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Mind Over Matter: The Quietus' Survey Of Modern European Psychedelia
The Quietus , September 18th, 2014 12:10

In our latest extended list feature, the Quietus staff and writers select a mighty list of the best, brightest and weirdest psychedelic music currently emerging from Europe. Lock the doors, shutter the windows, spark up a Bristol cone and prepare to be turned inside out...

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After John Doran's essay on what constitutes psychedelic music in 2014 yesterday, now we have a guide to the Quietus writers' favourite currently operative European psychedelic bands and artists. Writers include Luke Turner, Rory Gibb, Mark Pilkington, Jimmy Martin, Mat Colegate, Matt Evans, Tristan Bath, Stewart Smith, Jonathan Selzer, Russell Cuzner, David McKenna, Joseph Burnett, Harry Sword and John Doran. Extra-special thanks to Steven Dinnie, who came up with this idea in the first place.

There will be a separate series of features on psychedelic dance music coming soon.

Ashtray Navigations

With over a hundred releases and twenty years under its belt, Phil Todd's Ashtray Navigations remains one of British psychedelia's most potent secret weapons. Initially from Stoke-on-Trent, Todd became a mainstay of Leeds' small DIY freakscene, collaborating with Sunroof! and Vibracathedral Orchestra amongst others, but he saves the best for the homebrew musical echo-chamber-cum-orgone-accumulator that is Ashtray Navigations. Early solo works like Hands Under Water Reaching For Nothing and A Mayflower Garland, built up around scratchy, abstract loops and layers of fuzzy-tongued guitar, feel speculative and exploratory, while more recent material like Cloud Come Cadaver and Abomination, which pile bluesy, ecstatic raga riffing onto gooey electronics and cascading synths, see him steering the crystal ship with ever greater confidence and bravado. The effects are often wondrous and always uplifting, the sound of Master Wilburn Burchette jamming with Moebius and Rodelius at their pastoral hideaway in Forst.

A joyous melodic sensibility underpins all the sounds in the Ashtray continuum and, while tracks are invariably loose enough to make a slime mould feel uptight, unlike some self-releasers the quality bar is set high. Sadly Ashtray live shows, for which Todd is usually accompanied by Melanie Crowley on electronics, are something of a rarity, but be sure to soak them up any chance you get. Mark Pilkington


In the wake of the new millennium, the North of England was gripped by a loose coalition of rowdy noisemakers, infected with krautrock, Japrock, the drones of Sunn O))) and their own unique musical vision. Of these bands, Bong were the heaviest and the most influenced by OM and Sunn O))). Guided by the archaic and otherworldly sounds of Ben Freeth's Shahi Baaja, despite its tectonic pace Bong's music possesses a consistent feeling of sharpness and liveness. Deliberately invoking the ghost of Lord Dunsany with album and song titles, Bong's music is a modern interpretation of that old-world storyteller. While their US counterparts use Pentagram riffs to explore the verses of H.P. Lovecraft, it feels appropriate that Bong's music is rich with a much thicker vein of dread. Their latest album, Stoner Rock, feels like a culmination, a zenith, the summit of the gargantuan mountain the band have been scaling throughout all their records. It’s an acceptance, a criticism and a redefinition of the 'stoner rock' label slapped on them by slapdash critics throughout their brief but prolific career. Steven Dinnie

Anji Cheung

A minor ailment has crept into the realms of doomed drone of late, largely due to many an artist confusing an overwhelming barrage of bass frequencies and a cranked ampstack for the summoning of bleak spirits and existential dread. Yet those artists who are able to truly conjure up a sound that transcends the everyday often understand that atmosphere and intent can be far more powerful weapons than any amount of occult cliché or heavy-handedly canonical riff worship. Anji Cheung is one such, and from her first offerings in 2010 - such as the glacial and unnerving collaborative effort with Sequences, Vessel Of The Earth - to the more recent Radiophonic-tinged transmissions of 'Oakseer', she has walked a murky and beguiling path somewhere between the crystalline drone intensity of Asva and the shortwave transmission reverie of Embla Quickbeam, amid primal folk intensity and ghostly found sound. All rough-hewn alchemy and spectral beauty, Cheung's work promises much - not least a glimpse into a world of psychedelia that descends through consciousness to a Beyond worthy of Lucio Fulci himself. Jimmy Martin


When taken into proper perspective, the 20-something year career of Finland's Circle has all the elements of a holy quest or madman's pilgrimage. Looking back through their countless releases patterns emerge and disappear, links between entirely different genres are forged and broken, styles fluctuate and solidify, and the only constant that ties everything together is precisely this maverick approach. That and, of course, repetition, repetition, repetition.

Since forming, Circle have pulled countless musical genres into their orbit, from Judas Priest style metal, to delicate hypnotic folk, to 80s FM radio rock. In the process they’ve highlighted the similarities between these seemingly disparate styles: in Circle’s hands it’s the groove, that monotonous thud that sprang out of the laboratories of Neu! and Can in the early 70s and spread around the world to influence every musician interested in rocking out that little bit differently. Guided by the steady hand of drummer Tom Leppanen, Circle have rigorously explored the complexities of that approach and come up with results that are by turns terrifyingly intense, utterly bonkers and occasionally completely hilarious.

Like all true seers, Circle are completely unafraid of the ridiculous. With their sky-kissing lyrical wailings, horndog guitar solos and a propensity for dressing in NWOBHM style leather and studs, they could hardly be otherwise. But it's this approach that keeps them fresh and open to new ideas, and makes them such a formidable presence. When all the younger kraut-come-latelys finally sputter to a standstill in pools of their own redundancy, Circle will still be rolling, because the Circle has no end. Mat Colegate

The Cosmic Dead

Almost as if they were a universe unto themselves, The Cosmic Dead have birthed order from chaos. Their early incarnations of this Glasgow space rock crew were primal, protean and unpredictable, with seemingly a different lineup at each gig – not that you could tell through the dry ice, oppressive darkness and relentless, amorphous, maximalist psych-speedfreak onslaught. Gradually, the band's nascent molten form cooled, stabilising into four fundamental elements – James T. McKay (guitar, solar flares), Lewis Cook (synths, non-Newtonian fluids), Omar Aborida (bass, heavy minerals) and Julian Dicken (drums, escape velocity).

