Various Artists: The Rough Guide To A World of Psychedelia

I’d wager that anyone with even the slightest interest in unusual music would have a soft spot for psychedelic rock. From the dark whimsy of The Beatles and early Pink Floyd to the freaked-out weirdness of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart; from the country-fried trips of The Byrds and the outer space explorations of Hawkwind to the melancholy strangeness of The Flaming Lips and the transcendWOPental intensity of Animal Collective; from the acid drenched blues-rock of Cream and Jimi Hendrix to the sheer grunt of Free and Led Zeppelin; from the roots-based jams of The Grateful Dead and The United States of America to the fuzz-rock funk of Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone; from the mish-mash of genres practised by our own King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard to the krautrock of Can; from the garage-influenced grooves of Grand Funk Railroad to the punk-inspired insanity of The Butthole Surfers and the stoner-esque rock of Dead Meadow and Endless Boogie; psychedelic rock covers so much ground and stretches itself so wide that it might best be described as an aesthetic rather than a genre.

However, there is something that the above bands and artists have in common: they all hail from Western countries, and the music they make almost always betrays the influence of Western musical styles. There is some good news, though – if you love psychedelic rock and its varied offshoots and yet have been hankering for something outside these Westerns forms, then World Music Network’s The Rough Guide to a World of Psychedelia will open your eyes and blow in your mind in equal measure.

This compilation, featuring 17 different non-Western artists and bands from almost as many countries, is the perfect introduction to global psychedelic rock. Some of the songs are almost like mutant versions of the style born in the West: the particular artists and bands operating this way feature a standard line-up of guitars, bass, drums and vocals, with the songs built upon a foundation of blues-rock. However, the overall effect is incredibly different, as the music they produce is typically filtered through a non-Western approach to rhythm, form and melody, with the vocals more often than not sung in the artists’ native language rather than English.

On the other hand, some of the songs are truly hybridised, the artists and bands in this case combining instruments native to their specific homelands with traditional Western instruments: think sitars and fuzz guitars; pan-pipes and flutes; tablas and drumkits; thumb-pianos and electric keyboards; timbales, claves and congas and cowbells, chimes and shakers. Songs of this style are the true gems, acting as a musical reflection of our multicultural, globalised and interconnected world. In the end, words can’t really describe the richness, weirdness and inspirational difference of The Rough Guide to a World of Psychedelia. You just need to get yourself a copy, turn it up loud, and lose yourself in its magic. You won’t regret it…

(Originally published on Cyclic Defrost, 10/5/2016)


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