Tag Archive: Stone’s Throw


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“The Balance” is Free the Robots aka Chris Alfaro third album after his self titled debut album (2008) and “Ctrl Alt Delete” (2010) and his profile hasn’t been higher than its is now. Despite being associated with the Low End Theory club night and the L.A. musicians such as Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer etc it’s taken a long time for Alfaro to emerge from their shadow. But he’s here now and we’re all the better for it.

The album opens with the heavy reverberant piano chords and downbeat drums ‘Ophic’ which features a swirling organ melody and the smoky vocals of Jessie Jones. ‘Reflect and Reform’ starts off with wah-wah filtered synth and female voice singing ‘la la la la la’, then a huge, slow moving hip-hop beat drops and a glassy, whistling synth hovers over head. Around 1 minutes 30 seconds in a busy, fast tumbling drum beat and computer game synth bass and melodies kick in, before the woman returns around 2 minutes in. The song changes again with the last minute this time sounding like a glitch hop beat with a simple more reflective lead synth melody over the top.

‘Parallaxis’ kicks off with an upbeat drum break, bass guitar and muted guitar riff, this intro reminds me of getaway music. Then the track breaks down to a head nodding hip-hop beat and synth bass splurges. An 8-bit synth melodies kick in around 1 minute and 30 seconds, before the chase music feel returns brief. Then the track switches back to the head nodding beat. ‘Innervision’ explores the more electronic side of the Free the Robots sound and features slow and stretched electronic drums, twangy, spooky guitars and detuned sounding synths. Later a slow synced LFO bass line drops and takes over. Voice samples are placed in the background throughout. A warm electric piano melody kicks in for the last quarter of the track.

‘Blindfold’ matches thick analogue synths that dive in, bubbling up and bringing in a rolling hip-hop beat full of flams and rolls before an organ melody take over lead duties. Later on great slabs of synth bass dominate the second half of the track and a computer game synth melody hovers above it. The album’s title track is another highlight combining dark reverberate piano chords, a complex beat full of rolling bass drum and snare. These are followed swiftly by a resonate synth melody and a counter point played on organ comes in after 1 minute 30 seconds. The melody becomes a yearning flute around 2 minutes 30 seconds in.

“The Balance” is a good title for this album as Alfaro attempts to bring together many disparate sounds and genres that it could all go wrong so easily. Yet he found a balance between all of these elements and created a great album out of them. Definitely one for fans of Flying Lotus and anything on the Ninja Tune and Stones Throw labels.

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Recommendations for March

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” 5th March (RVNG ITNL Records)

Holter follows up last year’s excellent “Tragedy” with an album that preview tracks suggest it trades the shadowy and foggy atmospheres of “Tragedy”  for a bright production that reveals her musicality and skill in writing catchy yet innovative melodies. Released  through RVNG ITNL the same label as last month’s brilliant album by Blondes this promises to be just as good.

Yeti Lane – “The Echo Show” 5th March (Sonic Cathedral)

Yeti Lane’s second album sits perfectly between the repetitive drone based rock music of Spacemen 3 and shoegazers such as Ride and My Bloody Valentine and a poppier version of the music of synth pioneers like Jean Michel Jarre, all underpinned by motorik rhythms inspired by Neu! Sounds like a great combination!!!

Grinderman – “Grinderman 2 RMX” 12th March (Mute Records)

Last year’s “Grinderman 2” album was one of the biggest disappointments for me. However, this remix album sounds promising with contributions from amoungst others Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s), UNKLE, Andrew Weatherall, Factory Floor and Barry Adamson.

Symmetry – “Themes for an Imaginary Film” 12th March (Republic of Music Records)

Originally released in January via iTunes this album from Johnny Jewel (The Chromatics/Glass Candy) features music original destined for the soundtrack to last years hit film “Drive”. However, the studio overruled director Nicholas Winding Refn and leading man Ryan Gosling and went with the experienced Cliff Martinez. Undettered Jewel simply sequenced the material into this epic and ambitious piece of work.