As heard on their latest 12", EasterFaust, the Dead's sound has shifted and softened somewhat since their inception – still questing, and more than capable of an overwhelming annihilation wave when necessary, but their semi-improvised pieces now place far more emphasis on subtlety and instinctive intricacy, on gradual evolution and parallel paths, on mind-to-mind communication. They may describe themselves as 'Scotland's foremost Hawkwind tribute band', but that's an act of nigh-unforgivable self-deprecation. They've traversed great expanses of outer and inner space in their first four years of existence – and it's just the start. Matt Evans


As the best psychedelic experiences twist our perceptions in unexpected ways – down might become up, or it might become in, out, after and green – so the best psychedelic music has effect, as well as affect.

Towards the end of Cyclobe's performance at Berlin's CTM festival, things began to feel very strange. As Fred Tomaselli's artwork rolled across a huge screen, the combination of wheezing accordion and bagpipes, hurdy gurdy drones, percussion and electronics fused to create a quietly palpable sense of disorientation. With each long, drawn-out breath of wind the stage, or perhaps the whole theatre, seemed to tilt and sway, causing a woman in the hushed auditorium to unleash loud, involuntary barks that only enhanced the overwhelming atmosphere of otherness.

Cyclobe make music from elsewhere, and they bring elsewhere crawling, leaping and scuttling along with them. At its core are Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower – who, between them, bookended Coil's twenty-year career as key collaborators and friends – surrounded by adept musicians plucked from the folk, avant rock and electronic worlds. The music itself defies easy categorisation, painting grand, densely populated vistas from a palette of, amongst other things, kosmische, music concrete, folk and film scores: one moment it sounds as if it might swallow a galaxy, the next it could be consumed by a flea. Recent expanded vinyl and CD reissues of 2001's The Visitors are a reminder of their music's timelessness, while last year's soundtracks to Derek Jarman's shorts Sulphur, Garden and Tarot reveal that, like your favourite tree, Cyclobe are only getting stronger, more twisted and more beautiful with age. Mark Pilkington

Dead Skeletons

"He who fears death cannot enjoy life": the mantra rung out by Brian Jonestown Massacre-spawn Dead Skeletons. Combing 1960s acid rock for anything that doesn't reflect back on the Eastern promises of music from Jerusalem to Lhasa, and faux-religious chants uttered with such conviction they feel like they could spark actual religions, Dead Skeletons have weaved a legend of themselves much larger than their small output of limited singles and vinyl would suggest. Their power is in the paradox - they play catchy carnival rock, yet sing almost exclusively about death. A mythical, infrequent touring presence, the group’s live shows can turn any dank basement into a holy place, complete with rhythmic gyrations and a myriad of stage props. Steven Dinnie

Demdike Stare

'Psychedelic' is very much a frame of mind, a stream of consciousness, timbre-centric, all-encompassing outlook on music-making. Despite the lack of guitar solos, colourful sleeves and funny costumes, Demdike Stare most definitely have it. Born in Manchester out of the pairing of Miles Whittaker (of Pendle Coven) and obsessive vinyl collector Sean Canty, Demdike craft breathtaking industrial and dub-influenced collages, with Canty providing much of the sampled source material and Whittaker often taking charge of the assembly process. Heavy doses of reverb abound, and swarms of anonymous drones, warped out of recognition, collide with varying levels of arrhythmia across epic tracks. Everything is recontextualised, and nothing's quite as expected. The acid heads of that psychedelic golden age would most definitely approve, although with music as trippy as this, who really needs the drugs? Tristan Bath

Electric Wizard

If Cream were to vampirically prey on sloths, if Witchfinder General were to wolf down fistfuls of steroids and meat pie, if OM were to recite the Golden Bough instead of the Bhagavad Gita you'd have something approximating Electric Wizard. They create a kind of rural druidic doom rooted in old English dread, gathered among forgotten stone circles and haunted church graveyards by forlorn candlelight. Their rituals and riffs seem to stem from before recorded time; long since having lost their meaning, they’re now repeated out of deference to the Old Gods. After the band suffered an almost total drug implosion in 2003, frontman Jus Oborn resurrected the Wizard with more of an emphasis on Americanised heavy metal angst and a throttling back on the treacle-thick doom spread across their genre-defining records. This iteration brought more influence from 1970s Sabbath into proceedings, though side-cuts like the excellent Legalise Drugs & Murder still seem to hark back to ancient days. The resultant colossus is rampaging towards a new album release this year, and is a crucial fixture of the slower, heavier music scene. Steven Dinnie

Father Murphy

The Italian duo (originally a trio) behind Father Murphy take their native psychedelic heritage, whack it in a cauldron, and perform black magic rituals under the rock band guise in an attempt to reanimate the contents. The padre is simply overflowing with completely nuts ideas, integrating pseudo-religious miniature choirs, washes of noisy organs and even occasional blasts of near black metal fury into a truly wigged out and original whole. The atmospherics and theatrics so paramount to the good Father's teachings are undoubtedly indebted to some of those giallo aesthetics (although you're a lot less likely to have a good chuckle in the deepest, darkest depths of a Father Murphy gig), but this particular brand of utterly non-ironic, non-camp, black psychedelia most definitely belongs to today. Tristan Bath

Fire! / Fire! Orchestra

Whether as a trio or a thirty-piece orchestra, Fire! are worshippers at the altar of the riff - riffs that crawl through tarpits, stalk blasted apocalyptic landscapes and rocket into the stratosphere. Johan Berthling's cyclical fuzz basslines and Andreas Werliin's minimalist drums form the foundation on which the Swedish jazz-rock group build their spacious grooves, with Mats Gustafsson's sputtering, wailing and droning saxophone rising from the primordial ooze. Fusing the ecstatic repetition of krautrock with the freedom of jazz and noise, Fire! conjure a dark, heady psychedelia where slow-burning blues are irrupted by violent howls of noise. The trio's collaborations with Jim O'Rourke and Oren Ambarchi are superb, but to hear the purest distillation of their sound, 2013's Without Noticing is the motherlode. Unfairly characterised as a macho noise-monger, Gustafsson is in fact a master of timing, texture and space, allowing the band's grooves to breathe while slipping in heat-haze organ drones and deep-blue saxophone shadings. This restraint, combined with the deliberate momentum of the grooves, makes the noise blasts, on saxophone and fried Fender Rhodes, all the more blissful when they come.

