This year I have teamed up with Adam Harmsworth of Psychedelic Drone Rock to bring you twenty albums that have really inspired us in 2014. After last year’s glut of fantastic new albums we really wondered whether 2014 could deliver more great music. We need not have worried because, if anything, this year has seen an even greater raft of superb releases and, realistically, we could have pointed to forty or fifty psych/ related albums that had much to recommend them.

It was a difficult job just to choose these 20, and it would have been almost impossible to place them in any sort of ranking, so they appear in a fairly random order, with a list first so you do not have to scroll down the page to see if your favourite is there (although we hope that you will have time to look at them all).

So, without further ado here is this years list:

Second Bardo by Cult of Dom Keller (Cardinal Fuzz)
Forest Of Lost Children by Kikagaku Moyo (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)
Sky Is Hell Black by Has A Shadow (Captcha Records)
Outside The Circle by Anthroprophh (Rocket Recordings)
Asteroid #4 by Asteroid #4 (Bad Vibrations)
Away From The Water by Lola Colt (Fuzz Club)
Season Sun by Gulp (Sonic Cathedral)
Mammatus Clouds by Kikagaku Moyo (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha Records)
The Hum by Hookworms (Weird World)
Transmissions From Planet Telos Vol. 3 by Lumerians (Cardinal Fuzz)
Commune by Goat (Rocket Recordings)
Guru Overload by Eternal Tapestry (Oaken Palace Records)
No Curtains by Dahga Bloom (Captcha Records)
High Evolutionary by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz)
Strange Wave Galore by Radar Men From The Moon (Fuzz Club)
Ostro by Lay Llamas (Rocket Recordings)
They Worshipped Cats by Les Big Byrd (A Records)
Thru Me Again by LA Hell Gang (Mexican Summer)
Come Down Safari by White Manna (Captcha Records)
Far Out by Black Bombaim (Cardinal Fuzz)

Second Bardo by Cult of Dom Keller (Cardinal Fuzz)

Cult of Dom Keller has retained many of the tropes that made the first album so successful in my eyes, but has developed its music. The band sound more confident and have channelled that into a tighter set without losing the essential chaos in their music. So the elements are still all there, the mysterious nature of the vocals – imagine Ian Curtis shouting through a megaphone; the heavy (really heavy) fuzzy guitar; the swirling organ weaving its way through the songs and coming up for air every so often; and the deep bass which really pounds from the speakers as the needle digs into the vinyl. (SD)

Forest Of Lost Children by Kikagaku Moyo (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

Kikagaku’s third album (and second of 2014: they both make this list) contains some more obvious song structures than their previous offering, Mammatus Clouds. The sitar is still there as well as the jamming, the drone and the freak outs but its more condensed with the vocals more pronounced and dominant. Thats not a criticism by the way….oh, no. This is Kikagaku at the top of the game. A real contender for album of the year. And live, these new songs sound even better. (AH)

Sky Is Hell Black by Has A Shadow (Captcha Records)

This is a great psychedelic album from Mexican trio Has A Shadow, particularly if you like your trips to be veiled and spacey. It is not a trip round the cosmos, but rather around the inner self; and after listening to it if you do feel like popping your head up for light and air, you’ll soon be taking a deep breathe and getting back in there for more. In short, it is not the sort of music that you can listen to and think of grand vista and distant horizons. Rather you get the feeling of being boxed in, perhaps in a dark foggy hollow, with people of like-minded persuasion plotting nothing in particular. (SD)

Outside The Circle by Anthroprophh (Rocket Recordings)

Rather unsurprisingly, seeing as this album is a meeting of the “minds” of ex-Heads guitarist Paul “Rock Prophh” Allen and a rhythm section comprising Gareth & Jesse of Big Naturals, this is one hell of a slab of very, very heavy psych! And it is loud. My God is it loud! Although, in fairness and thankfully, it never (quite) reaches the almost unbearable loudness when I witnessed them play at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest. The album may have its fair share of sledgehammer, brutal, gut-wrenching moments of guitar insanity (what the fuck were you expecting?!) but there are also moments of humour and I’m sure I even detected a tune along the way too. It also has one of the greatest track titles ever… “Detatched And In It’s Own Mind Riding A Ghost Train Through A Fairground It Had Built Itself”. If that doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know what will. (AH)

Asteroid #4 by Asteroid #4 (Bad Vibrations)

