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Since the emergence of commercially made synthesizers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, musicians have plumbed the depths of what we now know as “ambient” music. Many European electronic composers—Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno—set precedents for what eventually became trance music in the early 1990s. Three decades later, that genre has blossomed into a massive worldwide phenomenon, with artists like Above & Beyond, Tiësto, and Armin van Buuren commanding huge audiences in stadium settings.
The union of yoga and trance, especially the more ambient forms of the genre, seemed inevitable in retrospect. A practice that involves introspection, slow movement, and connection with the breath, and a musical form that symbolizes unity and emotional connection—it’s the chocolate and peanut butter of the wellness world. And it’s become commercially viable—from a thriving yoga scene at Burning Man to Above & Beyond’s 2019 album Flow State, which featured neo-classical synthscapes and spoken-word meditations by world-renowned yoga teacher Elena Brower.
Now the Austin-based DJ duo Tritonal, which has shared festival stages and remix credits with some of the biggest names in trance and EDM, has released their own contribution. Reverence is an hour-long yoga and meditation album inspired by the artists’ personal journeys with addiction, recovery, parenthood, and the pandemic, was released on Earth Day.
Symbolic of its release, Reverence evokes imagery of Mother Earth and the promise of the spring season. It is a soundtrack for awakening; of nature coming to life, animals emerging from hibernation, humans from isolation. Through a symphonic progression, long, languid keyboard patterns give way to harp arpeggios and, eventually, the centerpiece: “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,” featuring the vocalist Sarah de Warren. The full listening experience wouldn’t be out of place in an hour-long yoga flow practice.
We recently caught up with Chad Cisneros, one-half of the group with Dave Reed, to find out what inspired the new album and learn more about the relationship between yoga and trance.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
YJ: Reverence is quite different from your previous trance albums. There is a fair amount of crossover in terms of messaging and intent between electronic dance music and music that caters to the yoga and meditation community. Trance music can be a transcendental and healing experience, and like yoga, trance is often about unity. Would you agree?
CC: Fully agree with that. The uniting and transcendental aspect of trance was always what drew us to the genre and the scene itself. It was only a natural progression to take on self-enquiry and yogic practices. In a way, there couldn’t be a better combination for our personal lives. Even as touring musicians, being able to perform these types of sets and adopt a more yogic-leaning lifestyle have really started to draw life full-circle.
Describe your “spiritual journey” during the pandemic and how that led to the creation of Reverence.
I began to take spiritual discipline seriously about 15 years ago, when I was up to my eyeballs in drug addiction. I wasn’t just “partying too much”; I felt as though I needed substances to breathe, to function, to feel OK inside. Eventually narcotics stopped working as a medicine and only led to deeper levels of suffering. In order to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, I turned to spiritual disciplines as a way out. Fear of people and economic insecurity left me, and for the first time in my life I began to experience peace.
About six years ago, my wife became pregnant with our first child, and I instinctively knew that it was time for me to reach deeper, in order to prepare myself for questions I had seemingly avoided really digging into most of my life. I began studying Buddhism, Hinduism, metaphysics, and Vedic Scripture, and started contemplating, learning, and meditating more deeply. When COVID hit, I was in my fifth year of serious aspiration to access self, to transcend mind, to anchor deeper into loving awareness. Teachers like Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, and Deepak Chopra had already begun to disentangle the knots of distortion within me. When we stopped touring, I finally read Autobiography of a Yogi [by Paramahansa Yogananda]. I also went through the Inner Engineering Program with Sadhguru, and was initiated into Kriya Yoga.
I was spending two to three hours daily in meditation and contemplation, sometimes more. For the first time in my life I was having verifiable experiences that were totally based beyond the realm of waking consciousness, and they were so profound and deep that I knew that I was beginning to awaken to the question I could never answer: “Who am I?” Through these daily revelations and insights, Reverence was born.
See also: Break Free From Addiction
EDM.com reported in 2018 that you donated proceeds from your single, “Love U Right” to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Do you hope that Reverence could serve as a healing salve for those who’ve been struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic?
Absolutely. Our only intention with this album is to help people bring a bit of peace into their lives, which inevitably spreads to your surroundings. The core of all issues is the issue of self, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to focus any attention on matters of “mental” or even “social” health, but having a true perspective on who you are is a first and necessary step.
How should people listen to Reverence and use it in their yoga and/or meditation practice? For instance, since it’s a continuous stream, is it arranged in such a way to, say, accompany a full-length yoga class?
We actually included a little “guide” in the vinyl version with some tips on the best way to listen to the music. Of course, however the listener chooses is fine. Our suggestions include a more meditative aspect in order to really sit with it. Sometimes it feels like that’s not done too often any more. With an overload of media, we all seem to hop around songs and albums so quickly, and this album may not be the best candidate for that type of listening. It could surely accompany a full-length yoga class as well, but maybe something more on the Yin or restorative side.
Read next: Learn More About Music and Yoga