The UK Psychedelic Underworld Is In Rude Health

The UK Psychedelic Underworld Is In Rude Health

A clutch of artists are making their mark...

The psychedelic sound may have officially blossomed into life during the summer of ’67, but the psychedelic urge – and tendency – is much more deeply felt, deeply ingrained that some swinging 60s trope.

Right now, a clutch of UK groups are revitalising the psychedelic underground, centring on a number of London venues, promoters, and club nights.

Semi-legendary East London den Helgi’s matches superb live music and vinyl crate-diggers, while residencies – such as the Sitar Service – provide support and bedrock for the psych community.

Meanwhile North London’s Night Owl offers something broader, with its 60s clad attire welcoming everything from Northern Soul and reggae cookouts to surf rock and garage punk. Psychedelia remains at the venue’s core, however, with Shindig and Psych-a-Rella hosting parties that push the community to new levels. 

Clash counts down some of the groups proving that psychedelia is for every season – not just summer.

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Looking Glass Alice

Herts duo Looking Glass Alice comprise two key figures from the UK psych scene, two individuals whose interest in colourful fashion has long stood out from the pack.

Debut single ‘I Know’ is an immaculate introduction, with its neat, infectious rhythm primed for dancefloor use. An exquisite pop song, ‘I Know’ stays lodged in your mind long after its first play – a gateway to higher consciousness, or simply a wicked melody?

The jury is out, but Looking Glass Alice have swept into view with an urgent piece of pop-flecked psychedelia deployed with confidence, intent, and no small degree of style.

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The Nightfalls

A group who made their debut at The Night Owl as 2021 began its final approach, The Nightfalls are a new quartet from one of the UK psych scene’s best loved figures.

Paul Orwell’s work has been a Clash tipple for around a decade now, and he matches his songwriting role with input to re-issue label Solution Records. In one fell swoop, The Nightfalls carved open a new chapter. Patching together groovy psych rhythms with hard rock flavours, they seemed to open up a portal between 1968 and the 21st century – raw, imposing musicality, combined with snappy songwriting that cut each idea off in its prime.

A hugely impressive opening gambit from The Nightfalls, each song felt like a golden 45 while the interplay between the musicians was born from easy-going relationships and vast experience.

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Large Plants

The Wolf People spent a decade melding together indie rock and psychedelia, fusing wayward sounds with excellent songwriting. Now sadly defunct, Large Plants emerge from the ashes, making their debut with – of all things – a Madonna cover.

Re-casting ‘La Isla Bonita’ as a murky but riveting piece of lysergic-enabled rock music, many took it as the original version, some hidden jewel from ’69. Released on cult label Ghost Box, ‘La Isla Bonita’ was followed by a string of scintillating live shows.

Word is out on the psychedelic underground, and with late night radio following suit, it seems as though Large Plants could follow The Wolf People to broader prominence.

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Green Seagull

Baroque pop songwriting with psychedelic textures, Green Seagull’s two studio albums – thus far – represent some of the best 60s inspired musicality around right now. Live, the four-piece are simply fantastic, with their individual characters melding together into something transformative.

With a pair of excellent studio LPs out on the cult Mega Dodo imprint, we’re desperate to hear what Green Seagull will conjure next.

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The Liquorice Experiment

London five-piece The Liquorice Experiment meld together psychedelic curiosity with garage punk attack, resulting in something potent, addictive, and intense. After a short break the band have returned, with an overhauled line up and a clutch of new songs.

Last year’s double-sider ‘Mr Scott’ b/w ‘Make Friends With You’ offered up frenzied freakbeat, a jagged, amphetamine-fuelled piece of punk-edged guitar music that also felt defiantly British.

Easing The Liquorice Experiment out of the shadow of their excellent 2019 EP ‘Here And Now’, the future feels wide open for the five-piece.

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Andy Lewis

A vastly experienced songwriter, producer, and DJ, Andy Lewis utilised the free time offered to him by lockdown wisely. Firing up his studio, the musician perfected Mod-pop anthems such as ‘Balls To Enoch Powell’, or the airy acoustic jewel ‘Moment In The Light’. Mod meets soul, R&B meets psych, his Bandcamp collection ‘51’ is a perfectly put together slice of devoutly English, 60s leaning pop music. 

Standouts include the organ-drenched ‘Free Culture Experiment’ and the heady, tripped out ‘I Really Think So’ – Mod in its Regency phase, this is the perfect soundtrack for a visit to your local vintage den.

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South London’s Zonama take another, outer-national look at the psychedelic tendency. A Zam-rock inspired outfit from Deptford, their intense live shows meld together Malian rhythms with way-out effects, resulting in a heady, mind-altering brew.

A sign that psychedelia isn’t as linear as some would grant it, Zonama’s debut single ‘Stop Wasting Time’ landed in 2020 and quickly earned acclaim. Set to return to The Night Owl shortly, they’re bringing with them a slew of new ideas, aiming to raise the roof once more.

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