated
on the subcontinent. When, on the cover of his Psykadelia (1997), Asia 2001 (Frenchman
Gilbert évenet) projected a violet-skinned hairless and earless alien with large slanted
eyes and vestigial lower face gracefully seated in lotus position with its bulbous head at the
centre of a mandala, we had arrived at the juncture of two critical paths of self-discovery:
the cosmic and yogic odysseys.
F . C   A ’ Psykadelia ().
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
Together these paths evince a Romantic-ascenscionist faculty inected with Eastern
eschatology. e mood of progress is captured most evidently by the advancements in
astronomy and aerospace sciences and technologies enabling human space ight, and
analogizing inner ights. Such ascenscionism is implicit to a range of musics inuential
to the psytrance development. Free jazz pioneer, John Coltrane, whose later albums
included Ascension (1965), Meditations (1965), Om (1967), Cosmic Music (1968) and the
posthumous Interstellar Space (1974), echoed his interest in Indian music and channeling
the universal sound “Om”, a holy project not far removed from that of sadhu and dark
trance legend Goa Gil (St John 2011) or probably the most instrumental Goa producer
and conceptechnician, Raja Ram, himself a jazz autist who played with 1970s psychedelic
rock act uintessence (formed in 1969). Coltrane may have been “the rst Hippie” (Eshun
1998: A[183]), but Gil and especially Raja Ram would haul that aesthetic over the sonic
hump. Raja Ram has probably own more missions into innity and back than anyone,
having formed e Innity Project in 1989 (with Graham Wood), Shpongle in the mid-
1990s (with Simon Posford) and later forming the inuential label TIP Records (later
TIP.World) which, by 2000, was still launching Spaceships of the Imagination (a two part
compilation series). Pioneering ambient act, e Orb, who fused the ambience of Brian
Eno (whose rst release was Apollo—Atmospheres & Soundtracks, 1983) with dub reggae,
are integral to the psybient trajectory.
F . C   T O’ U.F.Orb, I R L ().
Dancecult 5(2)
eir well known “Blue Room” (on Blue Room, 1992), named aer the top secret
room in Hangar 18 at the Wright-Patterson Air Base where the US government allegedly
stores UFO crash remains, uses a recording from the 1965 Gemini 4 spacewalk, and their
earlier Adventures Beyond e Ultraworld (1991) picks up Apollo program radio signals
from “tranquility base” (on “Back Side Of e Moon”). In 1992, e Orb toured their
album U.F.Orb with music scholar Rupert Till recalling how they had “a huge balloon as a
projection screen, onto which they projected imagery including the Apollo space launch
as well as “rockets taking o .10
Studio engineer and former bassist with Killing Joke and member of some thirty other
acts including e Orb, Martin “Youth” Glover would be critical to the infusion of ambient
dub in psychedelia, having launched the down-tempo label, Liquid Sound Design, in
1998 (a sub-label to his Dragony Records, the rst psychedelic trance label). Ambient
and trance-fusion act, Star Sounds Orchestra, whose debut Planets (1991) featured tracks
named aer all the planets in our galaxy, would foment an ethnodelia appealing to the trance
machine.11 And one of the key carriers of the techno-cultural cosmo-liberationist aesthetic
within psytrance is a progressive style which owes its sophisticated optimizations to the
cosmic rock tradition, notably Pink Floyd,12 whose concerts screened footage of Apollo
missions. As Ken McLeod (2003: 346) points out with regard to the cosmic musicians and
the space program:
e impressive banks of keyboards, the complex myriad of knobs and dials associated
with the analogue synthesizers of 1970s progressive rock . . . and the increasingly
advanced and variegated number of electronic guitar eects, were roughly analogous
to the advanced technology being developed and exploited in the real space program.
us the fetishisation of technique, virtuosity and musical complexity, which
marked much of this music, is mirrored in the complexity of its instrumentation and
technology.
Surrounded by banks of equipment, turning dials, monitoring screens and gauges, artists
within psychedelic electronic music genres were like navigators setting the course towards
uncharted space; a cool, detached presence in command of the ship, the sensibility of the
austere competent programmer embodied by contemporary DJs across all genres.
