Psychedelic Rave

The story of modern dance music is often told as having a simple genesis: it’s what happened when American house and techno music met ecstasy. And that’s kind of true. Certainly this synergy of sound, technology and pharmacology provided the spark which caused an explosion across Europe and the world in the late 1980s and became rave culture as we know it. But this couldn’t have happened in the way it did if certain social and musical infrastructures weren’t already in place. Subcultural networks that had already formed around soul, hip hop / electro, football culture, reggae soundsystems, punk / postpunk, the bohemian club scenes of Mediterranean resorts and so on.

One of the most vital parts of this was psychedelic culture. The acid house and Balearic scenes, when they blew up internationally, expressly emphasised the “second summer of love” aspects with retro 60s aesthetic flowing together with more modernist aspects, and LSD and other hallucinogens were in the mix along with MDMA from the start. House itself had roots in disco, which in turn was forged by the Woodstock generation: the first disco party, after all, had been called Love Saves the Day. This new thing wasn’t just a revival of something long gone, though. Far from it: there were direct and unbroken historical connections from the first psychedelic explosion to this new phenomenon. As club culture evolved into the 90s, the connections between electronic music and psychedelics created a whole new set of sometimes very peculiar hybrids. 

In one sense, raving really was just a continuation of what began in the 60s. All nighters, pill-popping, delirium, strobes and smoke, immersive lightshows, freaky dancing – hell, the beautiful people of the 60s even called themselves “ravers”. But it wasn’t just an atavistic revival: the musical and cultural DNA flowed through underground channels right through the intervening two decades. The first lineage is what you might call the psychedelic-industrial continuum. From the early 70s, collectives like COUM (who would spawn Throbbing Gristle), Cabaret Voltaire and others were taking hallucinatory and hypnotic techniques of alternative culture and innovating with them, in ways that would feed into all the electronic music that followed from industrial to pop – and even into disco, house and techno. Of course the German version of this was even more direct, with the repetitiousness often found in the music of Kraftwerk, Can, Amon Düül and others spreading out through studios and dancefloors worldwide.

Then there were the parties that never ended. The free festival movement of the UK countryside which spawned the “peace convoy” of new age travellers, the perpetually moving Deadheads of the USA, the squats of Berlin, Amsterdam and many other cities worldwide, and those boho clubs of Ibiza, Rimini and other Mediterranean outposts: all provided sanctuary for the hippies and spaces for non-stop intoxication and weird music. On the beaches of Goa in Western India, many of the most committed “heads” settled and built a party culture that in the early 80s developed a DJ culture of its own, with all night and all day bacchanals taking place to a soundtrack of unique cassette tape DJs mixing instrumental electronic goth, electropop, EBM and other descendants of those transgressive industrial experimentalists of the 70s. 

Plenty of electronic music was made expressly with narcotic revelry expressly in mind – Soft Cell’s 1982 Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing (with rap by Cindy Ecstasy no less) made no bones about it, and acts like the post-Throbbing Gristle Chris and Cosey, or Belgians Liaisons Dangereuses and Front 242, were expressly making records for sweating, deranged dancefloors. Other post-hippie scenes in the 80s came together around roots and dub reggae (Jah Shaka Sound being a particular destination for all night dancers) and what was known at the time as “world music” with DJs like Charlie Gillett and the Whirl-Y-Gig club making global sounds into a party soundtrack. All of this would come together with psychedelic rock and punk at festivals galore, and at clubs like London’s Club Dog and Sugarlump – all of which were ready and waiting with wild crowds, soundsystems, light shows and the rest when acid house culture arrived.

Of course the hippies, neo-hippies, hippie-punks, crusties, new agers and the rest took to post acid house raving with aplomb. Many from the more LSD-infused end of industrial, postpunk and new wave became early innovators. All the various fragments of Throbbing GristleChris & Cosey, Coil and Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychic TV – got right in amongst it. Dave Ball of Soft Cell formed The Grid with Richard Norris – who had also been part of Jack The Tab with P-Orridge. Youth from Killing Joke and his sometime roadie Alex Paterson both threw themselves into all kinds of projects around The Orb, and former Echo & The Bunnymen / Teardrop Explodes manager Bill Drummond turned his sampledelic prankster project Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu with the none more neo-hippie Jimmy Cauty into the rave-conquering KLF.

