A blur, of sounds and sights and smells and memories. That’s all that is left of LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PSYCHEDELIA, along with a dull echo of experience in our adrenalin-scorched veins. It was an utter blast, that took in music brewed in Tokyo, Gdansk, Guadalajara, San Francisco, Copenhagen and many more boltholes in between. The PZYK Congregation poured their minds into the virtual reality environments and live spaces, leaving indelible marks on the scuffed surfaces of Camp and Furnace, Blade Factory and District as they grooved, swayed and were swamped by the force of the music that this broad church of a movement spewed forth. It was a pure hit, which words and images only go some way to describing; it’s something that has to be experienced.
Three of our intrepid explorers have attempted to assemble their memories from the weekend here – across words and images – to try and recreate a sense of what that PZYK experience actually was. In essence there are a million different ways to navigate this festival – here are some of those truths.
by Matt Hogarth
“To fall in hell, or soar angelic, you need a pinch of the psychedelic.” So said the psychiatrist who coined the term, Humphrey Osmond, way back in 1965. In search of an expansion of meaning, sensation and experience, I find myself in the belly of the multifaceted beast that is Liverpool Psych Fest: the port for which many a sonic explorer from around the world is to dock this weekend. With worldly stories from euphoria to lament, what unites the artists found within this small corner of Liverpool is a mission to explore sound itself, to push melody and thinking to limits previously untouched. The music that infiltrates the crumbling red bricks of these expansive warehouses is set to refresh and rejuvenate the scarred ghosts of industry and bring new life to these walls.
Having once been the home of many exotic goods, it seems quite fitting that the former warehouse spaces of Camp and Furnace find themselves home to a GURUGURU BRAIN showcase on the opening day. Curating a sample of the – largely – hidden delights of Asia’s most far-out sounds, the Tokyo-based label excel in the sounds of mind expansion, and this Western audience is lucky enough to witness the phenomenal PRARIE WWWW lay down the first examples. The striking streaks of white which adorn almost every stretch of naked skin dance in the shimmers of light, which flare amidst the brooding darkness. Their tribal aesthetic seems fittingly matched to the music found within them. The hypnotic drum rhythms are what hold the performance together, as guitars wane at a bow’s touch and synths abstractly transpire with the occasional addition of some ritualistic chants.
From Japan to Denmark we cover a 5500-kilometre plane journey in a matter of metres to sample the delights of Copenhagen’s finest, THE LOVE COFFIN. Having fomented in arguably the best post-punk scene in the world, it’s easy to see how this fits into the overall ‘psych’ (or ‘PZYK’?) aesthetic when the five-piece take to the stage. Their nonchalant swagger is a beam that concentrates this band’s appeal, their slurred vocals complementing the slightly off-kilter rings of jangling guitar.
Having stumbled upon yet more worldly psychedelic delights, I push forward through the lysergic adventure to find the West Coast foursome COOL GHOULS. The hazy, blurred-out images that play up on the screens behind them prove a welcoming accompaniment to the rose-tinted, nostalgic rock of the group, who groove through wistful 60s pop nuggets complete with strong basslines and eerily ghostly harmonies
Transitioning between the gentle, the noisy and the melodic is made easier by the bustling outdoor area where the festival’s pilgrims congregate to catch their breath between acts, sharing stories that transcend any and all linguistic barriers. Such a stop allows me to ease nicely into SUPER FURRY ANIMALS’ headline set. With a career which has spanned over 20 years it’s not hard to see why the room is packed to capacity, with those in situ hopeful of catching some of the enigmatic charm of the group. Dressed in the white boiler suits with which they’ve become synonymous, the group spin a tapestry of songs which flaunts the diversity and intricacy of their back catalogue. Despite criticism that “the band aren’t psych”, Super Furries set about smashing that statement to pieces with a mind-bending set of radiant pop, trance-inducing electronica and, of course, Power Ranger masks.
There’s no easing into Saturday, as I head down early to catch perhaps one of the most fitting bookings this year. YE NUNS are a tribute to the infamously anti-Beatles 60s garage rockers The Monks, yet they’re far more than a tribute act. It seems the perfect two fingers to the crowds of lazy music journalists who fail to see past Liverpool’s biggest band. It doesn’t take long for the habit-wearing ensemble to tear the place down by bringing their own twist to I Hate You, Monk Time and Complication, all equipped with the characteristic screams and manic organ stabs that made the group a cult classic.
Having grabbed a pint of Guruguru Brain IPA I head off to melt into the fabulous ULRIKA SPACEK. Perhaps one of the most exciting bands to break through this year, their place on the bill proves the festival’s ability to pick the freshest talent and place them in front of an audience 10 times bigger than any they’ve played before. The pedal-driven sounds of the group send the audience into a state of catatonia, occasionally displacing them with the likes of the visceral She’s A Cult. With a blend of shoegaze, noise rock and a touch of classic psychedelia, the group prove one of the most popular of the day.
