By Christian Koons on March 12, 2014
If it's not your dad or your cool uncle, chances are your most accessible authority on psychedelic rock is the bearded and bespectacled guitar tech at your local music store. That’s a fine source, but here at FILTER, we thought we’d give you a lesson on the genre from some of its current key players. The boys of British psych quartet Temples weren’t around during the genre’s heyday, but if their debut album Sun Structures is any measure of their knowledge, you’re in good hands. And being heralded as the best new band in the British Isles by the likes of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr doesn’t hurt either.
We asked founding member and bassist Tom Warmsley to tell us a bit about his 10 favorite psychedelic LPs, and what results is basically a ready-made shopping list for the next time you’re thumbing through the crates at a used record store. Happy hunting!
1. The Notorious Byrd Brothers
The Byrds were one of the first bands we mutually bondedover in Temples. Every record has a distinct atmosphere, something we’ve always considered to be important. They have that typical West Coast sound to their music—a sort of hazy refrain. A lot of their influences, especially on the first couple records, are British and Celtic folk. There’s a dark overtone to the music. They explored some slightly stranger subject matter on Byrd Brothers—they started using the Moog synthesizer and had samples and tape loops cut up into songs. “Tribal Gathering” and “Change is Now” are great.
2. A Saucerful of Secrets
One thing we love in Temples is that British style and sensibility of songwriting. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s quite reflective as well. There’s a dark, whimsical nature to it. A Saucerful of Secrets is a beautiful record that is so much more introverted than [Pink Floyd’s first album] Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Saucerful is their first foray into soundscapes and something slightly more adventurous. You get these kind of drawn out, diluted pop songs with hidden melodies and gems. I think the balance between the two on this record is incredible. The song “Remember a Day” really does that well.
3. Joy of a Toy
Kevin Ayers (Soft Machine)
Soft Machine was another great influence. [Founding member] Kevin Ayers’s songwriting embraces that British sensibility; the music has a real distinct style. It involves different influences—jazz and folk and experimental elements—without being sonically heavy, much like Soft Machine did. But Ayers condensed them into actual songs with quite a precise structure. The song “The Lady Rachel” on that record has a flute trill that drones throughout the whole song. It has a real haunting quality.
4. Phallus Dei
Amon Düül II
Non-Western music influences Temples as well. Amon Düül II, a German band, was originally formed from a commune, and some of [their members] weren’t essentially musicians to begin with. There’s a real free-form and experimental edge to their music. There are a lot of drones, and it’s really noisy and quite sonically full compared to more pop-structured psych. They also have a tribal element to their music: strange percussion, congas and gongs.
5. Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible, Vol. 1)
Speaking of gongs, this British–French band is another influence. They exemplify that weird and wonderful—and obscure—British approach to writing. I think they completely embody “psychedelic” in every meaning of the word; in their music, imagery and subject matter. Flying Teapot is a record ahead of its time. Daevid Allen, who was the main songwriter, takes on various characters in songs. They often have completely strange and unpredictable structure to them. It’s quite progressive, I suppose, which I guess is often seen as a dirty word by many people these days, but I think Gong get it just right, in the maddest way possible.
6. Fifth Dimension
Even though a lot of the songs on this record aren’t theirs—I think only three are originals, a lot are folk standards or covers—the haunting quality of the vocals on this record is quite psychedelic. It doesn’t resort to cheap effects to get that across. It’s just the very free nature of the vocals that creates quite a good atmosphere.
7. Basket of Light
Again, this has a few folk standards on it. It really conjures up an image with the music without relying on psychedelic effects. It’s quite traditional sounding in a sense, but also has the haunting quality of Jacqui McShee’s voice. The arrangements and the notes and the music have a timeless medieval quality to them. I’m sure even now it sounds as fresh and eerie as it did when it came out.
8. Doremi Fasol Latido
A fantastic record. It has tracks like “Space Is Deep” and “Lord of Light” on it, which are two of their strongest songs. It mixes acoustic and ambient sounds with that full-on visceral sonic sound that Hawkwind has. The noise-generator sounds are incredible. This record has real character to it.
9. Fragments of Light
An Italian prog-rock group from the ’70s; they’re not overly well-known. The singer, Franco Falsini, did soundtracks for Italian films. Fragments of Light is really ahead of its time. There’s a song called “Space Energy Age” on it, which is a complete soundscape that’s full of synthesizers and really heavily effected guitars. He has a really thin, ethereal vocal sound that sounds a bit like Tame Impala, but 40 years earlier.
10. Space Hymns
This is one we always come back to in the van when we’re on tour. It has that British sensibility with this mix of space-rock and Egyptian imagery. [The singer] Barrington Frost changed his name to Ramases. He captures the most incredible sound on this record. The backing band on it ended up becoming 10cc. Every song is such a contrast to the last. Lyrics are quite mad on the record. It’s definitely one you shouldn’t listen to on your own [laughs]. F