Photography: Keith Ainsworth / arkimages.co.uk Photography: Michelle Roberts / sheshoots.co.uk

In his short book The Doors Of Perception, Aldous Huxley documents his mescaline-taking experiences with such poetic lucidity that it seems criminal that the world of alternative sight offered up by such lysergic trips is restricted to so few. It is passages like these that came to define what it is to be psychedelic – but is psychedelia more than just visions of pretty shapes and rabbits disappearing down holes? September 25th and 26th 2015 marked the fourth and largest edition of LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PSYCHEDELIA to date, a bold, sprawling event that showed how that the modern PZYK strain is far edgier than its tie-dye forebear. We sent Tom Bell off on his own mescaline-free journey through the vortex of bands, art, kaleidoscopes and cinema, bouncing between the micro-worlds housed in and between Camp and Furnace, Blade Factory and District. Here, he invites you to don your nearest Oculus Rift headset and take your own virtual reality trip through this maze of assorted PZYK memories. Roll the dice and see where it takes you.

PZYK 2015 Image 3

You’re in a taxi, in thrall to French synth pop. Did that just happen? Had you been stepping on in grand style while a gent of advanced years – that’ll be Bernard Fevre – and even more advanced joie de vivre wrought an irresistible brand of Studio 54 melodrama from his small but perfectly conceived rig? It’s as if, although you would have sworn to the contrary at the time, the sound and fury, the pain-meets-pleasure of your weekend was mere curtain-raiser to a guy who sounds alternately like man-machine and fount of the most Euro and visionary Eurovision entries you’ve never heard. BLACK DEVIL DISCO CLUB, he calls it – and this is a festival of psychedelia? Maybe your mind needed expanding some more. Did it? Jump back a few hours and sweat out a…

…steaming hangover while ANTON NEWCOMBE, the Artist In Residence, has you eating incisive state-of-rock’n’roll soundbites from the palm of his hand and the odd flash of bitchiness you hoped for from the back of it. In this Musings In Drone conversation – we all aspire to that mode of convo, don’t we? – Anton delights in ripping yarns about “the business”(Michael Jackson’s recording contract, at one point) as much as about “the music”. Then there’s his relish for a digital-led present and future, his claim to be better off than ever and talk of a Fools Gold mash-up he’s turned his forthcoming Ride remix into. It’s devoid of the meltdowns of last time you saw Anton, when he stopped songs to lecture his band before sending them offstage, but, if he seems more stable now, he is scarcely any less prolific in ideas. The stuff he comes out with on virtual reality is an essay in itself, but you’re spirited away by…

…TURZI’s operatic rock. If you played, from separate record players at once, a slowed Private Psychedelic Reel if it were covered by Can, and vocals from South Pacific panned left or right, you’d approximate the contrast but not the sense of impenetrability. It’s that as much as the ghostliness that carries you upstairs upon the wail to…

…ride another, that of MAGPAHI, before following the flighty yet forlorn recorder and being engulfed by doomy keys as re-scoring the Moomins expands the breadth of emotions moving image can convey. That lexicon of how it feels to feel is at…

…the heart of what makes JANE WEAVER’s soundtrack to 70s Anime film Belladonna Of Sadness so affecting. It’s expertly done, magnifies its psychedelic quality, and must reveal very different things to very different ages, moods and constitutions. You…

…consume too much Mexican food, think about Chilean beat combos not nearly enough and debate to the death which band with multiple bassists was numero uno in their class – Monaco? No. Ten Benson? Maybe – with the outcome that you…

…miss the ones who would have won that argument. However, you do calculate that if you buy one record on account of this weekend, it will be one or more by DESTRUCTION UNIT – wow. After them, and after Doors, Kyuss, Earth and Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster: the deluge. You’re tossed about – internally, anyway – like a ragdoll and lurch, somewhat changed, to…

…fall through hours and ale to land unexpectedly at J.C. SATAN’s French, proggy, mood-straddling feet. You raise a point of order with gig colleagues: is this a case of HOOKWORMS trying to be both Queen and Pavement at once and – good lord – pretty much getting there, and if so, is that a goer – yes, OK, good, carried. What about…

…YUNG and their trebly, stoner take on Nirvana and Hawkwind beamed forward – then back; these guys are young, sorry, yung – to before those bands even formed? It’s a stonking tone they take there, just as…

…you see a taxi.

