Way way back in 1991 I danced to two amazing EPs on the Belgian industrial label KK Records by a mysterious group called Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia at a proto-industrial-meets-rave club in Darlinghurst. Shortly after I tracked them down at Red Eye Records (the only store in Sydney at the time to carry any of that sort of stuff in any real volumes)
Familiar with Psychic TV, the odd spelling hinted at a lot. Unlike Psychic TV – who were on the tail end of their acid house trip (which was petering out in a pretty unappealing way after Jack The Tab) – PWOG made what was, at the time, strange sounding ‘ritual’ trance. Around the same time Coil released Snow EP which fully developed the acid house-meets-occult (eccult?) explorations of their seminal Love’s Secret Domain album. (Coil was made up of founding members of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, if you didn’t know)
The first PWOG EP, Maenad was full of repetitive stumbling drum loops, muted hi-hats, and heavy breathing (! – the maenad were, in Greek mythology, wild women worshippers of Dionysus) and hinted at the promise of the follow up – Exit 23. Exit 23 starts minimal before a Timothy Leary sample stops the proceedings – ‘return . . . . to the source’ – then it is six minutes of analogue bass rumble, endless Middle Eastern wailing, and drums that wobble and waver. It is still an amazing track.
These singles were followed by an album Ov Biospheres & Sacred Grooves in 1992 – three long multipart tracks of minimal trance and ambient electronics. Opening with the only ‘up’/dancefloor-oriented music on the album, The Challenge (Part One), it beings in a vein very similar to Richie Hawtin’s tonal trance track as Up! called Spiritual High on Warp’s seminal Artificial Intelligence compilation (also 1992). Following that it sounded more like a sinister rendering of KLF’s wonderful Chill Out album – perfect for playing in the more twisted ambient rooms of those early 90s raves.
After that album there were a few more albums but none that still stands the test of time as well. But Exit 23 and Maenad got reissued, remixed and still refuse to go away. Just this year another set of remixes came out with Alter Ego tackling Maenad!
An offshoot of PWOG was Exquisite Corpse whose second album Inner Light (also on KK Records) is also worth tracking down. Inner Light is very similar in sound to those two first PWOG EPs – drum heavy tribal trance with minimal synths or samples. Although by this time the whole ‘psy trance’ thing was starting to take shape, if you listen to the tracks on Inner Light it is apparent that it got unfairly lumped in with the music that was pretty much its antithesis – florid, over produced, over synth-ed trance for nouveau-hippies.