In Fire! Orchestra, the music is still driven by those hypnotic grooves, but instead of just Gustafsson on sax, we have a whole horn section, plus pin-point piano bombs from Swedish free improv legend Sten Sandell, fizzing electronics and barbed-wire guitars. But what takes Fire! Orchestra to another level are the incredible vocals of Sofia Jernberg and Werliin's wife and partner in Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Mariam Wallentin. Their brooding Scandinavian blues melodies and improvised babble and howl leave nerves twitching. Stewart Smith


More of a multi-arts collective or a smokelike idea than a concrete performing group, GNOD yaw unpredictably between three and twenty onstage members, and swing wildly from satisfying noise-rock, through Baudrillardian krautrock better than many of that genre's celebrated veterans, into electric weirdness that defies simple explanation. Indulgently prolific, even hardcore GNOD fans find it difficult to keep up with the endless drip-feed of live bootlegs, splits and idiosyncratic EPs. They find their meaning and power in lengthily dissecting riffs, adopting repetition unto absurdity, and their celebrated and legendary live rituals are informed not by mimicking studio effort but by crafting something new from half-remembered studio riffs and the atmosphere in the room, all condensed into an hour plus of baffling sonic wizardry. Spontaneity and mesmerising repetition are their weapons, and tonal domination their ultimate goal. Steven Dinnie


Bands as brilliant as Sweden's Goat don't normally get anywhere near the big time nowadays. They're too confusing for the major press - leading to terms like 'Afro' getting horribly thrown around to signify their chant and rhythm-centric songs. And they're too fun to be seen as much more than a novelty amidst the seemingly endless hunt for 'rock's saviours'. Wah-wah guitars, furious grooves with supplementary percussion and catchy melodies belted out by a pair of mental frontladies all coalesce in a musical menagerie with influences as disparate as the title of their debut full-length, World Music would suggest. They claim to originate from the tiny town of Korpilombolo in the northernmost Swedish municipality of Pajaja on the Finnish border. It's been put into question but, true or not, they're most definitely not from 'round here...

Goat make you want to dance. And scream. And shout. As such, they're a band truly made for the festival circuit, and after a series of happy accidents, they ended up with an early afternoon slot on the West Holts stage at Glastonbury last year, playing while pickings were slim on the bigger stages (unless you're into Amanda Palmer or Jake Bugg, which you shouldn't be) and ultimately even winding up as a highlight of the day on the BBC's TV coverage. For one brief moment, the misshapen corporate monster of music coverage was flipped on its head. Goat is the sound of the freaks winning: impossible to understand, impossible to hate, and impossible to ignore. Tristan Bath

Grumbling Fur

I for one am fairly sick of the current Psychedelic Rock Revival that's currently clogging up our inboxes here at tQ. I'm suspecting that, much like the Shoegaze Revival, it'll continue for about a decade, retrogressive and lacking in the kind of mind-bending forward momentum that surely ought to be at its core. Grumbling Fur are so different from the Woolworths hair n'shirts brigade because Daniel O'Sullivan and Alexander Tucker banish the trudge of the quotidian with a mindset that's always set for high reception. Take, for example, the interview I did with the duo around the release of Glynnaestra last year. It's full of talk of UFO encounters and portals to other dimensions, but in a way that this makes perfect sense. This mindset extends to their music - warm and friendly, hyper pop in an old English way, but also refracting struggle, loss, broken love, attempts at self-repair. A prism after all requires both darkness and light to function. Luke Turner

The Heads / Kandodo / Anthropropph

The Heads are a bunch of unassuming fellows who seem to have defined themselves as arch-proponents of a particularly potent kind of slacker culture, a place forever redolent of half-full cans of Stella, overflowing ashtrays, scratched copies of Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, posters of Caroline Munro and grainy VHS dubs of Psychomania watched on a TV with fucked vertical hold. Since their landmark ’95 debut Relaxing With..., which was re-released a couple of years ago replete with a terrifying and exhaustive selection of bonus material, The Heads’ scuzzy nirvana, equal parts Stoogian rifferama, kraut-infused repetition and spacerock dementia, has effortlessly charted a path from the mildew-ridden basement to the stars. Jimmy Martin

Hey Colossus

Hey Colossus build a unique sound out of discarded Melvins riffs and good ol' London indie rock posturing. You can hear this in their album Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo’s opener ‘Hot Grave’, which builds up screaming vocals and distorted riffs, but also feels as catchy and accessible as any chart earworm. Hey Colossus sit at the centre of some kind of four-way Venn diagram between punk rock, the genrelessness of the Melvins, more conventional heavy metal, and something else, something very listenable. More than their contemporaries' appeals to the stonerrock.commers of the world, Hey Colossus are staffed by classical musicians, and demonstrate this with a richness almost unmatched across the heavy psych genre. They’re smart enough to never deliver the riff-rock right hook to knock out the audience, opting instead to adopt weirder tactics to hit on a more resounding level. Steven Dinnie

