Psychoactive Soundscapes: The Trippiest Albums of 2017

You know what’s nuts? I wrote this critique of media monoculture year end lists back in 2015 and since it’s more relevant in 2017 I’m just going to re-paste the thing. All I have to do here is substitute out Damn. for To Pimp a Butterfly and you won’t even know when I tossed it up as for the second time in 2 years nearly every music publication decided unanimously that no other artists were even on the same level as Kendrick Lamar, to which I say, errrrr, he’s okay:

“It’s that time of year again: the time where I remind everyone just how rapidly consciousness has been evolving in such an amazingly short period of time. The good news there is that the entire point to technology is to serve art. We’ll figure it out eventually. It should be the great work of humanity to make this world “on earth as it is in heaven”, and it’s not like we aren’t working towards this on an unconscious level; we’ve just got to hone the process. From what I’ve seen of the higher realms in my astral explorations, they’re a mindfuck cut-up collage of the lower dimensions (like our own), where all the weird shit we’ve conjured forth down here can be re-assembled in infinite and deranged configurations. Up there, we’re living imagination devoid of concepts like pain, which we could in fact eradicate on this level of reality with the right blend of chemical concoctions and sound.

This world is just our bullshit day job, but man, talk about some tedious shit. I don’t honestly even want to harp on this stuff really, but 2017 might just be the year music “journalism” officially died. It’s getting beyond absurd and apparently exactly no one else is going to mention this other than me, but we’ve just hit another all time low on that front recently. What we should be learning from information technology is that in any given year, roughly a million or so amazing albums are released onto the internets. It’s a number that’s literally incalculable from the standpoint of individual consciousness. We could quantify it as beyond human comprehension, which is a variable hard science types need to start recognizing before they doom us all with imperialist kill bots. If you want to find like Guatemalan electro death polka stuff these days, it’s probably out there and within your quick reach.

Which is why it’s so unbelievably creepy that all the major taste making magazines and websites are now doubling down in their attempts to control the headspace of trend conscious Joe Six Pack and Suzie Strip Mall. I mean, I’m guessing they’re all owned or in bed with the same corporations. Almost all the major labels and major indies are. Hell, we all are in a way (hey, subscribe to my YouTube channel). So what you get in year-end lists is a bunch of identical countdowns informing you that the exact same fifty records, out of millions, are somehow the best by some objective form of critical measurement. It’s frightening, and I’m not sure what’s more depressing – browsing these articles or the comments sections, where everybody agrees about the selections but proceeds to argue about the order. Operation mind controlled robot populace is in full swing, and sadly, it’s actually probably much better than it ever was in decades past, before the web. I mean, at least now one can access smaller independent sites that aren’t just churning out label payola passed off as journalism. It’s just that very few people do so percentage wise.

I first noticed the phenomenon that I like to call monoculture music writing back in 2010 when Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was somehow the album of the year across the board pretty much everywhere. I’ve never really understood Kanye’s arty bling rap myself, and maybe it’s really amazing, but fuck, nothing is that fucking good unless it’s an album that somehow forgoes your ears and broadcasts pictures and orgasms directly into your mind. If a band does that, then I’m like, okay, gotcha, hard to argue that isn’t the best thing that came out last year. Not long after, while bored at work, I actually mapped out exactly how similar the top 50 year end lists for Pitchfork, Spin, and Rolling Stone were. I came up with roughly 65% the exact same stuff, and the top 10 reflected an even higher percentage of sameness. I mean, the order was honestly the only thing that was different, and it wasn’t that much different.

Unbelievably, since then it’s been getting even more bleak. Look, I’m not going to say Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. is a bad record. I quite like it, although I must confess I find myself skipping tracks here and there, especially that whole cry rapping thing. But fuck, really? It was the number one album on every single major year end list in 2017. Seriously. It was number one on Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vice, The Guardian, Onion AV Club, Sputnikmusic, etc. Where it didn’t end up number 1, it was number 2. Again, even I didn’t realize how deep this mind rape propaganda campaign even ran until I stumbled on this year-end list aggregator last week. Soooo creeeeepy. It’s all the comprised of the exact same albums. Insidious, and the message is so crystal clear; you know what albums are great kids? Albums that make increasingly interconnected conservative media corporations fat cash on the backs of a tiny number of largely underpaid artists. Again, I like Kendrick Lamar (although I could do without the materialism and misogyny), but even if Damn. was my favorite album of all time, I’d still be disturbed on a fundamental level by the sheer mind control factor going down.