Bands on the fringes of industrial and psychedelic indie rock through the 80s found their records being played by acid house DJs and many got in on the act. Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly, Meat Beat Manifesto, Finitribe all joined the party, and maybe most notably The Shamen enacted a radical transformation from Syd Barrett obsessed indie rockers through industrial experimentation to acid house mainstays: their Synergy tours in particular provided space for live performance of electronic music in an otherwise DJ-led scene, with the likes of Ramjac, Mixmaster Morris’s Irresistible Force, Meat Beat Manifesto and Orbital – all more or less rooted in the squat scene of the 80s – performing in full on psychedelic lightshow environments and often all-night venues.

These types of acts were also playing at unofficial live jams in studios and at small underground clubs like London’s Brain. Club Dog embraced electronic sound and expanded to become Megadog – and in 1992, Frazer Clark founded Megatripolis in London. Whirl-Y-Gig, despite its unabashedly hippie tie-dye and patchouli ethos, became a major part of post-acid house clubland. At Glastonbury 1992, Tony Andrews – the creator of Turbosound and later Funktion One soundsystems and himself a hippie festival veteran – masterminded the Experimental Soundfield with a then little known Underworld mixing DJing and live performance often for up to 14 hours at a time. 

Meanwhile, also in the UK, the “free party” movement had begun, sparked at the Treworgey Tree Fayre in 1989 as new age travellers glommed onto acid house in a big way and spread like wildfire over the next few years with crews like DiY, Spiral Tribe, Circus Warp and many, many more throwing illegal parties without end, reaching a peak at the notorious Castlemorton Common free festival in May 1992 where an estimated 40,000 people raved for over a week. DJs from these crews began making records themselves, while bands from the old hippie free festival circuit began turning electronic – thus Ozric Tentacles begat Eat Static, the Magic Mushroom Band begat Astralasia, and so on… Even the venerable Hawkwind created techno-ish offshoots and had Aphex Twin play at their 24 Hour Spectacular shows. Out in the US, parallel things were happening with the Midwest rave movement absorbing old punks and Deadheads into its structures.

In Goa, the arrival of house and techno naturally fused with the existing electronic music party culture – and Europeans of a spiritual and/or acid-guzzling bent started making music specifically for the stimulus-hungry crowds, giving rise to a new sound: trance. This caught on in Germany, and particularly Frankfurt, where artists like Sven Väth, Pete Namlook, Oliver Lieb, and Rolf Ellmer created a turbo charged, cosmically-inclined dancefloor sound. The swooshes, swirls and arpeggios of trance created a particular musical language which mixed with ambient and downtempo, with breakbeat rave, with global fusions and with more experimental music to create, through the mid-90s, a ridiculously fertile atmosphere.

Audiences and artists were exposed to fascinating cultural interchange. “Zippie” culture, a flavour of Californian new-ageism revivified by techo-optimism, had people buzzing about AI, VR, global communication, cognition-boosting “smart drugs,” fractals, quantum physics. The presence at clubs, festivals and squat parties of chillout rooms encouraged long and weird conversations, which many boosted by getting speakers: the back room of Megatripolis most famously hosted a huge range of maverick thinkers on Gaia theory, leylines, collective minds and so forth. Perhaps the defining voice of the time was Terrence McKenna, the charismatic psychedelics advocate whose sermons appeared on records by The Shamen and an entire album by Scot-in-California Jonah “Spacetime Continuum” Sharpe.

For a while, dance culture was not fully speciated. Trippy hippie fusions were adjacent to and overlapped with other genres and subgenres. Even jungle and drum’n’bass had its mystical, stoner tendencies and acts like Bristol’s Roni Size and DJ Krust cut their teeth at traveller free festivals as much as in any urban club. Many out-there musicians from the Warp / Ninja Tune axis – Aphex Twin, Autechre, Speedy J and dozens more – found that the wide-eyed audiences at hippie raves like Megadog were the most receptive to their experimentation. And the parties were as welcoming as anything in the rave spectrum – the absolute dedication to hedonism and mind-expansion made sure of that for a while. 