Imaginary Forces

No name better summarizes the key element behind psychedelic music. In an interview with Rory Gibb for The Quietus last year, the London-based Anthoney J Hart discussed his beginnings as a DJ and tentative producer in the 1990s drum & bass haze, his subsequent disillusionment with the genre's restrictions, and rebirth as a student of early electronic masters like Iannis Xenakis along with contemporary lunatic fringers like Pan Sonic. Back on 2010's Filth Columnist, brief moments of d&b‎ breakbeats still survived amid Imaginary Forces' washes of amorphous noise and electronic anarchy, but by 2011's Uppstigande ‎and on to last year's breathtaking Begotten cassette, the breakbeats all but disappeared, and the anarchic passages of wailing noise, fuzzy synths and unrecognizable detritus branched even further out. Like the truest psychedelic music, Imaginary Forces occupies that space between, and ultimately deafens the mind with a sonic tidal wave of non-sequiturs. Tristan Bath

Kemper Norton

Kemper Norton seems to exist out of time, and his music’s power is to transport you into that zone along with him. A dappled, lysergically activated vision of electronic folk set in a post-Coil musical landscape, like that late, great duo his work occupies an in-between zone where the quickened pulse and clatter of everyday life gives way to the slower rhythms and uncanny phenomena of the ancient British landscape. It’s often the friction between the two that lends his music such a strange, compelling charge; hushed sung ditties are masked or corroded by glitchy digital interference, and extended drones that evoke rolling green fields bitcrush and crumble at the edges, like the South Downs gradually giving way to the first few scattered buildings of suburban South London. Listening to 2013’s mesmerising Lowermoor EP or his upcoming second album Loor, you’re drawn deep into a world where strange creatures and phantom sounds lurk and flutter around the edge of perception, creating an all-pervasive sense that all is not quite what it seems - that beneath the calm surface stalk demonic characters and the psychic residue of past traumas. Is that the shade of a person slithering towards you in the corner of your vision? Or merely shadows cast on the ground by your campfire’s light? Rory Gibb

Necro Deathmort

If the end of the 60s dream was marked by the bad vibes of Altamont and, as John Doran argues in his excellent essay, the rise of Thatcherism saw the heavy snide trip of Loop and the Jesus & Mary Chain, then arguably the bracing, intense psychedelia of Necro Deathmort is a warning of where our current catastrophes might be leading, visions of your kitchen blackened, burned, and strewn with your own mutilated bones. Straddling black metal and power electronics, the duo's forthcoming (rather prosaically-titled given the horrors that lie within) EP2 also takes purposeful steps towards the dancefloor… albeit one strewn with ash as well as the broken glass. Luke Turner

Nurse With Wound

For 35 years, Steven Stapleton's Nurse With Wound has inhabited the interzone where psychedelia drowsily blends beyond its fried borders into the equally unpredictable seas of surrealism. This messy convergence has consistently distilled a delirious blend of altered sonic states, inspired by (and inspiring) drug and dream experiences. The title of their 1979 debut, Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine & An Umbrella, describes well the edited improvised chaos contained within, taking its name from Lautréamont's 18th-century poetic novel that inspired the original surrealists. Meanwhile, its sleeve contained the now legendary Nurse With Wound list of influential avant garde composers, free improvisers and, crucially, many kosmische artists of the time.

While these influences have continued to thread through NWW's many and regular magical releases, perhaps the greatest and most surprising change to its trippy trajectory is their current incarnation as a live band, having barely performed live throughout the preceding quarter century. Alongside regular collaborator Colin Potter, Andrew Liles and Matt Waldron were recruited into the fold in 2005, and ever since have been performing hallucinatory happenings across the globe. Indeed, the majority of releases over the past ten years have been extracted from these unique events, whose 'soundpools' of bowed guitar, manipulated objects, plundered audio and entropic electronics are complemented by unnerving, mesmeric films of baboons lost in industrial mazes or floating mattresses on fire. With such a potent proposition, there's little need for the audience to take drugs; the Nurses' musical mystery tours are guaranteed to meld, warp and fuck your mind every time. Russell Cuzner

Opera Mort

Psychedelia can be bright, kaleidescopic, a feast for the ears (and, if we're talking synaesthesia, the eyes), but it should also be about untapped terrors from below, from within. If you're going to go digging down there, it's not necessarily just untrammelled, childlike joy and simplicity you're going to bring back. The French duo Opera Mort - Laurent Gerard and Jo - are past masters at discomfiting listeners, either in their individual projects or as Reines d'Angleterre with avant vocalist Ghedalia Tazartés. As Èlg, Gerard has long been probing the ickier, obsessional areas of the psyche (I was going to say the human psyche, but that isn't a given). Opera Mort, whose second album Dédales was released on Luke Younger's Alter label in April, is thick with murky drones, eerie whirring, electronic chatter, Gerard's de-naturalised, insinuating vocals and other, peculiarly clammy textures. In a dark room full of cries and groans, pay attention for long enough and you'll become aware of something like a black cloth laid over... what? Difficult to say but, alarmingly, you start to discern shape and movement beneath it. Perhaps mechanical, or organic, or some hitherto unimagined fusion of the two. What's so engaging about Dédales is that, whatever their nature, these forms all hum with vital energy. David McKenna

Oranssi Pazuzu

The psychological bond between alienation and cosmic awareness has been one of black metal’s more regular tropes, but it took Finland’s Orannsi Pazuzu to make it unfamiliar once more, wrapping the subgenre’s cold-hearted base in mind-warping, trance-like grooves and flooding it with the kind of edge-of-the-unknown FX beloved of 70s sci fi and the Moog-driven prog experiments of Tangerine Dream. The result is psychedelia as a living, hyper-evolving organism, initially as inscrutable as the virus in The Andromeda Strain and transforming into full-blown, hurtle-past-the-threshold sense-overload, the closing 'Ympyrä On Viiva Tomussa' on latest album Valonielu striated with pew-pews that make the future imminent and unfathomable once more. Jonathan Selzer

