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Tag Archives: Psychedelia

Via his cult compilations, Lance Barresi has dug up rare and oddball hard rock and heavy psych cuts that provided the soundtrack to the hippy comedown

In the age of music overload, when its possible to access millions of songs via YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, is it really possible to find something new? Something unheard, from rocks recesses? Lance Barresi, the man behind the Brown Acid compilations, claims that not only has he dug up undiscovered gems, but that they sat under the noses of collectors and collators for decades.

Starting in 2015, Barresi, along with Daniel Halls RidingEasy Records, began pulling together five collections of rare and weird tracks from rocks past. The music all comes under Barresis umbrella term Brown Acid, with the tracks loosely fitting into three sub-genres: hard rock, heavy psych and proto-metal. Theyre labels that have confused the snobbiest of musos.

When I go to record shows, even guys who have been selling records for decades you start mentioning these three sub-genres and theyre like: What, what do you mean? Its befuddling that these records exist but theyre also virtually unknown even to people who have been dealing with records their whole life.

As the compilations came together, Barresi began to notice a pattern. The tracks all fell between 1968 and 1975, as garage rock began to give way to a harder, darker sound. Very rarely is something we include on Brown Acid heavy enough to come before 1968 and rarely is anything that comes later than 1975 or 1976 in the right ballpark either, says Barresi.

Sometimes there are things like Blown Frees The Wizard, which is from 1980. It just hits that sweet spot because its from a rural town in Texas that was just behind the times and the band werent trying to be contemporary. They were just playing the same music that was popular a decade before that.

Brown Acid started out of necessity. Barresi, who set up the Permanent Records store in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles where he opened more branches, was playing hard rock at his weekly DJ gig in Eagle Rock on the outskirts of east LA. The problem was that he couldnt find enough of the sounds he was looking for: rough and ready hard rock with a fuzzy psych or soul edge. He began asking friends for tips on similar music and mining YouTube for potential songs to play out.

That led to unearthing tracks via a network of hardcore collectors, often going off scarce information found on record sleeves or on online forums. Once he found the band members and got their authorisation, he put out The First Trip in 2015. But finding them was the hardest part.

Barresi says one typical case was Captain Foams Richard Bertrand, the front man of a little known Ohio two-piece who released one sought-after 7-inch in the late 60s. Anyone I called in Ohio named Richard Bertrand was not him, he remembers. I was hitting wall after wall for a long time. Id been looking for someone in Ohio when he was actually in California. Eventually I found him on LinkedIn, of all places.

Altamont signaled the end of the 60s and ushered in a darker period in American life. Photograph: Ronald Grant

Similar amateur detective work was necessary to find nearly all the bands on Brown Acid. Barresi describes the compilations as a set of unknown hits you cant believe failed to connect back in their heyday due to various unfortunate circumstances. Most of the bands on the compilations arent one-hit wonders, but one-record wonders who made just one 7-inch that might never have been sold or made it beyond a DJs promo bag.

A lot of the records were used by bands to showcase their abilities, so the B-side will be a really terrible ballad or a bad cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash or something, says Barresi. Generally speaking, these bands only had one crack at it and it didnt go well, and then they called it quits and moved on to something else.

That element of misfortune, as well as the quest for more of the music he loved, fueled Barresis search as he wanted to give these musicians another chance to have their tracks heard. You can be amazing and be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have anything take off, he says. Im just happy to give these guys who I think deserved more than they got another chance at success. However little that might be, at least their music will be able to be heard by a new generation of people.

Its phenomenal at all that some of these 45s even exist, because they dont need to exist they just happened to be created, he says.

Theres been a glut of deep-dive compilations over the last five years that have shone light on the darkest recesses of rocks back catalog. Now Agains Function Underground: The Black & Brown American Rock Sound 1969 to 1974 focused on African American rock musicians whose music wasnt defined as rock and operated in a world between nascent soul, funk and heavy rock. Numero Group have collated two collections that overlap with Brown Acid. The brilliantly named Darkscorch Canticles feature wizard rock bands who replaced hippie pastoralism with mythology, armored conflict, sorcery, and doom (not to be confused with Harry Potter-inspired wizard rock). Acid Nightmares, meanwhile, touched on some of the same heavy psych and short-lived stoner bands that also found their way on to the Liverpool Psych festivals collections.