Like all hard-to-define scenes, the centre couldn’t hold. As the 90s wore on, the easy to grasp pleasures of trance came to dominate free parties and other hippie-leaning spaces, and genre splintering pulled sounds off in their own directions. Looking back now – with techno optimism coming up against some bleak realities of misinformation, conspiracy-mongering and online corporate glut – a lot of the rhetoric of expanded minds across the world coming together as one seems hopelessly naive, bordering on harmful. Nonetheless this heady atmosphere created real magic and a sense of possibility that is lingeringly seductive, and some music that has retained its ability to make the pulse quicken and the neurons fizz. Some of it sounds charmingly rickety now, some still sounds shockingly advanced, but huge amounts of it are worth turning off your mind, relaxing and floating downstream into.

Joe Muggs


Freinds, Lovers & Family
Being cover

Led by one Larry Lush aka Laurence Elliot Potter, Freinds, Lovers & Family were one of the most idiosyncratic groups of the rave era. From 1994 they would broadly settle into psychedelic trance, but for the three years before that they released – mostly on the UK’s notorious Rising High label – some of the most deranged, delirious experiments with breakbeat rave and proto-jungle made anywhere in the world. This 1993 EP may be their pinnacle: it incorporates a mordantly comic Dorothy Parker poem about suicide and its disadvantages, an epic ambient journey into hyperspace building steadily into rave meltdown, and untold glitches, swoops, swooshes and grandiose structures that remain staggeringly psychedelic decades on.

Psychick Rhythms, Vol. 1

Psychick Warriors ov Gaia
Psychick Rhythms, Vol. 1 cover

“Warning!” says the sleeve: “This object has nothing to do with art or artificial intelligence. This double package (12” version) was designed for mixing, for breaks, for possession, for collectors.” It was a bold and brilliant statement at a time when alternative and psychedelic electronic music all too often got caught up in its own self importance. The Dutch collective PWoG may have had grand ideas of human evolution and connection to the earth, and made some deeply weird and wonky ambience too, but for them the dance was everything – and these heavily Chicago-indebted drum machine house jams as stripped back as anything in the Plastikman catalogue, while deeply psychedelic, are glorious DJ fodder. Ritual dance in its purest form.

Shamanarchy in the UK

Various Artists
Shamanarchy in the UK cover

This 1992 collection is the sine qua non of hippie rave culture. Its messy collage artwork, its Terrence McKenna quotes, its aristocratic voiceovers about cosmic consciousness, its scrappy rapping about being “a savage,” its ambient drift and clunky techno pumping, its digeridoos: every single part of it captures the hippie-punk-tribal-techno-optimist weirdness of the squats and free raves of the early nineties. There are big names like Mixmaster Morris, Eat Static, Spiral Tribe, Psychic TV and plenty of mysterious oddballs who disappeared back into the ether. It is by turns gorgeous, ecstatic, shambolic and preposterous — but there is absolutely no doubting its total commitment to all-out psychedelic tomfoolery.

Ambient Dub Volume 1: The Big Chill

Various Artists
Ambient Dub Volume 1: The Big Chill cover

Beyond Records and its Ambient Dub compilation series were attached to the Oscillate club in Birmingham run by Bobby Bird of Higher Intelligence Agency which hosted many of the biggest names in the nascent UK ambient and electronica scene in the early 90s. The compilations, especially this first volume, are a perfect distillation of a moment where “chillout” wasn’t separate from the dancefloor, but a vivid part of the nighttime experience, another way to feel peak brainwarp feelings. Highlights here included the gliding digi-dub bass and ecstatic bubblebath feeling of “Sexy Selector” by Original Rockers (later rebranded as Rockers Hifi), the insinuating alien voice and juddering bassline of Higher Intelligence Agency’s own “Ketamine Entity” and the church bells and theatrical reading from the biblical Song of Solomon on GoL’s “Angelica in Delirium.” But really it’s best experienced as a whole to jump into a time machine to a world of fractal projections, wild-eyed conversations on beanbags and a general sense of possibility.

Accident in Paradise

Sven Väth
Accident in Paradise cover

In the 21st century, he’s become known as a techno doyenne, but back in the early 90s Sven Väth was more associated with ostentatiously trippy trance music, often played at breakneck speed. There’s plenty of that on his debut album, complete with gigantic swooshy noises, churning acid and incessant melodic hooks – but there’s also a lot of downtempo, meditational and chillout vibes, complete with didgeridoos, sitars and all kinds of other stuff that should be hokey as heck but in fact is done with such deranged aplomb it’s hard not to love.


