Psychoactive Soundscapes: The Trippiest Psychedelic Albums of 2014

The idea that the multiverse is more akin to an art project than a science experiment (or an art experiment, if you’re so inclined) is one of those Occult themes that typically gets dismissed by both overly scientific and religious types alike, even though it quite inarguably resonates now more than ever. One of the stranger aspects of human psychology that we essentially avoid touching in typical academic or spiritual discourse involves the fact that your average person now consumes roughly a hundred thousand times more art in a given year than they did even a mere century ago. We used to rely on mediums like galleries, plays, symphonies, and libraries to dispense our art, most of which weren’t super accessible to people who weren’t wealthy or close to an urban center. Now the fact that the internet and cable television beam recreational distractions into our homes 24/7 seems almost like a trivial afterthought.

The idea that the multiverse is more akin to an art project than a science experiment (or an art experiment, if you’re so inclined) is one of those Occult themes that typically gets dismissed by both overly scientific and religious types alike, even though it quite inarguably resonates now more than ever. One of the stranger aspects of human psychology that we essentially avoid touching in typical academic or spiritual discourse involves the fact that your average person now consumes roughly a hundred thousand times more art in a given year than they did even a mere century ago. We used to rely on mediums like galleries, plays, symphonies, and libraries to dispense our art, most of which weren’t super accessible to people who weren’t wealthy or close to an urban center. Now the fact that the internet and cable television beam recreational distractions into our homes 24/7 seems almost like a trivial afterthought.

You can debate the quality of what in my mind are crappy creative endeavors like staged reality television, but you can’t deny the fact that even TV commercials are getting increasingly surreal. More to the point: even the most logically wired hard-nosed materialist probably spends most of his time working a boring job while fantasizing about catching up on whatever show he’s been neglecting on Netflix the second he has a free minute to relax (or staring at Facebook; friend me). So why is that? Why is it that we’re increasingly and quite unconsciously abandoning the boring confines of the material world in favor of immersive fantasy realms? Why do our lives now involve things like rock concerts, marathon TV binges, video game addiction, and movie star crushes? Why do religious people continually oppose the evolution of these mediums? Why do scientists often view the world from the creepy lens of unconscious matter while spending their free time meticulously planning outfits for the next Comicon?

When you look at the universe as an art experiment, all of these things begin to fall into place. Art was the purpose all along. You can gawk at the horrors of the modern world in abject disgust, but what you can’t deny is that it IS freaking entertaining. It’s great art, pure and simple. Unpredictable. Mystifying. Bizarre. Never a dull fucking moment.

Earlier this year, I read the piece Carl Sagan penned in defense of marijuana and was sort of shocked at his admission that he didn’t truly understand art until he started getting high. And that would be the significance of things like psychedelic drugs. They have the ability to place even non-creative types in the surrealist headspaces of the higher realms, to help them understand the hyper-liminal states of consciousness associated with creation itself. Of course, I’m an a musician as well as an admitted music geek, and debating what makes an album truly psychedelic is a discussion that can go on forever and hints at the subjective nature of reality itself (another topic we all love to avoid).

To clear the air, all of these albums were obviously at least partially inspired by things like psilocybin, LSD, and weed, regardless of genre. For the first time this year, I actually included the signifier of “recreational” or “ritualistic” with hallucinogens, and when relating to albums, they can be used in either capacity. I personally use them for both. A recreational album would be one that you’re going to throw on while taking bong rips and relaxing. A ritualistic one might be something you’d use to calculatedly come into contact with the larger spiritual mysteries of the universe. 2014 was yet another year packed with so many mind-fryingly awesome jams that I couldn’t even begin to keep track of them all in a hundred lifetimes; so with that in mind, here were 15 of my faves in easy-to-digest listicle format.

(Editor’s Note: The focus of this article represents only one writer’s opinion on the multi-varied world of psychedelic music, with a focus on his tastes in metal and hip-hop. We dare not otherwise quantify what complements psychedelic states in a more over-arching absolute way! Enjoy, and you can also see past installments of Psychoactive Soundscapes here!)


15. Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors (Sargent House) __ Recreational

Despite being one of the best live bands in Seattle, I must confess that Helms Alee’s previous two outings were only really great in small doses, which I tend to geek out on 3 or 4 songs before getting bored and moving on. Granted, those 3 or 4 songs are genius – but this is their first album that slays all the way through, and weirdly, it works not necessarily because of the monumental amount of fuzz cascading through Ben Verellen’s self-made amplifiers, but more because of the increased focus on songwriting. And that’d be the thing; you’ve just got to give points for originality. I honestly don’t know what other band sounds even sort of like Helms Alee. It’s like sludged out stoner surf rocky indie metal/pop with 3 sets of alternating male and female vocals who all growl and croon in equal measure. There are even some melodic Pollardian micro-songs tying the more brutal cuts together. Nothing like it out there, and it gets a few bonus points for: a. having the hottest/most talented drummer in the known universe (who also sings and plays guitar in the band Lozen) and b. because Verellen is also a drummer who put out another fantastically debauched album in 2014 with Constant Lovers, on the predictably solid Good to Die label. Also worth checking out.

14. Ex Astra – Ex Astra (Self-Released) __ Ritualistic

I know very little about New York’s Ex Astra, other than that I had a conversation with one of the guys in the band early in 2014, and he forwarded me a link to a bunch of Dr. Strange comics from the ’70s. That always wins points, but lots of people forward me their music and I only write about the shit that’s both excellent and trippy, which Ex Astra certainly is in equal measures. Great music to wig out to, and not the sort of strain that compels the listener to ignore their dark side, but rather the sort that inspires growth-inducing shadow work. While not brutal, metally, or confrontational in any way, there’s a dark beauty coursing through this disc’s Middle Eastern scale work, ethereal female vocals, echoing guitars, and table-heavy drum meditations. It approximates the aura of a star-filled winter night sky rather than a sunny summer day at the beach. Certain minor key, Eastern-influenced sounds effectively invoke a sensation of spiritual awe or what King Missile appropriately referred to as “Mystical Shit” back in the day. This is an entire album of that feeling – like you’re continually on the verge of piercing through the veil of higher understanding. If I was going to take bong rips and meditate while sitting in the lotus position, I’d just throw these jams on and lose myself to the feeling. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I’m not doing that right now.


13. Garek Jon Druss – The Celestial Din (Debacle Records) __ Ritualistic

Ahhh, drone. The genre that is almost always at least somewhat cool by virtue of fucking with the time space perception of the listener. But how do you separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to drone music? Answer: I have no fucking clue. What I do know, though, is that this is the most interesting drone release that found its way onto my computer this year, partially because of what makes it different. It starts out in typically elongated synth tone territory and eventually throws some tastefully delayed minimal beats into the picture, which slowly get mind-fuckingly tribal and then subside while the underlying drone remains. The next two songs are remixes of the initial track by other notable drone practitioners. Pete Swanson’s pulsates in a hypnotic/robotic manner while Ben Chisholm’s twists artificial string arrangements into various multi-dimensional cut-up configurations. All of this is sufficiently headtrippy. Yet another out there record from the Debacle imprint, which has become my local Seattle go-to when the hankering for something electronic and abnormal strikes my fancy. Extra props to 2014’s Debacle Fest, which was the strangest and best-attended experimental shows I’ve been to in quite some time. If someone were to ask me what the common theme was with all the acts at the 2014 Debacle Fest, the only thing I could come up with would be: well, they were all fucking weird. No, really, that seemed to be the theme. Mad props.


12. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal) __ Recreational

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times; El-P basically ruined hip-hop for me back in 2002 when he dropped Fantastic Damage. It sounded roughly a decade ahead of its time both lyrically and production-wise and made all the bling rap bullshit surrounding it in the mainstream seem beyond embarrassing. As El rightfully declares on RTJ2, “Every bar of that bitch shit you spit is your fucking prison.” Word. 2014 was the year that the mainstream finally caught up to Jaime Meline, and thank fucking god. It’s incredibly appropriate that Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha guests here because this album often gives off the exact same vibes that made RATM so great back in the ’90s: preaching about the inherent corruption of our economic system while simultaneously making your head nod uncontrollably. Just try and listen to RTJ2 (or “The Battle of Los Angeles”, for that matter) without involuntarily popping your neck back and forth and raising your hand in a Black Panther gesture of solidarity. It’s impossible. The saddest thing about Rage is that they broke up right before W. weaseled his way into office (i.e. at the exact moment we needed them most). The good news is the RTJ made the perfect protest album at the perfect time, which seemed almost prescient. The fact that they ended up in on tour in St. Louis on the very night the bullshit grand jury verdict for Darren Wilson was delivered is beyond synchronous.

Now the bad news: As high as this album soars at times (with say, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, which is one of the best tracks ever made period), I personally didn’t find it to have the replay value of previously produced El-P LP’s. It sort of pumps you up with the first four tracks and then fails to maintain the same energy throughout, but this probably also has to do with the frequency with which I listened to Cancer 4 Cure, R.A.P. Music, and RTJ1 in the last 2 years. I suppose that’s my way of telling you to go pick up all of those albums stat. And does it lose a few points for that “dick in her mouth all day” song? Yeah, it absolutely does. Sorry.

11. Earth – Primitive and Deadly</em > (Southern Lord Records) __ Ritualistic

To tell you the truth, Earth’s last few mellow albums were both an incredible execution of vision while simultaneously not being something I found myself wanting to spin very often. For longtime heroin addicts, I had to respect the effect they created, which was very much in tune with the psychoactive properties of that particular drug in that they gave you the auditory sensation of nodding off blissfully without any of the painful withdrawals. But therein lies the problem. After about the third time I put on The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull and found myself falling asleep within 15 minutes, I had to resolve to not listen to it in any circumstances where I had to get anything done. It just isn’t actually very often when I want to willfully fall asleep while listening to music.

Which is why this album’s return to heavier, more distorted territory works so well as it keeps the glacial pacing of their tracks from unintentionally sending me off to dreamsville. Oh, and vocals, by people like the legendary Mark Lanegan and the crazy talented Rabia Shaheen Qazi from Rose Windows, who threw down on the album’s finest track, “From the Zodiacal Light”. It’s amazing what a little bit of songwriting chops can bring to the table, and it wasn’t until I bought this that I realized, wow, I now have like 7 Earth albums in my collection. I can resoundingly say that this is the best of those albums, which is quite a statement from a band that’s been around over 20 years and done enough drugs to kill a small planet. I’m sure Randall Dunn’s production (he always seems to have his hand in at least something on this list) has a great deal to do with how excellent this all turned out.

10. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun (Reprise Records) __ Recreational

2014 will also go down as the year metal gods Mastodon released their finest album to date while simultaneously alienating half their fanbase. You know what I think Mastodon’s second best album is? The Hunter. Me and the ‘Don clearly have similar tastes, which I think could probably be best demonstrated by the unbelievably awesome album art they chose for this beast (Editor’s Note: Created by the amazing Skinner; see our interview with him here), as well as the fact that their music has been continually progressing towards more melodic/trippy territory for years. The problem with that, of course, is that a ton of their fans would love to see them get bleaker and more growly. I’ve even seen people on Facebook straight-up bash their new direction and boldly point out that they peaked with 2004’s Leviathan. Funny story on that. Because I was grooving on this album so much, I threw on Leviathan at some point in 2014 and found myself pretty “meh” about the whole endeavor. Lord, the whole “80’s thrash metal is awesome” thing that was going on in the early 2000s. No, that shit always sort of sucked. Sorry. It’s white trashier than most country and nu metal being terrible wasn’t really a reason to resurrect it, but Mastodon got their start riding that train and thankfully decided to move onward to bigger and better things.

