Psychedelic is undoubtedly my favourite sound. I’ve spent many an hour getting high with my friends, listening to some class psychedelic music but what exactly is psychedelic music?
I mean, for most people it probably conjures up images of the sixties, hippies, counterculture and whatnot however psychedelic sounds have certainly existed before and after the sixties. For instance, in Western classical music composers like Debussy used octatonic scales and modes to achieve new and interesting sounds, and the whole tone scale to create dream-like sounds. L’Apres Midi D’un Faune is riddled with a variety of musical techniques and magical orchestration to conjure an ethereal quality.
It is thought that Berlioz may have wrote Symphonie Fantastique whilst high on opium. There’s no telling whether this considering the symphony is basically an artist in despair who overdoses on opium, dreams he kills his beloved, witnesses his own execution, then ends up at a witch’s sabbath witnessing his own death. I mean, if that doesn’t sound like a drug-induced trip, I’m not sure what does.
Later on, you have genres like trance, techno, and alternative/indie rock which came to prominence and also sometimes featured psychedelic sounds or themes to them. A modern invention of the alternative genre is ‘shoe gaze’ which often evokes psychedelic and dream-like sounds.
With this in mind it is not quite as easy to shoehorn the ‘psychedelic sound’ into one mould. In fact, when you’re high most music will sound more interesting and psychedelic. If you’ve ever done Acid you’ll know what effect the drug has on your hearing and senses.
That being said, psychedelic music can usually be defined as music inspired by drugs and hallucinations, or intended to represent the feeling of being high or in a trance. Sometimes there are explicit drug references and sometimes drugs are completely irrelevant to the song.
I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favourites of the psychedelic genre. My own comprehensive list of historical psychedelia