Eat Static
Abduction cover

It’s hard to think of a record more “of its time” than this, from the electronic offshoot of festival space-rockers Ozric Tentacles. Non-stop alien imagery, samples of psychedelic guru Terrence McKenna, zippy rhythms with the earliest trance at their heart: this is the absolute encapsulation of an early-90s hippie rave movement in which people genuinely thought ecstasy and LSD were creating a new global mind. HOWEVER the rave part of the hippie-rave equation is strong here: Eat Static plied their live trade around the biggest raves and clubs of the post-acid house era and this music is 100% dancefloor native. There is enough well-honed understanding of fundamental dance dynamics to make all the hokey hippie stuff is a mild distraction at worst, a gloriously colourful embellishment of the sweaty, joyous groove at best.


Kissing The Pink
Sugarland cover

Having had some degree of major label success in the early 80s, new wave / synth pop band Kissing the Pink’s contact with the acid house scene altered them utterly. Coming seven years after its predecessor, their third album in 1993 is utterly unrecognisable. Where previously they’d made spiky postpunk, then MTV-friendly glossy pop, Sugarland is all beads and kaftans on a secluded Ibiza beach. Soul II Soul beats, global music samples, swooshing and whirling synths: it’s odd, blissful and gorgeous. They’d never look back – after this they contentedly stayed on the weird electronic fringes.

Rising Above Bedlam

Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart
Rising Above Bedlam cover

This album is a rebirth. Jah Wobble had already made extraordinary impact with PiL and his other early 80s experiments with the likes of Holger Czukay and François Kevorkian, caused chaos, sobered up and taken time away from music. But then the post acid house wave of experimentation broke, and connecting with the likes of Andrew Weatherall and The Orb — themselves inspired by his early work — fired him up and made him the lasting mainstay of the left field that he remains 30 years on. This album has other huge musical personalities on — the formidable and multilingual Egyptian-Belgian Natacha Atlas and the mighty Sinéad O’Connor most notably — and traverses flamenco, house, beat poetry, country, industrial and a whole lot more. But it’s grounded, literally and figuratively, by Wobble’s ground-shaking dub basslines and his force of personality as he shakes off his demons, realises convincingly that “love is stronger than fear,” and finds reasons to celebrate life. It’s an intensely spiritual record, but you don’t need to be that way inclined to appreciate his earthy wisdom. If it has a fault it’s that the epochally, eternally great “Visions of You” starts off and thus overshadows the rest of the album, but the rest of the record is still glorious by most standards.

Exploring the Psychedelic Landscape

Pete Namlook, Move D
Exploring the Psychedelic Landscape cover

The late Frankfurt producer Pete Namlook was one of the most important connectors in cosmic electronic music. Taking copious inspiration from earlier German experimenters of the Krautrock / Kosmische era (including Klaus Schulz, who he collaborated with), he joined the dots into the nascent Frankfurt trance scene and outward to other electronic mavericks worldwide. His collaboration list is dizzying – the mighty Bill Laswell, Biosphere, Gaudi, Richie Hawtin, Tetsu Inoue, Atom™, Mixmaster Morris to name just a few – but whether making ambient, techno, trance or uncategorisable downtempo his quality and mind-bending tendencies rarely if ever dipped. Some of his greatest work was done with fellow German David “Move D” Moufang, and this first collaborative album of many does exactly what it says on the tin, glooping and swooping over the deepest of deep house pulses.

Orbus Terrarum

The Orb
Orbus Terrarum cover

The sonic and chemical weirdness of the rave era can sometimes seem like it was all a distant dream – but it was very real and on a big scale: this deeply peculiar record, for example, entered the UK top 20 albums. This was The Orb settling in for the long haul after the huge success of their first two albums, and it really feels like a spaceship setting a course out in deep space. Less happens in the way of dramatic samples and big riffs than on those early records, but that’s great – here you get to luxuriate in Dr Alex Paterson and crew’s unique ways with arpeggios, echos and unexpected drips and splashes of sound.

