Review Summary: Can you pass the acid test?
Psychedelia wasn't just a style of music in the late 1960s, it was a way of life. A variety of followers, both young and old, relinquished their past beliefs, particularly the Christian orthodoxes that had become the embodiment of western ideology, to baptize themselves with new and exotic philosophies. Looking out to advocates like writers Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary, and especially musicians, for guidance through their own road to enlightenment. Music became the primary medium that allowed psychedelia to be preached to the masses. The ideals and fashions that artists of the time expressed in their songs managed to surpass beyond their vinyl scriptures, and influenced an entire generation. From exploring metaphysical realities through mind-altering drugs, to even practicing eastern religions and looking at life in a more existential point-of-view, psychedelia grew to become a trend like no other.
If there is any album that could give you a glimpse of what the 1960s psychedelic movement was all about, both in its musical aesthetic and lyrical message, Psychedelic Psoul
would be that medium. Though sadly, it's one of the least engaging releases of the era. Flagship albums like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
and Pink Floyd's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
, accurately captured the anomalous style of the genre as well as the changing social mores of the 1960s in a manner that has managed to age gracefully throughout time, but they didn't really exploit the spiritual side of psychedelia, the yearning for a universal oneness that was influenced by Indian mysticism. Of course, George Harrison certainly adapted these themes into his own occasional contributions with The Beatles, but Psychedelic Psoul
is one of the first albums to do so explicitly throughout its entirety. And that may perhaps be one of the reasons why Psychedelic Psoul
isn't as accessible today, as say, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
. It doesn't explore any other themes within its music, focusing solely on transcendental thematics, thus making the album relevant only in its era, and that era alone. Psychedelic Psoul
was meant to relate to the wandering youth of the time who were looking for some guidance among the social revolutions that were taking place all around them. So for us today, the album will certainly feel a bit out-of-date. But to all of those nostalgic enthusiasts of the 1960s music scene, you may find that this album offers exactly the kind of cosmic trip you've been looking for.
As I've mentioned before, Psychedelic Psoul
is the epitome of the classic psychedelic album. The opening piece, "A Million Grains of Sand", depicts the various idiosyncrasies of the genre. The song exudes a very mystical atmosphere, as its music surounds us in an elaborate and expressive display of trancing melodies. Aside from their usage of exotic percussions and hypnotic tape loops, the most interesting aspect of The Freak Scene's sound is their innovative approach to their guitar productions. Throughout the album, and most prominent in songs like "My Rainbow Life", the band manipulates the expels of the guitar through an engineering technique that replicates the sound dynamics of a sitar, giving the album its raga-influenced sound. The most imminent highlight of the album is certainly "My Rainbow Life", and the reason for it is the cosmic aura that it tends to radiate. The raga influence is at its most conspicuous here, which is particularly incited from its unique guitar work. Along with the repetitive sitar-like arrangement that makes up the primary melodic theme, there is an echoing drone that fluctuates in the background, releasing a discordant haze of resonance that is meant to mimic the sound of a tambura. A lot of the songs in Psychedelic Psoul
often express the theme of consciousness expansion, specifically referencing the detachment from reality that one experiences under the trance of psychoactive drugs. That moment in which our third eye is open, enabling us to perceive realities and understandings that are utterly external from ourselves. Discovering dimensions and capabilities within our mind that seem to be nonexistence under any other situation.
As the album progresses, we seem to be exposed to more and more peculiarities with each passing song. "Watered Down Souls" and "Grok!" are perhaps the two most erratically composed tracks in the album. "Watered Down Souls" is, for the most part, a rather traditional rock song, but what makes it so unique is that it makes prominent usage of aquatic audio samples that help add a trippy vibe to the music. A characteristic that would soon become a recurring cliché within the psychedelic genre. "Grok!", on the other hand, is an instrumental piece that can only be described as an eccentric frenzy of cosmic sounds. Disorienting tape loops, shimmering noises, and tribalistic percussions- this song, much like the album that embodies it, is a short-lived spectacle of musical whimsicality. Though among all of the oddities that comprise Psychedelic Psoul
, there are a few songs that favor a more traditional approach. "The Center Of My Soul", for example, reflects the popular blues-rock style that many artists of the time were dwelling into, while "Red Roses Will Weep", a gloomy acoustic piece, incorporates a strong influence from Baroque pop. And as engaging as these songs may be, The Freak Scene are at the peak of their ingenuity when they stick to their raga embellished nature, much like that in the spiritual journey that is "Rose of Smiling Faces". Psychedelic Psoul
was the one and only album by The Freak Scene, and still remains as the most well-conceived musical endeavor that lead songwriter Rusty Evans ever embarked on. Though rather narrow-minded within its content, the album provides some of psychedelia's earliest and finest pieces of music. But nevertheless, there is very little lasting appeal for anyone who isn't a modern day Hippie.