PZYK 2015 Image 3

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”

Aldous Huxley

“You’re either on the bus or off it.”

Ken Kesey

One germ of an idea, in the shape of severely punctuated samples, repeated ad infinitum, seems to be for ever fruitful for GIANT SWAN. Beats + these clipped cries of machinery + hairy guy = a spectrum of moods on the factory floor, and even FACTORY FLOOR can’t say that. Memory hurries back to…

…the multimedia mélange of HUMAN SOUP, the print, light and sound clash, which you dip in and out of for the umpteenth time. You’re a pawn here, you don’t understand the instructions; part of you wants evocative, stylised garage/stoner rock and you’re not quite yourself in a transition on a tonal journey that challenges you to…

…take the brown ale. The brown ale is not bad.

EVIL BLIZZARD have four bassists and the blurb mentioned drone and prog and PiL and acid-drenched. Band of the weekend, surely? But you’re not there. That’s it.

…discover something instantly familiar: the reassuring fact that (O Lord) J Spaceman Is Floating In Interior Space (Babe) (On Fire), with all of the healing properties and dosage instructions that entails. The Most Reverend Mr Spaceman does his tried and trusted thing, but the extra measure of wonder in the faux-smoky air is a matter of scale. Compressing something as huge and expansive and heralded as SPIRITUALIZED into this room, or this headspace, well, it’s giving the thorium a run for its money and is a major feather in this still-compact festival’s cap. How to top that? Just jump backwards in time to…

…remind yourself that not only are you observing at close quarters the walking exhibit that is Anton Newcombe, hanging out at the bars and bogs like the rest of us, and finding him to be more than approachable for selfies and repartee, but also he and TESS PARKS tick the desired boxes with a thrillingly trilling and trebly set. The throng have their wardrobe decisions – hell, their life choices over a number of years – vindicated instantly. Two guys behind purr about Fender Coronados. Not for the only time during the weekend, a vision and a character other arenas have struggled to contain or satisfy are contained comfortably. Maybe the event’s rep and niche form a black hole for the fame, units and other bullshit. Maybe it’s the sort of do that these acts would have crawled on hands and knees to play at, given the option, rather than stomach the Carling whatever. And on that note, do…

…accept that the more indulgent among you may have clocked that you’re currently rattling around a textual facsimile of a THORIUM-232 experience. Just stay with it, will you, and swim where the words flow to, where they fit, because we’re stuck in this paragraph together as much as in the landscape of the headsets this exhibit requires, and if we quit on it then we’ll never truly get out. Thorium sounds, phonetically, like one of those unsexy, under-explored elements high up in the periodic table, which it seems it is; or a gland that only this Anton Newcombe-co-credited immersive work, or maybe Prince bent double, can reach; or a painkiller or cleaning agent sucking you into what isn’t known as the T-hole, which figuratively it kind-of is; or a chemical warfare ingredient, which, to the extent that it utterly obliterates everything external, it could be. THORIUM-232’s scene-setting, space-measuring and interference-overriding soundscreen is what locks you into its virtual reality wanderings, overloading all other senses out of commission while the visual dimension monopolises retinas and annihilates egos. But the disembodied techno-tropical THORUM-232 headspace is solely yours – or, who knows, vice versa, because once inside it it’s all you’ll know. Zoom forward and back, sweep across and behind, somersault over your mind’s eye or dive into PZYK oblivion, flip this paper over, and…

 

 

Head to liverpoolpsychfest.com to see a full photo gallery and round-up video from this year’s festival.

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