Digital Drugs: A Trip Report

By Martin Silbiger
Wednesday September 15, 2010

Maybe you’ve heard of a new trend out there called i-Dosing? Awhile ago, a school district in Oklahoma wrote a letter to parents to give them one more thing to worry about – their kids “getting high on mp3s”. The story quickly went viral. Now, stupid kids in the suburbs, barring access to real drugs, try to get high in legal ways – snorting nutmeg, huffing, robotripping, whatever. Why not get some drugs that you can store on your iPod?

However, what previous articles have failed to take note of, is that i-Doser is a new strain of experimental music, one that combines elements of the early experiments in electronic music and the minimalist movement of the 1960s. What has changed since then? A whole lot – electronic music is now accessible to the masses and cheap to create; the popularity of trance and psytrance has come and gone; mp3 technology allows for pieces to stretch beyond the arbitrary length of a CD or cassette. I-Doser leverages these changes in technology in attempt to push us to feel something beyond that of any music ever previously recorded.

A typical i-Doser piece lasts 30-50 minutes, and is meant to be listened to through headphones while lying down. This contradicts our usual habits of being able to listen to any song, any time, anywhere – and these aren’t the sorts of pieces where you can just “skip to the good parts”. (I’m sure we’d all like to skip the debilitating depression we feel after dropping E, but that’s not really an option, is it?) The i-Doser composer has a very limited range of variables to deal with – the main frequency, the secondary frequency that creates the “binaural waves”, the level of background static, and how these change over time. A typical piece will start off with an intense binaural wave that can be slightly uncomfortable at first, but over the course of the piece, the main and secondary frequency will move closer together, resulting in a more pleasant, pulsing wave. This tension-release dynamic is present in just about all music ever, but it’s rare for a piece to delay the release for such a long time, leaving it that much more satisfying when it finally comes.

So, is i-Doser ushering in a new era of electro-trance-minimalism? In short, no. It's pretty obvious from the website that the whole i-Doser scam works like a late-night infomercial, as it overpromises and underdelivers, and relies on "affiliate marketing" to make sales. Also, the audio is vaguely interesting for maybe 10 minutes at most, and you aren't going to feel anything unless you have an active imagination and can bring yourself to believe in the psychedelic powers of sound waves. Still, that didn't stop me from illegally downloading all the drugs I could find, so that I could thoroughly investigate the magic of "binaural waves."

The drugs fall into a couple broad categories:


RELAXATION: A lot of these tracks are actually good for relaxation, especially if you’re trying to fall asleep quickly. This is not surprising if you’ve ever used a white noise machine. There’s some science behind it too (unlike the pseudo-science behind everything else here) – white noise blocks out other sounds, and eventually your brain gives up on trying to interpret what you’re hearing since there’s nothing stimulating there. Sleeping Angel and Tranquil are designed for sleeping, and they’re good, but I prefer some of the harder mp3s, like Opium and Morphine. Oxycodone is a pleasant one, but it’s a little too bassy to be considered white noise.

Best track: Marijuana.

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? Both at the same time. (NOTE: don’t try this with any other drugs!)


STIMULANTS: More like “irritants”. These tracks are especially wobbly, and occasionally make you feel like your brain is melting. After they're finished, you feel relieved, but not energized.

Best track: French Roast. It’s the best track because it’s the shortest, at 5 min. It actually simulates a bad cup of coffee, as it starts off slightly unpleasant, then leaves you with a bitter aftertaste, and maybe a mouthful of coffee grinds.

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? Meet me at Starbucks.


HARD DRUGS: These occasionally make you feel like your brain is melting. Not in the summer-ice-cream-cone way, more like the winter-snowman way where every day, you look at it, and it resembles its original form less and less. You feel me? Anyway, the tracks Heroin and Crystal Meth are garbage. Cocaine is nice for about 5 minutes, but the next 25 are unpleasant, plus it sounds like it was mixed with Baby Powder.mp3.

Best track: LSD takes you to interesting places and has a smooth ending.

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? Well, LSD.mp3 won’t give you flashbacks.


RANDOM PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: The B-sides of i-Dosing. There are a couple painkillers in here (Oxy, Vicodin) and some anti-depressants (5HTP, Anti-Sad, Prozium...no points for creativity). But really, these seem so uninteresting compared to the hard drugs, that I don’t understand why anyone would bother with them.

Best track: DXM

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? A bottle of Rubitussin DM is $5.99, and DXM.mp3 is $3.50. Save up, kid.


SEX-TRACKS: I gotta say, this is sort of weird, and I’m not sure how these fit with the other drugs here. Ecstacy, sure, but First Love, Excite, Extend? Who’s asking for these? These all sound like Viagra spam. I was pretty skeptical at first...but then I tried Orgasm.

Best track: Orgasm. I came.

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? Look- there’s basically no reason to go out on Saturday nights anymore, because Orgasm feels like God giving you a handjob. You think I'm joking, but there's a reason why Orgasm is the #1 selling i-Dose, and why they made a follow-up called Multiple-O.


HORROR MOVIES: Okay, so there are a couple tracks that are designed solely to freak you out. These are the digital equivalent of those Flash games that are all like, “Where’s Waldo? (BEST AT MAXIMUM VOLUME)” and then you’re concentrating really hard and then a ghoul suddenly appears and scares the shit out of you. These are not terribly creative, but tracks like this are the closest you’ll get to a bad trip while i-Dosing.

Best track: GATE OF HADES. (Note that this track costs $199.95. Not joking.)

Real Drug or Drug.mp3? I ruined the surprise for you, so these MP3s might not do it for you, but imagine you’re this kid and imagine that you grew complacent after listening to 30 minutes of soothing tones.

(Sigh, the original video I posted is long-gone but if you search Youtube for "Gate of Hades doser" you'll find some cool stuff! Ex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTWiSfHi4gY)


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