This is the third year that I have done a list of ‘Essential Psych Albums’ (2014 here/ 2015 here), which has proved to be the most popular thing that I post here on Backseat Mafia. I love end of year lists because they give me a great chance to catch up on things I might have missed during the year, and also celebrate the great music that is being released. The list is once again largely made up of small labels and less well-known bands who tend to put their music out there for the love of it rather than the money, but who are there solely on merit.

Last year was a real struggle to keep the list down to twenty albums such was the quality of releases in 2015, and we included a further ten albums to illustrate the point. This year it has just proved impossible to keep the list down to twenty, and even increasing it to twenty-five has meant that there are a similar number of albums that I rate really highly that I have not been able to include on the list, these are listed at the bottom of this post.

In the end the albums listed here are the ones that I have listened to the most during the year, and the ones that when I hear them really move me emotionally, and transport me somewhere else…that is what I look for from psych music and that is why, for me, they are essential. I’ve also done a short list of my favourite live albums of 2016 here.

Here then list of the essential twenty-five first, followed by some words about each and a track from each further down the page. I hope you enjoy remembering albums you’ve loved and, perhaps most of all, discover something new that you really rate…that would be awesome. Enjoy!:

 

25 Essential Psych Albums 2016 (presented here in no order or preference)

 

Stockholm Maraton by Kungens Män (Adansonia Records)

Helios Rising by Moths and Locusts (NoiseAgonyMayhem Records/ Sunmask Records)

The Hermit by Surya Kris Peters (Electric Magic Records)

Soy Dios by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sky Lantern Records)

Lost Chants/ Last Chance by Kandodo/ McBain (Rooster Rock Records)

Black Hill Transmitter by Black Hill Transmitter (FSOL)

House In The Tall Grass by Kikagaku Moyo (GuruGuru Brain Records)

Heron Oblivion by Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop Records)

In God’s Creation by Nudity (Cardinal Fuzz)

Karma Suture by Fungal Abyss (Adansonia Records)

KURO by KURO (Rocket Recordings)

Phantom of Liberty by Camera (Bureau B)

Ouroboros by Mythic Sunship (El Paraiso Records)

Zement:Werk by Zement (Sunhair Records)

Phantamonium by Hotel Wrecking City Traders (Evil Hoodoo)

Magnetic North by Vert:x/ Dead Sea Apes/ Blown Out/ Earthling Society (Drone Rock Records)

Monographic by The Oscillation (All Time Low Records/ Hands in the Dark Records)

Moral Machine by Colonel Petrov’s Good Judgement (Moral Machine Records)

Magnetic Seasons by Mugstar (Rock Action Records)

JuJu by JuJu (Sunrise Ocean Bender)

Mantra Music by Megaritual (White Dwarf Rock)

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol Box Set (Birdman Sound Records/ Cardinal Fuzz)

Body Cults by Narcosatanicos (Bad Afro Records)

Entranced Earth by Myrrors (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

Strange Pleasures by Dreamtime (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sky Lantern Records/ TYM Guitars)

 

 

Stockholm Maraton by Kungens Män (Adansonia Records)

This is an album that I have listened to a lot. It gets regular plays because it is a great mixture of music that is constantly driving forward, and yet feels very open and laid back in the way that it is played. Within the set are elements of Swedish progg, space rock, ‘Kraut’-rock, punk/ post-punk and many points in between. Most of all, though, it is a great sweeping double album of fantastic and varied psych music, and every time you listen to it is feels as if you have satisfied any number of sonic emotions. Highly recommended, as is the band’s previous album Förnekaren.

 

Helios Rising by Moths and Locusts (NoiseAgonyMayhem Records/ Sunmask Records)

“In ‘Helios Rising’ Moths and Locusts have produced an album that shares much of the eclectic endeavour of it’s predecessor, but seem to have found a greater depth and breadth to their sound. This is an album that deserves your full attention since it is crammed full of ideas and influences all of which are not so much put together as crafted into a set of songs that will continue to grow with every play. I am convinced that this will be an album that I will be listening to for years to come and that I have thus far only touched the surface of its sonic depth.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

The Hermit by Surya Kris Peters (Electric Magic Records)

