Following the overwhelming feedback from last year’s Psych Insight ‘Essential Psych‘ list, Adam Harmsworth of Drone Rock Records and myself have embarked on the mammoth task of getting a list together for 2015. Once again it has been hugely difficult to settle on a final 20 albums which are a reflection and representative of the amount of quality music that is available from small independent labels who are doing an amazing job getting some fantastic sounds out there.

For us it is a difficult balancing act because we really want to include every album that has grabbed us by the synapses this year, but also want the list to be meaningfully ‘essential’. This means that there are albums that we are absolutely gutted to leave out, hence the list of a few ‘nearly’ albums at the bottom of this page.

We hope that you enjoy exploring this list and manage to find something that you have not heard before, or maybe come back to something that passed you by when it first came out. As far as we are concerned any investment of time and money with any one of these albums will be well rewarded.

First up here is a list of the 20 albums we have chosen, in no particular order (it was hard enough choosing them, putting them in order would have been nigh on impossible), so that you don’t have to scroll all the way down to see if your favourite is there. Have fun with this list:

Minami Deutsch by Miami Deutsch (Cardinal Fuzz/ Guruguru Brain)

Neither Virtue Nor Anger by Sonic Jesus (Fuzz Club)

Arena Negra by The Myrrors (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

Horse Dance by Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation (Rocket Recordings)

Out To Sea by Carlton Melton (Agitated)

Spectral Domain by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sunrise Ocean Bender)

Jet Black Hallucinations by Blown Out (Golden Mantra)

III by Follakzoid (Sacred Bones)

I Declare Nothing by Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe (A Recordings)

Masters of the Molehill by The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha)

Highly Deadly Black Tarantula by Teeth of the Sea (Rocket Recordings)

Love Monster by Zone Six (Vinyl – Deep Distance/ CD – Sulatron Records)

10000 Russos by 10000 Russos (Fuzz Club)

Negative Feedback Resistor by Destruction Unit (Sacred Bones)

Theory of Mind by Electric Moon (Sulatron)

Infinity Machines by GNOD (Rocket Recordings)

Pan by White Manna (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha)

Frid by Hills (Rocket Recordings)

Subversive I by Radar Men From The Moon (Fuzz Club)

Live at Casazul by Black Bombaim (Lovers and Lollypops/ Cardinal Fuzz)

 

Minami Deutsch by Miami Deutsch (Cardinal Fuzz/ Guruguru Brain)

Japanese Krautrock anyone? Without being too reductive, Minami Deutsch are the lovechild of Kikagaku Moyo and Can, and if that doesn’t tempt you then I don’t know what will! Yet again Cardinal Fuzz manages to bring a previous unheard act into my life that at once seems very familiar. This record worships at the altar of motorik and is not ashamed to wear its influences (Neu!, Harmonia, the aforementioned Can) proudly on its sleeve yet isn’t burdened by these comparisons. There is a vibrant drive and newness to it all that overshadows as much as it draws on the past. Japanese Krautrock? Yes fucking please! (AH)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Neither Virtue Nor Anger by Sonic Jesus (Fuzz Club)

If there was a ‘packaging of the year’ prize it would, for me, certainly go to Sonic Jesus and Fuzz Club records with a beautifully crafted double gatefold sleeve, fronted by Mirco Marcacci’s amazing take of Bernini’s sculpture, ‘The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa’, and two amazing splatter discs of vinyl. This, however, had nothing to do with the band’s inclusion in this list, which goes entirely on aural merit. This is a double album of dark beauty and intensity which more than matches the expectation that the physical form creates. From beginning to end this is an sonic experience that fuses diverse musical and cultural ideas into a coherent and thoroughly satisfying whole. This is an album for the mind and the soul. (SD)

Arena Negra by Myrrors (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)

Flute Alert! Yes, there is flute on this record but don’t be scared…embrace it, because this is music that certainly embraces the listener. This is a psych record that caresses and soothes with songs that drift, and seem to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It comes as no surprise that the band are natives of Arizona and the whole record has a shamanistic like quality, almost like it is guiding you through an outer-body experience above the desert. Tracks build and build into crescendos of perfect noise and yet it is the quieter, more ambient phases of the songs that seem to speak loudest. There is a stillness about the album, nothing is hurried and last track “The Forward Path” is the epitome of this, clocking in at nearly 21 mins. This is music to lay back and get lost in, to dream, to reflect, but, more than anything, to just enjoy. (AH)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Horse Dance by Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation (Rocket Recordings)

