Thursday, 24 July 2014

Roots Psychedelia: There's More to Psychedelic Music Than Sounding Like The Black Angels (Editorial)

In my recent interview with Nik Rayne of Sky Lantern Records, we spoke of the label's response to current psychedelia as a whole, and touched upon what is happening in the modern psychedelic scene - "in some ways [the label was] a specific response to what I've seen happening in the field of contemporary psychedelia, which is an extraordinary general collapse into banality". Now whilst I don't totally agree with this analysis, the current scene including many thousands of acts, all with a slightly different take on what it means to be a 'psychedelic band', Nik's comment did get me thinking about what it means to sound generally psychedelic.

Nowadays, depending on the school of thought you subscribe to, an opinion of what classifies something as 'psychedelic' could vary quite massively from person to person. My understanding is that originally what classified something as 'psychedelic' was more easily identifiable - if you were to produce something weird that didn't sound like the general rock music of the day, it was considered unconventional, and that unconventionality was (or thought to be) brought about by the use of psychedelic substances, such as LSD (hence the term 'Psychedelic music' was derived).

However, as the years have progressed, and the psychedelic scene has both flourished, and fallen into disrepair at certain points, the definition of 'psychedelic music' has become considerably hazier. Some feel that to be psychedelic means the same as it always has 'someone who indulges in psychedelic, and other hallucinogenic drugs, and then creates music of this' -  a band like the Brian Jonestown Massacre would fall into this definition, the band's leader, Anton Newcombe, often citing his use of illegal substances in the creation of the band's albums. In contrast though, some feel that psychedelic drugs actually have little to do with the music itself, and that the music is the drug - A psychedelic state can be brought about by certain sonic qualities in the music itself, and can (but, not necessarily) render the need for often illegal, and sometimes dangerous, drugs useless. For example: a band whom have advocated this in certain interview include the psychedelic statesman themselves, The Black Angels. 

Whilst there are other schools of thought about, (please feel free to comment your own opinion in the section below, or on Facebook's comment section) these are the two main ones I have heard of. I myself fall into the latter category, tending to see the creation of psychedelic music as a resource that any one can enjoy, no matter whom they are, without the necessary need for additional substances. This definition can as a result encompass a much larger range of music, due to the fact that the music itself then becomes a personal experience, and not a set of followed rules in it's creation. In a sense, most music created with the idea of helping the listener transcend into a metaphysical state (essentially experiencing a theme or motif as delivered by the vehicle of sound) can be considered 'psychedelic'.  

So to get the crux of the matter, bearing all this previous information in mind, I feel I understand the malaise Nik feels at the some of the things happening in the current psychedelic scene. I good deal of band's trying to enter the world of modern psychedelia seem to feel like there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' way to make psychedelic music. Many seem to believe to sound like a good psychedelic band you need to turn the reverb up, put on as much delay as possible, and light up a joint and write down whatever nonsensical gibberish comes to mind.  Although none of the techniques are at all 'unpsychedelic', this way of approaching the music misses the point of psychedelic music, and lacks creativity, and understanding. 

Psychedelic music does not need any of the aforementioned to be credible, or considered 'good', it is all about the experience. Innovation, and a desire to work outside the box, is needed if you truly wish to connect with the listener and make them feel the feelings you desire for them to feel. Inevitable stagnation and decline lies ahead of us on the road to psychedelia if we do not reconnect with the core principles of the art form. It is an abstract thought, and tool of communication, and as such, cannot be approached with an underlying sense of conventionality. 

Going back to the original point, I chose to name this post 'Roots Psychedelia' because it is one of the shining examples of how unconventionality is the key tool in the psychedelic musicians bag. Artists such as Montibus Communitas, Kikagaku Moyo, and Sheldon Siegel, offer an incredible example of how many pivotal elements of what may be considered the most 'far-out' psychedelic bands by some can actually be totally unneeded (not to say they are universally redundant, though) - e.g: Reverberated electric guitars, Farsifa organs, ect. 

To conclude, to prevent banality in the modern psychedelia, listeners and musicians alike need to realise that psychedelic music isn't a specific sound that can just be tapped into with a set of key elements. It is an abstract concept that anyone can create.  Any person, or set of people, can only be truly psychedelic in the music they create if they realise this. To embrace psychedelia is to want to convey an experience, and put most simply, to share with another a communication of honesty, innovation, and truth. 

Do You Even Psychedelic would like to thank you for being with us this evening, we hope that in some small way we gave been able to add to your pleasure, comfort, and relaxation. 

Picture credit: Montibus Communitas - Pilgrim to the Absolute (album cover)

Written by Daniel Sharman on 20/7/2014.

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