Orval Carlos Sibelius

I wrote once that Axel Monneau's debut album under the name Orval Carlos Sibelius was the album The Boo Radleys had always been straining to deliver. I was wrong – OCS's (yes, he unfortunately, shares an acronym with Ocean Colour Scene) latest Super Forma is actually that album: gushingly melodious freak pop in excelsis. Together with Moodoïd's forthcoming opus and Aquaserge's A l'Amitié, it forms a new French trinity of ambitious, baroque-psych benchmarks. Monneau said he wanted an album "that girls could listen to while eating ice cream" but, coated in Domotic's spring reverb-heavy production, it's turned out more like a soundtrack for snacking on lysergically enhanced candy floss (check the space-surf of 'Asteroids' and the gauzy 'Good Remake'), albeit balanced out by some more stately and sombre moments in the second half like 'Archipel Celesta' and the magestic 'Cafuron'. That's all before the boat is pushed all the way out on hidden track 'Burundi', a 15-minute psych-world-techno jam. You should absolutely acquaint yourself with the previous albums too – the grittier, more spontaneous Recovery Tapes and that marvellous debut, like a dream conversation between Jim O'Rourke, MBV and Robert Wyatt. David McKenna

Richard Pinhas

Despite a puzzlingly low profile in the UK, visionary axeman and part-time doctor of philosophy Richard Pinhas has been a pivotal figure in the French avant-garde since he first emerged as a member of the nascent outfit Schizo in the late 60s. He is also someone who's had the rare decency to carry on making records that rend the cranium asunder to the present day. His early glory days in Heldon are those that made his reputation, from the placid yet head-spinning strains of Electronique Guerilla and Allez Teia (both from 1974) which were heavily influenced by the work of Fripp and Eno, through the acidic mind-melt of Agneta Nilsson (1976) to the alien jams of Interface (1977) and the Crimson/Magma-esque monolithic rock blow-out of Stand By (1979). His speciality in the Heldon days was a titanic tussle between pulsing waves of electronics and an extravagantly abrasive guitar style that pre-empted the likes of Makoto Kawabata by transporting Hendrixian flourishes into dimensions beyond rational thought. Yet, more recently, his solo career has seen this seer collaborate with the likes of Wolf Eyes and Merzbow, creating opuses like the colossal Keio Line (2008) and last year's Desolation Row that stubbornly refute the lure of laurel-resting and retro comfort in favour of a fearless acceleration towards psychic overload. Pinhas' first UK live appearance in time immemorial, at the Raw Power festival in Tufnell Park in August, marks a rare opportunity for the enlightened to bask in his celestial strains. Jimmy Martin


Pinkunoizu take synth pop, psych folk, surf rock, krautrock and other marginal forms of pop and rock from the last 50 years, and use them for the basis of extremely enjoyable excursions in deep listening. Most of their 2013 album The Drop was improvised in one week, which is kind of stunning given how melodious and hook heavy it is. The album opens with a literal drop, a descending synth drone which sounds like the screaming engine on a jet plane desperately trying to resist its vertiginous plummet towards Earth, before launching into a pulsing motorik groove which re-imagines late 20th century urban transportation white elephants such as the maglev as utopian success stories. The Germanic textures of this opening carry on during superb second track 'The Necromancer', which exists somewhere between La Dusseldorf and Harmonia before leaving the ground, escaping the Earth's gravity and sailing off into far more cosmic, Hawkwind meets Tangerine Dream-like territories. John Doran


The harsh noise subgenre of Power Electronics is not a place one would usually think to look for mind expansion, what with its stock imagery of sadism, atrocity and domination, but then Gary Mundy - who has released most of the leading lights of the genre via his pioneering Broken Flag label – is not one for recognising pointless limitations. His releases under the name Ramleh, aided and abetted by a multitude of Britain's sharpest underground talent - including Whitehouse and Consumer Electronics' Philip Best and Anthony DiFranco of JFK and Ax - have swerved violently from pure tortured electronics to inside out rock & roll, and have all taken a bloodyminded delight in never conforming to expectations. It's Mundy's commitment to depth of sound, a world away from early Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend's exploitation of shrieking high end, that sets his work apart. Reverb drenched and crackling with tortured life, lowed over by his powerfully emotive voice - an instrument that can communicate anguish and distress like few others – Ramleh's is the sound of an uncaring universe and the helpless souls that spin within it. British psychedelia has rarely been so fearless and emotionally devastating. Mat Colegate

Saturnalia Temple

Imagine ‘Sweet Leaf’-era Black Sabbath on bath salts, with werewolf howling guitars, telegraph-wire bass and reverb-drenched vocals that bounce around the periphery of the mix. Saturnalia Temple's latest EP, Impossibilum, is apocalyptically heavy and addictive, heralding a more electric and engaged face for the band. Despite playing more or less conventional doom, Saturnalia Temple have an instantly recognisable sound derived from imitations of Sleep circa 2000, blended with 70s space rock. The Stockholm group have been slow to rise, having started in 2007 they have only full-length album packed with more conventional downplayed doom, always spiced with references to black metal. The band's signature 'black magic metal' is essential for fans of early Electric Wizard. Steven Dinnie

Selim Lemouchi And His Enemies

Having overseen the termination of The Devil’s Blood, the band that was going to take Satanic 70s psych rock into the mainstream, founder Selim Lemouchi found himself in the more uncertain and tremulous realms of what was to be his final project. Despite its title, Earth Air Sprit Fire Water sounded anything but elemental, the gnostic restlessness that lay at the heart of his belief system inducing a forlorn yet transformative pilgrimage into the aether and beyond all known co-ordinates. Guitar licks quivered as though filtered through textured glass and its kaleidoscopic vision wasn’t an act of abundance but of dissolution, of breaking down the corrupt immediate world in search of an ideal universe as yet unscripted. Jonathan Selzer

Sex Swing

You know, by rights, I guess I should have chosen Part Chimp as one of my selection of groups for this feature. I do love them and they did recently reform to play at Supernormal. And I guess I should have also used this space to talk about Mugstar - well-loved veterans of the Liverpool psych scene - not to mention Action Beat from Bletchley Park. But you're all heads right? You already know about those groups. Instead let me tell you the very little I know about Sex Swing, whose first ever gig I saw recently. It featured Stu Bell on drums and Dan Chandler on vocals, reunited after the collapse of Quietus favourites Dethscalator. Except Dan isn't roaring like a minotaur who's just stepped on an upturned plug with bare feet, he's actually singing, and he sounds a little bit like Ian Curtis. Jase Stoll (Mugstar) adds chunky guitar, while Tim Cedar (Part Chimp) plays a mean Alan Vega style organ and Colin Webster is on a giant saxophone, itchily skronking away somewhere between Fela Kuti and Colin Stetson. I mean, I don't want to jinx it or anything but they might actually be superb… John Doran

Skullflower / Sunroof! / Black Sunroof!