Various Artists – “Stellate 1” 15th March (Digital only)  (Stroboscopic Artefacts)

The Stellate Series is a new project for the Stroboscopic Artefacts label that takes a conceptual approach to curation. In their words, “Stellate 1 taps into the place where electronic music-making began. It delves into a liminal Post-War atmosphere where the very fabric of society was being completely re-thought and composers dug into dissonance to explore the essence of ‘making it new’.” Each of the Stellate Series will bring together two tracks by four artists who fall within Stroboscopic Artefacts’ brutal minimalist sonic and visual aesthetics. SASTE001 comprises the visions of Lucy, Borful Tang, Perc and Kevin Gorman. Fitting for the label, this is dark, uncompromising music made up of deep textures and rumbling bass lines and emotive and immersive soundscapes with brooding atmospheres.

Voices From The Lake –“Voices From The Lake” 12th March (UK)  (Prologue)

Voices From The Lake is a project by Italian DJ/producers Donato Dozzy and Neel. Following on from last year’s beautiful, calm “Silent Drop” EP, the self-titled album extends and deepens their ambient techno explorations with an emphasis on the ‘techno’ component.  Listening to the preview tracks from “Voices From The Lake” is an immersive experience, as the textured beats and unhurried rhythms have a deeply hypnotic effect with a natural progression and flow. The sounds develop and unfold at their own pace, creating a potent sense of tranquillity. Album opener ‘Iyo’ imposes scattered hats and delayed percussion against a humid backdrop. Its synth drones leads us into the next track ‘Vega’, which introduces a 4/4 bass drum underneath a soothing synth pad and layers of tiny hits of percussion. Rhythm, texture and atmosphere are the key components of this album, creating an enveloping physical presence that asks for intense concentration; a meditative state of listening. Using ambient techno’s characteristically sparse elements, Donato Dozzy and Neel have created a unique album that proves the art of creating an after-hours LP is still strong.

King Felix – “Spring EP” 19th March (Mute/ Liberation Technologies Records)

Back in January Mute Records announced the launch of a sub label called Liberation Technologies and its first release was to be an E.P. by Laurel Halo under the moniker King Felix. Rory Gibb of The Quietus described the E.P.’s sound as featuring “hazy melodies and club-driven percussion are a little reminiscent of the saturated tones of classic Detroit techno and electro, and far more dance floor driven than anything she’s done before. However, their very fluid approach to rhythm feels rather more modern, bringing to mind everything from the manic patter of Chicago footwork to the submerged disco of labels like Hippos In Tanks (who released “Hour Logic”) and Not Not Fun. The “Spring EP” will be released on 12″ vinyl and digital download.

Mi Ami – “Decades” 19th March (100% Silk Records)

We’ve bearly got to grips with Ital’s “Hive Mind” and Daniel Martin McCormack is at it again as part of duo Mi Ami with their third album “Decades”. The band have always combined post-punk and dance music influences and pre-release track ‘Time of Love’ shows that this continues with a particularly strong dub influence. You can listen to ‘Time of Love’ here.

Mirrroring – “Foreign Body” 19th March (Kranky Records)

Mirrorring is a collaborative project featuring Liz Harris aka Grouper and Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers, it seems that the two parts of this project come from similar background to the members of A Winged Victory for the Sullen e.g. one members makes ambient music and the other modern classical  music. As A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s album impressed us so much last year, we look forward to hearing this.

Breton – “Other People’s Problems” 26th March 2012 (Fat Cat Records)

Following on from the 3 EPs they’ve released in the past 12 months Breton are releasing their début album. The band blend dubstep and post-punk influences into a potent and creative combination.