I don’t blame them at all. Having played in an angry metal band for 4 years and spending a ton of my time focusing my psychic energy on all the things that pissed me off about society, I can decidedly say that the whole exercise was demonstrably terrible for my mental health. Maybe Mastodon started sensing that as well. Your art is an extension of your persona and from a magickal perspective, songs with a chorus of, “This time, This time, Things will turn out just fine” could actually be used as a banishing ritual for a clever mage. It’d work particularly well for the person who wrote it. Anywho, I do find it more than odd that the metal police have turned on these guys for gasp, writing better songs. It’s not like Once More’ Round the Sun isn’t heavy. It’s pulverizingly freaking heavy. It’s just that they also thrash out in some major keys and you can sing along to it too. How terrible. Death to knuckle-dragging meatheads who say dumb shit like, “Death to false metal”.

9. Saiga – Steppenlord (Self Released) __ Recreational

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but the stoner and doom metal genres have gotten so saturated in the last decade that even I’m sort of getting to the point where I’m a bit bored with it all. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll gladly listen to even a run-of-the-mill doom or stoner metal band over pretty much anything considered “indie rock” in this day and age, but simultaneously, there’s certainly a bit of undeniable stagnation going on in those scenes. Which is why Saiga is a breath of fresh air, as according to their Bandcamp page, their music “contains lots of genres, all of them stoned” — which I have to admit is a pretty fair assessment. It’s not like these dudes are reinventing the wheel with their weeded out instrumetal, but they do it with an undeniable verve lacking in most of what could be considered stoner rock these days.

The fact of the matter is, this shit destroys from the jump. Choppier than a sailboat ride in a hurricane, and you know what, it’s also just fucking fun. The prototypical rehashed Sleep riffs are all there, but contorted in clever new configurations that never would have occurred to your average Sabbath-worshipping basement dweller. The guitar tone is sick. The rhythm section air tight. Everything fits together exactly as it should, and you know what, I’m glad there’s no dude yelping about dragons and wizards and bunch of other D&D bullshit on top of it. The guitars continually bending spaceward are more than enough to compensate for the lack of vocals. This is one of the more promising debuts I’ve heard in a while, and only time will tell whether their unique brand of psychedelic Prague rock can be kept in Czech… or if they’ll find a wider audience outside their home country. I apologize heartily to anyone that just read that last sentence.


Radio Vril – Prom Ocean (Self-Released) __ Ritualisic

A lot of musicians these days cop an Occult pose as a marketing gimmick while lacking even a basic understanding of the actual concepts underlying the craft. Then there’s acts like Radio Vril out of beautiful Battle Creek, Michigan, who not only make Occult art, but live the shit for real. It’s funny because years before I ever started playing around with things like sex magick, my first explorations into hyper-liminal states of consciousness involved making super freaky sampler driven electro weirdness designed specifically to fuck with my own head. Radio Vril lives to explore these states with a devotion known by a rare few. As far as I can tell, the guy put out what, like 5 different albums this year? I couldn’t even keep track of them all, but of the few I had time for, this was the most compelling.

It starts off with pummeling house beats and samples referencing Choronzon, the guardian of the abyss, then just keeps the super freak train rolling for the duration, wisely detouring into minimal ambient patches to mix things up from time to time. What’s great about this is that in true Occult fashion (rather than the Satan-worshipping hard pose typically associated with poseur Occult nonsense), most of the Vril’s stuff that I’ve heard strikes a great balance between the dark and the light, the chaos and the order. This shit isn’t bummer vibes at all, but rather just trippy trance music designed to calculatedly elevate one’s consciousness. A lot of the non-stop keyboard sequencing action is major key and rather uplifting, in all honesty, making it maybe one of the better albums to ritualistically trip out to offered here. Guy clearly digs through the internets to find mystic-related samples and drops them with expert precision. He even takes the Addams Family theme and somehow loops it into a compelling groove, which isn’t something I would think possible, but it totally works. Proudly proclaiming himself witch house, which is a genre I thought sort of died years ago, Vril thankfully puts the witchy vibes to the forefront of that equation. Take the right drugs, recite the proper incantations, and this album will take you to the stars. Auditory sorcery at its finest.


