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Columnfortably Numb: Your Psych Roundup For August
JR Moores , July 30th, 2018 11:08

JR Moores' summer psych-rock recommendations. Plus, your questions answered! (sort of)

Let's face it, nobody gets anything remotely productive done in July or August. There are holidays to be taken, screaming brats to be looked after, choc ices to be consumed, sports tournaments to be watched, Croatian players' haircuts to be suffered, afternoon drinking to be messily embraced, siestas to be had, festivals to be attended, dipshit presidents to be mocked via large orange balloons and pun-based placards (that'll show him), the deluded Elon Musk and his literally useless Submariney McSubmarine Face to be trolled, and birthdays to be celebrated (yeah, it's on the 17th of this month, thanks for asking, a book token will suffice, never knew you cared).

In line with such distractions, this edition of Columnfortably Numb has barely an intro to speak of. So in lieu of the usual astute and enlightening insights, here's a few brief responses to some of the most pressing questions that have been, until now, left unanswered in the past three years of writing this ridiculous column. (Yes, this column is celebrating a minor milestone of sorts, thanks for asking, a book token will suffice, never knew you cared.)

What is the most psychedelic item in the Fruit & Veg department of my local Sainsbury's Local?

Ginger. It looks madder than an undiscovered sea creature and tastes of purest tingle.

What is the most psychedelic cocktail?

Anything with ginger in it.

What is "J.R." short for?

Judicious Reasoning. Also, he's got little legs.

Were there any other proposed titles for the psych column, besides the victorious Columnfortably Numb?

I believe Ummagummacolumna was one suggestion. And Reverb Your Enthusiasm.

What is the least psychedelic album you've ever purchased?

Trust No One, the 2001 solo album by Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers fame. Don't ask.

Who is the most psychedelic ex-member of Sonic Youth?

KIM GORDON!

Body/Head - The Switch
(Matador)

Back in the day it could be difficult to determine whether Kim Gordon was Sonic Youth's least psychedelic member, or their most. She could sometimes cut a slightly stern figure positioned there between all those silly boys, rolling her eyes at being asked the "girl in a band" question for the billionth time by yet another rubbish journalist. There is no doubt anymore, however. Just look at each member's major post-SY projects. Thurston Moore's albums with The Thurston Moore Band have sounded rather like Sonic Youth records without any Kim Gordon or Lee Ranaldo vocal bits (which is still perfectly enjoyable). For his own part, Ranaldo has picked up the acoustic and gone a wee bit folky. Gordon's stuff, on the other hand, has been properly far out (man), especially her work with Bill Nace in the duo Body/Head.

Following 2013's double album Coming Apart and 2016's stop-gap live record, The Switch provides further evidence of just how exciting something can be with only two members, a cluster of twisting and writhing guitar patterns and pedal effects, extemporaneous structures, ghostlike vocals, and no drums to speak of. This material will appeal particularly to fans of that period of Sonic Youth when they started releasing avant-garde jams via their SYR imprint, recorded the intrepidly divisive A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts & Flowers, and offended an unusually narrow-minded ATP audience by playing a load of unsettling noise for an awful big wodge of their set. A review elsewhere has criticised The Switch's "predictable drone tropes" and condemned the moment when Body/Head's confrontational guitar notes start to resemble the shrill tones of the bagpipe. Experts in drone will beg to differ. As for the bagpipes, they're a wonderful instrument, severely underrated in their sheer psychedelic-ness. Guitars that sound like bagpipes? That's even cooler.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Hallelujah Mystic Garden Part One
(Important)

Acid Mothers haven't featured in this column before, which is an admittedly inexcusable oversight. It was assumed the reader would already be familiar with the fact that the Japanese psych lords have a new record out every fortnight or so, each one just as brain-squishing as the last. For the uninitiated, the band was formed by Kawabata Makoto in 1995 and has since created oodles of "extreme trip music" using many different members and even lots of different monikers, be it Acid Mothers & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, or Acid Acid Guru Sabbath Electric Leafy Wheel Spawn Rizzle Bizzle Mac Diddy.