The Politics of Ecstasy

The Politics of Ecstasy cover

This album might be peak early 90s psychedelic rave. Astralasia are the electronic offshoot of long-time festival favourites The Magic Mushrooom Band (of course!) led by a man called Swordfish (of course!) and they deal in 15 minute ambient epics and surging proto-trance dancefloor bangers with endless guitar solos (of course!!). Everything here is over-egged, over-layered, with the potential to tip over into the most ludicrous foolishness at any second, yet incredibly they rein it in at that crucial moment ever time, and for all the cosmic scope keep everything single-mindedly focused on the pursuit of pleasure.

Last Train To Lhasa

Banco de Gaia
Last Train To Lhasa cover

Banco Di Gaia, aka former heavy metal drummer Toby Marks, is often held up as the archetypal hippie dance act of the 90s and not unfairly. Signed to the Planet Dog label affiliated with the sprawling Megadog raves, with tracks packed with transglobal source material, twinkly trance arpeggios and dub basslines, he made the soundtrack for untold mind expanding sessions. His best known album was this, a clearly very heartfelt tribute to the people and culture of Tibet, and while it couldn’t be more “of its time” it’s still a trip in all senses of the word.


The Shamen
Phorward cover

Scottish band The Shamen started out in 1985 as straight-up psyche-rock. By 1987 they were absorbing experimental industrial influences, as shown on their January 1989 In Gorbachev We Trust LP. But their evolution was so rapid that by the time it came out they were already fully immersed in acid house and about to launch their never ending Synergy tour of immersive psychedelic light and live electronic sound. This mini album from later that same year captures the delirium, with stripped back acid remakes of Gorbachev tracks and other iterations of dizzying trance-dancing sounds. Bigger things were coming for The Shamen as a fully-fledged dance act to say the least, but document of a transformation remains some of their best work.

Chill Out

Chill Out cover

This is a difficult one to separate from its context. Of course ambient music existed before this, and of course people had listened to the likes of Eno and Tangerine Dream in all kinds of states of intoxication for years before this record, but in the white heat of the acid house / rave explosion, released just a month into the 90s, this seemed like a revolution in the head, a severing of all rules including the law of gravity, a smashing open of the boundary between dreams and reality. People of all classes and creeds were laying sparked out after clubs with waves of birdsong, whole sections of Boy George‘s “After the Love,” Elvis Presley‘s “In the Ghetto,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross,” deranged radio preachers yelling  “all the way down the east coast, come back fat as a rat,” gliding pedal steel guitars, lush washes of synthesiser, and sheep bleating. And it felt like the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s dada collage, it’s both as psychedelic and as punk as anything could ever be, it’s so far beyond weird it makes a new normal, and it could never be replicated or repeated — however many peculiar and wonderful ambient records followed through the 90s and beyond. Sometimes you’d wonder if what you’d just heard was even real, and frankly it still seems that way decades on. Sadly, a streaming reissue with odd bits removed — presumably due to sample clearance — couldn’t touch the original, but track this down, give yourself fully to it, and you’ll never be the same again. Or maybe you will… context, right?

Air Liquide

Air Liquide
Air Liquide cover

Could this be the most truly psychedelic record to come out of the birth of trance? Cem Oral and Ingmar Koch aka Jammin’ Unit and Dr. Walker would make all kinds of more straight-ahead – often furiously noisy – dancefloor music under other guises, but as Air Liquide and particularly on this album they threw everything into making things as braincell-tingling as they possibly could. Murmuring vocals that felt like they made sense but were completely abstracted on close examination, 303s gurgling and echoing, ambient excursions. unexpected twangs of spaghetti western guitar or Rasta voices: it’s a wonderland of weird.

Mobile Music

DiY, Overview
Mobile Music cover

The late Simon “DK” Smith was the beating musical heart of the DiY illegal party collective from Nottingham in the English Midlands. DiY were anarchists in both theory and practice, and deeply rooted in music as folk culture: for all that they were about unbridled hedonism, they took their American house music very seriously indeed. The three original tracks by DK with studio partner Damian Stanley and one remix by fellow Nottingham deep housers Sine on this EP perfectly capture the sense of breathless adventure in DiY’s music: 909 drums are full of funk, while dreamy chords, sweetly melancholy vocal samples and gently gurgling acid create a sense of a dream world inviting you in.

