Lately, the study of entheogens is on the rise, and there's now a lot of backyard warlocks that are looking for a trippy soundtrack for their festivities. Whether for basement gatherings of your local branch of the OTO to cool off from that Gnostic Mass, or a one-man-dance-around-a-fire out in the woods, every altered state needs a playlist. There is certainly more for the ritual room than Tibetan chants and gongs, but what do you play at the afterparty? A ceremony certainly needs its mood music, and to every witch their theme song, but these picks are for the psychonaut looking to space out.
More often than not, when you ask about a record that's a real head trip, the number one reply is: The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album. Not a shot at that record, but there are over a few pure-cut kilos of records—older and newer—that, if accompanying shamanship, could make you question reality, though some are dependent on how much you've ingested.
Anything created after the rave scene exploded is, quite frankly, cheating. Ambient music was made for sitting around attempting to induce visions, so I'm mostly sticking to records released before 1992.
While the popularity of DMT increases, and LSD has always been a favorite among the dosing crowd, they could be pretty heavy with some of these listens. Many suggest MDMA (molly) or psilocybin mushrooms to be milder for these psychological walkabouts, but caution is always warranted. Experiments done by Timothy Leary, and promoted by Robert Anton Wilson, show that "set" and "setting" are both important, so: good place, good people = good time. It's all about trust, and some of these records contain an apocalyptic sound you could only imagine coming from a futuristic cave full of artists draped in animal skins. Many aren't ready to have their psyches taken back to those times, or flung so far into the future, so watch yourselves accordingly.
Speaking of which, my first pick brings to mind a woodsy outing playing footloose with animal bones and flames, Skullflower's 1989 LP Form Destroyer, and it is a good place to begin.
If by the end of "Elephant Graveyard" you're not covered in mud and grass, dancing around a fire in your backyard, you are not peaking yet. By "Procession of Eternity" you may be eating small prey you've caught, but keep your wits about you. Let the music be a key into another world, but don't be a slave to the rhythm.
If the record ends, and you are looking to keep the spiral spinning, follow it up with Heaven's End from Loop, Neurosis with Souls at Zero or Enemy of the Sun, or Butthole Surfers' Locust Abortion Technician. If you find yourself saying, "I love the tribalism of Skullflower, but wish someone would take out all the groovy bass and guitar," or, "I find dystopian visions of a post-apocalyptic world to be my favorite," then have I got the next record for you! Einstürzende Neubauten's Halber Mensch album from 1985.
The field recording aspects of this band has the ear on high alert, but often weary as the clang of metal can send scrapes up the spine. It's a mindfuck some aren't prepared for, but the world isn't always a beautiful place. If you are flying in the prone position, Halber Mensch is also a full-length feature music video, where you can lay back, and watch the world burn as best as listening to it.
When this LP is done, and you've finished spilling your record crates onto the floor to create a fort against imaginary enemies, look about the mess for Crash Worship's ¡Espontáneo!, Konono Nº1's Congotronics (the only contemporary LP I'll list here), or the 1968 jam Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda by original Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise, who ran off to the east to keep doing this type of thing.
Do you prefer your psychedelia old school? Well, you can always run to the classics, like Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Trout Mask Replica, but if you put on a slab of '60s psych, put one on that will make you question the certainty of what is happening on both the turntable, as well as the real world.
If you accept this quest, begin with my pick number three: 1967's Parable of Arable Land from The Red Crayola.
The album is a 45-minute slice of what-the-fuck, made mostly by the interludes to the actual songs, courtesy of a supposed 50 anonymous "followers" known as The Familiar Ugly. The fuzz guitars and Hammond organ are tops on this jam, too. If you are a fan of Jackie-O Motherfucker, you can see where Mayo Thompson was a huge influence, and if this album's "Pink Stainless Tail" isn't post-punk 10 years before post-punk, I'll go sober.
To keep the event going, I would chase this LP with the chronological releases of the then-newly-named The Red Krayola (changed due to legal issues); 1967's Coconut Hotel, an ambient-rock noise music freakout, then play the following year's God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It while you dance with your shadow.
If you are looking for something darker to roll around in candlelight; something with more upside-down pentagrams, and sounding like an acid-drenched Sabbath, then try Salem Mass' Witch Burning or the 1969 self-titled slab by Arzachel. Maybe even Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls by Coven. I could see LaVey secretly getting down to these discs, even though he claimed to only dig showtunes.
Though, if you just want to drop and dance to good ol' rock-n-roll, there are a year's worth of bands to go through, and you'll need a sheet of hits just to keep you awake long enough to cover it all. The Savage Resurrection, HP Lovecraft, Cold Sun, Sam Gopal, Velvett Fogg, Soft Machine, Beat of the Earth, Clear Light, Ultimate Spinach, Group 1850, the original Nirvana, The Ghost, Please, Night Shadow, 20th Century Zoo, The Myrrors, and then there's krautrock. Oh my god, all the krautrock! You'll need way more than one sheet. Well, this was at the beginning, and the height of LSD use in the music scene, so all of it is a given, I guess.
The fourth record I'm picking dates from 1957, and is Martin Denny's first release, Exotica, which is where he premiered to the world his trippy talents, and spacey sounds. As Boyd Rice loves to tell, his father's biker buddy told him the best music to take a trip to was Martin Denny. He tried it, and believed it to be true. I have, too, and somewhat agree. This is spirituous, uplifting music, though admittedly sometimes racist, and an odd timewarp. If you don't think these folks were flying high, check out the cartoons of the era, which were influenced by this crazy jazz. If you are running out of Denny (he put out 30 records in his first 10 years in the bizz), look into Lex Baxter.
Pick number five is a Jamaican dub classic from 1973, which is Lee Scratch Perry's Blackboard Jungle Dub.
Though not the first dub record (which would be 1970's The Undertaker by Derrick Harriott and the Crystallites), it was the first record to utilize as much of the newfound dub style of sound effects, and repetitious rhythms, as possible. While this album is basically for stoners, the record is a massive head trip of reverb, echo and delay, so it'll mess with a tripper's reality, for sure. Great follow-ups are Augustus Pablo's East of the River Nile, as well as King Tubby's At the Grass Roots of Dub, and Keith Hudson's Pick a Dub.
Sixth, and final, was a hard one to choose, and I understand with a whole lot of musique concrete out there, I could have gone with the works of Pierre Schaeffer, but there's also John Cage, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier, Delia Derbyshire, or—damn!—Brian Eno.
Still, I'm going with Gustav Holst's symphony The Planets; preferably a version not picked up for $1.99 in some "classical music package."
You many find it odd that Holst opens with the planet Mars, but it gets the heart pumping. The stage of the music is also all about life and death, so prepare for a roller coaster ride. Others I'd definitely give a spin to in this session would be Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky, and Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt.
These six discs are by no means the end-all on the subject. I'm certain in my haste to prepare this I may have skipped over some excellent works. Those listed are records I've chosen because I have personally experienced and experimented with them, but if you think I'm only trying to push drugs on you, you should just take a chill pill.