Carter Tutti Void – “Transverse” 26th March (Mute Records)

A unique collaboration between Chris Carter, Cosy Fanni Tutti (ex-Throbbing Gristle) and Nik Void from Factory Floor, created especially for the legendary Short Circuit  festival presented by Mute records at the Roundhouse, London in 2011. The tracks were prepared in the studio and then performed and recorded live in front of an audience. Outside of the trio, these recordings were unheard prior to the festival and the popularity of the performance left many being turned away at the door.

Quakers “Quakers” 26th March 2012 (Stones Throw Records)

Despite his comments in 2011 that a Portishead album was a long way off Geoff Barrow looks like having a busy 2012. In addition to running his Invada label, there’s a new Beak> album due and this from a 35 strong hip-hip collective featuring Barrow, Portishead studio engineer Stuart Matthews and the Australian DJ Katalyst. Guest rappers include Dead Prez, Prince Po and Aloe Blacc.

Thee Satisfaction – “awE naturalE” 26th March (Sub Pop)

Thee Satisfaction are an avant soul duo who featured on Shabazz Palaces album “Black Up” last year. They release their début album on Sub Pop in March, check out “Queens” here for a taste of whats to come.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

MF Doom – “Operation Doomsday” (Fondle ‘Em Records, 1999)

In April 2011 MF Doom’s Metal Face Records (in conjunction with Stones Throw Records) reissued the heralded underground hip-hop classic “Operation Doomsday”. In this month’s Classics Critiqued I will explore the reasons why I believe the album doesn’t deserve its seemingly unchallenged status as a ‘classic’ album. I will consider all the elements of the music including beats, production, lyrical content and Doom’s flow, I will also discuss the album’s legacy and influence on the current hip-hop generation.

Doom (Daniel Dumile – pronounced Doo-ma-lay) started his career in hip-hop in 1988 when he formed the group KMD with younger brother DJ Subroc and an MC called Rodan. At this point Doom was using the stage name Zev Love X. Rodan soon left the group and was replaced by an MC named Onyx the Birthstone Kid, in this incarnation the group signed to Elektra Records. The band released their debut album “Mr. Hood” in 1991 and their singles ‘Peachfuzz’ and ‘Who Me?’ received heavy video play on Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. Everything seemed to be going well then in 1993 Subroc was killed by a car while crossing the Long Island expressway and in the same week the group were dropped by Elektra due to  controversial cover art of their second album “Black Bastards”.

In the aftermath Dumile retreated from the hip-hop scene suffering from disillusionment and depression and relocated from New York to Atlanta. Meanwhile, “Black Bastards” was doing the rounds as a bootleg and Doom’s star was rising on the underground hip-hop circuit. In 1997 Doom began free styling at open-mic events in Manhattan wearing a stocking over his head and developing his new persona MF Doom. The stocking became a mask: the ‘MF’ meaning Metal Face. Finally in 1999 he released his debut album “Operation Doomsday”. Initially the album didn’t cause much of a stir but with Fondle ‘Em Records bankrupcy its classic status seemed to grow due to its unavailability yet I challenge the idea that “Operation Doomsday” is a classic.

“Operation Doomsday” is not a bad album; it’s a very solid debut release from a rapper/producer that would go on to rightly dominate underground rap music in the ‘00s. However, there are a number of reasons it isn’t the classic album it held up as. Firstly the more I listen to it the more I’ve found myself feeling that it had all been done before and better. In the early ’90s, acts such as A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr produced similar albums of much higher quality. A Tribe Called Quest’s “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” (1990) and Gang Starr’s “Step In The Arena” (1991) are fine examples of jazz inspired hip-hop music. So it strikes me as strange that this album is so acclaimed, maybe it was simply good timing as hip-hop moved from one era to the next, “Operation Dommsday” provides critics with a neat link between them. Neither do I think it is Doom’s best album; that award should go to “Madvillainy” (2004), the result of his collaboration with producer/drummer Madlib though if we are just considering his solo albums then I would argue that “Vaudeville Villain” under his Viktor Vaughan alias  is better than “Operation Doomsday” on all fronts.

