5 Fiercely Psychedelic Songs (Not 60s)

This article was originally published on Spotlight on psychedelics and appears here with permission.

Here are five deliciously trippy songs to add to your next psychedelic playlist before you embark on a journey of ego death.

Mention the label “psychedelic” in reference to defining a musical genre, and several revered artists may come to mind: Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, The Chambers Brothers, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

The artists’ respective works on this short list alone certainly take the top spot when citing works that were either influenced by the psychedelic experiences of their creators, or inspired and accompanied the psychedelic experiences of legions of fans, leaning towards the deepest possible experience of music. Obviously, all of the aforementioned artists hail from an era that was arguably the most publicly psychedelic decade in American history, the 1960s.

Music continued to evolve over the following decades, as did our understanding and use of the psychedelic experience, whether through a formal plant medicine ceremony, holotropic breathwork, or a microdose. Subjective as a musical motif, it can now be heard incorporated into a wide variety of genres and within the confines of song.

The following entries may not immediately come to mind for most people when considering the psychedelic label as it applies to sound compositions, but to my ear, each of these melodies evokes aspects of the psychedelic experience. From transcendent and sublime to disorienting and cacophonous, I think the shoe fits the bill.

Whether they’re accompanying your next trip or simply inspiring deeper listening, here are five fiercely psychedelic songs that aren’t from the ’60s.

‘TWO SAILS ON ONE SOUND‘ by Animal Collective, from the album ‘Ark’ (2003)

Admittedly, when I first heard Animal Collective, my immediate reaction was to bristle at the self-assured snobbery of the art school kids, too cool or jaded to be my friends, who were bound to end up in AnimalCollective. Seeing them in concert was an undeniably ecstatic experience, however, and their experimental nature persisted through more than two decades of genuine productivity. The underlying suave tones of the piano on “Two Sails” are the anchor of the spirit of this piece, the shamanic icaro, drawn in sound and light which serve to stabilize the traveler as a base frequency in the midst of all other sensory experiences. I always think of Animal Collective’s music as an echo of the psychedelic realities that Brian Wilson was trying to express.

‘COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW’ by Lonnie Liston Smith, from the album ‘Visions of a New World’ (1975)

The softer side of the psychedelic, the pure manifestation of love and gratitude in music; something to close your eyes and imagine whatever comes to mind as good, healing and vital. “Colors” is an almost ambient piece of the 1975 jazz-funk masterpiece that, throughout, poses none of the challenges one would expect from a macro experience. That alone might be off-putting for those who need their music to be a bit more “toothy”, but if you want a soundtrack to enjoy the feel of grass underfoot or the feel of the sun on your skin , Do not look any further.

‘I AM THE CHOSEN’ by Annette Peacock, from the album ‘I’m The One’ (1972)

Many of us grew up with the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. While it might be useful for maintaining civility in third grade, half the fun of albums is the immersion in the cover art. And the cover of Peacock’s 1972 album is decidedly psychedelic. The album’s lead track itself is a prototypical jazz/rock fusion, spiky with a Moog electronic accent and oscillating between hallucinatory unease, upbeat restlessness and laid-back groove. We are talking about pioneers in the psychedelic space. Annette Peacock has always been a musical pioneer, in her own words, often creating works “20 to 40 years too soon”. The icing on the cake? She experienced transformative LSD therapy under the guidance of Dr. Timothy Leary in the early 1960s. Essential listening.

‘TANTRIC PORN’ by Bardo Pond, from the album ‘Amanita’ (1996)

By consensus, the purest psych-rock entry here. “Amanita” celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and received a special edition. Named after the mushroom with hallucinogenic properties, contemporary tropes of psychedelic rock are abundant here in the singsong vocals, scintillating guitar interplay that opens to chasms of distortion, and a locked groove that never deviates from its start. The notion of “jamming” is to exist in interaction with other musicians, in the present moment and the guitar is particularly suited to facilitate such interconnection. When asked how psychedelics had directly influenced their work during an interview with Psychedelic Baby Magazinethe group had this to say: “The thing with psychoactive substances is that they are connected to the ideas of play and play, they are the ticket to the playground and the discovery and the search for connections and vibrations and colors and sounds and truth.”

‘REMINDS YOU’ by Flying Lotus, from the album ‘Flamagra’ (2019)

To end on a short, sweet series of lush notes, check out the video for Flying Lotus’ “Remind U” and tell me if that doesn’t remind you of the trippy Monty Python animations that shook me as a kid. Lotus is the nickname of Los Angeles-based producer Steven Ellison, who continues to grace us with highly evocative music that creates a colorful space. Deep and distant sounds, organic and electronic, pulsate and permeate his cannon of six LPs and count. It is largely the difficult “label” Flying Lotus, which for this author represents one of the most psychedelic components of his work: an expansion that invites exploration and rewards with conscious integration.


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Grace D. Erickson