As already noted, deep space is a universal source of awe, its depths occulting mysteries
of origin and destination, genesis and apocalypse, with the mid-twentieth century
penetration of space providing an allegory for percipience, the penetration of the “nal
frontier”, the journey into the mind. is adventurous frontier-crossing mentality notably
championed by Timothy Leary, has endured among the privateers and experimentalists
drawn to Goatrance, for whom NASA’s Apollo space program held appeal in narrating
the journey. While NASA was developing and harnessing science and technology with the
purpose of launching humankind beyond the exosphere, in ways imitating their various
forebears, psychedelic artists were repurposing audio technologies to enable exploration
of inner space, the unconscious. Indeed, the space mission analogizes this process, where
St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
“mission control” (e.g. “Houston”) signies base ego, the rational consciousness from
which explorers seek distance and with which they may experience patchy communications
or oxygen supply crises while in “orbit” (“Houston, we’ve had a problem”). us Apollo
dialogue, as reproduced on Juno Reactor’s seminal Transmissions (1993), Astral Projection’s
e Astral Files (1996) and Trust in Trance (1996), or on Cybernetika’s Nanospheric (2008),
which reproduces ight dialogue from the perilous Apollo 13 mission, eects a dri into
the unconscious, and the unknown, where adversities are overcome and anything is possible
(see St John 2013a).
To reproduce inquiry from the mysterious atmospherics of “Aliens” by French outt
Total Eclipse (on their debut 12-inch Aliens / Sound Is Solid, 1994), who are these aliens?
“Where do they come from?” and “What do they want?”. For technicians temping on the
space programs in the psychedelic diaspora, outer space is a ctional realm potentiating the
transcendence of condition, even the human condition, perhaps any human condition. As
outer space enables one’s freedom from complex historical, social and personal conditions,
it swarms with alien nations. As fantasies and phantoms are launched, hopes and fears
projected, these ctions, these alien-nationalities, orbit the Earth like a million satellites
beaming back uncanny data to programmer communities and receiver cults. And as they
buzz the heavens or haunt our dreams these alien ctions communicate with one another,
they mate and mutate. Hard “black and white” distinctions between millenarianisms—
Afrodiasporic and otherwise—seem pointless as, for one thing, sonic ctions are plagiarized
and remixed over and again, and for another, there is no simple “black” and “white” alien
divide here given the presence, for instance, of large numbers of Japanese and Brazilian
producers and enthusiasts in the psychedelic continuum. It is certain that disparities in
socio-economic opportunities, race prejudice and social exclusion condition the “freedoms”
sought—including alienation/alien-ation—and the capacity to achieve these outcomes.
While alienation for the majority is the result of a composite of factors related to race,
gender, sexuality and limited opportunities, for others it more approximates the lifestyle
strategy of the self-exile who seeks departure from repressive conditions, and who is
resourced enough to convert repression into leisure. e “astral traveller” with the universe,
multiverse or hyperspace within reach, oers a portrait of the relatively auent (typically)
white male raised on a diet of progressive individualism and the promise of manifest destiny.
What is more, psychedelic trance has had very few black producers and enthusiasts among
its marginal-albeit-privileged population.13 Yet, as purported in the disctopian visions of
producers, promoters and participants alike, ultimately, it is the music, and its primary
sites of reception, that potentiate intertextualization, inter-alien contact. Across a variety
of EDM cultures and their events, historically admitting those who seek freedom from
manifold oppressions, the Mothership charts a familiar course across the cosmic threshold
and into the unknown, the potent source of transformation. Indeed Eshun celebrates the
capacity in Black Atlantic sonic artistry to abduct and mutate those whose sensoriums are
exposed to its alchemy—a becoming-in-sonics, a private futurism, the innerspatializing of
the mythstakes.
Dancecult 5(2)
F C: T I I M
W E made a remarkable contribution to the study of Afrofuturism, a trajectory
the study of which has been accused of leaving the body behind in extropian conceptual
gymnastics, he holds that the posthumanist “rhythmscience” of which he is concerned is
not disembodied, indeed he made out that “sound machines don’t distance you from your
emotions . . . [they] make you feel more intensely, along a broader band of spectra than
ever before in the 20th Century” (1998: 00[-002]). A discussion of kinaesthesia and “the
sensory environment” of pressure (ibid. A[183]), is preceded by reference to electronic
composers, notably Sun Ra, being “tone scientists” through which crowds are like an
“instrument played by electronics”. Sun Ra’s work revealed that “music is the science of
playing human nervous systems, orchestrating sensory mixes of electric emotions: the music
of yourself in dissonance”. Yet, in these attentions to those who “engineer new humans
through electronics” (ibid: 09[161]), we learn little of the role of the impact of their science
and engineering in the primary real estate of their aect—in the laboratory of the dance
oor. e vibe is aborted, presumably in the departure from the “street” and the “soul”
chaining the Afrodiaspora to the blues and preventing a cyborgian future. Besides a small
paragraph headed “e Audience is a Medium” (ibid), sites of reception are disregarded in
this momentous quest to master the sonic ction. e departure from the social is revealed
as a deliberate eort to exaggerate the impact of sonic ction on individuals as “new
sensory lifeforms” (ibid. A[183]). But in the ight from sociality, the dedication to chart
the use, development and impact of sound “conceptechnics” overlooks the role of cultural
performance in “the sensory environment”. Sonic ction is certainly read in front of one’s
home stereo, inside the woofered public-privacy of your wheels, and by public transport-
using “headphonauts” (ibid. 07[133]), but the electrosonic is a ction that is ultimately
shared, performed in intercorporeal audio-tactile rooms of varying size and sound quality.
