Ever since the psychedelic movement in music began, it has waxed and waned, always to re-emerge every few decades, when old timers begin to wax nostalgic, inspiring a new generation of practitioners, which adds its own wrinkle and keeps the genre fresh. The origins of psychedelic music are as various and promiscuous as any musical genre: in the poetry and idealism of '60s folk music, the soulfulness of the blues, garage rock's spontaneity and improvisatory bravado, and even in the surf rock's reverb and vibrato. Psych music's embrace of experimentation encourages inventiveness that incorporates additional genres and makes its influence even more profound.
Elisa Ambrogio, of Hartford, Conn., band Magik Markers visits Diaboloical Records Nov. 18 with San Francisco group Peacers, where they add their own spin on the genre. "When I think about psychedelic music," Ambrogio says, "I think about anything that was created for a certain kind of listening experience. Music for headphones—separation of sound, panning back and forth." She cites two of her favorite psych musicians as hip-hop artist Migos and electronic musician Holly Herndon, which demonstrate the diversity that fits under the umbrella of "psychedelia."
Peacers is the new group of Mike Donovan, formerly of Sic Alps. "They use a Fender Bassman amp, and they like The Zombies," Ambrogio says of her tour mates. Perhaps tongue-in-cheek, the quip is a nod to the genre's preference for old-school, vintage rock instruments and its reverence for traditional music of the genre. Peacers also features noted psych-rocker Ty Segall, of the band Fuzz.
Psych is a genre worth delving into for its experimental fervor. The canon of major psych albums, from Hendrix to the Who, is well known, but a number of key releases are more obscure, while revealing something integral about the nature of the genre. What follows is a highly subjective list of essential psychedelic discs.
Pearls Before Swine, One Nation Underground (ESP-Disk, 1967)
Love, Da Capo (Elektra, 1966)
The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight (Armageddon, 1980)
Bongwater, Double Bummer (Shimmy-Disc, 1989)
Magik Markers, Balf Quarry (Drag City, 2009)
Circus Devils, Stomping Grounds (Happy Jack Rock Records, 2015)
The patron saint of psychedelic music, Syd Barrett, went too far, ingested too much and was lost, never to come back. The music Barrett and others have created remains, returns every so often, and through it, we experience what they experienced and see what they saw.
Elisa Ambrogio w/Peacers
238 S. Edison St.
Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m.
Free, with suggested $5-$10 donation