Pink Floyd was my band. For many years I listened to everything they had produced. From the studio recordings to the rare gig bootlegs. The song Echoes was my favourite. In general, if Pink Floyd were a band whose emphasis was on vocals, I’d likely not have gravitated toward them. While the lyrical quality was profound at times, the vocals themselves were unique, but not stellar. Why I liked Pink Floyd was the instrumentals.
I went through a phase where I collected as many rare live recordings as possible. There are thousands out there. I focused on collecting as many versions of Careful with that Axe, Eugene and Echoes as I could. What struck me the most was every version I obtained was different. Some varied only subtly, while others seemed to only share a common foundation. In some cases, the recordings varied in time by minutes. Each variant was brilliant in its own right. Each could easily have been turned into a studio track.
I thought that the art of an extended instrumental piece was lost. I’d listened to many attempts by bands who characterise themselves as ‘post rock’, and posited lengthy instrumental pieces. They did have their moments, but largely, they sounded pretentious. It was quite recently that I happened to come across a band on SoundCloud that had a really killer logo. Blobs of colour, an eye, and globular letters. I looked at the song titles. Lucid Hallucinations. Medusa. They had the art. They had the psychedelic song titles. But, I’d come across this more than once in the past. Often, the names and the art did not mesh with the vibe of the sound. I listened.
Medusa. At the three minute and fifty-eight second mark the tempo of the guitar slowed and a distinctive organ sound played. I stopped whatever I was doing on my phone and just listened. I was, needless to say, blown away. There was something ageless about the sound. It was a song that took me on a journey. From its vocal heavy beginnings through some impressive guitar, and now…this. I can’t even explain why I liked it so much. But, isn’t that the sign of good music? If you can explain it, others can reproduce it. A true song cannot have the feel reproduced. It is locked in the track. It is unique. This was Medusa.
The band was Psyence. I listened to Medusa several times, finding more subtle qualities to the music with each listen. I wrote down positions in the song that struck me until it became to numerous to record. I tossed away the paper and just listened. In Stoke-on-Trent there were five musicians who had done what I thought to be impossible. They produced a sound in the spirit of the old psychedelic bands, but they did not copy. This sound was unique. It harboured all these gems that made it indescribable.
I let all the tracks play through. Over and over. Unlike so many bands who excel at a particular aspect (stellar guitar work, lyrics, vocals), Psyence embodied all and melted them together. The lyrics and the vocals supported the underlying music. The music extended the lyrics and vocals. Truly amazing. Listening to Psyence, I have hope that I’ll one day collect rare gig bootleg recordings from them; I’ll compare the instrumentals on Medusa and find those little nuggets of goodness; those moments where the band is feeling the music at a gig and takes it further. It makes the piece unique to the moment alone. This is music.
A lot about music has changed since the days of my old friend Pink Floyd. More than ever, musicians on popular radio are ‘created’. The person performing is doing just that. Performing. They are actors. But, these actors are the few, and the creators, like Psyence, are the many. Music does not need saving. It is all there. The musicians have done their part. We just need to turn our heads and listen in the right direction.
Psyence – Medusa
Psyence – Lucid Hallucinations