For the best part of thirty years Matthew Bower has been the driving force behind one of the UK underground's most important (and sadly overlooked) bands, Skullflower, alongside offshoots such as Sunroof, Total and Hototogisu. Regardless of how Bower and his rotating team of acolytes approach their sound - and it has evolved constantly since their debut EP Birthdeath in 1989 - their music is always profoundly overwhelming, a tidal wave of noise and melody intertwined that subsumes the senses. On early classics like Xaman and IIIrd Gatekeeper, they unleashed a brand of psychedelic hard rock that built on the legacy of the Butthole Surfers and collided it with a sense of quasi-pagan esoterism. Later, after the millennium passed, they were revived as a freeform noise act, churning out walls of saturated guitar feedback, such as on Tribulation, or performing ritualistic, shamanic anti-rock and power electronics on fabulously-titled albums like Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses and Strange Keys To Untune God's Firmament. When I interviewed him for the Quietus, Bower described his music as akin to "sitting under a waterfall". There is no finer way to describe the majesty of Skullflower.

Since the late 1990s when Skullflower was on hiatus, Bower has also performed (again with ever-changing collaborators) as Sunroof and later Black Sunroof!, a vehicle for an even more extreme decomposition of Skullflower's rock heritage. On 2007's Panzer Division Lou Reed, Bower channels the spirit of Metal Machine Music to excessive lengths, bastard electronics and mangled guitar duelling for increasingly absent space over nearly an hour. It's psychedelic for those with hardy constitution. More overtly trippy is 2003's Rock Power, recorded by Bower in tandem with Michael Flower (of Vibracathedral Orchestra and Flower/Corsano duo fame), and which sounds like Neil Young & Crazy Horse jamming in a poorly soundproofed basement with the rhythm section of Jefferson Airplane. More psychedelic for speed freaks than acid heads, Sunroof and its newest, equally noisy, incarnation Black Sunroof! take the term "out there" to mean out of reality itself. Joseph Burnett

Sly & The Family Drone

How best to heighten the sense, for an audience member, of being totally immersed, even lost, in noise? Make them equal partners in the immersing process. In the live arena (truly the optimum way to experience them) Sly & The Family Drone achieve their modus operandi - of flattening your perceptions out, pulverising your senses, pumping your circulatory system so full of adrenaline that it feels like you're levitating - by requiring you to physically participate: setting up on the floor, gradually disassembling their drum kit and handing its components out for audience members to pummel along to the gritty splatter of an overdriven oscillator. Not for Sly the heady inward drift of homegrown green or Liberty Caps fresh-picked from verdant local fields - no, they are all about twitchy outward energy release, purging the mind of runaway thoughts through violent action, the equivalent of a bargain basement mandy and LSD cocktail brewed up in your mate's mate's caravan. Whether hitting an object with a stick or not, once locked into the rhythm you're gradually subsumed, drawn deeper and deeper as the chaos around you reaches fever pitch. And then, abruptly, it's all over, and you ooze slowly back into reality dazed, sweaty, exhilarated and feeling rather seedy inside. As Quietus scribe Lisa Lavery once wrote in her excellent stream-of-consciousness spiel about Sly: "Psychedelic noise is not typical bedroom listening. If it were pure meditation, one could self indulge at minimal expense or sacrifice…" Rory Gibb

Sylvester Anfang II

Borrowing the "II" from Amon Düül II, this funeral folk collective steal the rest of their name from the militaristic tattoo that Conrad Schnitzler wrote for Mayhem's Deathcrush album. It's an apt name given that occult noise and Krautrock are two very big influences on their mainly improvised, low fidelity jams which are designed to make the listener lose their ego in a hallucinatory kaleidoscope of surreal visions and cosmic sounds. The tar black riffs are a way to break down the outer/inner space dichotomy and awaken one in 'real' life. Out and out Satanists when they first started, they have, unsurprisingly drifted into a more stand-offish position regarding the great deceiver now that they're a few years older. John Doran

Terminal Cheesecake / Luminous Bodies / The Dust Museum Of Joy (UK)

John Doran

Teeth Of The Sea

London-based quartet Teeth Of The Sea are proof, were it needed, that constant evolution is one of the most inspiring attitudes any band can have. They crash-landed spectacularly into the world of underground psych in 2010 with their epic, noisy and indefinable debut, Orphaned By The Ocean, an album that transcended the boundaries of modern rock by tipping shamanic wordless vocal incantations, high-octane psych guitar, relentless circular drumming à la Klaus Schulze in his Ash Ra Tempel days and Morricone-esque trumpet into a blender, and surprising everyone with how beautiful the results were. It sounded vaguely like post-rock, but TOTS triumphantly kicked all bands herded under that banner by lazy journos right in the knackers by daring to really challenge their listeners. Since then they've continued to push their own limits, upping the synth content and samplers and melding them seamlessly with their signature brand of bleary-eyed rock, culminating with 2013's Master, a dreamlike techno-meets-rock pounder that managed to be more psychedelic than both of their two previous records combined. They cleverly realised that the hypnotic value of dance beats could be amplified when entwined with rock traits, resulting in an album that will shake your arse and expand your mind at the same time. Joseph Burnett