The beauty of art is its sublime subjectivity. (Editor’s Note: This is why you will never find a comprehensive year-end list on REDEFINE; what you’ll find is an interconnected wonderland of our individual tastes from year to year, and it’s always pretty weird.) What sounds amazing to some people might come across like auditory torture to others. It’s these difficult to fathom concepts that the hard sciences will always fail to comprehend. That kind of automated thinking is good for marketing, not art, and that’s all one album being declared the best of millions to come out in any given year signifies, precision marketing. If we’re to ascend towards godhood, which is our most logical trajectory as cosmically aspiring monkeys, we have to start putting spells on ourselves that pull us out of our consumerist trance rather than reinforcing it. It’s happening, but on a macro level, the good stuff is still falling largely under the monoculture media radar, on purpose.

So rather than going out shopping for useless shit you don’t need this weekend, as you’re being unconsciously commanded by sexy-looking advertising passing as journalism, why not smoke a “quite possibly legal in some capacity where you live” joint and space the fuck out to some of these mind-manifesting records? Culture is not your friend, my friend. This music is designed to help you resist it.”

 

Here’s the part where I apologize for not really having a ton of time for music writing this year. I actually didn’t do a year end list of trippy albums last year for the first time in a while. The plan this year is to start doing monthly music pieces and then compiling them at the end of the year so I don’t spend a gajilion hours tossing up one article. So this year you get a bunch of links with not much writing. Apologies on that front but hey, it’s certainly better than nothing.

10. Feral Ohms – S/T

Okay, it’s not quite a new Comets On Fire album, but we’ll take what we can get.

feralohms

9. Moon Duo – Occult Architecture 1 and 2:

If you were to ask me which one of these is better I’d go with 1.

moonduo

moonduo2

Bonus points for coming up with the coolest videos of the year.

8. Bardo Pond – Under the Pines

Okay, to be fair I haven’t even listened to this particular album a whole lot yet, but it’s a legacy addition to the list. Did Bardo Pond come out with a new album this year? Yes? Okay, it makes the top 10.

bardopond

7. Flowers Must Die – Kompost

flowersmustdie

6. Guided By Voices – August By Cake –

Yeah yeah, I know, GBV aren’t really a psychedelic band per se but they just happen to be weirder than any other band on the list. I’ve explained this all before. Best. Band. Ever.

guided by voices

 

5. Mythic Sunship – Land Between Rivers

mythic

 

4. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz Born on a Gangster Star/Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines

Which on of these albums is better? I suppose Gangster Star gets a slight edge but it’s close.

shabazz1

quazars vs the jealous machines

3. Run the Jewels 3 –

Controversial opinion – this is the best RTJ album and a huge step up from their disappointing second effort, which I thought was half good.

rtj

2. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

These dudes released a whopping 4 albums this year (no scratch that, 5, one came out on December 31st) which is completely fucking insane if you’re not Robert Pollard. I ranked them in the order of quality below, weakest to strongest in descending order. Haven’t actually had time to listen to the latest one yet.

flyingmicrotonal

mildhigh

polygon

murderoftheunivers

  1. At The Drive In –In•ter a•li•a

Yeah, I get it, not really a psych record, but these dudes are in fact psych legends. Not the trippiest album I heard this year, but rather the best. Better than Relationship of Command and oh hey, I wrote about that here.

inter

 

 

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken

CEO at DMI
Thad McKraken is a psychedelic writer, musician, visual artist, filmmaker, Occultist, and pug enthusiast based out of Seattle. He is the author of the books The Galactic Dialogue: Occult Initiations and Transmissions From Outside of Time, both of which can be picked up on Amazon super cheap.
Thad McKraken