This is an album of great contrasts it is one that I can listen to again and again, perhaps because it is so eclectic; but more likely that it pulls off the great feat of being very varied without having a duff track on it. Several tracks (Rukma Vimana, Back of Your Mind, and Revolution Prevail) sound an awful lot like Hawkwind in their full-blown space rock pomp but, in my view, better. Elsewhere the album is more mellow providing a fine blend of psychedelia, folk and Indian-influenced music. (SD)

 

Away From The Water by Lola Colt (Fuzz Club)

This is an album which has a lot of different ingredients which meld together beautifully to create a very distinct sound. Add to this a production that, for me, gives the right balance of raw fuzzy power and smooth harmonies and you get a set whose expansive vision is redolent with big skies, huge expanses of desert and endless vistas, It’s an album that gives you room to breath. Yet it is also a album that is intense and claustrophobic, causing the listener to pause and think. It encourages a psychedelic inner journey and yet pulls you towards the horizon, and I find that to be a very potent mixture. (SD)

Season Sun by Gulp (Sonic Cathedral)

Though as far removed from the nosier end of the psych spectrum as one can imagine, this wonderful, dreamy, psych-pop album most certainly belongs on this year’s best of list. With vocals to die for and tunes that you cant stop humming it is a spaced-out thing of beauty. Formed by Guto Pryce of SFA fame (proving that its not just Gruff Rhys with all the talent!) and his partner, Lindsey Levan, this album is the soundtrack of the summer and beyond and an ethereal masterclass. Closing track and single “I Want To Dance”  has to go down as one of the catchiest songs of the year. Who says Psych has to always crank it up to 11?! (AH)

Mammatus Clouds by Kikagaku Moyo (Cardinal Fuzz) 

The Cardinal doesn’t often get it wrong but this is probably one of his greatest finds yet. Japan’s Kikagaku Moyo show a musical maturity well above their years and offer us a lesson in subtle, slow-burning drone. Side A is the monumental track “Pond”….all 27 minutes and 50 seconds of it! And, you know what, it could go on twice as long and I still couldn’t get enough of it! It eases you in with gentle textures and waves of beautiful sitar before building into a pounding animal of a song….simply awesome. Side B starts with the slightly shorter (at 17 minutes) “Never Know” which moves the sitar more to centre stage and is mellow bliss personified. Then out of nowhere comes the final track, “There Is No Other Place” which hits you out of nowhere. A three minute psych punk song. Well, I for one, wasn’t expecting that after the other two tracks on the album. Great ending to a superb album cementing Kikagaku Moyo’s place as find of the year. (AH)

 

The Hum by Hookworms (Weird World)

When Pearl Mystic (Hookworms debut album) came out, those of us who reviewed it were very keen to pigeonhole the bands and compare them to various other acts, most notably Hawkwind (I went for The Fall, The Doors and T-Rex). This time round I feel no such compulsion. This sounds like a Hookworms record from the outset. From the electronic pulse of the opener ‘Impasse’ breaking in to a full on Hookworms style assault on the ears, you are left in no doubt that who this album is by. It’s exciting, visceral and takes no prisoners as it segues into ‘On Leaving’ which already begins to give a clue that this album is going to be more nuanced than ‘Pearl Mystic’ and, with MJ’s vocals much higher in the mix, a more confident assertion of what the band stand for. The Hum is an altogether more powerful statement of Hookworms potency. (SD)

Transmissions From Planet Telos Vol. iii by Lumerians (Cardinal Fuzz)

This albums represents a great return to form for a band who seem to have been around forever and have developed an impressive back catalogue. In many ways Telos iii represents a return to the kosmische Krautrock mutterschiff with its epic space journeys and introspective allusions. This is one of those albums that takes to both without and within, leaving you covered with space dusk and the imprints of the therapist’s couch: once you’ve heard it you will never be the same again! (SD)

Commune by Goat (Rocket Recordings)

Following, almost to the letter, the saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Goat return with Commune, their sophomore LP on Rocket. Yep, its more or less “World Music” part II, but when the music is this good, who cares! Sharing the qualities of their debut with thumping, hypnotic rhythms, squalls of guitar and trance-like vocals, Commune is an album that makes you want to dance and thats not a bad thing, is it? (AH)

Guru Overload by Eternal Tapestry (Oaken Palace Records)

Guru Overload finds Eternal Tapestry at their wooziest best with guitar noodling aplenty and pure, full-on jamming to the fore. On vinyl, side A is taken up by just two songs and they seem to go nowhere and everywhere at the same time leading the listener into a trance like groove. The music is pretty special and obscure and so are the song titles; “Trout Fishing On The Street of Eternity”, “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water”….yeah man! (AH)

