Psychoactive Soundscapes: Top 20 Mind-Bending Albums For 2012

Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle’s THEESatisfaction: “Let the musicians, be your physicians.”

Well, it’s now past the supposedly prophesized Mayan apocalypse, and of course no obvious signs of eschatological judgment have been wrought down upon us, which was much to be expected. There is something else we need to address though, before we can just write this shit off for good. If you were paying any attention to what those of the neo-spiritualist ilk were saying for the last decade or so, the conversation always involved a shift in consciousness rather than a rogue asteroid raining fiery death from above. Nobody said it’d be instantaneous.


Prophecies regarding a sudden massive shift in the perceptual limitations of our species always struck me as being beyond improbable. Whereas I’d be the first to admit that more of us these days are getting turned on to the higher cosmic functionalities of our brains, I’d also point out that it’s probably little more than a numbers game. There are more people, period. I’d wager that for every turned on occult-dabbling tripster, there are two new closed-minded evangelical sex repression nutsos. Occultist super freaks just don’t proselytize, and they probably blew their money on drugs and albums rather than bribing politicians, so there’s that. Our society still revolves around boring after all and will for some time to come. What the fuck are you going to do?

But it’s not like all hope for a revolution is lost, the times — they are a-changin’, after all. Terence McKenna foretold a spike in novelty leading up to 2012, and it’s not like novelty hasn’t been spiking. The great singularity might have to wait, but technology has opened up consciousness to a new array of bizarre potentialities, the implications of which we can only barely conceive of at this point. At the heart of all shamanistic extra-dimensional informational summoning rituals lies the evolution of language from spoken word to projected internal telepathic metaphor, the language of our dreams. Meaningful scenarios projected from mind-to-mind, manifesting as direct experience. It’s where we’re headed with all these interconnected smart phones, tablets, and such. A picture is worth thousand words and now we can send each other videos instantaneously with our shiny new synthetic telepathy. Videogames continue to increase in complexity replicating alternate reality scenarios in our heads ad infinitum. Think of how rapidly our lives have changed in comparison to our parents’ and even our grandparents’ generations. Your everyday world can now be filled with an increasing array of deliciously magickal shenanigans.

Marijuana has now been legalized in two states, one of which just so happens to be my home state for the last 11 years: Washington. This is the biggest victory in the war of consciousness I’ve seen in my lifetime, and something I never saw coming as a cynical 18-year-old stoner. What no one’s saying about this matter is that one of the fundamental tenets of Western occultism involves a focused practice of weed-based sex magick, which is now totally legal. People are going to figure it out eventually. Combine that with a wide array of art-summoning gadgets, and you’re well on your way to re-programming yourself into the next age psychic stratosphere. In the next fifty years or so I’m sure we’ll debate whether or not 2012 was the beginning of a widespread shift toward a higher order of knowing. Again, these things take time. People have been fighting for pot and gay rights forever, and the defenses have finally started to crack. LSD in next.

More importantly, the fact that we’re finally starting to recognize the environmental nightmare brought forth by our materialistic insanity is more than a good omen. I know what’s been shown to me. We’ve dug ourselves a hole that we can only fly out of through a psychedelic mindgasm portal. It’s where we’re headed. The environment’s going to force our hand on this one. The UFOs aren’t going to just stop lighting up the skies, the storms aren’t going to stop hitting and then where the fuck are you going to turn? Sorcery, that’s where.

Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is comprised of linguistic information, the idea of a coming apocalypse in itself propagated some rather delicious undercurrents of sound rippling through the Akashic record this year. I’ve never written more than a top five list in my life, but when I was thinking back on the insane amount of mind-bending albums that dropped in the last 12 months, I was kind of in shock. Most of this stuff’s fairly obvious, at least in my world. Was it people like Terence McKenna and his mechanized Timewave Zero prophesies, inspiring people like Grant Morrison to write the great Invisibles hypersigil, that summoned this record deluge of psychoactive soundscapes into motion? I have no idea. Did the Mayans get in every band’s head and subconsciously encourage them to bring their A game in 2012 as it might be their final chance? Whatever happened, it appears a software update embedded itself into our collective psyche and we went berzerk. An aspiring mystic could use any one of these mind-warping albums to put a hex on their internal mind tunnel and help elevate our collective superstructure heavenward. One might now use these recorded sound patterns in conjunction with the aforementioned pot based sex tantra quite legally in a hip music town like Seattle if one were so inclined. I’ve been told by the gods that it’s a very “time safe activity”.

Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle’s THEESatisfaction:
“Let the musicians, be your physicians.”


