Check out our independent psychedelic band roundup for more psychedelic music.
Music is important for the soundtrack to life’s many multi-layered experiences. Music is, perhaps, most important during the experience that leads one down the hallways of the psychedelic trip. Finding the right sound to fill a room during these, at times, chaotic moments can be hard; nearly as hard as finding the music player itself; as well as finding the right side of the room. These five albums are a small collection, but the ones most easily grasped when all you want it something serene to focus on. They are not only great for pupil expansion, but they exist for the purpose of headphones and total immersion, seeking to bring the listener to the outer reaches of time, the self and even music. The sounds are deep, dark, mystical and hypnotic. The sounds chew on the listener’s brain stem and plays their spine like a flute.
Dark Side of the Moon
by Pink Floyd
“Home, home again / I like to be here when I can / When I come home cold and tired / It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire,” David Gilmour sings on Pink Floyd’s “Time.” The list starts off with the heaviest of all the entries, Dark Side Of The Moon. This album gets into the listener’s head space and never quite fully leaves. The subject matter tackles greed, madness, estrangement, but ultimately a thirst for something more. The album is a rotation of ups and downs. “The Great Gig in the Sky” smooths out to the startling first sound of a cash register on “Money.” “On the Run” lets the listener down slowly, only to beat the chiming clocks into their head on “Time.”
The songs bleed effortlessly into each other with chopped up synthesized experimentation that still, to this day, seems difficult to pinpoint. “On The Run” brings the listener through a sped-up vortex moving through the Unknown like a paranoid Speed Racer. Listener: who knows where you’ll end up with the final explosion? Beyond the diligent tape maneuvering the band did to create a new sonic dynamic in the studio, what stands out most are the songs. Classics. For as long as humans have ears. “Time,” “Money,” “Us And Them,” “Any Colour You Like.” Dark Side Of The Moon finishes off perfectly with “Brain Damage” into “Eclipse” bringing everything back to a triumphant climax.
Thought For Food
by The Books
The Books‘ first album, Thought For Food, is a masterpiece of cut-and-paste sonic hodgepodge. It is the soundtrack to your life and not one melody from it can you hum. Paul de Jong’s moody cello and Nick Zammuto’s subtle string plucking create an intense inclusion for the listener, as if the songs were bits of secrets whispered out of order. Their music reaches for an emotion, stirs a mood while the collage of audio recordings kick a new dent of meaning into the track with each new phrase. “Gentleman. Good luck.”
The Books arrived on the scoreboard right as the use of sampling, in music other than hip-hop, was hitting a peak. Artists like Matmos or Matthew Herbert weren’t using sampling merely as a way to enhance their tracks, but their tracks were held together, pasted and molded, by the samples. The audio exerts used by Zammuto and de Jong playback like the old memories from our universal human experience. They will make the listener laugh with a belly full of absurdity, like the old woman with a heart condition who’s doctor’s complaint veers the beat way off course on “Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again,” or, when a student in a spelling bee is asked to spell “aleatoric” on “Read, Eat, Sleep.” What a funny word, but when you look it up you find that aleatoric is a type of music where some element of the composition is left to chance. Whether they know how to spell it or not, The Books certainly know what the word means. I wonder if they read it in a book?
During the sonic onslaught that opens Thought For Food there might be moments of extreme confusion; feelings of displacement and disconnectedness. The best moments on the album are when the whirlwind is halted by light, airy tracks like “Contempt,” “All Our Base Are Belong To Them” and “Mother Bastard.” The buzz of the room reaches out and brushes up against the listener’s cheek. It’s not quite music exactly, but more like rivers of sound that flow around and into the listener.
Remain In Light
by Talking Heads
Talking Heads‘ fourth album, Remain In Light, is arguably the band’s greatest achievement. For that moment when you just can’t seem to sit down, this would be the one to play. Remain In Light is manic and courageous; it’s dark and full of life. The first four songs are packed with sweaty dance-floor energy.
From David Byrne’s first Ah! in the opening seconds of “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” the party has begun. By the time that hypnotically shivering chorus of, “all I want is to breathe / won’t you breathe with me?” hits, the listener’s body will be doing something like dancing, but not dancing. On “Crosseyed and Painless” there is a need to move like a bendable figurine plus a great dissertation on facts by Byrne midway through. Everyone’s vocals slither across the sides of the speakers on “The Great Curve” and “Once In A Lifetime” is the greatest anthem to life’s total unending silliness.
The psyche starts to erode in the second-half of the album starting with the zombie-strut of “House In Motion.” “Listening Wind” is a safari through a jungle of vines and the album finishes with the catatonic trance of all catatonic trances, “The Overlord.” Let’s say it might just firmly place one’s eyeballs in the back of their head for the rest of the night. The mood on Remain In Light is unlike any other on any other record. There is an incredible confidence with the absurd and a ghostly lust for life that never gets old.
by Four Tet
Kieran Hebden, known as Four Tet, is one of the sharpest beat masters in electronic music. The more intricate he gets with his music, the more melodic it becomes, the more heart-wrenching. Four Tet’s albums can evoke the strongest of human emotions without a single word uttered. On Rounds, from 2003, Hebden creates another world for the listener to stick their head in for a moment. Everything runs in shades of red and the hairs on the back of every neck in the room will stand at attention.
The album comes together slowly on opener, “Hands,” like a drumset falling down the stairs into your basement. By the time the beat settles, and Hebden’s fingers give the magic signal, you’re off and away. The molecular structure of the room should begin to come into focus. “She Moves She” follows a tight, leading drumbeat while the soft picking of a banjo competes with electronic shrapnel. Life is questioned in the overtaking web of sound.
The trance of Massive Attack is felt on “My Angel Rocks Back And Fourth.” Hebden cuts in with the beautiful strings of what sound like a harp and the beat rocks by like it’s being dragged through the sand. “Spirit Fingers” comes on strong and might make one reconsider what it is they took, but then, “As Serious As Your Life” comes melts all that rubbish down.
by Sun Ra
The acid jazz is free as can be on Sun Ra‘s masterpiece from 1978. Sun Ra had been making albums like he clipped his fingernails for the previous two-plus decades. The tangled fusion of jazz, funk and R&B was in a nice knot by the time of Lanquidity — many, many knots and even knots over knots, in fact. The album starts calmly like the morning waves licking the shore, but over the course of these five blown-out songs, the listener is swimming through stormy seas.
The music on Lanquidity opens up and wraps around the listener. It drips from the ceiling and collects on the tile. With every note, every sound, there is great expansion. There is head-rocking funk. There are guitars and horns playing out like spilled paint on the walls. At times there is seemingly no rhythm, only the wave of instrumentation carrying the listener away, horns blowing like packs of fleas, itching the backs of your ears. Sun Ra and his large band, including Marshall Allen, break through and summon many dimensions. What returns are the whispers of alternating speakers, “There are other worlds they have not told you of / They wish to speak to you.”