Axas Composite: Sam Morris/RidingEasy

Barresi says the compilations are mining a transitional phase of rock created during a time when the hippy optimism gave way to a post-trip hangover that Joan Didion captured in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Its not all pot smoke and love, he says of the period. In 1969 you have the Manson murders, you have [the disastrous Rolling Stones gig at] Altamont, while Vietnam is ruining everyones good vibes and the music starts to get a little bit heavier and less flowery.

The music got real dark, real quickly during that era. When everyone was first discovering the Beatles and garage rock and weed and LSD its all fun and games, and then you start to realise the dark side of that and it gets ugly.

Barresi hopes that Brown Acid will do for hard rock, proto-metal and heavy psych, what Nuggets did for garage rock, and bring it to a wider audience of collectors and music fans. He sees it as plugging a gaping hole in rock history. It perfectly fits the void between [the garage compilations] Nuggets, Pebbles, Boulders and [the punk compilations] Bloodstains and Killed By Death, which seems really natural to me, but obviously no one thought of it.

Its like a bastard child of rock music that no one really paid attention to. There are all these amazing records from the late 60s to the early 70s that exist that really didnt have a place to be filed under.

Whether proto-metal or heavy psych or even wizard rock become the next genre to see a wider scale resurgence is debatable, but Barresi plans to continue with the compilations and believes theres a lot more music to be unearthed. Weve only just discovered the tip of the iceberg, says Barresi. You keep digging that hole thinking youre going to hit the bottom and all that happens is the dirt underneath you just gets weirder and weirder.

Brown Acid: The Fifth Trip is out now on Riding Easy Records

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The man who helped give the German psychedelicists their driving rhythm section was found at his apartment, with the cause of death currently unknown

Holger Czukay, co-founder and bassist with pioneering German rock band Can, has died aged 79.

He was found by a neighbour at his apartment, converted from Cans old studio in Weilerswist near Cologne. The cause of death is currently unknown. His wife Ursula had died in July, while his former bandmate Jaki Liebezeit with whom he created Cans fabled driving rhythm section also died this year, in January.

Can were part of a 1970s movement rather insensitively dubbed krautrock by the British music press, alongside bands including Neu!, Faust and Tangerine Dream, who paired the strident rhythms of rocknroll with psychedelic, exploratory new forms. Following a period of study under composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 1960s, Czukay played on nine of Cans albums as well as engineering them, including their celebrated Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi, before leaving in 1977 to go solo.

He went on to collaborate with numerous celebrated musicians he and Liebezeit played on the Eurythmics debut album, while he recorded the Balearic disco classic Snake Charmer with New York DJ Francois Kevorkian, U2 guitarist The Edge and Public Image Limiteds Jah Wobble, and also made a pair of collaborations with Japan singer David Sylvian.

Czukay is also celebrated for his experiments with sampling before the advent of digital samplers, cutting up and splicing tape into recordings. He also pioneered what he called radio painting, using shortwave radios to record random snippets of sound and pasting them collage-style into recordings; rhythm boxing was his description of how he used drum machines. His most recent solo album was Eleven Years Innerspace in 2015.

Can partly reformed in April without Czukay Irmin Schmidt and Malcolm Mooney performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore and others as The Can Project.

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What do you do if youve got the tunes and the look, but cant get gigs? Frances hottest band relive their ingenious $3,000 gamble

Its hard to imagine a more French version of a rocknroll band than La Femme. For all that their second album, Mystre, one of the years best, is wholly accessible and dripping with fantastic tunes, it exudes a sense of cool that indie bands rarely manage any more. It tries on a wardrobe of different clothes psychedelia, surf rock, electronica, krautrock and more and ends up looking fantastic in all of them. It sounds chic.