Scriptures – Self-Titled (Translinguistic Other)


This album took a while to catch up with me. Coming from the local psych freak out Translinguistic Other label, I was kind of expecting it to be more, you know, psych freak outy. But it’s way more subtle vibes here in the more minimalistic tradition of trance induction, and that threw me for a few listens. Also, it’s kind of post-rocky, which is a genre I’ve always liked but thought was getting a little overcrowded. Also, it’s kind of instra-stoner-metaly, which is a genre I love but has also been getting a tad overcrowded as of late. Also, it’s kind of country twangy, which in Seattle has been retardedly overdone in the last five years. Then I realized I hadn’t honestly heard a post-rock-surf-twang-metal band (Did I mention the surf rock influence? That’s not so overcrowded) ever and that it was some incredibly well thought out, expertly crafted shit. Also, when the extra layer of delayed distortion guitars finally enter the mix after slow building for a while, you feel sufficiently out of sorts. These guys are self-described “devotional slow-burning-psyc-metal”. TLO approved.

House of Hayduk – City of Quartz (Koolarrow Records)


Albums like this are the reason you get into writing music reviews in the first place — i.e., for the totally random free stuff you end up discovering and the unexpected joy that lies therein. Vivian e-mailed this to me and asked me to take a listen, having absolutely no idea what the fuck it was at all. I had a day off in the middle of the week and intuitively decided to give it a whirl after taking my perfunctory day off morning vaporizer hits. What a peculiar album to unwittingly thrust on another morning stoner! Delightful, really. House of Hayduk has chops and is very calculated in how they use them. There’s no flaunting; most of the time you think you’re listening to a sparse kind of space garage thing and then they stop on a dime, darting in a completely different direction with a gorgeous precision. It’s a cool effect. There are passages of doom-metal-electro-noise-drone and then a long stretch where they sound like a less overpowering Psychic Paramount. All fairly otherworldly. So after listening a few times completely bewildered, I had to do some research to get to the bottom of it. Apparently they’re a film production company/band or something “based out of Los Angeles and Copenhagen”, and Roddy Bottum from Faith No More is the bassist. Yeah. So, if you were just wondering, “What the fuck is Roddy Bottum up to these days?”, this is what, bitch!

Kingdom of the Holy Sun – Pharmacokinetics (Self-Released)

Kingdom of The Holy Sun is probably the most impressive new Seattle psych band I got hip to this year. Super mellow trance haze energies here, and when your album starts off with a song called “Acid Test #2”, has “Acid Test #1” a few songs later, and then “Acid Test #3” a few songs after that, my guess is these dudes and one dudette are more than a bit familiar western society’s pre-eminent super hallucinogen (2, 1, 3 go!; I have no idea, that’s how high they were). Normally I’m not one to get super excited about overtly retro stuff, but when it comes to being all retro in regards to the one period in American history when LSD was legal, free and clear, then well, retro away, my friends. What’s compelling with this is upon first liste,n it occurred to me that it’s almost nouveau retro as it immediately reminded me of a combination between Wooden Shjips and Bright Black Morning Light. Also, the singer sounds a lot like Jim Morrison. It’s kind of the same track over and over again, but that’s kind of the point. How long was I in there, getting ravished by those telepathic spirit beings? I really got lost up in it there for a spell, didn’t I? Yeah, yeah, you did brother; welcome back to earth. Have some orange juice. You’re gonna be fine. Everybody’s gonna be fine. Oh, and this record is free on their Bandcamp site, so there’s no reason you don’t have it.

Goat – World Music (Rocket Recordings / Stranded Records)


Easily the most fun record of the year, Sweden’s mysterious Goat take you on a ride straight down super groove highway and up into outer space. Again with the retro sixties, early seventies vibage. Shit just makes you want to shake it — or nod your head vigorously at the very least (sometimes you’re at your desk writing about music and that’s the best you can muster). Shrouded in mystery, they may or may not be the latest incarnation of a devotional voodoo tradition from the unknown depths of the Swedish countryside. Who knows? Either way this stuff’s about connecting with your inner rhythmic mysticism and whether the whole press angle’s just a clever lie to remind you of that or not is fundamentally irrelevant. What’s important is putting yourself in an open headspace where you can be taken over by their bongoed-out-wah-pedal-drenched-voodoo-Swede-funk. Classic times.

Editor’s Note: In our 2012 year-end Album Covers of the Year article, we have spoken to the artist and designers behind the geometric album cover for World Music. Stay tuned; the piece will be published on December 27th, 2012.