Tremoro Tarantura

When I was at Oya Festival last year I had my pretty little socks blown clean off by a psychedelic battle wagon built from chrome plated razor blades, leather whips and bad, bad dreams, while fuelled by nothing stronger than tap water. I've known Tremoro Tarantura for a few years as a studio project of a dude called Mateus who sends me bonkers space rock music on CDrs packaged in airline sick bags through the post. But more recently he has finally expanded the project into a live rock band (two guitarists, one bassist, one synth player and one drummer). The influences are neither the most obscure nor the most obvious in the world, taking in Loop, Pharaoh Overlord, Harmonia, La Dusseldorf and early Secret Machines, but when done well - and this is done very well - this shit just propels you somewhere outside of yourself completely. They go to prove the sentiment voiced by a character called Hazel Motes speaking in Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood (brought to life by Brad Dourif in John Huston's film adaptation, later sampled to great effect by Ministry): "'Twas like where you're from weren't never there. Where you're going doesn't matter. And where you are ain't no good unless you can get away from it." It is driving psychedelia in several different senses, the motorik beats sound like hammers hitting anvils, like gun metal against cartridge cases but still the heaviness doesn't slow down this sense of rapid transit. This is the driving music that should be on car stereos in Mad Max Two, The Duel and Vanishing Point. Sure, psychedelia can be about the destination, but this stuff is purely about the trip. There's a lot you could say about TT by observing them, such as: white T shirts, pony tails, sweatbands, double necked guitars, dreadlocks, etc, but after watching them live... After submitting to them live... After immersing yourself in them live... You can only really observe that they're fucking stupendous. I'm reminded of more words of wisdom from Hazel Motes (this time not sampled by Ministry): "This car is just beginning its life, a lightning bolt couldn't stop it." John Doran

Alexander Tucker

From his origins fronting a 1990s hardcore punk band influenced by Swans and Fugazi and baking noise experiments from radio static in his bedroom, Alexander Tucker wouldn't seem the most natural candidate for producing classic, Beatle-sweet psychedelia. However, his solo work - from sleeve artwork, through remarkably rich recordings, to idiosyncratic performance styles - conspires to awaken ones kundalini, sending rushes from your subconscious to inspire naked rituals in celebration of Gaia's fecundity (or getting the chills at the very least). Take his triumphant fourth solo album, Portal, released in 2008. Its lush instrumentation forges the most melodic of meetings involving mandolin, cello and voice, underpinned by suspended synth tones and acidic guitar; the cover, meanwhile, portrays a fantastical spouting sea creature backed by photo-montages of an all-seeing eye, surrounded by etheric, hallucinatory matter. And if performing sets of ambient tape loops dressed head-to-toe as a yeti isn't psychedelic, then I've been taking the wrong drugs. Although nimbly straddling psychedelic rock and acid folk to always project a profound sense of joy, Tucker's solo output also manages to incorporate sonic manoeuvres more often found in the wilder pastures of the experimental avant-garde. A predisposition to loops, an affection for field recordings and an ear for the details lurking within a drone all deftly enhance the potency and charm of this singular, visionary artist. Russell Cuzner


In one of the greatest music documentaries ever made, BBC4's Hawkwind: Do Not Panic, Lemmy describes that great band’s music as like a “black acid nightmare… we used to lock the doors so nobody could get out!” Well, Ufomammut are a little bit like that. An Italian trio who rely on heavy duty drone, crushing riffery and a thwacking great rack of weird sound effects, the trio solidified their sound to best effect on 2010's Eve. One single 45-minute track encompassing a (very) slow building wall of buzzing hypnotic sound, moving between pin drop delicacy and bruising heaviosity, 'Eve' managed to nail that feeling of tremendous primordial rising epiphany that so often accompanies the very best music of this ilk – namely, Sleep’s Dopesmoker, Melvins’ Lysol and Earth’s Earth 2. A hulking wave of rolling thunder over oppressive grey skies - clap clap BANG. Harry Sword

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats caused an underground tremor amongst record collectors with 2011’s superlative Blood Lust. A concept album based around an imaginary movie, Blood Lust was deeply psychedelic and heavy, although what made it so compulsively listenable was the sense of skewed melody: bizarre acid drenched harmonies befitting of a sunburnt Dennis Wilson on a bad one; the Uncle's almost soothing vocal delivery offset against a truly fucked guitar tone. Before Rise Above repressed it some loons were paying £700 for a copy on Discogs. Last year’s Mind Control expanded the band’s sound into yet groovier and more epic territories, with tracks like 'Mt Abraxus' rolling off into the hills like a phantom stagecoach. Uncle Acid also became a fully functional touring band for the first time, selling out London’s Garage months in advance and landing the support slot that any psych/doom leaning band must surely covet more than any other: Black Sabbath. Harry Sword

Stein Urheim

Norwegian guitarist Stein Urheim rewards deep listening. His excellent self-titled album from earlier this year reveals some surprising sonic detail and casts you in the role of a TV detective savant listening to the recording of a crucial phone call for sonic clues in the background. Concentrate and you can hear the natural rhythm of rain falling on wooden beams and slate roof tiles of the house it was recorded in and even a boat chugging past some distance deep in the background. Urheim has been a member of Gabriel Fliflet’s band Åresong and HP Gundersen’s highly respected drone outfit The Last Hurrah and is no stranger to playing improv and collaborating with noise musicians so perhaps it is no surprise that he embraces and makes a feature of the noise captured on this recording. Fingers scrape on strings, knuckles rap gently on the hollow bodies of tamburas, wooden tuning pegs creak, at one point you can hear him pick up his slide before he uses it… this is the sound of a great musician lustily getting his fingers dirty… getting stuck right in there. This is an album of beautiful music but at the same time it bristles with and relishes in noise. John Doran