Surely, the vibrant dance oor, whether the main deck or boiler room of the Mothership,
is heaviest among the pressure “points of maximum rhythmic hyperdelia” (ibid. A[187]).
And so gravitation pulls us back on the dance oor, the gravity of which is conrmed
through the way clubs, warehouse raves and dance festivals are commonly designed to
replicate o-planetary or cosmic space, where the dance oor is the launchpad with DJs
programming and/or initiating the launch sequences. e sensation of being o one’s
planet and out of one’s mind, enhanced by an ever growing compendium of psychedelic or
entheogenic astro-fuels, is variously sonied as, for example, in Earth Nation’s ethereal sound
bath, “Alienated” (from their debut 12-inch Alienated, 1994) or any of Hallucinogen’s early
work like “Alpha Centauri” (released on his rst 12-inch Alpha Centauri / LSD, Dragony,
1994). is transportative socio-sonics is enhanced by video, décor, blacklight, 3D string
art installations and other technologies of the senses. Amid the ultraviolet subsonic meteor
storm and laser battle, one might detect DJs appearing as high-tech skywalkers, as with the
shoulder and forearm robotics adopted by Swede Anders Nilsson (aka Andromeda), or
as “grey”-inected extraterrestrials, apparently the desired eect of the alien mask-wearing
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
German guitar-trance act S.U.N. Project. More generally, “surrounded by a circular bank
of blinking sound equipment supplemented by various laser lights and smoke eects”, the
DJ appears like an “otherworldly futuristic benefactor, controlling foreign, unfamiliar
technology” (McLeod 2003: 351). Under strange light, some of these characters appear
to be transmitting messages from o-world locations.14 While this image of singularity
and control insinuates the Greek god and titular head of NASAs lunar program, the
paroxysmal indeterminacy and saturnalian funk of the dance oor reeks of that other god
who, alongside Apollo, inspired Nietzsche in e Birth of Tragedy to develop an inuential
heuristic for understanding polarity in Western civilization. With this tension in mind, Neil
Disconaut, who had launched space raves for the Association of Autonomous Astronauts
(1995–2000), radio checks direct from the dance oor on the “Dionysus Programme”.
He reports “sensations of ‘rushing’, of accelerating velocity, of the body tracing a line of
ight and of leaving behind ‘the real world’ and establishing a direct connection with the
wider universe”. Kicking up some dust on the moonscape of European myth and folklore,
a lunarscape that NASA can never touch, he communicates further that there are “clear
parallels here with the eects on the body and the euphoric feelings of escaping gravity
associated with ‘li o’ by more traditional means”.15
ese are not Gagarin-esque solo-ights. With a constellation of mirror balls and star-
shower lighting eects, dance oors have long been imagineered as realms for “space”
exploration and alien encounters, a design-intent traceable at least to the 1960s and
psychedelic rock (e.g. London’s UFO club), and would be carried by disco and funk in
the 1970s. Opened in the old Henry Miller eatre in Times Square in 1978, Zenon was
one of the more audacious examples from that period. e club boasted a sixteen-channel
sound system, and its owners hired Douglas Trumbull (creator of the special eects in Close
Encounters of the ird Kind) to design a spaceship that would descend and hover over the
heads of the dancers—a project that was ultimately found unworkable and aborted (Shapiro
2005: 215). e “obsession with space and the prog rock tendencies” characterizing Italo-
disco, would manifest at the “Cosmic Club” in La zise between 1979 and 1984 (Shapiro 2005:
276), and by the late 1980s, the opulent mega-club Space opened in Ibiza. In the meantime,
another UFO Club, this time fueled by acid house techno, landed in the vaults of a former
department store in Mitte in 1988 (closing in 1990, and later reopening as Tresor) where
young citizens of the reunifying Germany, occupying a no-man’s-land between the East and
West, were willingly abducted from state-run tyranny and corporate slavery. Soon aer, the
Space Club (subsequently the Warehouse) opened in Koln (see the lm by Sextro and Wick
2008). As interplanetary ports and portals, such clubs would promote an internationalist
aesthetic with attention to diverse sonic avours. At club Megatripolis opening in mid-1990s
in London club Heaven, Fraser Clark played with the idea, not far removed from Terence
McKennas novelty theory, that dance oor occupants were “tuning in” from the future. e
mission objective of the Dionysian Programme unfolds. In intercorporealized ight clubs
one performs the ction of alienation, and the discovery of one’s self is potentiated in the
encounter with other habitués of the ow, space brothers and sisters if you will, who, like
Dancecult 5(2)
planets orbiting the self, are proximate and within reach. us the dance oor Mothership
becomes a living-mythology enabling contact with those who are alien—or other—to one’s
self. In the landscape of the vibe, s/he who is “alien” is rendered a “friend”.
