Multimedia artist and techno DJ Phoebe Rose swaps mainstream EDM for chill beats on a quest to give ravers an out-of-body experience.
Phoebe Rose couldn’t tell you what the time was, only “God knows.” But it wasn’t sunrise yet.
It was Mardi Gras and the 23-year-old techno DJ was celebrating the season in her favorite way: at a rave. Perfect, rhythmic music blasted through 10-foot-tall speakers. Everyone was dancing and for only a split second, the young artist shut her eyes. But what she experienced was eye-opening.
“I closed my eyes, and I felt like I was out of my body and I was floating over myself,” Rose recalls. “It was the weirdest thing ever, but I felt my mind go off into a trance state. I was in a total trance state.” The experience ended with a friend’s hug. The embrace snapped Rose out of her trance, her body almost collapsing when she came back down.
“It was crazy,” she says. “But it was really beautiful.”
It’s crazier still that Rose’s out-of-body experience wasn’t unique. Odds are, it’s a feeling every electronic music railrider will eventually encounter. There’s a curious idea surrounding this ethereal sensation, and the impact that melodic, trance-like sounds can have on a collected human consciousness. It's the idea of the transcendental state of the rave. The phenomenon is the driving force behind Rose’s music. Entranced by the idea of creating a collected consciousness, each beat in Rose's mixes moves her one step closer to her ultimate goal.
“I want to create the transcendental state of the modern rave.”
The young DJ will perform Friday at Poor Boy's, and her path diverges from those of her fellow EDM disciples as she follows her philosophy. Rose’s fascination with the effects of a beat-induced trance sparked curiosity, which she inevitably chased down a research rabbit hole. Rose traced techno’s origins to thousands-of-years-old meditative traditions of South African Shamanistic rituals.
During those rituals, shamans would beat drums at a consistent rhythm, holding the same, continuous beat for hours, or even days.
“With people dancing together and collectively listening to the sound, it’s theorized that it will bring you to a collective state of consciousness,” Rose says. “You’ll leave your body, more or less, and become part of the universal atmosphere, the universal state of consciousness.”
Part of keeping that shared energy between techno and its ancient predecessor means Rose’s music tends to differ from the norm. Mainstream electronic music borders on the obnoxious, boasting a cookie-cutter, fast and wild BPM and ground-shaking, heavy bass. A mainstream EDM show can look like a hellscape of thrashing bodies, the crowd’s head-banging drowning in a sea of lights and lasers. It’s not totally impossible to reach a trance-like state in that setting, but Rose finds an overwhelming atmosphere makes it much harder to fall into that meditative groove.
“It is a meditation, and it’s a healing process,” she says. “Whenever I’m feeling sick or down and I don’t want to go out, I know if I do go out and go to something I can dance to and try to reach that [meditative state], I’ll feel so much better.”
An ideal set for Rose takes the sound down tempo and gives off a softer, mellow vibe. The DJ’s city of choice lends a hand in that, too. Rose has DJ’d in New York and Paris, where the parties are bigger and brighter and filled with chatter.
“Here in New Orleans, it’s so achievable, if you just try and meditate with it,” Rose says. She knows that though New Orleans might masquerade as crazy, party-hard city, the Big Easy, is exactly that. easy. The parties here are darker, smaller, and often DIY. It’s prime real estate for Rose’s low key beats.
“I think there’s a lot of potential here,” Rose says. “I think this is somewhere where you can make things happen. It is a genre that is made for some place like this.”
Recent years saw noise ordinances slapped on some of the more notable party spots for electronic artists, but the Crescent City’s techno scene is resilient. Rose has noticed a huge shift in the scene, and as long as she can keep listening and dancing to techno music, she’s happy to watch it grow.
“I know almost every techno-inspired DJ in the city by name which is so absurd compared to other cities,” Rose says, laughing. But even that has its benefits. With only a handful of DJs in the city, it’s led to a close-knit group of artists, most of whom are always looking to lend a hand to the younger generation.
“People are open and accepting and willing to teach you because there needs to be fresh sounds and fresh blood in the mix,” Rose said.
Rose’s DJ roots run deep. Unsurprisingly, the artist’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio was lacking when it came to an electronic music scene. That didn’t matter. Rose’s love for music lived on.
For her 12th birthday, her parents gave her a controller. Aged 14 and fearless, she snuck backstage at a Skrillex concert, totally awestruck over the DJ booth. Rose spent every day after school scrolling through early music blogs including Hype Machine, and downloaded all of the newest music she could get her hands on. In high school, she managed her friend’s bands, and hosted parties with techno-inspired playlists.
Now, charming words, like ‘beautiful,’ ‘wonderful’ and ‘healing,’ seem to comprise most of Rose’s vocabulary when she talks about techno, whether it’s her own work or someone else’s that she's talking about.
Rose radiates an altruistic admiration for music. You get the sense that if she were to take the aux, it’s to take people to a higher state of consciousness, not to be in control.
“You’re all the time influencing and being influenced,” Rose says. “So, how can you best influence the atmosphere?”