As you can see from this list, the vast majority music that we listen to is, for want of a better word, dirty. It usually has lots of fuzzed up guitar and other effects: sonics that are foggy and dense. Every so often though a record comes along that is clean and clear that I just really take to my heart. Such a record has to be bloody good to drag me away from my fug-filled reverie because why would I want to move away from what I like and know I like.The latest in a very short line of albums to do this is the new release from Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation, yet another innovative ‘psych’ combo from Stockholm. While it is an album that most definitely has psychedelic leanings with its motorik beats and Canesque intensity in places, there is more than that going on here. This is also a pop album, and an album that is as cool as fuck. This is no manufactured X Factor shite, this is the real deal. ‘Horse Stories’ is an album that helps pull me out of my normal listening habits and allows me some perspective. It reminds me that there is more to ‘fuzz’, ‘drone’ and ‘psych’ while including elements of all three. It is an album of great beauty and positivity that deserves a far wider audience. (SD)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Out To Sea by Carlton Melton (Agitated)

I’ve been following Carlton Melton since their debut record “Pass It On” back in 2010. I’ve been lucky to have seen them live 5 times, 4 of those in my home town. To say I’m a huge fan of Carlton Melton is a massive understatement. So imagine my delight upon hearing the news that their latest album (their 5th album proper if not including live albums and split releases) was to be a double album. This is good news both for Carlton Melton and their fans. Good for the Melton as it means the reins are off and they can really meander off to who knows where with their majestic sonic soundscapes and good for the fans as this is definitely a case of more is more. Opener “Peaking Duck” is quickly becoming a favourite of mine in the Carlton Melton repertoire….it is a monster! The whole album is a nicely melded mix of ambient drone mood pieces and riff-heavy, drum bashing, bass shuddering rock beasts. Fantastic stuff. (AH)

Spectral Domain by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sunrise Ocean Bender)

Dead Sea Apes’ music feels otherworldly, but it is rooted in the here and now. Each track is carefully crafted and not only builds and intensifies as it progresses but opens out from an introverted beginning and become more expansive, even cinematic, its their endeavour. DSA are three musicians who operate almost like a Jazz trio, each vitally important to the band and feeding off each other to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts as each track is developed and structured. The band’s previous album, ‘High Evolutionary’, was in last year’s Essential list, but ‘Spectral Domain’ is arguably a step up even from that. If you are still yet to discover DSA you are missing out big time. (SD)

Jet Black Hallucinations by Blown Out (Golden Mantra)

This would make it on to the list just for the opening (and title) track alone. It is phenomenally good, 16 minutes of pure joy. The more I listen to it the more I want it never to stop and the more I keep asking myself…how can there possibly be only 3 of them in the band?! All 3 tracks are repetitive in nature but, with slight subtle changes to the riffs and drum fills, but Blown Out give the perfect lesson of how repetition doesn’t have to be boring. There is a real other-worldly feel to the record, almost like it was composed to explore the universe to, it really is that good. It is powerful and relentless without being overbearing and bombastic. A classic! (AH)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

 

III by Follakzoid (Sacred Bones)

Chilean neo-krauts Föllakzoid set the bar very high with the release of II in 2013 with the result that there was a great deal of expectation on the band to deliver this time around. The release of III saw a sound that was both evolutionary and developmental with stronger beats and punchier keys, as you would expect with the inclusion of Uwe Schmidt/ Atom™, that has taken Föllakzoid in the direction of techno, without actually losing the essential elements derived fromKrautrock that gives the band its distinctive sound. III may in time be seen as a interim album, depending on where the band go next, but for now it is a welcome move that reminds us of the link that can be made between the profane roots of Krautrock and the spiritual/ gospel roots of much contemporary urban music. (SD)

 

I Declare Nothing by Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe (A Recordings)

Tess Parks’ collaboration with Anton Newcombe, ‘I Declare Nothing’ completely blew me away by it when I first heard it. I really liked the wonderful complexity of the album: the seemingly endless layers of sound, and how they placed on top of each other with care and precision. On top of this Parks’ deep and soulful voice was a revelation to me, contrasting near on perfectly with Newcombe’s arrangements. This is a work that is borne of a summer together in Berlin: a climate which is hot, close and sensual. It is an album, like the city, that overloads the senses; yet also has a fragility to it that seeks to find meaning within this aural wall. (SD)

Masters of the Molehill by The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha)

Why have I only just discovered this band when there have been 9 other albums preceding this one??! If any of the back catalogue is half as good as this then I need to do some serious record hunting (though it may be a challenging task as it seems that TBWNIAS like to release records in very small quantities and a quick scan of Discogs and eBay proves rather unsuccessful!). This, along with the live Black Bombaim record (see below), is the final release of 2015 for Cardinal Fuzz in what has been a (yet another!) year of excellent and essential releases. Quite simply this is an incredible album. I just love it when I put on a record that I have no prior knowledge or misconceptions of and am just floored by it. When compiling these “best psych album” lists it becomes inevitable that certain words are used a lot to describe the albums included. Motorik beats, drones, trance-like, incendiary guitar, head-nodding…you know the score. All of these could be used to describe “Masters of the Molehill” but, perhaps because this album (and band) are new to me, I was surprised at how quickly I succumbed to it. What a great way for the Cardinal to sign off 2015….with a record and band that I simply want more and more of. (AH)