“The first thing to remark on about the music on its album it its sheer beauty. This is an album that you put on and immediately feel at one with. It is an album that seems to understand you, and the sheer act of listening somehow makes you feel lighter. Add into that an element of ‘active’ listening and the whole this just takes off, with repeated listens only adding to that feeling. This is an album that sets up ideas and the comes back to them so that they add a sense of comfort as you move along, but also heightens the senses by bring the seemingly mundane into sharper and more meaningful focus. Yes it’s an album that you can listen to late at night, but it is also something you can hear at any time of the day and let it you just stop you in your tracks and see the world in a new way.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Soy Dios by Dead Sea Apes (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sky Lantern Records)

“Listening to Soy Dios with the benefit of hindsight, six years after its original release, it begins like some ur-Dead Sea Apes sound. All the elements are there from the moment that the guitar transudes into the track as if summoned from another dimension. And there it is; somehow complete…a fully formed sound from a band just starting out, not a formula but a template upon which the band have continued to build, warp and transcend over their ensuing albums. This then is how I see side one of this release. That moment when everything coalesces a couple of minutes into track I is just perfect.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Lost Chants/ Last Chance by Kandodo/ McBain (Rooster Rock Records)

This double album is one that is quite unique, in my experience, in that it has been mastered so that the vinyl version can be played at either 33 or 45 rpm. I was highly sceptical about this until I heard it with my own ears. The 45 album is the one that I prefer, but it is excellent at 33 too…and different. Together they form as irresistible a package as you would expect from Monster Magnet’s John McBain and Kandodo, the band formed from three quarters of The Heads. Overall the album is reminiscent of McBain’s ‘Smoke Drip’ collaboration with Carlton Melton a few years ago but more than holds it own too. I knew it was essential from the minute I heard it.

 

Black Hill Transmitter by Black Hill Transmitter (FSOL)

The Future Sound of London were one of my favourite bands in the 1990’s, and while they are still producing some great music under that name (and have a great vinyl re-issue programme going on) I was really pleased to discover this Black Hill Transmitter album which sees Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans operating under another name. The album is akin to the duo’s more ambient work, but with a more ‘krautrock’ and DIY/sci-fi sort of influence. It’s absolutely brilliant and up there with their best work in my humble opinion.

 

House In The Tall Grass by Kikagaku Moyo (GuruGuru Brain Records)

“It strikes me that through the music on this record Kikagaku Moyo have developed something that feels warm and comforting. There is nothing here that is particularly challenging or difficult to hear, rather it is an LP that coaxes out our emotions through empathy rather than provocation. It is, as I said near the beginning, an album that goes with the grain. It is an album of consummate beauty and, while a departure from their recent albums, is quite possibly the band’s best work to date.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Heron Oblivion by Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop Records)

“The album closes with ‘Your Hollows’ yet another track that has me reaching for the Thesaurus because I don’t want to use ‘sublime’ all the time. This is another track that seems somehow timeless, harking back to a lost moment yet feeling bang up to date. Another amazing vocal performance by Baird, yet at around 3’30” is a moment that really personifies the album for me as she reaches for the sky with a soaring vocal which seamlessly transforms into a guitar sound. This tells me why I like this Heron Oblivion album so much, because it has so many styles, some of which I listen to every day and others, and particularly the folk elements, which I often find grating. Here they are melded together seamlessly into songs which draw out the emotions and just make me want to put this album on again and again.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

In God’s Creation by Nudity (Cardinal Fuzz)

“…this double album somehow hangs together very well because it is played throughout with such intensity, such immediacy and such meaning that it is irresistible to those of us who just love music. It has certainly clicked with me and I am in little doubt that, barring something utterly amazing happening, this will most probably be one of my releases of the year…”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Karma Suture by Fungal Abyss (Adansonia Records)

“‘Karma Suture’ is essentially two tracks improvised within a inch of their lives, and wow is it exciting. The band play with a huge amount of freedom in really drawing themselves and each other out, stretching out the music without making it feel anything less than immediate. This is not space rock played out with hallowed tones though, this is a full on rock assault carried out as high velocity and infused with not with space dust, but rocket fuel. This is not of the nebula but the ice hard asteroid slamming its way through the universe.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

KURO by KURO (Rocket Recordings)

I’ll confess that I really didn’t get this album when I listened to it digitally, but enough people who’s sonic judgement I trust assured me that it was one I should persevere with. So I took what I thought was a risk and bought the album on vinyl. Well, boom…as soon as I heard it I was convinced pretty much immediately. This album it not so much dark as has a blackness to it (Kuro is Japanese for black), and is the product of an unlikely partnership of classically trained French violinist Agathe Max and Big Naturals/ Anthroprophh noise-maker Gareth Turner; although this work is probably closer to Turner’s solo project SALOPE. ‘Kuro’ is a work of deep yet troubling beauty from start to finish, a pool of black self-reflection that you can endlessly dip into and find something new every time…I’m very glad I stuck with it.