Its also made La Femme proper pop stars in France. As their manager guides me into a brasserie in StrasbourgSaint-Denis, their home turf in Paris, hes clutching a copy of Les Inrockuptibles, Frances leading pop culture magazine, to hand to the bands masterminds, Marlon Magne and Sacha Got. La Femme are on the cover, although theres a certain amount of eyebrow-raising about the fact that the only person pictured is their singer, Clmence Qulennec. Its like a Vogue cover, Magne observes.

Singer Clmence Qulennec. Photograph: David Wolff-Patrick/WireImage

At this point, a boiling day in early September, the album has been out a few days, and is No 3 in the midweek charts. When the bands tour reaches Paris in February, they say, theyll be headlining the 6,300-capacity Znith. Proper pop stars, you see. Their increasing popularity, though, has meant theyve attracted some curious fans. Take George, who is in his 50s and has the words La Femme tattooed across his throat.

He likes to smoke crazy weed and take a bunch of drugs, says Magne. Before the show begins, he listens to the album and dances everywhere. At which point Magne in so far as he can while cramped into a tiny booth in a crowded brasserie, with his lunch in front of him and a bottle of red on the table mimes someone dancing in the manner of a deranged ostrich. Sometimes I have to speak to him. Look, George, I know youre very happy to be here, but people think youre weird. And if youre too weird, theyre going to kick you out.

Keyboard-player Magne and guitarist Got met at secondary school in Biarritz, near the Spanish border, where summer is alive with holidaymakers and winter is dead. Theres little in the way of live music and nothing much else to do. There are four bars at a junction where everyone goes to drink, Magne says. But we dont like it too much, because if you are dressed too rocknroll or too hipster or too trendy they call you a fag. So its a bit hard to grow up in Biarritz if you are really different.

Watch La Femmes video for Septembre on Vevo

As soon as they could, the pair moved to Paris to dream up a band. Their first, the unpromisingly named SS Mademoiselle, collapsed because their singer only wanted to practise one day a week. And so they formed La Femme, a group that would be, as Magne puts it: Velvet Underground or Kraftwerk-style. Very mysterious. They were listening to French underground from the 60s, and French synthwave from the 70s. They also knew their group had to look great. We always said that if we had a band, it had to be fucking cool, Magne says.

Sound and look in place, there were only two problems remaining: nowhere to play, and no interest in them. They emailed 50 clubs in Paris asking for gigs, and got just two answers. At the first, the stage was so small the bass player had to stand at the back of the crowd with the sound engineer, plugged into the mixing desk. They had only eight songs and, because some of the crowd had turned up late, they went back to the beginning of the set when they had finished and just started over.

La Femme at the Rock en Seine festival in August. Photograph: David Wolff-Patrick/Redferns

Then came the move that made them: a quite magnificent stunt that hoodwinked the entire French music industry. The band had recorded a one-off EP for a small label, and decided that going to America would make them famous. So they emailed 100 venues in the US, again asking for gigs. Again, only two people replied, but one of them offered to help out.

We went to US with $3,000 each and this girl found us 20 gigs, Magne says. In France at the same moment, our EP was released. So the industry was like, What the fuck? They have an EP out and they are touring in the US and we dont know them? So the buzz began to start. When we came back to France, it was red carpet. Fucking DIY.

Watch La Femmes O Va le Monde on Vevo

They were duly signed to Universals French imprint, Barclay former home to Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel. Their debut album, Psycho Tropical Berlin, reached No 33 in France, and La Femme were on their way, taking any opportunity that came along soundtracking Yves Saint Laurents catwalk show, performing at Austin Psych fest, in Texas, where Magne looked like anything but a YSL muse.

I was almost naked, he says, with a huge witchs hat and a kimono. Crikey. In Texas? Is he sure he didnt look like a Ku Klux Klan recruit? He ponders for a moment. No. I looked like Merlin. It was so magical. I was so happy. Like the sun shining everywhere.

La Femme play Shepherds Bush Empire, London, on 17 November. Michael Hanns travel was paid by Disque Pointu.