Today, dance parties are o-world and multi-genred carnivals where participants enact
sci- fantasies in which the alien dances among us. In the festal dancescapes of psyculture,
the almond-eyed and vestigial alien is pervasive, a symbol of ultimate dierence, which
signies at the same time the romantic will to transcend dierence. is icon of otherness
is, in McLeod’s view (2003: 339), “capable of challenging simplistic binaries of male/female,
black/white or rich/poor”, with alien iconography enabling a “symbolic incorporation of
the idealized, raceless, classless, and genderless plurality of the dance oor”. us, in its
emblematizing and erasure of dierence, the archetypally benevolent alien is a utopic
standard of unity, with aliens ying on banners at international psycultural and visionary
arts festivals, embossed on textile fashions, digitized in website graphics and inhering in
contagious logos, like ags under which all unite.16
“I”: S A W
A  at the beginning of this article, Israeli Goa outt Power Source sampled
Sun Ra from Space is the Place on their driving classic “Goaway”. e group would later
reproduce lines from the same source on their 1999 release “Skywalker” (Cosmic Waves):
“It’s the music of the Earth, the music of the Sun and the stars. e music of yourself. . . .
Teleport the whole planet here, through music”. Approaching Sun Ra as something of an
alien guru, Israeli Kr Shlomovitz (aka Space Monkey) later deployed the same material on
the psybreaks departure “Flash-Daddy” from his debut Psychotic Episode (2004). Space is
the Place is rare cinema combining director John Coney’s lurid blaxploitation designs with
Sun Ras cosmic plans. e lm’s message is ambiguous, since Sun Ra initially announces
his intentions to repatriate Earthlings to an exclusive o-world “colony for black people”,
though it emerges that non-African Americans (as far as I could tell, two white “hookers”)
are permitted to board the Mothership, and Sun Ra announces to one ship-bound passenger,
the subservient Jimmy Fey, that he is to leave his “black parts” at the door (Sun Ra appears
to be electing to absorb his “blackness”). In the Arkestra’s nal performance, before the
Mothership launches from an exploding Earth, Sun Ra chants: “Your ignorance will be
your salvation. . . . I will take you to new unseen worlds . . . another world”. Underlining Sun
Ra’s philosophy of embracing the unknown, the lm echoes Star Trek and the early 1960s
series e Twilight Zone. Yet, rather than replicating human folly in space, the Mothership
is ultimately bound for a raceless future, a utopic alien-ation.
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
F . V   J C’ Space Is the Place. N A S S ().
e mythos of the raceless unknown appears to suit disaected Israeli trancistim—the term
Israeli trancers use to identify themselves (see Schmidt 2010)—who made their entrance
into psychedelic trance downstream from historical and social alienation. at is, it is
appealing to those whose ancestors survived the Holocaust and established a Zionist state.
But, more immediately, it appeals to young adults who, following mandatory military
service and a tense upbringing, undertake a secular quest for another world, an alternate
reality pursued in an outlaw, hyperliminal, techno-tribal lifestyle (see St John 2012d).
Israeli Goatrance illustrates a penchant to decal the vibe with the promises inscribed in
galactic travel, the alien encounter, with the designation “Israliens”17 striking appeal as a
polysemous signier, a hybrid term signifying both Israeli citizen and the outsider/ exile
depicted in stylised homunculus iconography. An aestheticized “Sixties” appears to have
aected Israelis in the late 1980s/early 1990s, with experience sought and obtained in the
encounter with the other/otherness, including: foreign encounters (notably, in travels to
Goa, ailand, Japan and other destinations); sexual encounters (especially across ethnic/
Dancecult 5(2)
racial lines); queer encounters (especially in a burgeoning gay and lesbian scene in Tel
Aviv), virtual encounters (with the assistance of psychedelics and or entheogens); and alien
encounters (curiously, many among those who have been abducted by aliens are regarded as
“experienced”: see Partridge 2003: 30). By the 1990s, a younger generation of Israelis were
prepared to be abducted by and experienced in music, and their adoption of Afrofuturist
aesthetic devices in which space was the place for the eacement of race reveals a mythos of
unity in exile from historical trauma, a not insignicant tendency given that Israel possesses
what is likely the highest population of psytrance producers and enthusiasts per-capita in
the world. Indeed psytrance is popular music in Israel, a circumstance not replicated in any
other country.