The first instalment of Hallelujah Mystic Garden offers a pair of nice long tracks which more than whet the appetite for Part Two, due to arrive later this year. The first number is a rendition of classic Mothers cut 'Cometary Orbital Drive' that is so rich, lively and infectious it might have got me dancing around the living room or dusting off the old sparkly hula hoop if only I had the physical ability to hoist myself off this dusty sofa. The second is a fresh composition called 'Third Eye From The Black Moon & Shadow Sun'. Here, the guitar part is basically one continuous solo (in a good way like ex-Flaming Lipper Ronald Jones hitchhiking on the Parliament-Funkadelic-P-Funk tour bus, not in a bad way like Clapton in the bedroom mirror). Over this, the band's intermittently returning original vocalist Cotton Casino provides vocals so soaring they make the African Rüppell's Vulture look like a flightless honking penguin. About ten minutes in, the track suddenly veers into a wonky plonky rendition of Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' which in turn gives way to a final movement which sounds indebted to Suzuki-era Can. By Jove, they've done it again.

Weeed - This
(Important)

What do you expect from a band called Weeed? Weeell, whaaat dooo yooou expeccct, duuuddde???? Full-of-beans pop-punk like early Sum 41? Clatteringly busy drill 'n' bass? 'What I Did On My Holidays' by George Ezra? Naaah. Weeed's 2015 album was called Our Guru Brings Us To The Black Master Sabbath. Niiice. This time they've only gone and got themselves so completely baked they couldn't even rustle up a more considered title than This. Not even Thiiis. Its music is rooted in doom, of course, and never loses sight of the vital importance of riffs, riiiffs and yeeetttt mooore rrriiifffsssssss. But if Weeed's album title suggests a lack of imagination they've certainly developed a few nifty ways to nudge doom into unusual territory by raising and reversing the tempos as they see fit and weaving in elements of psych, jazz, prog and space rock. There's even the added bonus of some throat singing that sounds like somebody's trying to breathe through a makeshift tracheal tube made from a didgeridoo. This is the aural equivalent of dirty food: a massive stodgy sludge burger bursting out of its brioche bun thanks to piles of melted blue cheese, streaky bacon, onion rings, a hearty dollop of pulled pork, sweat-inducing jalapeños and, ymmmm, tangy gherkins. This cannot possibly do you any good.

Futuropaco - Futuropaco
(El Paraiso)

By my calculations, most tracks on this self-titled release have a section where all the other instruments fade right down in order to showcase the spectacular drum work that's already been rumbling away throughout. And who can blame Justin Pinkerton for that decision? He's a vastly talented rhythmsmith, best known as a member of Californian stoners Golden Void. On this project he plays all the other instruments too so he can do what he blooming well feels. And it's not as if the drum solos go on for twenty minutes like those of John Bonham and his pale imitators. Nope. Into tracks that are both jampacked and concise, Pinkerton has squeezed his love of vintage Italian library music, classic krautrock and heavy psych rock. At one point it suggests Grails have been performing super-speed cover versions of fusion-era Miles Davis with Adrian Younge on production. Elsewhere it's like removing the brass parts from Fontanelle's Vitamin F album and replacing them with the cosmic guitar effects of Carlton Melton. Kitschy organ sounds are punctuated by blasts of phat fuzz. The synths sparkle. The guitars wobble with wah. And the drums never let up for one bleeding second.

Träden - Träden
(Subliminal Sounds)

Led by guitarist and vocalist Jakob Sjöholm, Träden is the latest incarnation of Träd, Gräs Och Stenar, the Swedish "progg" scene legends who emerged from the ashes of Pärson Sound, International Harvester and Harvester. The main events here are the longer jams including strong opener 'När Lingon Mognar (Lingonberries Forever)'. Despite its folkish foundations, the track boasts a guitar sound akin to an even sleepier Crazy Horse, as if the Horse is on ketamine or something, which is what ketamine was supposed to be used for, right? Even though I don't speak the language, the infectious chant-like vocal pattern had me singing along in my own made-up tongue which I have taken to transcribing phonetically and am hoping to market as the new Esperanto.

