It would seem a coincidence, but judging from what happened this year and last year, one could say that the first months of the year are particularly good for psychedelic rock. In these first weeks of 2019, we had, in fact, a series of important publications relevant to the psychorock genre. In this article, I have selected four of these, which provide an excellent representation of the state of this genre of music in contemporary times.
As far as geography is concerned, we have one album from Mexico (Lorelle Meets the Obsolete), two from England (Ed Wynne, The Telescopes), and one from South Africa (Zoo Lake).
This article features a selection of records released between the beginning of the year and mid-February 2019, stay tuned for future updates.
“De Facto” by Lorelle Meets The Obsolete
One of the most surprising albums I heard so far in 2019 is De Facto, the fifth album by the Mexican formation Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.
The recipe of De Facto is fairly simple: you put in a blender a large dose of psychedelic rock from the ’70s and a couple of abundant cups of dream pop. But beyond the single ingredients, it is the excellent technique mastered by the musicians which managed to guarantee for the album the perfect balance between psychedelic experimentations and moments of pure ambient poetry.
Sonically speaking the album is truly amazing. De Facto was recorded in Ensenada, Baja California, in a home-made recording studio and it’s surprising how from such amateurish environment it was possible to record a kind of music that seems so universal, and capable to cross the boundaries of many different genres.
“Shimmer into Nature” by Ed Wynne
It’s relatively easy to introduce and describe the music of Ed Wynne‘s new LP, since it’s basically the same kind of instrumental progressive rock that he’s playing since 35 years, with all the usual heavy influences from jazz fusion, ethnic electronica, world music, and psychedelia. In synthesis: Ozric Tentacles.
Shimmer into Nature, Wynne’s new solo LP, features five long instrumental tracks which are all very nice to hear, well played and recorded, even if it suffers the same problems of Ozric Tentacle’s more recent records: pure layers of electronic and ethnic sounds without any real construction of a song.
If you want more details about the album, you can access my dedicated review from here.
“Exploding Head Syndrome”, by The Telescopes
The music played by English rock band The Telescopes seems made to confirm what I’m saying since many years (which is also the overarching concept of my blog): good music is based on a few universal features that are mostly independent of the particular genre that you are listening in a specific moment. It may be rock, electronic, metal or jazz, but there will be always some common characteristics that allow the best song to excel over the others. These characteristics, I believe, are deeply connected to how our body and our mind interact with that physical phenomenon that we call music.
Exploding Head Syndrome, which is the tenth LP from The Telescopes, fits very well with this concept because if we could make the experiment of substituting the uninterrupted and punctuated layer of electronic drones with thick and distorted guitars, and at the same time replacing Stephen Lawrie‘s whispered lyrics with some growling death metal voice, you would end up with a pack of songs that would not look bad inside an album by Conan. In the new album from The Telescopes there is, in fact, a persistent obsessiveness and a mesmerizing rhythmic component that transcends the boundaries of psychedelic and noise rock. This is at the same time the most interesting aspect of the LP, but also one of the elements that make the album relatively difficult to be appreciated in its entirety, in one single run from the start to the end of the record. After a few songs you need some rest, or to move to something else, otherwise, the constant and mechanical synthetic beat of these songs will anaesthetize your senses.
Exploding Head Syndrome may be a very good album, but taken in small doses.
“Zonk”, by Zoo Lake
I’m concluding this roundup with a curious and fairly original album called Zonk, released by the South African rock band Zoo Lake. This quartet of musicians describes their music as “a sonic onslaught somewhere between stochastic no-wave and hypnotic post-punk“. Leaving aside the questions about what they meant by stochastic (I studied stochastic processes for several years), the songs on this record are effectively unconventional and, to some extent, hypnotizing.
In Zonk you’ll find noises, weird samples, lots of distortions, psychedelic effects and hallucinated voices, all mixed together in short songs that still manage to maintain a logical sense and, surprisingly, a certain linearity. One thing that typically gives consistency to various tracks is the bass line, which draws the path from which all the other sounds departs for their excursions into noise.
Zonk is really an intriguing and quite an original record, which manages to be experimental but still enjoyable and nice to listen to.
Many of the above-mentioned artists are contributing to YELLOW EYES, the playlist with the best of modern progressive and art rock. Check it out!