Following a three-year military service, young male and female Israeli adults experience
temporary exodus from the permanent crisis at home via an international backpacking
rite of passage (see Noy and Cohen 2005), perhaps enabling self-styled and luxurious re-
enactments of the myth of Abraham who, as Ken Goman (2004: 12) notes, was “history’s
rst self-exile”. e protracted dimensions of this phenomenon have triggered considerable
anxieties among critics as self-expatriation in trance obtains the character of a risk-laden
lifestyle for youth as trancistim initially smuggled the Goa “state of mind” and guided
the freak Mothership into the holy land (Taub 1997; Sagiv 2000). ough it should be
recognized that rather than simply an import, the vibe of the (self ) exile is endogenous to
Israel, which is why Afrofuturist and other ascensionist discourse holds such appeal. us,
we nd the utopic project of one of the genre’s most famous acts, Astral Projection—formed
in 1995 by Israeli pioneers Avi Nissim, Lior Perlmutter and Yaniv Haviv18—whose oeuvre
is characterised by a quest for o-planetary becoming, as conveyed on storming tracks from
the classic Trust in Trance release of 1996, like “People Can Fly”, “Aurora Borealis” and
“Utopia. e group’s early anthem “Enlightened Evolution” (from the 12-inch by that name,
1996) used the memorable sample: “we have determined that the human form is best suited
to our purposes.19 While it seems disingenuous to attribute sophisticated philosophical
systems to artists based on short sound-bites, I suggest that their sonication indicates
at least three connected implications: that Astral Projection were identifying themselves
with raceless extraterrestrials; that they were committed to assisting the human condition;
and that their art (their music) facilitates this evolution/abduction/becoming. at Astral
Projection were xated with cosmogenesis in which space was the stage for new beginnings
was transparent in their classic “Let ere be Light” (Orange Compilation, 1995), on which
can be heard the critical lines from Genesis (the rst book of the Old Testament), spoken by
Apollo 8 NASA Lunar Module Pilot, William Anders, in his Christmas Eve 1968 broadcast
from lunar orbit. Spoken against the vast background of open space, the narrative promises
life owering in an empty void. Within the dark vacuum of space, light becomes a source
of hope. In this light, it is clear that outer space oered a blank canvas for the imagination,
a topos upon which utopian fantasies were projected, fresh designs uploaded, new worlds
populated.
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
F . C   A P’ Another World. T I T R ().
With Astral Projection and in many other Israeli Goa/psytrance acts, one nds evidence
of a belief in a higher, or cosmic, purpose, in which those who are experienced, impart their
wisdom to others in a messianic commitment to tinker with evolution, raise consciousness,
revitalize humanity, save the Earth, generate new worlds, etc. is diverse mission is so
oen conveyed via the language of visitation, contact, abduction, as found in samples
and, ultimately, music is the vehicle mastered by those who feel chosen to transport the
tranceoor into a better world. Promoter Asher Haviv ts the bill here. In 1997, Haviv
organized what was at that time the largest psychedelic trance festival in Israel and anywhere
else: “Karahana: A Drugless Festival”, so named as a way of successfully garnering the
support from authorities to hold the event at Ganey Huga, a popular water park. e event
attracted some 15,000 people, and Ori Gruder’s lm documentary of the event, Karahana
(1998), promoted that the festival came “from outer space, from another dimension, with
cosmic-hypnotic sounds came the trance-ship and landed in Israel. e super-computer
chose the ‘Drugless’ festival as the place where the revolution will start”. Here the party vibe
is infused with the sensibility of the chosen, the elect, though clearly this is augmented by
the messianic temperament of promoters like Haviv. And so, in 2007, the ground was once
again cleared for the landing of the “trance-ship” at the Holy Rave at Timna National Park
in the Arava Desert (at the site of a replica of the Ark of the Covenant) over Rosh Hashana
Dancecult 5(2)
(Jewish New Year). At Timna, Haviv struck the pose of a Moses-like gure shepherding
the elect few on board his colossal Mothership towards the “light at the end of the desert”.
is cosmic salvation has its parallel in the work of Sun Ra who through an early mystical
awakening experience—an alien abduction via “transmolecularization” to Saturn—
believed he was selected to undertake the redemption of his people and build the Arkestra.