The Doom character isn’t as developed on “Operation Doomsday” and though this may be an unfair criticism as it’s his debut album, he had been performing as MF Doom for two years and had many years in the wilderness to devise and develop this character. The world that Doom attempts to create on “Operation Doomsday” is one that seems to have been created on the fly and the inconsistant lyrical content leaves the listener unsure of what Doom is driving at. This can cause much confusion as Doom introduces the listener to a whole universe of slang vocabulary and obscure reference points that at the time wasn’t just a Google search away and is still difficult to unravel today. The comic book character meshes better with the music of later Doom albums where he further developed his musical style into something that was truly his own.

The traditional song structures employed on “Operation Doomsday” are uninspiring compared to Doom’s later albums. Here he repeats verses where in the future he would just stop the track completely. Some tracks fade out then the backing track is brought back in for another 30-60 seconds, though this was a technique used to highlight the work of the producer it begins to grate after a few plays and doesn’t add anything to Doom’s compositions.

Despite the many holes I’ve found in the critical acclaim given to “Operation Doomsday”, its reissue last year saw many critics reinforcing the idea that it’s a classic album and rightly giving Doom credit as an influential artist whose music and lyrics have had profound effect on contemporary underground hip-hop. As Ian Cohen said in his Pitchfork review of the reissue, “The album goes a long way toward demonstrating Doom’s incalculable influence on some of the leading lights of current underground hip-hop: Lil’ B has dedicated an entire album to Doom, the lurching production style of Odd Future owes him a heavy debt (most obviously shown in “Odd Toddlers” flipping the same sample as 2004’s “One Beer”), and K.M.D.’s referential raps and playful yet incisive deconstructions of racial politics are a clear influence on Das Racist.” Cohen’s assessment perfectly sums up Doom and the legacy of “Operation Doomsday” and demonstrates this album is still very held in high regard by rock and hip-hop critics.

Listen to “Operation Doomsday” via Spotify – MF Doom – OPERATION: DOOMSDAY (Complete)

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts & opinions on “Operation Doomsday” in the comments section or via the Sonic Fiction Twitter.

Psychedelia: The Return

Disclaimer: This post is in no way attempting to suggest or create a new  musical genre or sub genre. It is intended to observe some of the, at times tenuous, links in a burgeoning network of new psychedelic artists.

After a decade in development 2009 saw an organically grown set of artists exploring new and different ways of creating psychedelic music reaching critical mass. While the mainstream music press bangs on about ‘nu gaze’ they have missed a much wider and larger development that has and still is producing amazing, mind expanding music.

So who and what am I talking about when I refer to new psychedelic music? There are three main strands of this phenomenon. The first is the noise scene of UK and North America  where wildly oscillating colourful music has become the predominant feature for the likes of Animal Collective (who’ve come a long way from their humble beginnings), Black Dice, Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck and 8-bit legend Dan Deacon. Animal Collective are currently earning the most column inches but they were virtual unknowns prior to the 2007 release of ‘Strawberry Jam’, which coincidently is when the band hit upon a winning formula for their music. Both ‘Strawberry Jam’ and the commercially successful 2009 follow up ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ showcased Animal Collective’s great musical achievements and exposed people to their contemporaries.

This scene also demonstrates that the genre is a step forward. Unlike Britpop this resurgence isn’t a retrograde movement looking through rose tinted glasses back to the ‘60s heyday of guitar and organ based psychedelic music. The employment of synthesisers, sequencers, drum machines, games consoles, toys, guitar effects pedals and circuit bending (the modification of musical and non musical toys to create new sounds) creates a digitised, corrupted version of psychedelia that is more in tune with the modern world. Occasionally these acts write lyrics with a similarly naive hippy vibe but by and large artists have shunned this in favour of a more modern post-irony lyrical slant. Much of the noise scene even avoids the use of conventional vocals. Though Animal Collective have two singers they treat the vocals as another instrument or effect in their music, veering from the disturbing and distorted to the ethereal and dub-like. Most importantly in a genre where it is difficult to establish yourself as unique and vital, to outsiders at least, all these acts have managed to achieve this, whether through a long development period like Animal Collective, Black Dice and Dan Deacon or a seemingly quick time in the case  of Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck.

