Before they were feeding their pocketbooks on $90 million stadium tours, Pink Floyd were feeding heads by creating not just records but entire escapist worlds out of sound, texture and fantasy. You didn't just listen to an album like The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, you melted with it.
The Floyd's progeny, from Oklahoma's Flaming Lips to the Orb, aren't interested in paying homage to Syd Barrett's paisley visions. Instead, they've kept psychedelia vibrant by expanding its vocabulary, gobbling influences the way Barrett once consumed... Read More
pharmaceuticals. The new psychedelia isn't about formal innovation so much as reinvention, the process of splicing and recombining the past into ever more peculiar and beautiful hybrids.
Becoming increasingly expert at the art of aural sculpture is Jason Pierce, a k a J. Spacemen. With the British trance merchants Spacemen 3 a decade ago, Pierce and his sidekick Sonic Boom began reprocessing the music of their heroes Suicide, the Velvet Underground, the Red Crayola, the early Sun Ra-inspired MC5 into droning collages. With the dissolution of Spacemen 3, Pierce formed Spiritualized and on the 1992 album Lazer Guided Melodies began pursuing a more hummable variation of the original trio's sound.
The tunefulness is still intact on the new Pure Phase, particularly on such pop snacks as "Let It Flow" and "Lay Back in the Sun," but this is a far denser, more involving work. Pierce's inspirations have been immersed in a lush stream of sound, head music that alternately caresses and bombards the senses, enhanced by separate mixes in each stereo channel.
In this soundtrack for an imaginary movie, the motion is cyclical rather than linear, the music floating in space. Pierce's melodies don't dance so much as shimmer, with drums and percussion barely audible. Wan Farfisa organ chords dissolve into oscillating sci-fi swirls, a blues harmonica wails in a void, a warehouse of clocks chimes and whirs, an avalanche of guitars overtakes a disembodied gospel choir, a string quartet plucks and swoons, a shortwave radio spews white noise, horns bleat in melancholy distress. It's more like a loop unraveling than a series of songs.
All the while, Pierce sings like a man snockered. On the aptly titled "Medication" he offers this prescription: "Every day I wake up/And I take my medication/And I spend the rest of the day/Waiting for it to wear off." On "Let It Flow" he proclaims: "All I wanted was a taste/Just enough to waste the day/Just enough to make me sick." And on "Lay Back in the Sun" he gives the Beach Boys a twist with the sleepy mantra "Get doped/Good fun."
But the smack in the grooves is purely aural, and when Pierce talks about "dope," he may well be referring to the narcotic effect of his own music. On the closing "Feel Like Goin' Home" he chants, "Feel ... feel ... feel," with all the sensual conviction of a dozing cat stretching in the sun. And as the