'Kung Karlsson (King Karlsson)', meanwhile, is more summery than a Lemon Jelly track that's been transposed from electronic equipment to organic instruments, whereas 'Tamburan' is somewhat more squelchy. One imagines the people who'll dig Träden's mixture of soothing basslines, jazzy drum licks, and guitar wig-outs would include those members of the New Weird America scene who've grown less noise-based and more accessible with their output of late. Dave Shuford from Rhyton, for example, or Chris Forsyth and Matt Valentine. Interspersing the lengthy freeform numbers is the occasional attempt at more conventional poppy stuff. 'Å Nej (Oh No)' has an identifiable verse-chorus structure and sits somewhere between The Beatles, Ween, an amateur jug-blowing demonstration, and Gomez from off of the Mercury Prize. The final piece, 'Det Finns Blått (There Is Blue)', has a darker, more ominous and gnarlier feel. It harks back to skronkiest International Harvester material from all those decades ago.

Warp Transmission - The Process Ultra
(Creepy Crawl)

Finland: the home of Lordi, Moomin, Circle, Bomfunk MCs, The Wife Carrying World Championships, Angry Birds and a whole load of other nutty stuff. To all those fine achievements can be added Warp Transmission. "Primitive-heavy… primordial ooze rock" they call it and opening track 'Ultra Thrust' does indeed thrust ultra-lly. "Ha ha!" laughs the vocalist as the group bursts into some seriously distorted licks of the Hawkwind-Stooges-MC5 variety. This'll be right up your street if you're one of those individuals who think it all went to bollocks for Monster Magnet after 1991's Spine Of God or were too busy caning it to The Heads when everybody else in Bristol was moping around to the ennui incarnate plod of Portishead. Things get a touch more abstract for 'The Insect' while 'Crash Like Waves' has a woozier shoegaze feel. It all comes together most satisfyingly on closing number 'Quicksilver Mindstream'. It's as if Monster Magnet's 'Tab...' is being performed during the last days of The Icarus Line in Terminal Cheesecake's shed while '2013'-era Primal Scream kick at the rotten wooden door in an attempt to rescue their stolen methamphetamine tablets.

Daniel Bachman - The Morning Star
(Three Lobed Recordings)

There might have been something to say about how Daniel Bachman's delicate music has more of a Sunday morning psych vibe in comparison to the (above) Friday night hedonistic trips of the giddy Warp Transmission. It turns out The Morning Star is less suited to the end of the week than the end of the world as we know it, seeing as it's the musician's personal reflection on the chaotic aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election results. Having said that, it does not sound like What A Time To Be Alive by Superchunk. It opens with the side-filling 'Invocation'. Nearly twenty minutes long, this epic begins with melancholic chimes and ominous musique concrète evocative of the distant rumble of transport machines. As it develops, bowed strings are introduced, all droning and creaking in anguish. When Bachman's subtle, low-in-the-mix guitar picking emerges, 'Invocation' starts to vaguely resemble the more familiar shape of a George Harrison-led Beatles jam (minus the ropey vox/lyrics, of course) or perhaps more accurately something cooked up by Virginia's Pelt. Subsequent tracks range from between five and fourteen minutes in length with Bachman's mixture of post-Fahey fingerpicking, raga drones and field recordings causing the barometer needle to waver between experimental and traditional to entrancing effect.

There is a link to be drawn here between Bachman's rustic music, his full-time employment as a gardener-slash-landscaper, what the title character tells us at the end of Voltaire's Candide about how we must "cultivate our garden", and the current global political shitstorm. If only I wasn't too distracted by gifs of dancing cartoon sausage dogs in order to make it.

Next time: The 50 most psychedelic gifs of dancing cartoon sausage dogs

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