Orbital 2

Orbital 2 cover

Orbital have become such a fixture of the UK and international dance music and festival landscape, sometimes it’s easy to forget how unique they are. Emerging right at the peak of the acid house explosion, they cut their teeth as one of the few live acts on the circuit in the most twisted and brain-mangled shows and raves. And their second album, where they truly found their feet, burns with the electricity of those early shows. This is music from a moment when it felt like rave and all the associated mental exploration was altering reality, and when you get swept up in its anthemic strangeness it can still feel a bit that way.

Acid Tablets Volume One

Jack The Tab, Psychic TV
Acid Tablets Volume One cover

Genesis P-Orridge’s deeply problematic cult leader behaviour over the years notwithstanding, their contribution to electronic and psychedelic music with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV is undeniable. And this bizarre attempt to capture the energy of acid house – in partnership with the young DJ and archivist of psychedelia Richard Norris – is a vital part of that. It completely fails in capturing house music as such, being still stuck in the 80s industrial funk way of doing things, but in that failure it did create a demented, disturbing dayglo explosion of energy, ideas and inspiration.

Electric Head

The Grid
Electric Head cover

This 1990 album is a perfect exemplar of how the Balearic aesthetic merged into deeper streams of music and subculture. Richard Norris was a psychedelic archivist and musical experimenter, who had already leapt headlong into acid house with the Jack the Tab album he made with Genesis P. Orridge of Psychic TV / Throbbing Gristle in 1988. Dave Ball also contributed to that album but was best known for his own dark electronic innovations as half of Soft Cell. Together as The Grid, they plugged naturally in to the moody EBM and other Euro electronic records played by Ibiza’s Balearic DJs and effortlessly drew lines of connection from these into both house and the more soulful / blissed-out / easy listening aspects of Balearic sets. “Floatation” in particular, with its Soul II Soul derived beat, captured perfectly the flowing-together of elements and lack of rules of the time — and via its Andrew Weatherall remix (included on extended reissues) has been a part of dance culture’s nervous system ever since, as evidenced by Paul Woolford’s extraordinary remake of it almost 30 years later.

Global Sweatbox

Various Artists
Global Sweatbox cover

The absorption of global music into psychedelic dance culture was rife with extremely questionable appropriation, and often a blurring out of difference encapsulated in the ghastly term “ethno dub” for more downtempo hippie rave sounds. But there was a huge amount, too, that involved artists of colour, that respected its constituent elements yet still took a devil-may-care, experimental approach and pushed things forward. The Nation Records label out of London, co founded by Fun Da Mental’s Aki Nawaz (formerly of Southern Death Cult with Ian Astbury), was the hub of this latter approach. They would be key in the formation of the “Asian Underground” movement with artists like Talvin Singh, TJ Rehmi and Fun Da Mental themselves – but earlier in the 90s they also overlapped into many other dance scenes, particularly progressive house. This remix collection connects their artists with a stellar lineup including Andrew Weatherall, The Drum Club, Adrian Sherwood, Youth and many more, and is as good a document of the giddy fusions of the time as you could ask for.

Every Man and Woman is a Star

Every Man and Woman is a Star cover

Just as the hippie rave aesthetic of the early-mid 90s — with all its portentous VR references and dense layers — was taking shape, this beauty arrived and almost rendered everything else obsolete. Incorporating acid lines that were way more deftly tweaked than 99% of their contemporaries into gorgeously played acoustic guitars, woodwinds, loping beats, nature sounds and references back to bohemian generations past (voiceovers from new age gatherings, a vocal from Kevin Ayers), the duo of Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond created the absolute perfect encapsulation of a perfect, hopeful ecstasy sunrise.

Phases of an Out-of-Body Experience

Rabbit In The Moon
Phases of an Out-of-Body Experience cover

US early adopters of the psychedelic possibilities of rave culture, Rabbit In The Moon were affiliated to the Hardkiss crew along with the likes of Hawke and God Within, and specialised in uptempo breakbeat music with high drama acid lines and cinematic scope. These five variations on a theme triangulated a place somewhere between The Orb, early Chemical Brothers and the rushes of early trance, and if you want something that will tempt you to rip off your shirt and paint a third eye on your forehead, this is it right here.