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The Early Years 1965-1972 will include Syd Barrett tracks never officially released, as well as the soundtrack recording called the Floyd holy grail

Thought that 18-CD set of everything Bob Dylan recorded in 1965 and 1966 was the last word in period-specific artist box sets? Think again. Pink Floyd have announced a new box set, The Early Years 1965-1972, which will comprise 27 discs both CDs and DVD/Blu-ray discs. It will contain seven hours of previously unreleased live audio, and more than 15 hours of video. The Early Years 1965-1972 is released on 11 November.

Its a bonanza for Pink Floyd fans, for the amount of unreleased material included. For the first time, the much-bootlegged Syd Barrett-era songs Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream get an official release.

Arguably more exciting for Floyd fans is the release of what has been described on messageboards as the most obscure Pink Floyd recording of all and the Floyd holy grail. The music in question is eight tracks the Barrett-era band recorded for the film-maker John Latham on 20 October 1967 in London, but which he decided not to use in his short film Speak. These tracks have, so far as can be told, never been bootlegged.

Nearly as exciting is the release of In the Beechwoods, a Barrett song recorded at the same time as Jugband Blues, from the second Floyd album A Saucerful of Secrets, which has previously surfaced in low-quality abridged form.

Pink Floyd Think how long it will take you to work your way through that lot. Photograph: PR

The set is divided into six volumes, each of which will be released separately in 2017. Cambridge St/ation covers Barretts time with the band form 1965-1967, and also includes the bands 1965 recordings. Germin/ation deals with the immediate post-Barrett period in 1968. Dramatis/ation contains music from 1969, including tracks recorded for but not used on the soundtrack to the film More. 1970 is covered by the Devi/ation set, which includes the first performance of the Atom Heart Mother album for the BBC. The 1971 Reverber/ation volume includes demos for Meddle, while the 1972 Obfusc/ation contains a remix of the Obscured by Clouds album. A bonus volume available only with the full deluxe set contains early BBC sessions, live recordings and three feature films scored by Floyd The Committee, More and La Valle (Obscured by Clouds).

The box also comes with the inevitable posters, pictures and replica 7in singles.

Those who feel a 27-disc set is too big for their shelves or too pricy for their bank balance can also get a 2CD highlights compilation. Needless to say, that does not feature Vegetable Man or Scream Thy Last Scream, or the John Latham session. So if youre serious about your Syd, youre going to have to shell out for the whole lot.

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The alternative country star has a new psychedelic jam band, Hard Working American and hes still retained the respect of Nashvilles old guard

Long before Jack White and the Black Keys hit Nashville, Todd Snider was a one-man alternative in music city, releasing his debut album Songs for the Daily Planet in 1994. Since then he has carved out his own niche as a storyteller with a wit to rival John Prine, the folk heart of early Bob Dylan and the ragged glory of the Rolling Stones. His songs have earned him respect from all corners of country music, from Garth Brooks to Jerry Jeff Walker to Jason Isbell.

He also has a new band, Hard Working Americans, including members of Widespread Panic and psych band the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Together they released Rest in Chaos, their first set of original songs and this spring they are on the jam band circuit, a new environment for Snider, known for his troubadour spirit. For now, he says, hes focused on getting people dancing.

Youve been a solo artist for 20 years. Why disappear behind a band name now?

When Im not doing folk, my hobby has always been what people call jam. I like Chris Robinson, I like Widespread [Panic], I like the Grateful Dead. So Id gotten to know some of them over the years. And some of them, like [Widespread Panic co-founder and bassist] David [Schools] have become good friends. And we were jamming and talking about the different things that we liked. Somehow it came to this idea that we could be a band. So it was more the opportunity to work together. David is our leader. We want to be the people that provide that beat for you on that Saturday night. That to me is like a drug, almost like a cult. Im not going to stab anybody a million times because David said so but I might give it a second thought. (laughs)

Your vocals on a song such as Acid sound like a stream of consciousness.

Its Charles Mansons story. When I was younger he fascinated me. I knew one of the things irked him was this book that said how the Beatles had influenced him to do this dastardly thing. Because in his mind, the Beatles and the Moody Blues were telling him to do this. The only reference in the whole song to those murders is when he says, and then we started taking acid and things started getting out of hand, man. Thats the only hint you get that something bad happens.