The metamorphosis from the primal raw punk of their first album into the more delicate gothic post punk of Ullages throws up an intriguing other face to EAGULLS. What remains ever present in their live performance, however, is the brooding intensity of frontman George Mitchell, who sways to and through to the ominous drum beats as he dances through the sound which feels much bigger than the four who stand on stage.
Perhaps one of the most hyped appearances of the night comes in the form of the synthesised glam rock of THE MOONLANDINGZ, fronted by the Buckfast-fuelled space nonce Johnny Rocket, the alter ego of Lias Sauodi of Fat White Family. With a lipstick-smeared face and a mane of wild black hair, Rocket terrorises the front row with a series of grotesque grimaces and animalistic screams as his trusty band plough through their sordid electro pop. It’s only as we mellow into the animated chatter as people come down off the back of THE HORRORS’s clubby, subby set, that we have time to reflect on a festival unafraid to book the most obscure of bands without the snobbery of straying into the mainstream every once and a while. I’m utterly exhausted by the ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
by Tom Bell
This is your headset; fit to eyes and ears, and zoom. To self-generating brickwork, past stalls peddling credits for energy units, and avatars of clipart of Golden State and Old Grey Whistle Test. Past preambles/debriefs, past halloumi chips, meat fetishists. Up a staircase, crab across and into a walk-in lava lamp, then back to the throng. Is what’s behind you always there, or only when you turn around? What really frames your field of vision? Is a festival constant, or a moving cluster of auto-deleting vistas? If this paragraph was bollocks, can you prove it?
Here’s some more bollocks. You’re in Blade Factory, absolutely caning it to VAYA FUTURO, who are like ngkldj nmll;dsg; ngkldj nmll;dsg; ngkldj nmll;dsg; ngkldj nmll;dsg; then like ngkldjjjjjh nmll;g ngkldjjjjjh nmll;g ngkldjjjjjh nmll;g – so transcendent, you’re right on it, you’re purring knowledgeably. Turns out they were just fixing something. Retreat in disgrace into 10 000 RUSSOS, who may have ingested copious Moon Duo and Fall, the repercussions of which – a sense of their bodies rejecting it – a rammed District gulps down. If those acts daze you with dots, IN ZAIRE – four guitar-y fellas but somehow more like rust, magnified – are the optical dragon that eventually charges out. In another room, a Jamiroquai-like visage reveals who’s behind a popular parody account in a made-up micro-realm; someone else here worked in a warehouse with Coventry City’s Dave Bennett; next thing, there’s a warhead growing out of your stomach. The virtual reality zone supplies one of those clauses, but we supposedly leave the VR and that’s Steve Davis over there (DJ Thundermuscle to his new friends), stunning and screwing through squelchy electro, snookering you tonight.
In the PZYK PRYZM, the mirror-masked BONNACONS OF DOOM are like Magpahi fronting Chrome Hoof. Where some bands give both barrels then regather, BoD only escalate, and you know that idea that you can fold a piece of paper seven times – BoD keep doubling til they decide to stop. It’s their reality. Ditto, in a low-end fog that never clears, THE HORRORS – I think – and what tonight are magic-eye silhouette songs. We can trace these from muscle memory, only the whole isn’t there. Joshua Hayward, in particular, is out of earshot, yet this is a man who talks about striving for a loss of sonic focus, who solders his own pedals, so let’s trust in it. Psych shouldn’t fit accommodatingly into the known, any more than amount to Californication and Technicolor.
I’m convinced this lot never nail A Sea Within A Sea. That outro – that all-important outro – according to the record should twitch and jerk and lunge. Live, it always marches. I consult boozy pals and can’t get the theory across. But with them, as with VR, or reality, you’re doomed if you complete; the sense of accomplishment falls off a cliff. It’s a sea within a sea you have to keep believing in vain can be glimpsed. “I know it will,” booms Faris Badwan. “I know it will…”
Forward, to confirm that’s a very well-known character from another made-up sphere, sport, psyching away unnoticed; my lips are sealed. And drag back, and rotate under shapes that, whatever your tonic (mac ’n’ cheese), are of another realm. The PZYK COLONY AV realm, and you’ll have to jump between streams here:
“CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER. Warm synths bubble,
my wingman, Stevo, is at the controls cos
analogue hypnosis, beats are crisp. Enervating.
I’m getting rapid eye movement, deafening ticking,
Electronic, not digital. Sharp like a dance thing…
spinning 360s of rows and rows of drelbs.
Thanks Stevo – I’m birthed back, waxing about glorious hours of prog-static that never occurred, or so they say. It’s semi-apocryphal, as it should be; it dithers into low-res Greenland Street; a thumbnail captures a car; I must’ve pressed ‘sleep’ or ‘shut down’, I must’ve run out of tokens. I remember nothing.