Bonnacons Of Doom’s PZYK 2015 Guide
If, like us, you’ve been following the shifting sands of alternative music over the past half-decade, one thing you’re sure to have noticed is the emergence of ‘psych’, both as a genre that’s moving ever more mainstream, and as a tag applied to even the most mildly otherworldly of artists. Add in the rabid popularity of acts like Tame Impala and the proliferation of psych-dedicated events – in lieu of the vast successes of Austin Psych Fest’s Levitation – and you’ll notice how wider public opinion has transposed towards the cosmic.
LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PSYCHEDELIA’s aim is to stay ahead of that curve, developing its own iteration of the form in PZYK by melding heavy, droney elements of classic stoner psychedelia with the harsher electronic edges of transcendental raving – but still managing to have room for space and garage rock missives neatly bundled in the mix. It’s a form that owes more to the influence of Butthole Surfers, Spacemen 3 and The Brian Jonestown Massacre than the whimsical paisley psych of Swinging 60s-era London or Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon collective. Liverpool has always been a transcendental place, in its own weirdo, outsider way, which makes it a natural fit for an event like this, which shines a light in to the murkier corners of a resurgent psychedelic sub-culture.
Liverpool Psych Fest’s signature artists BONNACONS (of DOOM, JOY or LIGHT, depending on the situation) are something of an in-house PZYK noise-collective; a shady band of audio pioneers – made up of members of HIVE Collective – who spin a spiritually inflected web of dense, shadowy psych. Having played at each edition of the festival since 2013, the quintet performed a one-off composition of otherworldly, celestial drone titled PZYKSONG with the choir of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral for LightNight in 2014, and performed a mesmeric set at partner PZYK event Eindhoven Psych Lab this year, where they opened with some test tube-based audio experimentation.
With this in mind, we asked Bonnacons to pick out some highlights from this year’s festival line-up; a bill that’s packed with a stunning assortment of mind-altering acts (including Blanck Mass, Black Devil Disco Club, Death And Vanilla and headliners Spiritualized) squirrelled away amid label curations (Sacred Bones v BYM Records, Cardinal Fuzz and Finders Keepers), a Musings In Drone spoken-word programme, visual and audio installations, a PZYK Cinema and screen-print workshop, and a Piccadilly Records pop-up record store. There was an awful lot to sift through, and here are the nuggets they found…
+ THE HEADS
THE HEADS are just a total lesson in persistence in doing something really good for a long time. Formed in Bristol in 1990, they were ahead of the curve but out of step for that particular moment. Their blend of Loop/Spacemen 3 repetition and Stooges style psych/biker/garage rock was initially largely ignored, but in the intervening years they grew into one of the most respected UK bands with fans from Jello Biafra to legendary artist Frank Kozik. Since setbacks such as getting into a spat with Talking Heads over their name and nearly imploding during a US tour in the early 2000s, there’s been sporadic live activity but a constant stream of material, with fans paying top dollar for limited CDs or vinyl releases. Forward to 2015 and they’re on top form. The Heads absolutely killed the Roadburn festival this year, so their Psych Fest set should be a rare treat.
A welcome return for Yorkshire’s finest, whose 2013 Psych Fest set was a standout of the weekend. Since emerging from the fertile Leeds DIY scene, they’ve made a series of inventively catchy and effervescent records combining motorik grooves and sonic experimentation with a total punk rock sensibility. However, it’s in the live arena that the band really come into their own. A restless ball of energy, explosively powerful and relentlessly deafening, Hookworms are an intensely physical and joyful live experience. They’re a band who deserve every word of praise that’s been written about them in the past couple of years.
It seems bizarre that it’s taken this long for the festival to pick up on this amazing band. Two parts heavy-as-shit, fuzzed-out hypnotic guitar mantras, one part rolling drum reverbs, one part sonic operator. Think Sabbath slowly fed into you via a morphine drip, Moondog heard through the wall, the Beatles playing inside an underwater bunker. No beards, no paisley, no pointy shoes – no need. The best non-pysch psych band you will ever hear.
+ FACTORY FLOOR
Trust the DJ, that’s our motto. So when JD Twitch told us to check out FACTORY FLOOR, we did. What we found was a melting pot of our favourite electronic music styles – house, techno and industrial sounds converge into a unique hypnotic sound, taking you to transcendental heights. On record they pummel, live they soar. Trance music if you will: not that mid-90s pap, but pure psych. Or PZYK. This is music for sweaty, smoke-filled, strobe-blinding dancefloors. A belter of a booking.
+ CARLTON MELTON
Equally trance-inducing but in a totally different way to Factory Floor, San Francisco’s CARLTON MELTON are the kings of acid-fried, tripped-out drone rock. They’ve got the capacity to take you to another planet, probably one that hasn’t even been discovered yet. They’re masters of minimalist layering, building from serene droning notes, through abstract space krautrock grooves into primitive out-there trippy psych-rock freakouts. Don’t miss out on this – Carlton Melton are one of our favourite live bands of all time.