Vibracathedral Orchestra

Like their hippy forebears of the late 60s and early 70s, Leeds outfit Vibracathedral Orchestra tap into the tantric transcendentalism of the East, but really opt for the most expansive, repetitive fusion of Eastern traditional music and rock one can imagine. Dabbling With Gravity And Who You Are, their standout album, seems to start midway through a jam session, and ebbs and flows across 11 tracks of blissed-out, profoundly weird cyclical instrumental mantras. Acoustic and electric guitars intertwine, strings lay down endlessly droning foundations, flutes and other reeds add flavour, and a mixture of hand and more substantial percussion keeps the album driving effortlessly forwards and out into the heavens. The closest comparisons to Vibracathedral Orchestra I can think of are Sweden's Pärson Sound collective and the Theatre of Eternal Music of LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise and John Cale. Enough said, really. Joseph Burnett

Sep 18, 2014 1:32pm

I know it might be reaching a bit, and they've been covered by various wings of the alternative press enough, but Deathspell Omega are worth a shout here. I know they never really get thrown in with the "psychedelic" bunch but there's some twisted, very outlandish things going on in their music. Anyway, great piece. Lots of artists I've been meaning to check out properly but haven't really known where to start, so this piece is enough boost.

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Sep 18, 2014 3:09pm

One word: Flamingods.

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pete keeley
Sep 18, 2014 3:30pm

Aren't Ufomammut Italian and not from the UK as stated

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Josh Cooke
Sep 18, 2014 4:08pm

Fantastic Article, heads up not to look at the Tremoro Tarantura videos at work!

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Sep 18, 2014 4:10pm

Stop trying to make Grumbling Fur happen, it will not happen

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John Doran
Sep 18, 2014 4:20pm

In reply to AngryReader:

How are you going to stop me, you laughable little man. We write about music we like. Don't like it? Fuck off and write a pissy eyed blog about it.

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John Doran
Sep 18, 2014 4:21pm

In reply to pete keeley:

They are indeed. Amended thanks.

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Sep 18, 2014 5:26pm

Some really great stuff in here, High Wolf (France) is another really ace European psych artist, maybe not as heavy as some of the artists in here but still worth a mention...

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Carl Griffin
Sep 18, 2014 6:04pm

Brilliant piece with plenty of stuff to get stuck into. However... feel Scandinavians like K-X-P, Shogun Kunitoki and, especially, Dungen, deserve a place in here too.

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J Pillbox
Sep 18, 2014 7:04pm

Interesting list, lots to check out. My personal pantheon would also include Aluk Todolo (France), Pensees Nocturnes (France), Psicomagia (USA) and Un Festin Sagital (Chile). The last two aren't Europea, so cheating, but I don't care.

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Sep 18, 2014 7:27pm

Great piece(s)! With loads of stuff to get into BUT where to start? An album or recording suggestion added to each would've been much appreciated, especially the more prolific artists, like Circle or Gnod. Where the hell do i begin?

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blood meridian
Sep 18, 2014 7:37pm

some wonderful bands here indeed, but sometimes we can just be too overtly esoteric for our own good.. ;-)

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Sep 18, 2014 7:56pm

I'm going to pretend that for whatever reason you guys simply forgot about Seven That Spells. Any love for Morkobot, or do you perhaps find them a bit gimmicky?

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Sep 18, 2014 8:13pm

That's my afternoon dossing at work sorted tomorow! I'll throw in Koolaid's Global Tyranny to that list

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Sep 19, 2014 9:18am

nice piece vicar, with the glut of "psych" about, was surprised not to see Norways "leaders" of modern psychedelic head expansion grunt Motorpsycho not mentioned here... their albums like Timothys Monster, Love Cult etc are unmistaken classics of previous decades..but that combo still release some of the most competant "psych" music in the modern era, just an observation from a grizzled observer... nice to see some real underdogs of the fractious / widespread genre mentioned in this piece... brings to mind the adage "how long is a piece of string"... oh joy, its mushroom season...

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John Doran
Sep 19, 2014 1:13pm

In reply to danobedlam:

That's a fair point. With GNOD I'd try 'Vatican'; 'Chaudelande 1 & 2' and 'GNOD Drop Out With White Hills' for starters. With BONG I'd head straight for 'Stoner Rock'. Electric Wizard - Dopethrone. Teeth Of The Sea - Master. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats - Blood Lust. Nurse With Wound - A Chance Encounter. UFOmammut - EVE. Cyclobe - Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Windows. Demdike Stare - Triptych. Hey Colossus - Cuckoo. Kemper Norton - Lior. And the rest are probably mentioned in the blurbs.

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Sep 20, 2014 2:32pm

Thanks for the nice writeup. Ashtray Navigations curated event happening as part of Recon next weekend for those who can get.

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Ben P
Sep 20, 2014 2:56pm

In reply to danobedlam:

John Doran gives some great starting points for Gnod, I would say the whole of ingnodwetrust is a fantastic listen.

For Teeth of the Sea I would also try You're Mercury -

The Heads mention hinted at Anthroprophh and there are some great recordings from both..



As one extra that wasn't on the list I would give Black Bombaim as my tip.. in particular from Titans

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penisius pustilusius
Sep 20, 2014 9:52pm


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Sep 21, 2014 12:27pm

I love this website. What a list!

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Sep 22, 2014 1:59pm

In reply to John Doran:

Thanks, Mr Doran, much appreciated. Gonna get cracking on that lot immediately.

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Sep 22, 2014 2:01pm

In reply to Ben P:

And thanks to Mr P too. Awesome Responders that you are!

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Overlord Bunce III
Sep 22, 2014 6:56pm

In reply to danobedlam:

I've taken the liberty of putting together a Spotify playlist of (most of) the bands mentioned here. I just went through and picked their most popular tracks. You'll find it here:

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Sep 26, 2014 8:13am

In reply to John Doran:

Really enjoyed the article, some truly wonderful bands included here.. Appreciate the inclusion of TC/Luminous Bods also, but do words fail you in our case ? !

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Oct 22, 2014 6:56am

This is psychedelia too:
You can find more electronic and psychedelic bands here:
And better than some of the bands in the list. I know because I did some of them in my own promotion company. For example, Dead Skeletons has a terrible live.

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