It is a project integral to psytrance, but is seemingly most advanced among the historical
descendants of the “chosen people” as per the Old Testament, some of whom might see in
Sun Ra a fellow exile. is is not in any way orthodox Judaism, yet sometimes artists become
akin to channels of prophecy, such as MFG (Message From God) the group formed by Guy
Zukrel and Aharon Segal, though the message more generally holds more in common with
alternative spiritual perspectives inected with Indian religion and philosophy, as partial
and supercial as this oen is. ere is no evidence that these artists possess sustained
“cosmic plans” like Sun Ra (or believe that the world necessarily faces immanent collapse),
but psyculture is prominent in a terrestrial and “progressive millenarianism” (as opposed to
an “apocalyptic millenarianism”: see Wojcik 2003), where artists, promoters and enthusiasts
respond to ecological cataclysm, economic disaster and social upheaval coincident with the
end of the Mayan calendar cycle (see St John 2011b).
While holding inheritance from the o-world fantasies of Leary and Sun Ra, this is
not a disembodied extropianism. Such is evident in Israel in the emergence of Full On,
a mechanically funkipated chopper trance sound which would oer evidence that the
declaration to “give up the funk” was being called for and getting a response. Here, one’s
experience, would be expressed less by one’s movement through the astral planes or elevation
into the mathematics of universal sound, but grounded in the swing, the funk, the groove.
Not a cerebral space-time continuum occupied by prog-psy participants, but a tribal booty-
time illogicality, a trajectory also undertaken within the electro and tech-house aesthetics
pulsating through psychedelic trance in the rst decade of the 2000s. Indeed, the black
body, a veritable spacepimp, is sometimes deployed as a signier. Take, for instance, Psysex’s
Come in Peace (2003), a funked-up and over-sexed space-romp the title track on which
features the memorable line “bro was On!” Incidentally, the album’s title revises the famed
Apollo 11 narrative employed on Dance 2 Trance’s early 1990s anthem “We Came in Peace”
released on a 1991 self-titled maxi-single (the cover of which features a B&W close-up of an
open helmeted astronaut). While NASA dialogue was used to convey a peaceful message
at an historical juncture in which the Iron Curtain was raised and Apartheid dismantled,
over ten years later, with the “come” in the title adapted to convey orgasm, if there was a
line between abduction and seduction, the astral and the orgasmic, it had grown fuzzier.
With the post-Goa electro-express carrying strains of cosmopolitanism and miscegenation
subverting dominant sexual and racial categories, a funky ambience pervaded psyculture
by the rst decade of the 21st century, with growing numbers of artists joining the electro-
inuenced progressive house party. Labels like Blue Tunes Recordings and the work of
producer/DJs like Feuerhake or Fusco, for example, illustrate that the “progressive” edge of
psychedelia is partially shaped by the demand for the electro pulse.20
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
e growth of psychedelic electro-funk may signify the return from the astronautical
discharge of Goatrance, the cosmic heights of which have nevertheless enabled extraordinary
vistas and critical readouts momentous to “ground control”, the self, the Earth. Keen pirates
of Apollo dialogue, Astral Projection’s seminal release (e Astral Files, 1996) “Zero” marks
that moment of ejaculatory blast-o where the crew of Apollo 8 have completed their count
down, initiated launch sequence, and cleared the tower. At maximum thrust “Houston”
reads the voyagers “loud and clear”. e December 1968 Apollo 8 mission was the rst
manned space voyage to escape the Earths gravitational eld. e story was taken up on
Astral Projection’s second CD release, with the only words on the track “Black And White”
being retrospective commentary from mission Commander Frank Borman: “And the view
of the Earth, it was the only place in the universe that had any color. Everything else was
black and white” (Trust In Trance, 1996). e comments speak to what has been identied
as the greatest revelation of the Apollo missions—which derived not from rocks gathered
on the moon, but from Earth, the appearance of which over the lunar horizon startled
Borman and his crew, the rst humans to witness planet Earth from the lunar orbit (literally
from the “dark side” of the moon). Indeed the “Earthrise photograph” taken at that time by
astronaut Bill Anders would become arguably the most important photograph ever taken.