Guided By Voices – Cool Planet / Motivational Jumpsuit Guided By Voices Inc. __ Recreational

Yeah, yeah. I know, Guided By Voices aren’t a psychedelic band by most forms of conventional measurement. True — but at the same time Robert Pollard is weirder than probably everyone else on this list combined. Let’s review. Since reforming the “classic lineup” of GBV in 2012, they managed to put out 6 full-length albums and an EP before breaking up again a mere two years later. And the thing is, excluding the inaugural inconsistency of Let’s Go Eat the Factory, they’re all pretty solid. The common knock is that these guys peaked 20 years ago, but I don’t really see it. I dig the new shit just as much and fuck, what else do you want from a band you’re a fan of? 6 goddamn new albums. Watching Bob talk shit about this astounding feat on stage in Seattle last summer was priceless.

An absolute master of the cut-up approach to making art, Pollard’s hyper-productivity has spawned a whole new level of meta-strangeness in that nearly all his hardcore fans make cut-up mixes of their favorite tracks, which I had never actually done before 2012. 2014 marked the year I made my second 23 song album of GBV hits solely from their output from 2013-2014 alone, called English Motivational Planet. Of course, this is the second greatest hits album of their stuff I’ve made now, so in just what these guys did from 2012-2014, I’ve now assembled 2 separate 23 song greatest hits collages just to make sense of it all. And it’s not like these dudes are programming beats; they’re writing Surrealist pop songs. Unbelievable, and 2014 also marked the year Pollard released EAT 10, the tenth and best edition of his collage art in graphic novel format. Listen to Motivational Jumpsuit and Cool Planet (Cool Planet is slightly better in my mind) back-to-back while thumbing through that slowly, and you’ll be wandering into a foreign dimension of exquisite inner weirdness, I promise.

Seven That Spells – The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: IO (Sulatron Records) __ Ritualistic

Seven That Spells is a band that I don’t honestly know that much about other than that they’re simultaneously amazing, from Croatia, and describe themselves by saying shit like:

“Beyond. We are the dogs of the western Jazz society looking for dope.”

Despite the fact that this album is touting itself as krautrock, what makes it so exceptional is that they’re not just trying to rehash Can or Neu! albums like a lot of their retro-minded contemporaries. While not really metal in any discernable way, they do seem to be a bit metal-ish just in terms of the chops necessary to pull this shit off. The first tune starts with a Middle Eastern-hued wormhole riff pattern that repeats itself a thousand or so times while the rhythm section does calculated acrobatics behind it. A lot of psychedelic rock and culture in general gets pegged as being lazy (which it often is), and what makes this great is its extreme level of focus and precision. Even when they’re veering into ambient chanting passages, nothing lingers too long or seems out of place. It’s just a manner of guiding the listener’s trip through various roller coaster dives into the blissful enchantment that lives where prog and trance collide.

This album is so good I actually bought another one of theirs, which almost reminds me of a Boredoms drum circle noise extravaganza. One circular track feeding on itself like a serpent eating its tale for nearly an hour. Ahh, you’ve got to love the information age. These guys have roughly 5 other full lengths I’m now going to have to procure at some point, and they seem like the type of act that’s just going to continue to flood the market. Krautrock is over; Croat rock’s the new thing. I thought you people knew.


Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty (Sub Pop Records) __ Recreational

If you want to talk about acts that exist in their own constellations entirely, Shabazz Palaces would certainly be one that goes to the top of the list. It’s like hip-hop channeled from the trippiest regions of the astral plane and then reassembled meticulously in the boring confines of skin world after 30 consecutive bong rips. The evolution of trip-hop, really. So much rap puts too much focus on the MC and sometimes the coolest shit lets the uniqueness of the beats do more of the talking. This whole album just exudes such a chill vibe of stoned out visionary transmission. “Mimicking Gods”, as they put it at one point, elucidating hidden and ancient Occult concepts underlying the mystery of the entire creative process.

While most rappers are spitting about how hard they are, Shabazz rap about how cool they dress and dance and being from outer space in general. Dude’s come off like they live on such a higher plane that they simply could not give a fuck if they tried. We could all probably learn something by looking up to the heavens at their dope-beat-powered UFO every now and again and aspiring to ascend to that level of not-give-a-fuckness.


4. Hail Mary Mallon – Bestiary (Rhymesayers) __ Recreational

Also coming from a dimension comprised entirely from batshit lyricism and tripped out sci-fi effects come Hail Mary Mallon, the pairing of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Wiz. Shit is so far beyond mind blowing its essentially indescribable. The funny thing is, I never would have known this bastion of divine madness even existed if not for following Aes on Twitter (@Thad_McKraken; follow me) and seeing some posts. Never even heard of Rob Sonic before, but wow, do the 2 make a formidable duo who finish each other’s absurdist non-sequiturs with a preternatural ease. There are so many arcane references and inside jokes running through this beast you’ll take away new mesmerizing trinkets on every run through, and that’d be the thing. I went from liking this to having it suck me in and consume my entire unconscious process for a period of about 3 weeks straight. Powerful hypnotic linguistics afoot in the HMM camp, to say the least. The scratching clinic put on by DJ Wiz puts the whole package well over the edge of incredible.

In my mind, this is the best thing Aesop Rock has ever done, and I went out and bought a Rob Sonic disc because of it as well. While cool, what separates this project is the level of hilarity and self-deprecation, which works well for both of MC’s. Most rappers throw down about money and women; these guys talk smack about how they can out weird you any day of the week, or as Sonic puts it at one point: “protocol overall is lederhosen.” Even the skit that ties the disc together, which I normally hate in rap albums, is brief and funny enough that it adds to the flow rather than dragging it down. Also, just look at that album cover. I’ve seen that exact shit on mushrooms. Same color scheme and everything. Just sayin’.

Earthling Society – England Have My Bones (Riot Season) __ Ritualistic

Any band that starts off an album with an 11-minute track named after a channeled discarnate entity (Aiwass) is going to win points with me. A band that starts off an album with a track named after a freaky discarnate entity that actually sounds like something you’d play to summon a freaky discarnate entity is going to end up being one of my faves of the year, no problem. England’s Earthling Society: yet another band who have apparently put out a ton of records and been around for over a decade that I’m just now catching on to. I can’t speak for their entire discography, but this album is all kinds of awesome. It’s not really much more than prototypical neo psych jam band stuff, but thankfully, they don’t skimp on things like Sonic Youth-style noise guitar blasts and overly affected vocals. The thing that’s really odd about this album actually is that while being mainly in the background and indecipherable, the vocals really do add an atmospheric layer of import to the package that elevates it to the higher stratospheres of pleasantly disorienting. A lot of variety, too. No two tracks truly sound that much alike, but they all go on forever and give off the exact vibes of ritualistic higher dimensional spirit summoning. If you were to say, set aside a day to take massive amounts of hallucinogens in an attempt to make contact with your holy guardian alien, this album will get you about as close as it gets.


2. Anthroprophh – Outside the Circle (Rocket Recordings) __ Ritualistic

I actually tried to structure this list so the super freakiest albums got extra pull in the ratings, which is why you’re finding this at number 2. Some bands dabble in psychedelia; acts like Anthroprophh go all in. Shit takes things to an entirely new level of flagrantly bananas. Songs start up in garage rock sputters and quickly head Hawkwind inner spaceward, just to vanish as soon as they started in an echoing vaporized puff of smoke, delicious smoke. New structures warp into your headspace replacing them, this time in extended bleats of deliciously over the top pulsating noise. All vocals are run through way more FX pedals than normal people would ever consider tasteful and end up sounding like Captain Beefheart from the year 3000. Guitars crackle and yelp in possessed wah solos from the other side. Is that some sort of backwards masked EVP radio interlude tying the hooks together? Yep.