Highly Deadly Black Tarantula by Teeth of the Sea (Rocket Recordings)

This is an astonishing album in its depth and scope. It has many elements from Teeth of the Sea’s previous work. It represents a real step forward from the previous and already excellent album ‘Master’, and also takes clues from the band’s more recent soundtrack release ‘A Field In England:Re-imagined’. ‘Highly Deadly Black Tarantula’ is very much an album for our times, an album of desolation and perhaps in the final track also one of hope; although that hope is not without ambiguity. (SD)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Love Monster by Zone Six (Vinyl – Deep Distance/ CD – Sulatron Records)

This album automatically warrants a place on this list purely due to the fact that it introduced me to the world (and rather large back catalogue!) of Electric Moon and Sula Bassana. For that reason alone I thank you Deep Distance from the bottom of my heart. The fact that this record totally fucking rocks is an added bonus. Bass, keys, guitar and drums may be the chosen instruments of many bands (psych or non-psych) but here they are much more than the sum of their parts. It be just 4 tracks long but the freakout level and sheer quality of playing is second to none. Beneath the brain-frazzling layers of guitar and synth, the rhythm section of Dave Schmidt and Komet Lulu (both of Electric Moon “fame”) keep the beautiful motorik groove going. This is modern space/Kraut rock of the highest order. (AH)

10000 Russos by 10000 Russos (Fuzz Club)

10000 Russos (pronounced ‘dez mil russos’) are another Fuzz Club band who seem to have emerged from nowhere this year with an amazing debut album that is both immediate and keeps on growing. Like many Fuzz Club bands they play music that it intensely dark and brooding, but perhaps unlike most of their label mates, take some of their primary clues from The Fall, the album opener ‘Karl Burns’ is even named after a Fall drummer. The Mark E Smith style vocals are obvious throughout the album, along with other sonic clues from early Krautrock, punk and post-punk (notably the Sex Pistols and Cabaret Voltaire), as well as the two Fuzz Club common denominators of Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain. This was a massive surprise when I first played this album and I have continued to find new things to enjoy here; 10000 Russos are also one of the best and most innovative bands that I have seen live this year. Great stuff! (SD)

Negative Feedback Resistor by Destruction Unit (Sacred Bones)

I dare you to play a Destruction Unit album quietly. 2013’s effort, ‘Deep Trip’ was the sort of full on assault that leaves you pinned to the back wall screaming for more; but the band’s latest album, ‘Negative Feedback Resistor’ might just have upped the game even further This is a album that has full-on written all over it. Combining stunning speed freakery, pummelling rhythms which change up and down to stunning effect. It is an album that proclaims that you should not, under absolutely any circumstance, let there bastards grind you down. Destruction Unit are one of those great bands who have attitude, skill and brains; none of which they make any effort in hiding. Totally essential for free thinking punks and psych-heads everywhere. (SD)

Theory of Mind by Electric Moon (Sulatron)

If, like me, you like your psych droney, trance-like and with the nod-factor cranked up to 11 then “Theory of Mind” is for you as it basically ticks all the boxes. The vinyl version has four tracks spread out over two slabs of wax with the shortest track being a tad under 14 and half minutes long! As it was recorded live there is a relaxed, jam-like feel to the playing but the production is so shit-hot that, apart from the odd whistle or cheer, you could be mistaken for thinking that it is a studio album. The musicianship never dips below incredible and the individual members work as one and really feed off each other. All four tracks start off slow and its usually Sula Bassana’s guitar genius which is the catalyst for the rest of the band to take off and do their thing. There is a hypnotic quality to their music epitomised by the title track which draws you in with its gradual build up and motorik beat before all hell breaks loose. How the rest of the band manage to even attempt to keep up with Sula’s guitar is an impressive feat in itself but the fact that they almost seem to encourage him to take the psychedelic whig-out further and further just has to be commended. A new Electric Moon album is apparently just around the corner and I, for one, can not wait. Definite album of the year contender. (AH)

Infinity Machines by GNOD (Rocket Recordings)

It’s always a moment of excitement when you hear that there is something new from an act you like coming out. When it’s GNOD, the collective based around Islington Mill in Manchester, you know that it is going to be something interesting, and you know, in the end, that you are going to like it. This is because the only thing predicable about a GNOD release is its unpredictability. It could be heavy and relentless, it could be mediative and considered. Whatever it is it is going to be it is going to get into your brain. Infinity Machines is a triple album that has an amazing scope and range to it and just listening to it is an event in itself. This is a body of work that is well worth putting a few hours aside to listen to and absorb yourself into: a set which is at the same time contemporary and timeless. (SD)