Youve written a lot about drugs in an ambivalent way, how they can be bad or good.

I appreciate you noticing that. I feel that the changing of the mind has been maligned. There are highly regarded scientists like Terence McKenna or Alan Watts who will tell you that hallucinogens are not just safe but will improve your mind. A guy in a hotel doing blow is probably just making his life worse. But a guy taking shrooms and going to see [the band] moe, I think they are helping. I feel there are two narratives: Oh I did drugs and I now I dont and Im sorry that I did. I always felt that was tired and rote and less genuine. Obviously anything can become something you can use to hurt yourself. In rocknroll, you dont see people binge-eat to death. But they do in all parts of the world.

Theres a good time to be had in your youth and drugs are a big part of it. I try not to be sorry about it. Ive had moments where Ive gone too far with them and Ive had moments where I didnt go far enough.

Youre also prolific about 15 albums in 22 years. So you go against the image of the stoner who cant get off the couch.

I write constantly. I was a compulsive journal keeper. When I take hallucinogens its usually in the studio for work. But I like to get out and get weird too. I appreciate you pointing out that, if I was such a fuck-up, how the hell did I get here?

A song you co-wrote with Loretta Lynn is on her new album, John Prine signed you to his record label, and you keep the company of many of the old guard in country music. Since the death of Merle Haggard, theres been a lot of talk about the quality of songwriting coming out of Nashville. Where do you stand?

The only complaint I have with Americana music is when Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson and Billy Joe Shaver made that music, they made it nicely with the other kids. We have almost completely Republicanized and Democraticized the music into alt-country and normal country. The last two years I feel like its kind of thawed. With Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, these are guys from our side of the tracks not only making it over to that other side of the tracks where there are obviously bigger audiences and bigger rooms, they are not being smug when they get there.

When the bro country thing came, it didnt offend me. I like disco too. I like music. But on the other hand, theres a new wave of kids who listen to the same old records I listen to. Itll be interesting to see where they take it.

In many ways, what were talking about has to do with country radio and the almost scientific way it approaches its playlists the artists who want to get on those playlists cant be as artistically free as they might want to be.

I agree. Yet those cats at those radio stations are trying to figure out what the people in their town want to hear so they can play it for them. I think they are probably doing that pretty good. In a way you can almost say theres a wave of country singers who are kind of liberal. And Im part of it. We should look at that other part of America and say, Why should they listen to us? They dont want to hear about our damn weed. They want to hear about soccer practice, give them a fucking break, they need jams too.

How did you get to write songs with Loretta Lynn?

There was a time, three or four or five years ago, where she hadnt been writing in a while and someone told her to make a list of people who might help get her going. And I was on that list. We made three songs up real quick and then stayed friends after that. I went over there to the Johnny Cash place to watch them record it.

One of my favorite things about music is the way the older people treat me. And the way it makes you want to treat the younger people. It feels part of something deep. Because John Prine gained almost nothing by helping me. I feel like thats the thing I want to learn. Ill be 50 soon. The young kids, they are my favorite singers. If I was young, Id have their posters up.

Two Chicago guys, Shel Silverstein and John Prine, had a big effect on your music. You recorded an entire album of Silverstein covers and Prine signed you to his record label. Prine is obviously well known, but most people only know of Shel for the childrens book The Giving Tree. Why did you connect to them?

There was something about Prine that strikes me as hit by lighting. Like Dylan. Whereas for some reason, Shel seemed more crafty and attainable for a young person. But I can tell you, before I was 25 I could play every Prine song and every Shel Silverstein song. And I still think I still can.

As for Prine, I dont feel like they make cats like him any more. Theres a Buddha in there and I would say of all the people I know that have been given extra attention in life, that guy is the least affected by it. Hes one of them cats that [Booker T and the MGs] Green Onions plays when hes walking around. I doubt John could fight his way out of wet paper bag, but it feels like, if some guys came up and attacked him, all the sudden hed just know karate really quick. You know, that guy.

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