Monday, 20 February 2012
Review: 01-N - Zero
Psy trance is an incredibly inconsistent genre. Even with the reliable producers, for every good track you get two or three that are mediocre at best, and outright cheesy shit at worst. The psy scene as a whole is incredibly tolerant towards shit: shit tracks, shit DJs, shit programming of a night. I don't just mean aching mediocrity, like the trendy deep/tech haus scene, or the questionable taste of the brostep massif. I mean a scene where the punters are clearly on so many drugs their minds are somewhere outside their own face for most of any given night. Psy trance is the druggiest scene imaginable, and despite what Bill Hicks has told you, drugs have an inverse relationship with quality control. It's hard to be discerning when you're tripping balls, maaaan.
I mention all of this because I've been increasingly playing psy-trance as part of my DJing activities, and trawling for quality tracks is nigh-on impossible. It's hard enough in any genre these days, but I conservatively estimate there's around a 200:1 ratio of shit/mediocre/annoying tracks to every one genuinely good one in the psy scene. I only trawl on Beatport, where stuff you have to pay for is available, and paying for things goes against the hippy mentality of the psy scene, so Beatport only represents a small fraction of what's being made. There's a whole ocean of free psy-trance out there, most of it even worse than the stuff they charge for. Finding a producer who releases consistent quality in this genre is a rare epiphany, something to cling dearly to.
I found 01-N while trawling Beatport, and after 30 minutes of listening I had crated 14 of his tracks. I don't do that with anyone, let alone a psy-trance producer. This guy is good. What's more, he's consistently good. Okay, some of his tracks are a little bit clichéd, but psy trance is the most clichéd scene of them all. It endlessly regurgitates the same annoying sounds (you know exactly which ones), the same cheesy spoken samples about consciousness expansion and the exact same bassline in every fuckin' track. By the standards of the genre, 01-N is the least clichéd producer of all time.
His style is best described as "full on" psy trance, although this genre has a profusion of ridiculous sub-sub-genres, none of which I understand: forest trance, morning trance, twilight trance, psy-tekk, psy-dub, psy-chill, prog-psy, dark twilight progressive forest trance... Basically, all of his tracks are very, very fast and energetic: we're talking 145bpm as standard here, which is enough to make low-neck, sunglasses wearing nu disco kids burst into tears and hide behind a pillow. His music is also unusually melodic, with none of the dreary sledgehammer bassline assault of most high-energy psy. A lot of psy, particularly through a big club system, sounds more like pounding techno or hard dance than it does trance, but tracks like Transzendence are akin glowstick-flavoured Euro trance having a panic attack. Perhaps this is because 01-N is a Japanese producer, and the Japanese have always favoured ludicrous high-energy melodic music over dark and hard minimalism.
Zero is his second album, and is basically a highly fun collection of hugely energetic and upbeat party tunes. It seems that when you strip away the darkness and twisted drug mania from psy it's actually a huge amount of fun, and this album is a blast to listen to. It ends with a customary downtempo track, which all psy trance albums must include as part of an ancient blood rite, and Levitation is actually a really fucking good piece. I'd almost say it's the best thing on the album. Usually, obligatory downtempo tracks on dance albums suck hard, but for some reason they tend to be great on psy albums. Perhaps it's for the comedown from the masses of drugs they've all been taking.
All in all, this is not big and it's not clever, but it is loads of fun and very well made from start to finish. I enjoyed listening to this considerably more than the raft of drearily credible records I've chewed through in recent months, and look forward to stealing all of these tracks for various DJ sets.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10