Pan by White Manna (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha)

When you first listen to ‘Pan’ you could be forgiven for thinking that it is just another space rock album. You would be mistaken. This is an album with teeth, real punk teeth. In the way that The Seeds, The Stooges and The Damned have teeth; something which is particularly evident on ‘Dunes I’, with its humongous all destroying riff’ and the magnificent ‘Evil’, both of which rock out with real attitude and power. For me ‘Pan’ comes together most forcefully with ‘Beta Travellers’ which does not so much fuse as slams together the space rock and punk elements to produce a ride that is so exhilarating as it builds and builds towards a climax that leaves you wanting more…which is exactly what you get with ‘Eshra’ a superb track with its wah wah immediacy and drone. In a sense there is nothing new in this album. The elements that it draws from are hardly innovative in the canon of post-blues music, but there is an alchemy at work here that has brought together the familiar and created something totally thrilling. This is a fucking great rock album. Period! (SD)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Frid by Hills (Rocket Recordings)

I was torn between including this, the third album proper by Swedish psych-wizards Hills, or their recent live album “Live At Daemonens Port” for this list. I finally decided on Frid as “Live At…” was mainly made up of older tracks but please do try and hunt down a copy of it as you will not be disappointed. Anyway, back to “Frid”. At first, with opening track “Kollektiv”, it seems as if it’s pretty much business as usual as it effectively carries on where their previous record, the awesome “Master Sleeps”, left off (and thats certainly not a criticism by the way). However the ante is well and truly upped from second track, “National Drone”, onwards. There is a heavy Eastern influence, with sitar and drone-chants to the fore, and tracks build and build before wah-wah guitar kicks in or haunting vocals reverberate in the background. I was so impressed by “Master Sleeps” that I was concerned that Hills would not be able to deliver a follow up to impress… I should never have doubted them. (AH)

Full ‘Psych Insight Music’ review here:

Subversive I by Radar Men From The Moon (Fuzz Club)

RMFTM are a band that are out there, in many senses of the word. Last year’s release, Strange Wave Galore, made it onto our 2014 ‘Essential’ list and like its predecessor I find ‘Subversive I’ to be at different times strange, thrilling, and thoughtful. The likes of ‘Deconstruction’ and the Numan-inspired ‘Habitual’ are dark, brooding and other-worldly yet they also have a certain lightness and sense of melody to them. With this album RMFTM continues to develop its unique take on Krautrock, bringing in influences that if mishandled could be disastrous. The fact that the band has mad it onto our list again shows that this is very far from the case. (SD)

Live at Casazul by Black Bombaim (Lovers and Lollypops/ Cardinal Fuzz)

I’m a sucker for live albums. I think a good live album catches a band relaxed in their most natural environment and often brings added “ummphff“ to a band’s back catalogue. This album is the epitome of that theory and, unlike most “official” live albums, has not been taken direct from the soundboard but via the amateur recording skills of someone in the audience instead. However, this album DOES NOT sound like your bog-standard dodgy quality bootleg complete with annoying background chatter though. This is a top notch live album at its best. Having seen Black Bomaim play live in the UK earlier this year I can vouch that this a spot-on representation of their live sound. The fact that Black Bombaim are joined by the legend (well, in my world anyway!) that is Isaiah Mitchell of psych-rock masters Earthless makes this record even more special. Even the local police force get a special mention in the credits as apparently they terminated the gig prematurely by pulling the leads out of the amps giving this record extra rock n’roll Brownie points. (AH)

If you liked those choices here are another ten which did not quite make it, but are nevertheless great albums:

Eyes of the Melancholy Palm by Cathode Ray Eyes (Cardinal Fuzz/ Captcha)

Cosmos Inside by Polska Radio One (Clostridium)

Golem by Wand (In The Red)

At The Centre of All Infinity by Yuri Gagarin (Kommun2)

Radio Static High by Hey Colossus (Rocket Recordings)

Shadow of the Sun by Moon Duo (Sacred Bones)

Live At Daemonens Port by Hills (Kommun2)

Walks For Motorists by White Hills (Thrill Jockey)

Planetary Engineering by Blown Out (Oaken Palace Records)

Wild Strawberries by Eternal Tapestry (Thrill Jockey)

Cheers for making it through our list, please share it as widely as you can to make sure that these bands and labels get as much exposure as possible…they really deserve it.

                     Adam Harmsworth (Drone Rock Records)

Simon Delic

You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.

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