The next strand is the UK electronic and indie scenes that in recent years have received an injection of psychedelic sound. The main artists include Clark, Four Tet, The Big Pink and Maps. Over the last few years these acts have all released albums that resonate with their own unique sounds. Four Tet’s (Kieran Hebden) fourth album ‘Everything Ecstatic’ in 2005 delved into the relatively untouched worlds of late ‘60s psychedelic jazz of Art Ensemble of Chicago and Alice Coltrane and Krautrock (a German form of progressive rock) whilst retaining Four Tet’s originality. Hebden was a huge hip-hop fan and the joy he took in deconstructing and reconstructing these genres into a new sonic tapestry is indicated in the album’s title. Around this time his remix work shifted focus in the same direction and he began a fruitful relationship with Stone Throw Records and producer Madlib. The Krautrock influence would also rear its head again albeit in a colder form on the ‘Ringer’ EP from 2008. The next crucial release in this chain was 2006’s ‘Body Riddle’ by Clark on Warp Records. Though not the most obvious psychedelic album I’ve discussed it nevertheless reveals its twisted, swirling and dark heart with repeated listens. Like ‘Everything Ecstatic’ it uses modern hip-hop and R&B rhythms and production techniques to create a dense, evolving collage of sound to the extent that it feels as if ‘Body Riddle’ is the flip side of ‘Everything Ecstatic’ but where Four Tet looks backwards for his core influences, Clark uses modern sounds and electronic influenced noise to communicate a near pitch black sound of emotional turmoil. In 2007 these artists were joined by Maps (James Chapman) who released his multi-layered synthesizer heavy debut album ‘We Can Create’ to critical acclaim. The album was purely electronic music balanced with pop melodies. His sound is the most commercial that I’ll discuss but even Chapman is grounded in indie roots. Maps’ new album ‘Turning the Mind’ (2009) is true psychedelia. It takes the textures from his debut and adds new colours to what had been a very blue sound. ‘Turning the Mind’ is vividly colourful; resonating with bright reds, yellows and oranges yet there is a dark undercurrent to the sound, which is spoiled occasionally by Chapman’s naive lyrics and the odd Pet Shop Boys melody.

The latest arrival in this scene is the most hyped of the so called nu gaze bands The Big Pink. They combine electronic beats, guitar and synth sounds that owe to the original shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins and their sound has much in common with Maps’ debut but employs guitars instead of synths. The Big Pink recorded their debut ‘A Brief History of Love’ at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York, stating that it helped create the vibe they wanted and ‘added a magic’ to it. Much like electronica and indie the noise scene is trying to forge a way forward instead of merely repeating past ideas and it has mostly succeeded in this aim in a time when this is near impossible.

The final strand is the underground hip-hop scene in the US andUK. The former is based around Stones Throw Records and Madlib and the latter helmed by Four Tet and Warp Records’ recent signing Hudson Mohawke. Though they are all different they have led to the creation of the first truly psychedelic hip-hop records and although the Beastie Boys and De La Soul had come close in 1989 with ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and ‘Three Feet and Rising’ and OutKast’s ‘Stankonia’ in 2002 was a brilliant tribute to classic Parliament/Funkadelic concept albums, Madlib is the first truly original psychedelic hip-hop producer. His name standing for Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats.

