To our knowledge, the only genre of music named after mind-altering illegal drugs is psychedelia. It has been dipping in and of fashion for longer than half a century now, but what exactly is it that makes a band pysch and why do we keep coming back to it?
The basic idea behind psychedelic music was to attempt to recreate the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, primarily LSD. We’re not sure at what point they decided that was best represented by electronic experimentation, long, somewhat improvised guitar solos and in particular the sound of sitars and other traditionally South-Asian instrumentation. It’s almost a little offensive to Indian-classical music that the sitar and tabla became so heavily linked to being off your face and out of your mind.
The birth of psychedelic music can, perhaps a little surprisingly, be traced back to the American-folk scene. The likes of John Fahey was using progressive recording techniques, improvisation, odd-tunings and a wide range of instruments as long ago as the early 1960’s. The genre was taken into something approaching the mainstream by The Beatles with many of the elements of psychedelic music being employed on their 1965 album Rubber Soul. In the UK The Yardbirds took their blues influences into psych territory via their love of improvised “rave-ups”, whilst on the other side of the pond, The Byrds emerged from the California folk-scene with an all together more trippy-sound, that would lead to California and in particular San Francisco, being widely regarded as the epicentre of the US-psych movement which would spawn the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Captain Beefheart.
The scenes hey day at the back end of the 1960’s when bands like Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were on top of the musical world; somewhat inevitably, the genre slipped into decline with LSD being made illegal, and the drugs effects taking it’s toll on the minds of many of the scenes main protagonists.
Psychedelia never quite went away though. The rise of the so called neo-psychedelia movement came about influencing the post-punk bands of the late 1970’s. There was the short lived, and frankly terribly named, scallydelia that was coined for bands like The Verve and The Inspiral Carpets, whilst psych’s influence on the likes of The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and less impressively Kula Shaker meant that throughout the 1990’s psychs influence remained.
In recent years the likes of Hookworms, Tame Impala and Temples have shown there is life in the old genre yet, and whilst the current trend seems to lean towards psych’s dreamier younger brother shoe-gaze, the actual difference between the two sounds isn’t all that pronounced anyway.
THE LUCID DREAM
The Lucid Dream are guitarist and singer Mark Emerson, guitars and keyboards from Wayne Jefferson, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Denton and drummer Luke Anderson.
Psychedelic-infused, prog-soundscaping. It’s all extended instrumental sections, whigged-out guitar solos and a whole head of effects pedal abusing sounds. Their latest albums eight tracks clock in at an impressive 44 minutes, and it opens with an instrumental number that’s over eight minutes long in, it is nothing if not ambitious!
The Lucid Dream are from Carlisle in Cumbria. Carlisle is the birthplace of Grace Dent, Melvyn Bragg, former England Cricketer Paul Nixon, and Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton. Musical links are a bit thinner on the ground, although Elton John player their as recently as 2007, whilst probably Carlisle’s most famous band in the 1970’s were rockers Spooky Tooth, who’ve had nearly as many members as The Fall over the years!
The band formed back in 2008. Following a series of 7″ singles and a well received EP, they release their debut album, Songs Of Lies And Deceit, on The Great Pop Supplement. Their second, and self-titled album is coming out March 30th, with the cd/digital release being covered by Holy Are You? Recordings, and the vinyl being released by The Great Pop Supplement.
At their best they harness the highlights of The Verve or Spacemen 3 into delightfully ambitious slices of heady-psych that wash effortlessly over you, and transport the listener back to the blissed out days of the 1960’s. Morning Breeze is packed with warped electronics that sound not unlike a digeridoo, and creates a similarly meditative state, whilst Unchained bounces along on a jaunty bass line and thumping drums that make it easily their poppiest moment.
The highlight of the album is the closing number, You & I, a distortion laden waltz, it explores similar territory to The Byrds, taking a slice of pure pop and running it through a wall of fuzz, then sticking an organ and a guitar solo on the top, it’s delightful!
Like many psych bands the priority seems to be music first and vocals second. Mark’s voice is something of an acquired taste and works better on some tracks, the yelped intensity of Moonstruck, than others, the languid dirge of The Darkest Day/Head Musik. Musically they have a tendency sometimes go too far into the experimental noises on a keyboard sound, and Unchained Dub does sound a bit like an attempt to see how many silly noises you can fit on one track.
The Lucid Dream, the bands second album is out March 30th. CD/Digital out via Holy Are You? Recordings and Coloured vinyl via The Great Pop Supplement.