 

No Curtains by Dahga Bloom (Captcha Records)

Although technically this was actually released on cassette in December last year, this album didn’t really come to prominence until Captcha released it on vinyl and CD earlier this year. And what a beast of an album it is; it certainly hits the spot….and hits in hard. The whole album is so heavy, caked in fuzz and reverb, and the pace is frenetic. Guitar riffs merge with distorted vocals and a fearsome beat that never seems to pause for breath. This is an album that comes at you at full pelt and doesn’t let up! (AH)

High Evolutionary by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz)

Considering just how out there and dramatic the Dead Sea Apes music is, the band seem to operate under the radar somewhat. They seem rather understated in their approach putting out a series of albums that, to borrow something from the title of this one, have seen them evolve into a band who are at the forefront of their genre. In a sense there is nothing wrong with that, and there has certainly been plenty interest in this release; which seems to be exiting from the Cardinal’s hill-top Cathedral at quite a rate. Not surprising really given the outstanding music on this record which really does deserve a wider audience. (SD)

Strange Wave Galore by Radar Men From The Moon (Fuzz Club)

Strange Wave Galore is like a journey; it is a coherent piece of work that works best if listened to as a full album. I find it at different times strange, thrilling, and thoughtful. The opener, Surrealistic Appearance begins on a low hum, which is gradually subsumed by first a very mechanical hammer sound, early-Cure guitar, and a throbbing baseline while the rest of the track builds up to a great crescendo of reverb taking you on a space-rock journey into the imagination, The second track, Reverie, is much more abstract with lots of spacey organ and weightless clicks and bips, very Can. It is like an interlude before track 3, the amazing title track and, for me, centre-piece of the album, kicks in. The Neu! thrusters have well and truly been fired and we are off into deep space with its huge fuzzy sound…quite breathtaking. (SD)

Ostro by Lay Llamas (Rocket Recordings)

Ostro was not an album that I immediately took to, in fact I wrote it off the first time I heard it. Had I let it lie I would have missed out on some real quality listening time, because it is only after a few listens that the qualities of this complex and layered album really come through. It is an album than challenges, but rewards those who take this up with mélange of textures and nuances that combine to form something special. This then, is not one of those psych albums that you drift off to – but one that demands your attention throughout. Drift off and you miss something. (SD)

They Worshipped Cats by Les Big Byrd (A Records)

Overall this is an album that feels like it has its roots in the 80s with all of the things that dates so much of 80s music these days stripped out. Then add in a healthy dose of Spiritualized, and you begin to get the idea. It is more electronica than guitar-based rock, more Krautrock than space-rock, more realistic than abstract, and more groovy than dissonant. In short it is a great psych album which I look forward to dancing to again and again. Finally, a word on the cover; which is a brilliant picture of a Jesus figure destroying 50s spaceships with laser beams coming out of his eyes. What a fantastic image intimating that Les Big Byrd have come to save us: Hallelujah to that

Thru Me Again by LA Hell Gang (Mexican Summer)

So, is there something in the water in Chile that has led to a rich vein of great Psych music or what?… L.A. Hell Gang are in great company with compatriots, Follakzoid and The Holydrug Couple. This album has hints of a heavier sounding Verve about it, with some meandering guitar freak outs and vocals of a shamanic nature. The rhythms are what really get you though, you just feel you cant help yourself nod along as the music carries you away. (AH)

Come Down Safari by White Manna (Captcha Records)

For those looking for vinyl that looks AND sounds amazing then this offering from San Fran’s White Manna certainly ticks both boxes. A stunning picture disc with artwork by the legendary Alan Forbes, Come Down Safari finds White Manna veering slightly away from the rockier efforts from previous release, Dune Worship, and their self-titled debut to concentrate on more drawn out, instrumental jams and head-nodders. The slow build up of the first track, Deathless Guru, sets the pace and the album meanders on rather nicely from there. (AH)

Far Out by Black Bombaim (Cardinal Fuzz)

It may be an album with just two tracks, but a) they are both f*cking great and, b), they’re both in excess of 15 minutes long! These Portuguese psych rockers can belt it out with the best of them. Both tracks build and build, with some gut-wrenching guitar solos and even some sax freak-outs on the A-side, Africa II. More guitar virtuosity awaits on Arabia on the flip side reinforcing the fact that this album really isn’t for those with an aversion to guitar whig-outs. (AH)

 

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