e image of a blue globe, small and vulnerable in the vastness of space was, according
British space historian Robert Poole, “an epiphany in space . . . a rebuke to the vanity of
humankind” (McKie 2008). Oering what has been referred to as the “Overview Eect”,
“Earthrise” would provide the stimulus for the “Gaia hypothesis” and inspire the popular
expression of ecological and humanitarian concerns. e revelation captivated many Goa/
psytrance producers, promoters and boosters, the movement giving rise to festivals which
would instrumentalise a planetary vibe aboard spaceship Earth. Karahana oered an earlier
model for this type of experience, but it would be the international total solar eclipse festivals
emerging from the mid-1990s (see St John 2013c), and transnational festivals like Australia’s
Exodus, Portugal’s Boom, or Brazil’s Universo Parallelo, each attracting thousands from a
multitude of countries, that would continue to be signicant in this regard. ese events are
known for their lateralized accommodation of genred multitudes, perhaps none more so
than Boom, which in its een years, has evolved into a weeklong biennial climax in which,
in 2012, some 25,000+ people (from over one hundred countries) participated.
“T  W P H”
T  has begun the daunting task of charting the vibe of the exiles. Furnished
with futurist fantasies and imagined as a cosmopolitan Mothership, programmed to
enable public utopias and private parties, within psyculture, downstream from Goatrance
and psytrance, this socio-sonic aesthetic is conceptualized with the assistance of Space
Age programs, science ction cinema and administered with multiple sonic genres. In
its optimized state, the vibe is a fusional context, an orgiastic temporality conditioned
by a remix aesthetic involving the recombination of psycho-integrators, sonic debris and
popular cultural artifacts. Existential communitas has been a lasting feature of psyculture
Dancecult 5(2)
from its inception, whose “mothership connections” and astral projections are grounded in
Romantic-ascensionist and Afrofuturist psyconceptechnics. While it is clear that variant
histories and patterns of economic and socio-political alienation have conditioned the
fabulous ctions and indubitable revelations of alienation/alien-ation, in the history of
EDMC, the dance oor vibe is both the launching pad to, and the landing zone for, other
subjectivities and worlds. Akin to cosmic rock and space jazz in which we can trace its
roots, Goatrance emerged as a hyper-transitional fusional movement embracing the trope
of space exploration as a narrative of metamorphosis, and, concomitantly, the alien as a
stylistic device, signifying, as McLeod similarly conveyed for raves, a utopic desire to transit
to “a common ‘other’ transcending divisions of race, gender, sexual preference, religion or
nationality” (2003: 354). Such pretensions are doubtlessly idealist. Aer all, Arun Saldanha
(2007) has outlined a tendency in Goa where domestic tourists are held by party-goers
to dilute the purity of the “freak” nation, and researchers of Israeli trance have observed
a tendency among middle-class Ashkenazim to exclude from mesibot those who are not
“beautiful people”, nominally lower-class Eidot Ha’mizrax or Jews of North African or
Middle Eastern descent (Meadan 2001: 35, 44; Schmidt 2010). Such may be elitist, or even
racist, attitudes towards ethnic “aliens”, yet it should be recognized that undesirables subject
to exclusions are sometimes noted for their predatory and oensive behaviour towards
female participants, which is an observation made by Schmidt and supported by my own
observations. is serves to illustrate that “freedoms” pursued within the domain of the
EDM vibe are heterogeneous, that it is inhabited by parties dierentially committed towards
its success. Within the complex psychedelic imaginary, the alien is desirable and liberating,
albeit intercepted along dierent orbits. us, cosmic utopias and extraterrestrial exotica
of Afrodiasporic “alien abductees”, “Israliens” and other home-seeking astral-travelers
are dened according to dierential historical oppressions, contemporary traumas and
personal life-world circumstances. Psyculture luminaries continue to build Freak Arkestras
whose mechanics of transcendence and mythos of universality may be as utopian as Sun
Ra’s vision. Yet, their inspiration has seen the emergence of spectacular sonicities whose
precincts hum with cultural and sonic diversity. And their imperative, like that of Sun Ra
and other agents in the Afrofuturist pantheon, is to tweak the perennial groovebox, eect
the vibrations and optimize the vibe in the pursuit of an alternate reality.
Notes
1 Following linguist David Dalby, Leland traces “hip”, and thus “hippie”, to the Wolof language
of slaves from the West African nations of Senegal and coastal Gambia among whom hipi
meant “to open one’s eyes”. Additionally jive is rooted in jev, meaning “to disparage or talk
falsely”, and dig is rooted in dega, “to understand” (see Leland 2004: 5–6).
2 In which innovators Beppe Loda and Daniele Baldelli gured strongly. Loda used the phrase
“elettronica meccanica” to describe his music mixing, and used the word “Afro” and later
“freestyle” to describe his mix tapes and selections partly inspired by African/tribal music
and “afrobeat” (Campbell 2007). Baldelli played diverse selections of classical, African and
Brazilian folk, and synth-pop from the late 1970s through mid-1980s (Wang 2005).