He is hugely prolific and flits between a vast array of black music genres but his work is always under the banner of hip-hop and almost always has a drugged feel. The high points of Madlib’s catalogue include the albums he released as Quasimoto  – ‘The Unseen’ and ‘The Further Adventures of Lord Quas’ in 2000 and 2005 and his work with MF Doom under the name Madvillian who released their debut ‘Madvilliany’ in 2004. He and Four Tet use hip-hop’s main weapon to create their unique sounds: the sampler. As Quasimoto Madlib created the weird vocal effects by slowing his beats down, recording vocals on top then replaying the vocals over the original beat. He also used his sampler and drum kit to create a disorienting dark world for MF Doom’s character Madvillain to live and breathe in for their album. This created a sound more akin to jazz or stoner rock music than traditional hip-hop. It was around the time of ‘Madvilliany’ that Madlib and Four Tet struck up a collaborative relationship and swapped remixes over the next year or so, many of which ended up on Four Tet’s ‘Remixes’ album. This then extended out into remixes of other Stone Throw artists and vice versa. Madlib has also worked under the guise of Yesterday’s New Quintet, in which he plays all four fictitious musicians and explores psychedelic jazz and incorporates influences from the Beasties Boys’ organic hip-hop and the atmospherics of Jamaican dub. With YNQ Madlib achieves his dual ambition of paying tribute to the styles of the past while being faithful to the progressive nature of jazz and his own innovative music.

Since signing to Warp Records Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke (Ross Birchard) has released the ‘Polyfolk Dance’ EP and debut album ‘Butter’. At first his sound was difficult to pin down but a little research revealed what made this strange brew. Mohawke grew up listening to soul and funk records and the rave tapes his cousin played and as a teenager he learnt the art of turntablism (becoming the youngest DMC UK champion at 15), which explains his unique sound that mashes together the luxuriousness of modern hip-hop, the day-glo noise of rave and found sounds and samples. ‘Butter’ is an apt title for a record that is so rich and textured yet has roughness indebted to the bass and found sounds and samples, lending the album an analogue feel evoking classic mid ‘70s Parliament/Funkadelic through a very modern filter. None of these three artists live in the same country but they have contributed to and influenced a new generation of hip-hop producers who can take these new ideas and twist them into varied shapes and sounds.

As stated earlier the music examined is not a retread of old psychedelic music genres but it would, however, be naive to suggest that these artists are rootless and are creating completely new music. There are three main components of influence, some of which interlink. The first is Krautrock or kosmiche music that originated in Germany in the late 1960s continuing throughout the ‘70s and up until the present day. Though many important Krautrock artists such as Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust and Can have been canonised for their work the new breed of psychedelic artists also take their influences from the ambient organic work of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster and Harmonia.

Tangerine Dream emerge as the biggest influence and indeed achieved the biggest sound and sales at their height. Their authority is detectable in the music of Animal Collective, Holy Fuck, Dan Deacon, Maps and Four Tet. Their music, which is comparable to the dense texture and melodic styles used by their successors, allowed ‘sound patterns to build up slowly and blend into one another’. The classical and silver-toned guitar of Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! can be heard on records by Four Tet, Clark and Hudson Mohawke (though they probably aren’t a direct influence on Birchard’s work). Rhythms and harmonies employed by Can are mirrored in the work of Holy Fuck and Four Tet and are closely associated with Madlib’s style with Jaki  Liebezeit’s drum breaks been a constant source for sampling for hip-hop and dance music since the late ‘80s. The colder, pre-industrial ambient sounds of Cluster and Harmonia have also found their way into the corners of material by Maps and Four Tet’s ‘Ringer’.

The next influence is closely associated with the Krautrock and kosmiche music artists discussed. It is best described as ‘70s synth music, a rough generic term bringing together the music of Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Isao Tomita (Japanese synthesizer artist famous for his reinterpretation of Gustav Holst’s symphony ‘The Planets’), Klaus Schulze (Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel) and others. These artists and their music were musically ambitious, taking  Krautrock’s expansion of the potential of synthesizers to a symphonic level. Vangelis began his career in Greek prog rock band Aphrodite’s Child and, like Schulze, managed a smooth transition to a more symphonic sound; in Vangelis’ case, to successful soundtrack work which includes ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). Tomita and Jarre made similarly bold synth-led, reverb drenched sonic adventures. Tomita produced his own brand of synth music and was a successor to the classical reinterpretations by Walter/Wendy Carlos. Jarre successfully turned this music into a commercially successful sound and created huge visual shows to compliment this. In 1977 Jarre hit the charts with ‘Oxegene IV’ in a breakthrough year for synth music, which finally saw Kraftwerk infiltrate the mainstream and Donna Summer top the charts with the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’. This became the catalyst for Jarre’s burgeoning live extravaganzas and the proliferation of synth music worldwide in the following seven years.