Alien Dreamtime

Spacetime Continuum, Terence McKenna
Alien Dreamtime cover

Recorded live at a “multimedia event” in San Fransisco in 1993, this is the sine qua non of trippy, “zippie” techno optimism in musical form. The rabble rouser, “ethnobotanist” and DMT evangelist McKenna holds forth over Johnah Sharp’s 303 gurgles, digeridoo samples, jungle sounds and general swoops and chirrups, about metaphysics, mushrooms, aliens, the fifth dimension, global awakenings and so forth – and incredibly it still sounds amazing. A fascinating relic of a time when guys doing acid in Silicon Valley was actually interesting.

The Pulse EPs

Various Artists, The Future Sound of London
The Pulse EPs cover

It’s been suggested that Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans didn’t consider the Pulse EPs of hardcore rave under multiple pseudonyms as creatively worthwhile as they did their spacier, proggier output as The Future Sound of London – regarding them as throwaway bits of DJ fodder. It would be a shame if this is the case, as the tracks are up there with the very best of their output, and were appreciated by ravers and rave music connoisseurs as such. As Yage, Mental Cube, Indo Tribe and others, they bottled the lighting as elements of house warmth, Detroit techno futurism, Belgian industrial madness and breakbeat funk flew around the ether – all these tracks are every bit as psychedelically complex as FSOL’s rambling epics, but condensed into blasts of pure ecstatic energy. 

Tales from a Danceographic Ocean

Jam & Spoon
Tales from a Danceographic Ocean	 cover

Back in 1992, the dance genres weren’t fully spectated from one another, and Belgium’s R&S records stood right in the centre of them — played by techno, hardcore rave, house and nascent trance scene DJs. This EP is the perfect example of one of those records that bridged all the gaps. The eternally brilliant “Stella” is MDMA encapsulated, its lush surging chord modulations, shamelessly sensuous whispering, sonar bleeps and cheesy as hell cod Spanish guitar lick all pursuing the pleasure principle relentlessly over six and a half airborne minutes. “My First Fantastic F.F.” strips Stella down to its beat, bass, bleeps and acid line and stretches it out further until you’re above the clouds. “Keep On Movin’’” is archetypal Belgian-style (though J&S were German) hardcore techno, roaring, swooping and demanding you set aside all rational thoughts as it pummels you.

Love's Secret Domain

Love's Secret Domain cover

In 1991, between Coil’s early 80s phase, where they were very much sonically in line with their industrial music contemporaries, and their later ever-further-out explorations where they often evaded form altogether, came this utter delirium. It is inspired by acid house — and it has more real groove to it than a lot of people coming over from the industrial side were managing at the time — but absolutely fried on LSD (hence the title). Eight years after, John Balance told me “we were taking a lot of hallucinogens, and surrounded by new equipment, samplers, synths, all kinds of things. Everything we did had to be processed and folded in, every recognisable sound would be collapsed in on itself or concealed, the work was becoming incredibly obsessive. There’s one track — ‘Further Back And Faster,’ I think — where we were trying to permutate a poem from this Charles Laughton film and we ended up full-on fist fighting in the studio.” All of this is completely audible. By modern standards the technology is primitive, yet the micro edits are the kind of thing that wouldn’t become common currency until a full decade after this album — and the overall effect is deeply mind-warping no matter how soberly you approach it. Annie Anxiety and Marc Almond add trans dimensional sleaze on vocals, and the whole thing is a Burroughsian interzone of weird entities partying like hell, which you enter at your own psychic peril.

Ov Biospheres and Sacred Grooves: a Document ov New Edge Folk Classics

Psychick Warriors ov Gaia
Ov Biospheres and Sacred Grooves: a Document ov New Edge Folk Classics cover

Plenty of Europeans affiliated with industrial and psychedelic music in the 1980s grabbed acid house culture with both hands — but nobody turned it into sounds as genuinely psychotropic as the shadowy Dutch collective PWOG. Their big singles “Ov the Maenad” and “Exit 23” conquered international techno and even mainstream house dancefloors, and their Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1 and Record of Breaks albums showed them as some of the best channellers of Chicago’s most jacking rhythms. But Ov Biospheres is their home-listening masterpiece, a teeming ecosystem of woody percussion, water sounds, whispers and tinkles that blend into one another in truly lysergic fashion.