With psytrance coming up on its 20th birthday shortly after having evolved from the slightly less trippy, more eastern-influenced Goa trance in the early 00s, it stands to reason that it would start to split off into subgenres by now. Enter psybient, the more ambient, spiritual and binaural yet somewhat less ravey younger cousin of the big, bad psytrance and artists like Astralseid.
Psytrance gets a bad rap, especially in the US for its wookish adherents, droning basslines and almost cult-like dedication to psychotropics but it truly isn’t just Goa’s less substantive offspring, and the advent of psybient proves that, as does Astralsied’s new EP, Shamanic Love. Hailing from Norway and started in 2018, Astralseid is comprised of producers Gustav Holberg and Rúnahild and if you’re looking for some of the strongest spitirual adherents to psy, these two are definitely candidates. They describe themselves as living and working in an “off-grid, earthen cabin, situated on an organic mountain-farm in Western Norway,” so clearly the Wook credentials are go.
There is more to this duo, however, as they clearly walk the talk as well. Both Holberg and Rúnahild grew up playing traditional Nordic folk music and they work to fold that into their work. The project seems to be dedicated to injecting real spirituality back into psytrance, and they do it by reaching back into their ancestry for inspiration. All the vocals on Shamanic Love are traditional Norse songs and whether they’re shamanic in nature or not, they certainly help the EP live up to its name.
Around this core of ancient melodies and instrumentals, Astralseid build up psybient framework that includes some of the requisite beats and undercurrents of psytrance but it’s with a definite focus on the spiritual side of things. The sound design includes binaural beats, which are shown to actually balance the hemispheres of your brain, and solfeggio frequencies which are said to promote relaxation. This is the type of music that is meant to take the listener on an astral trip. It’s up to the listener whether that trip looks like a nice sleep meditation before a big work day or like a big, orgiastic festival in the woods after gobbing down a peanut butter and mushroom sandwich. In the words of Mallory Archer, it can be either and/or both.
With spiritually-inspired track titles like “Shadow Love,” “Skydance” and awakening, Astralseid are quite clear in the intentions of their new EP, and with the sounds they create, they’re also quite clear about how they want their audience to experience Shamanic Love: it’s a call to the ancient in each of us, helping us locate our primal selves so we can connect to our sublime selves. If Astralseid is a representation of psybient, it’s clear that this spinoff of psytrance isn’t so spinny and may just help the somewhat wayward genre return to its spiritual roots.