EVENT REVIEW: Psychedelic Babylon presents PHAXE (432 rec.) XXXTended Set @ Sound Xchange 21-04-18

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Toronto psytrance lovers had reason to rejoice this past weekend as both Friday and Saturday nights brought progressive and full-on psytrance heavyweights to the city. After working late and attending just under two and a half hours of the Friday GOANTAO show featuring Bitkit and Digicult, (both from Belgium, with Dacru Records), I was on the verge of skipping Pyschedelic Babylon’s Saturday night event featuring Phaxe due to sheer exhaustion. What a mistake that would have been! I had purchased two tickets almost immediately following the announcement of the Toronto debut of this psytrance guru from Denmark, and he did not disappoint. The night (well, morning) was packed with fantastic tunes and wonderful energy from beginning to end.

It took me and my partner, fellow EDM TOR writer Scott Copeland, until after 1AM to make our way to Sound Xchange on Dundas St just east of Spadina. Unfortunately we missed the opener, Jkovsky, since I had not planned to write a review of the event until sometime later in the night. Word has it that fans danced happily to Jkovsky’s progressive house and tech set as he warmed up the venue for DeeCee who would take over next. One memorable track he played was Stan Kolev‘s Mad as Hell, which you can listen to right now. Click play below!


Enjoy the full set from Jkovsky right now on Mixcloud.    

When we arrived I was surprised to see that Toronto local DJ and partner/chief operating officer of Electric Escape, DeeCee (Derek Andrew Chen), was still behind the decks. The set times that were posted earlier suggested that he would have finished by 1AM, and Phaxe would be starting. DeeCee was nearing the end of his set, throwing down popular psytrance bangers one after another. Luckily, the bike ride over had warmed us up and we started to dance immediately to Omiki’s – Balkan, one of my current favourites and a staple in many trance and psytrance sets I’ve been listening to lately, including Armin van Buuren‘s recent ASOT 850Utrecht set.

The dance floor was packed, and it was hot. The bright and beautiful psychedelic decorations covered every wall and even the ceiling in some places! Featuring intertwined dragons, multitudes of mushrooms, faces, flowers, and mandala designs, the art was a spectacle all on its own. There was a prevailing sense of positive vibes from the crowd as we were greeted by friends and regulars of the Toronto trance, psytrance, and flow arts scene. One length of wall in the venue was made up of very large booths set aside for bottle service with ample space for groups of patrons.

Everyone moved up a bit closer to the DJ booth as Phaxe took over from DeeCee. Spotted in the sea of dancers was Bitkit, joining the crowd from the other side of the DJ booth tonight, grooving along to the progressive psy beats as Phaxe launched into his set. He started off playing a number of his own tracks and remixes, his signature sound being slower and more melodic than a lot of the techier and darker psy sets we’ve encountered lately. It’s really refreshing when the bassline is the backup and not the focus of the track. This is the stuff you can really dance to.

His set was fantastic from start to finish, his masterful mixing skills doing justice to his excellent track selection. An amusing high point was when he played his track with Morten GranauBeatless. We all danced and laughed at the unexpected throwback to the Beatles classic. Another highlight was the Neelix remix of his track Angels of Destruction. I first heard this track during Neelix’s set at Dreamstate SoCal last November, and it really made an impression on me with its unique and haunting melody.

I wasn’t sure who the next DJ on the lineup was, but he came on with some serious energy just after 4AM. Turns out this talented artist was Nocturne (LIVE), aka Danilo, a producer from Toronto. This set featured live mixing and incredibly interesting transitions. His setups for the drops were not the usual drawing-out of the last sound, there were all sorts of awesome sounds and cuts thrown in. I’m an appreciator of music and not an artist myself, so I don’t know enough about the DJ craft technicalities to describe exactly what made his set so special. Towards the end of his almost two-hour-long set he really started to raise the BPM, and tracks featured heavy, almost industrial basslines and weird synths. I captured a few videos at this point because I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. Dawn was fast approaching and exhaustion was taking over and presenting us with the eternal struggle: do I keep dancing, or do I admit defeat and go to bed? Interestingly, Sound Xchange has large waist-high platform that is excellent for sitting on if you want to take a break without leaving the dance floor. There were times throughout Nocturne’s set where I was giving my feet a break but was forced back onto the floor by the relentless beats and flowing melodies. I just had to bounce to it!

Even though the BPM was decidedly higher than it had been for the main portion of the night, it was still within the easily-danceable realm of full-on, and just starting to border on dark psy when Nocturne finished his set and handed the decks off to another Toronto local: Adrian Marshall aka The Psyntist. Wearing a custom-made short-sleeve black T with his quirky Psyntist logo on it, he started to bring the crowd back down from the frenzy Nocturne had whipped us into. The second track in his set was Cosmo and Silent SphereMoving (Ritmo Remix), a hypnotic track that kept the remaining ravers on their feet. Spotted on the dancefloor supporting Adrian was his girlfriend, Tori, who was wearing a matching Psyntist T-shirt. Starting his set back at 142 BPM, The Psyntist closed out the night with more deliciously bouncy full-on and some progressive. We were so happy to have an event that didn’t segue into dark psy or morning psy at dawn. At just after 6AM we were dead on our feet and ready for the chilly downhill cruise home. All in all a tremendously enjoyable night and one not to be soon forgotten!

Among all the fun and positivity of the night, there were two major negatives that brought down the experience a bit for me. The biggest problem was the cigarette scent. Friday night had left us with a (literal!) sour taste in our mouths, as the venue had been inundated with cigarette smoke, making it impossible for me to stay very long. I brought a mask with me on Saturday and braced myself for the worst, only to arrive and be pleasantly surprised to find that the cigarette smoke smell was mostly absent. However, as we left the venue, we had to pass by a seated group of party-goers who were smoking in the first floor lobby, just inside the doors to the street. The area is not actually part of the Sound Xchange itself, which left event security powerless to do anything about it. Hopefully, as Toronto warms up out of this interminable winter this will cease to be a problem. Another issue for me was the sound quality which seemed very tinny and harsh on the high end. However, the loud, bass-heavy system is immensely enjoyable with the addition of some high-quality earplugs. I recommend bringing earplugs to every show regardless of venue if you want to continue enjoying trance for many years to come!

Overall, we had an fantastic night. The music was amazing, the deco incredible, and the vibe was lovely. The next psy event we are looking forward to is Resonance 01 featuring Symbolic on May 5th, 2018 at Sound Xchange. Hope to see you there!

PARTIAL TRACKLIST:

Omiki – Balkan
Phaxe & Neelix – Angels of Destruction
Phaxe & Morten Granau – Beatless
Cosma & Silent Sphere – Moving (Ritmo Remix)
Sonic Sense – Vishnu
Avalon & Waio – Shiva
Loud – Small Talk (Ozora Edit)
Aries vs Solaris Phase – Free Your Destiny
Cosmo and Silent Sphere – Moving (Ritmo Remix)

 

LINKS:

Event Page

PSYCHEDELIC BABYLON

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PHAXE

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SoundCloud
Beatport

JKOVSKY

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Mixcloud

NOCTURNE

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DEECEE

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THE PSYNTIST

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Twitter
SoundCloud

Shannon Cowie – EDM TOR

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