Paul Masvidal designs music using Isochronic tones, a ‘brain-entrainment’ technology

His latest albums, Mythical, Human, and Vessel, are a journey into an unexplored soundscape

It’s no secret that I’m a metalhead. And through the sonic discovery, I’ve naturally developed my favourites.

One of those many favourites is Cynic, an American band founded in 1987 in Miami, Florida, by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Paul Masvidal, and drummer Sean Reinert.

Cynic’s lineup on their 1993 album, Focus.

Cynic’s work married progressive ideas with technicality, resulting in an intricate sound that blends death metal, jazz, alternative rock, and space rock. All their music, especially 1993’s Focus, 2008’s Traced In Air and 2011’s Carbon-Based Anatomy, are highly recommended.

So when Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal announced three solo albums to be released within the span of a year, I immediately took note.

Mythical had Masvidal in a stripped-down version—clean guitars, no distortion, and extremely ambient.

Was I surprised? Yes!

Was I disappointed? Hell yes!

The three records were sequenced as a trilogy, but released independently, beginning with Mythical in May 2019, Human in October 2019, and followed by Vessel in March 2020. They come together as Mythical Human Vessel.

I distinctly remember my excitement when Mythical was made available. I added the album to my library and expected the familiar proggy-meets-tech-meets-experimental metal that I was so accustomed to hearing from Masvidal.

Instead, the songs that came out from my headphones weren’t heavy at all. Mythical had Masvidal in a stripped-down version—clean guitars, no distortion, and extremely ambient.

Was I surprised? Yes!

Was I disappointed? Hell yes!

Once the initial disappointment wore off (it took repeated listens to Cynic’s discography), I decided to revisit Mythical again, this time with an open mind. Over the next month or so, to my astonishment, I discovered that Mythical was the album I’d heard the most number of times. The songwriting was still top-notch, and could’ve made for perfect Cynic tracks if Masvidal really wanted to. But this new soundscape with an ambient sound that washed over the songs, that to me, was the secret sauce that added all the zing.

I’m generally one to keep the music loud and heavy. It helps me stay alert, and I love singing along to keep my cool in Mumbai’s battleground like traffic. But even with its meditative music, Mythical, somehow kept me focused, alert, and relaxed.

Mythical became a companion at work. I’d switch it on whenever I needed to concentrate on a given task. I’d previously used albums from artists from the shoegaze, post-metal or chill-step genres to achieve the same, but they would become distractions after just a few songs. That didn’t happen with Mythical. It also found a place in my daily commute. Again, I’m generally one to keep the music loud and heavy. It helps me stay alert, and I love singing along to keep my cool in Mumbai’s battleground like traffic. But even with its meditative music, Mythical, somehow kept me focused, alert, and relaxed.

Naturally, it led me to ask why I behaved in that manner. And that question led me back to Paul Masvidal—actually, his website—which introduced me to Isochronic tones.

Isochronics are said to produce bio-chemical reactions in the body that increase serotonin, alleviate depression and stress, improve focus, and aid in restful sleep, similar to the effects of exposure to negative ions in nature.

To quote Masvidal’s website, “At the center of Masvidal’s experiment is the use of Isochronic tones, a ‘brain-entrainment’ technology. Isochronics are said to produce bio-chemical reactions in the body that increase serotonin, alleviate depression and stress, improve focus, and aid in restful sleep, similar to the effects of exposure to negative ions in nature.

Wow. So this music was designed to help me relax!

But that didn’t really help me understand the why behind it. The questions continued to bother me, until I got a chance to talk to Masvidal himself, when he agreed to record an interview for Horns Up, a heavy-metal podcast hosted by Peter and me.

Paul Masvidal

“The whole thing with using Isochronic tones is that you’re using your intent,” said Masvidal. “It’s to do with activating your own will. You set your own intention, whether it’s something as simple as “I want energy, I want to feel more relaxed, more uplifted, more joyful”. So depending on what seed you plant, your mind will go and find a resonant frequency that activates that intention. It’s a really interesting experiment in self-hypnosis, and how to use our minds. And these tones are kind of a modern medicine—it’s an empowering medicine where you are actively participating in your own healing.”

That interview led me deeper into the rabbit hole—the world of brainwave entertainment and Isochronic tones.

Alright, so how did Masvidal discover this? He answered, “I was into binaural beats before isochronic tones, and then I did some more research, and found Dr Stephane Pigeon, an audio genius who understands sound. I started to experiment with his custom player (on his website that allows you to create tones) and that had some limitations. So I emailed him, very innocently, and he replied, and well, that’s how these albums were created. We did a trade where I helped him, and he helped me.”

Was Masvidal ever bothered that this entire thing could be viewed as pseudoscience, or a gimmick? He replied, “You’re always going to get naysayers… You just have to trust your own instincts. Sometimes, you’ll fall on your face, and that’s okay, too. So people who criticise that are just people who haven’t actually done or experienced the work themselves. Inevitably, you’re going to cover the spectrum with how it’s perceived, and that’s the beauty of art—you have to take risks and go out of your own comfort zone.”

Masvidal quietly released Human in October 2019. And this time, I was prepared. The album became another sleeper hit and I’d generally use it to fall asleep.

That interview led me deeper into the rabbit hole—the world of brainwave entertainment and Isochronic tones. The internet is filled with several tomes of information about these soundwaves, and YouTube itself has several videos that can help you sleep better, concentrate better, and so on. Of course, there’s plenty of discourse about how all of this is just inconclusive mumbo-jumbo or just a psychosomatic reaction.

And finally, Vessel saw the light of the day just around the time when Coronavirus became a regular segment on the 9 o’clock news

Masvidal quietly released Human in October 2019. And this time, I was prepared. The album became another sleeper hit, literally. I’d generally use it to fall asleep. Especially on nights when I needed to sleep but had too many thoughts zipping through my brain. (I’d like to picture them as a homage to those Brownian motion animations we’ve all seen.) Human helped through all of that.

And finally, Vessel saw the light of the day just around the time when Coronavirus became a regular segment on the 9 o’clock news. A new set of tunes were added to all those playlists at a time when I could certainly use some help to stay calm.

There’s a rather famous quote by Nikola Tesla that Masvidal repeats on his website. It goes, “To find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy frequency and vibration.” While that’s a deep thought that’s open to loads of debate, it has somehow helped reinforce a thought I’ve had ever since my fascination with music began: That music, and sound, helps. It always does.

Try it for yourself. And, definitely, try listening to both, the album, and the tone-baths.

**

Listen / download / purchase at https://www.mythicalhumanvessel.com/

Learn more about Isochronic tones and how these songs were created at  https://www.mythicalhumanvessel.com/isochronic-tone-bath

Animesh. @asmoani. Video. Music. Heavy Metal. Horns Up. Riot Peddler. Wrestling. Then. Now. Forever. And Dinosaurs. And Food. And TV!

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