Again, this is not something to like mellow out to and chill to. This is something to force your headspace into another mode entirely. As far as fucking up your program, Anthroprophh are the real deal and just when you think the rapid fire cut up structure is getting a bit overwhelming, they lock into an extend groove or trip you out with some acoustic guitars and your consciousness is somehow stretched even further. No band went more out of their way to bend your shit heavenward than these dudes did here in 2014, end of story.


The Future Sound of London – Environment five (FSOLdigital) __ Ritualistic

Remember when people were getting all excited about that new Daft Punk album and I was like, what, that mediocre group from the ’90s? Then people were freaking out about the new Aphex Twin, and don’t get me wrong, I love the Richard D. James album and the Selective Ambient Works stuff as much as the next guy, but I also have a few other albums by him that are passable at best. Haven’t even picked up Syro yet because of that. On the other hand, the one electronic act from the ’90s that I hold in almost godlike regard is The Future Sound of London. Seriously, if you like psychedelic music of any variety and don’t own the “holy trinity” of FSOL albums that is Lifeforms, ISDN, and Dead Cities, just go download those now. No really. Absolute freaking classics. Untouchable stuff.

As a matter of fact, 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the aforementioned Lifeforms, and me randomly stumbling on an article about that lead me to the ontologically jarring news that they were releasing an entire album of new material a month later, their first since Dead Cities. What I eventually found out however, is that this being their first album of new material is a bit of misnomer, as it’s called Environment 5, after all. Yeah, it’s the 5th in a series but the others all included at least some radical reconfigurations of previously released material or something to that effect. I don’t entirely get it either, but what I do get is that 2014 was essentially the year I realized that one of my all-time favorite artists had 5 albums I’d never heard.

But wait, there’s more. Yeah, I also found out that what I thought was their final disc, The Isness, was actually only released as an FSOL album in the US for marketing purposes and was supposed to come out under their alter ego Amorphous Androgynous, which explains a lot. as it didn’t sound much like their prior stuff. And oh hey, they released 2 albums under the AA name in 2013 as well, so yeah, essentially 7 new albums by these guys since 2007 after a 5-year hiatus. There are reasons bands have record labels, and me not knowing about any of this until a few months ago is that reason.

Is Environment five good? Yeah, it’s freaking amazing, but so are all the Environments discs. So are the other 2 Amorphous Androgynous albums I didn’t know existed, but the reason this is the number 1 album of the year actually has to do with how it caps the series. One day, I was working on some writing and made a nearly 5-hour playlist of Environments 1-5 in order. What’s fascinating is how 5 not only fits in, but simultaneously sort of pulls all its predecessors together like the rug that tied Lebowski’s room together. I wasn’t actually expecting that at all, but when it finally came on, I was mesmerized.

Man, listening to the Environments series from start to finish in 1 or 2 sittings is a surefire way to transport yourself to surreal realms of inner contemplative astonishment. Highly recommended and what I mean by that is: get high and try it when you have 5 free hours to zone out. 20 years after dropping the ambient masterpiece that is Lifeforms, FSOL still sound a few decades ahead of their contemporaries thus living up to their cocky moniker by continuing to make raw shit for the heads for all the right reasons. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose. The main difference is that now these guys are far more productive then they ever were in their supposed ’90s heyay. Who knew?

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Timothy Kenefick
Timothy Kenefick
9 years ago

No Flying Lotus – You’re Dead? Dam. Gonna have to check some of these out though. Thanks

9 years ago

If this shit sends me to the asylum I’m gonna do you like mcmurphy did the big nurse. aka thanks

9 years ago


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