The Mars Volta – Noctorniquet (Warner Brothers)
Omar Rodriquez-Lopez – Octopus Kool Aid (Omar Rodriquez Productions)

What can you say about the mighty Mars Volta? Loathed in the coked out indie crap early ‘aughts by far too influential tastemakers Pitchfork (avg. album review score 4.14), probably no one I’ve ever known in a hip new psychedelic (or prog band for that matter) would admit to liking them publicly, and yet they’ve probably played a larger role than just about anyone in pushing popular music toward over-weird overdrive territory. What’s odd about the Volta is that since dropping their debut EP in 2002 (God, it’s been a decade now hasn’t it?), they just started running at a quicker pace than anyone could rationally keep up with. Consecutive albums Deloused in the Comatorium, Frances the Mute, Amputecture, and The Bedlam in Goliath pushed their formula of hyper-trippy jaw-dropping prog excess laced with surprising melodies in every direction it could and maybe should have logically gone. If you’re gonna release 75-minute prog epics, you should probably drop them like every 5 years or so. Stuff takes a while for the squares to digest properly. That could have easily been their output for another decade at least, but they put out that and two more discs in addition to a brilliant debut EP. Impressive, but where do you go from there?

Sensing this conundrum, after the sheer brilliance of where in my mind they peaked, the occult-themed Goliath, The Mars Volta reigned in the odd time signature-shifting, extended guitar solos, and general show offy-ness of those records, ramped up the songwriting focus, and put out Octahedron. It’s not a bad album, and “With Twilight as My Guide” is one of the best songs in their catalog, but sometimes you don’t know you miss something until it’s gone. I liked their epic serpentine progcraft, apparently. The songs are cool too… but.

Noctourniquet follows in roughly the same vein, although this time with way more electronic bleepery and bloopery afoot. Good call. Again, they’re pushing themselves in new directions, which is exactly what you’d want a band to do but I suppose I miss the wankery. I like it more than Octahedron and maybe just a bit more than Amputechture, making it my fourth favorite Volta full-length from the last decade. See, not everyone can keep up with this shit.


Especially when O. Rod puts out seven more solo discs a year on his own. Prolific doesn’t even begin to describe this guy; he’s a super freaky voodoo child and all that good shit. Actually though, most of the solo discs I’ve heard by him are basically just instrumental jamming Mars Volta when you get right down to it. It’s not bad — not super essential, either. All the album art rules; never a bad thing to space out to when you’re high. For the jazz heads really. What makes Octopus Kool Aid different, though, is that it’s a collaboration with Le Butcherettes front woman Terri Gender Bender. As if mirroring TMV’s new direction, the song structures are fairly straight-forward, and if there’s a guitar on the record, it sounds like a keyboard. It’s an Omar Rodriquez album with barely any guitars, and I’m not disappointed. Very trip-hoppy electro kind of feel to it all. Apparently this is going to turn into a new band called Bosnian Rainbows, and he’s going to start actually letting people other than him write songs on the next Volta record. Expect new and exotic sound flavors emanating forth from this camp moving forward. You’ve been warned.

1 2 3 4

Written by
View all articles
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] mention in Brian Cook’s best albums of 2012 in the Stranger’s Line Out and was included in Redefine Magazines top 20 mind-bending albums of 2012. In a review by the Independent (Missoula, Mt newspaper), a […]


[…] pal Thad McKraken has written a run-down of this year’s top mind-bending albums, complete with samples for your enjoyment: Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is […]

Adamu Draconis
Adamu Draconis
11 years ago

Great list, but how could anyone in good conscience leave out Black Science’s “An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever”? That’s got to be top 5 at least, maybe even top 3.

Thad McKraken
Thad McKraken
11 years ago
Reply to  Adamu Draconis

Well, yeah, that’s clearly the number one psych rock record of the year. Clearly. Buuuut…it came out on my label so you know. Toot toot…what’s that? It’s my own horn. Yeah, I wasn’t going to blow it on this list. Everyone should check that out though. Only 5 dollars on bandcamp. What a mind bending value that is.


[…] mention in Brian Cook’s best albums of 2012 in the Stranger’s Line Out and was included in Redefine Magazines top 20 mind-bending albums of 2012. In a review by the Independent (Missoula, Mt newspaper), a […]


[…] is a rich. Went to the OM show on Friday, which was super packed. Dean, who recorded the Black Science records and who I’m […]


[…] on true believers):Weekend of January 8-10, 2013 (year of the witch):This is a rich. Went to the OM show on Friday, which was super packed. Dean, who recorded the Black Science records and who I’m […]


[…] is a rich. Wint to t'OM shoe on Frydee, which wuz sup'r packd. Deun, who recerdd t'Black Science recerds and who I’m […]


[…] Northeast though, sorry, it’s close). Probably the reason I’m to this day, an enormously nerdy Guided By Voices fan. I get nostalgic every time fall rolls around as well, and have always missed that aspect of […]


[…] to reach its apex. Motherfuckers will line up to drop 16 dollars for this. For point of reference, Soundgarden’s new (and quite brilliant) album debuted with a download sticker tag of 4 bucks on Amazon. Same deal with Aesop Rock’s also […]

Written by
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x