Schulze represents a darker, more contemplative and less grandiose sound but no less layered. He came from what is now referred to as the Berlin School, an experimental selection of  Berlin-based artists determined to discover the very outer limits of what a synthesizer and music could do.

The multi layered, ambitious and synth heavy material of the acts listed above has had an influence on the similarly layered and luxurious sounds of Maps, particularly ‘Turning the Mind’, which explores interesting sonic and emotional depths, Four Tet, Holy Fuck, Hudson Mohawke, Fuck Buttons and Animal Collective.

The last strand of influence on new psychedelic music is the ‘90s shoegaze scene which featured the heavily processed guitar sounds of the recently reunited My Bloody Valentine (MBV), Slowdive, Ride and their predecessors the Jesus and Mary Chain (JMC) and Cocteau Twins. This scene varied from the feedback driven sound of MBV and JMC to the ethereal ruminative guitar sketches of the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. The mainstream media have focussed on the ‘nu gaze’ scene but the influence of these acts has been evident for a while now. LCD Soundsystem covered ‘Slowdive’ by Slowdive in 2005; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s verbatim theft of JMC’s sound and image; and the constant comparisons of Jonsi of Sigur Ros’ vocal style with that of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. Although it was the reformation of My Bloody Valentine that really thrust the spotlight on those that were obviously influenced by shoegaze’s brand of guitar pedal  noise. This ‘nu gaze’ scene is led by The Big Pink, No Age, School of Seven Bells, Atlas Sound however many of these acts are merely derivative. The really interesting manifestations of the influence are mainly on the noise scene. Holy Fuck, Health, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and Fuck Buttons all take something from shoegazing even when they’re not using guitars. Health are the most indebted to MBV and the other shoegaze bands but they have managed to create a more obtuse take on the original sound that has more common with noise’s roots than most shoegaze acts. The density of the music by Animal Collective and Dan Deacon has the feel of a less attack oriented version of MBV, JMC and Ride. You’re not being abused but there is enough edge that it’s not merely background music. As I mentioned in paragraph three, the use of vocals as another layer or instrument can be traced back to Liz Fraser’s vocal techniques and are present  or rather deeply buried in the music of Holy Fuck, Fuck Buttons, Animal Collective, Four Tet and Hudson Mohawke . The fetishisation of guitar pedals and their analogue sound is also evident in the sound of the modern psychedelic acts that I’ve discussed and is another tie to the original shoegaze bands.

Though all the artists I’ve discussed are in themselves unique and individual, this article demonstrates that the artists that influence them and the techniques used to achieve their sound interlink in various ways to show a broad landscape of sub genres and artists that make up a reinvigoration of psychedelic music. In a time where the majority of bands and artists struggle to free themselves from commercial pressure or the inevitable repeating of what they’ve been influenced by these artists are attempting individually and collectively to direct us forward and to expose us to experiences and music that we may not have heard or felt before.

The influence of Krautrock and synth music is keenly felt but unlike previous artists who have just taken on these influences e.g. Stereolab and Muse these artists have discovered ways of creating something of their own in the spirit of those who had gone before. Their influences all ploughed their own furrow and it is difficult not to fall under their shadow so I salute the work of the extraordinary artists who’ve taken the risk on making something even more adventurous and exploratory.

Here’s a Spotify playlist (HTTP links, then Spotify URL) so you can check out the bands mentioned in this post:

Psychedelia: The Return

Psychedelia: The Return

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