St John
|
The Vibe of the Exiles 
3 e organizers of Portugal’s Boom Festival report that passport holders from over 100
dierent nations attended the festival in 2012.
4 While many examples could be provided here I can only mention a few: Loopus in Fabulas
funkadelic mission; breaks going astral care of Deviant Electronics, Syncro and other
psybreaks pioneers; and psychedelic dubmeisters Youth and Ott.
5 Much of the charting of inner/outer space has been conducted with the assistance of
psychedelics and “entheogens”, a theme explored, for example, in Rick Strassman et al (2008).
6 e constant changing titles for Sun Ra’s Arkestra (e.g. Solar Myth Arkestra, Blue Universe
Arkestra and Jet Set Omniverse Arkestra) is a good example of this.
7 With the sampled transmission from Black Panther Party cofounder Huey P. Newton (e.g.
“e spirit of the people is greater than mans technology”) on “Lost Transmission From
Earth”, this work does not deviate from UR’s militant trajectory.
8 Cydonia is a region of Mars achieving notoriety aer images taken by the Viking orbiters
in 1976 were sent back to Earth revealing an apparent human face and pyramidal rock
formations.
9 e title holds an allusion to Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet (1990).
10 Rupert Till, email to the author, 7 April 2009.
11 Still sought-aer in the psychedelic electronic festival circuit, SSO would become renowned
for producing “cosmically tuned” music; that is, music produced according to the calculations
of the Cosmic Octave developed by Hans Cousto, which recognizes that each planet holds
its own specic frequency, rhythm and color. e idea inspired the signature “Cosmic Gong”
developed by SSO member Jens Zygar and Cousto. e 1995 album Inter Planetary Ambience
(Live In London) (i.t.p. recordings) features “a complete musical journey through the planetary
tunings of our solar system” (from sleeve).
12 Pink Floyd are known to have produced one of the rst electronic psychedelic tracks, “On the
Run” (e Dark Side Of e Moon, 1973).
13 is assertion is consistent with the views of Artur Soares Da Silva, an organiser of Portugal’s
Boom Festival, who informed me that psytrance “is the only dance music that was originated
with no ‘black’ people involved from the scratch. He stated that while descendents of former
Portuguese colonies, Cape Vert, Guine-Bissau and Angola, have been involved in Boom from
the beginning, their numbers are small, mainly from middle class backgrounds, and quite a few
“from families of politicians or military”. He further stated that about 100 people of African
descent were present at the 2008 Boom Festival, estimated to attract 25,000 people (Artur
Soares Da Silva, email communication, April 30, 2009).
14 Perhaps not as far-fetched as it seems, if Kenji Williams fulls his desire to be the rst person
to DJ to dance oors on Earth from its orbit, a desire he communicated to me in interview on
Limnos, Greece, in 2007.
15 “Take a Dancing Flight”. Newsletter of Disconaut AAA (Association of Autonomous
Astronauts) <http://www.uncarved.org/disconaut/dnaut2.html>.
16 While in iconography and sonic grati the benevolent alien oers a potent utopian icon of
hope and unity, there is evidence (e.g. within “dark trance” productions) of the malevolent
alien other forecasting decidedly dystopian futures and a fear of the unknown.
17 As, for instance seen on the Israliens compilation series released by HOM-Mega.
Dancecult 5(2)
18 All previously involved with techno/Goatrance project SFX (along with Guy Sebbag).
19 It was the voice of e Invid Regess lied from the episode “Reex Point” on the nal series
of the mid-1980s Robotech series, which, incidentally, augured the spread of Japanese anime in
the West.
20 e La Boum compilation (2009) holds interest here given that the cover features an image of
a supersized 1970s afro bust with sunglasses.
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St John
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The Vibe of the Exiles 
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UR. 1991. e Final Frontier. Underground Resistance (Vinyl, 12-inch). UR-003.
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X-102. 1992. Discoers e Rings Of Saturn. Tresor (2 x Vinyl, LP): Tresor 4.
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Filmography
Coney, John (dir). 1974. Space Is the Place. North American Star System.
<http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072195/>.
Gruder, Ori (dir). 1998. Karahana: e First Psychedelic Trance Moie.
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLg8E8SRw3w>.
Kubrick, Stanley (dir). 1968. 2001: A Space Odyssey. MGM, Stanley Kubrick Productions.
<http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/>.
Sextro, Maren and Holger Wick (dirs.). 2008. We Call it Techno! A Documentary About
Germany’s Early Techno Scene and Culture. Sense Music & Media, Media Atelier, Germany.
<http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1698597>.
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