Psybient, also known as “Ambient Psy”, “Psychedelic Ambient”, “Ambient Goa”, “Ambient Psytrance” or simply chill out and more commonly within the Goa- Psytrance scene as “Psychill” & “Psydub”, is a genre of electronic music that combines elements of psychedelic trance, ambient, world music, new age and even ethereal wave. It often has many dub influences and can also sound somewhat like glitch.
Psybient pieces are often structured around the concept of creating a “sonic voyage” or “musical journey”. Although similar to psytrance’s emphasis on maintaining non-stop rhythm throughout the night, psybient is far more focused on creating a vast soundscape that can be experienced over the length of an album, focusing less on beatmatching and allowing for a myriad of tempo changes. Psybient artists include Shpongle, Entheogenic, Bluetech, Shulman, Kick Bong, Tajmahal, Pitch Black, Younger Brother and Capsula.
Atmospheric Interludes in Goa
Because of the heat, humidity, and dust in Goa, the birthplace of Goa trance (which was the precursor of psytrance), DJs tended to use cassette tapes or DATs instead of vinyl records. As a result, beatmatching was very hard, and many of the earliest DJs who worked within the Goan scene didn’t bother trying at all, the notorious Goa Gil being one of them. As a solution to the dilemma, a production technique developed of having relatively long atmospheric portions in each track, which would allow a DJ to easily mix two tracks of different tempos without having them clash. These short periods that were free of heavy, bass driven beats acted as “chillout” periods for those who were dancing (or “tripping”) to relax and regain their energy for the next track.
Perhaps the earliest album consisting entirely of “chill tracks” was Mystical Experiences by The Infinity Project in 1995. But the genre really took off after Shpongle (a project involving some members of The Infinity Project) released Are You Shpongled? in 1998. Slowly but surely, the diverse, ever evolving style that has come to be known as “psybient” or “psychill” has been adopted by a marginal number of artists. It is interesting to note that although relatively successful for a small sub-genre, psybient has not expanded hardly as rapidly in recent years as its parent genre, psytrance.
Due to its roots in the Goa scene, psybient is considered to be highly influenced by psychoactive drugs, even more so than other forms of psytrance. The influence of psychedelics is often blatantly presented in both the musical content (such as “trippy”, tweaked-out samples) and in the artwork. An example of this can be seen in the title of track six of Shpongle’s album Are You Shpongled?. The song’s name, “Divine Moments of Truth” is a tribute to the psychedelic drug Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Success with the Downtempo Market
In recent years, psybient has received a considerable amount of success in the chillout/downtempo market, a listener group far larger than the psytrance audience. An example of psybient’s foothold within the “chill” market can be seen in the success of Entheogenic’s second album, Spontaneous Illumination. In November of 2003 it went to Number 1 on the German “Chill-Out” Charts, where it remained at Number 1 for 8 weeks. The album stayed in the Top 10 for an additional 12 weeks.