 

 

Phantom of Liberty by Camera (Bureau B)

“It has taken me fully three months since the album was released for me to finally get to write about it. I normally let it go if I’ve waited so long, but this is an album that has matured in my mind and gets stronger with every list. What started out as an album that I principally though about dancing to has become so much more than that, its a multi-faceted collection of tracks that never seems to stop giving, and provides a different experience every time you listen to it. If I were to write this review yesterday or tomorrow I am sure it would be very different.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Ouroboros by Mythic Sunship (El Paraiso Records)

At first listen this album very much feels like it might be a very good, yet unremarkable album of prog/ space/ stoner rock that puts it well in the oeuvre of brilliant Danish label El Paraiso. What really makes it stand out for me is that there is an element of rawness to ‘Ouroboros’, call it punk attitude if you will that adds a further dimension to the music. This album is so bloody exciting to listen to right from the opening bars, and for me is an essential addition to the collection of anyone who loves the above mentioned genres.

 

Zement:Werk by Zement (Sunhair Records)

“This on the one hand is very elemental music featuring the sonic building blocks of contemporary sound laid bare. Yet, as the band suggest, there is also a certain sense of alchemy here, a gestalt process in which the different elements come together to make something more. Yes there is something solid and functional about this music, but from that there is also something psychedelic and otherworldly. Listen to it and you gradually seen the structures melt in to a far more diffuse experience, it is Kosmische music which can take you away from the mundane into something altogether more mesmeric.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Phantamonium by Hotel Wrecking City Traders (Evil Hoodoo)

“All in all this is an album of four tracks that, while all sharing the band’s DNA, each have their own characters and approaches. It’s not necessarily an album which progresses from track to track, but where each and every track has its own thrill and in that sense is really a must listen for through who love riffed-up psyched-out repeato-jams.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Magnetic North by Vert:x/ Dead Sea Apes/ Blown Out/ Earthling Society (Drone Rock Records)

“This, then is the key thing about ‘Magnetic North’. It is the sound of four great Northern bands at the top of their game, this is certainly not a compilation of album cast-offs. This is a proud illustration of some of the brilliant music that is being played here in the North. The album left me wanting to listen to more music by all four groups, but as I can’t decide which I’m just going to have to listen to ‘Magnetic North’ again…and dream of a gig where these four all play, what a night that would be!”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Monographic by The Oscillation (All Time Low Records/ Hands in the Dark Records)

“This is The Oscillation’s most complete album yet. It is dense and complex, and, for me, is quite unique in its sound and approach. Yet it somehow continues the theme of the key albums I’ve reviewed this year so far (HengeCavalier Song and Pop. 1280) of being dark, dystopian, and innovative; difficult and yet very rewarding through close listening. We live in strange and perplexing times that require creative and challenging artists to act as ciphers for us…I never expected one of those codes to be channelling ‘Euroman Cometh’ though.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

 

Moral Machine by Colonel Petrov’s Good Judgement (Moral Machine Records)

“To say that this is a remarkable album would be a total understatement. It is a set that has grabbed me from the first moment I heard it and has just kept on giving…and giving…and giving. For me it is a total tour de force and, as far as I’m aware, really unique in its approach. The combination of a rhythm section with two drum kits, a mostly heavy, totally stoned and often fuzzy guitar, and a sax that just jumps all over the place is really a combination that shouldn’t work. Except it bloody does, and how?”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Magnetic Seasons by Mugstar (Rock Action Records)

“Rarely after listening to an album do I just want to sit in silence for a moment to think about what I have heard, but ‘Magnetic Seasons’ by Mugstar is such a record…it is an album whose four sides each mark out something different…these, I imagine, are the seasons of the title. Separately they all stand up as something that is great and rewarding according to different moods…together they form Mugstar’s most complete work to date, a collection of tracks that marks a evolution of the band’s sound to a new level of complexity, cogency and consistency.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

JuJu by JuJu (Sunrise Ocean Bender)

“This is a quite astounding album of modern psychedelia. Psychedelic music that is immediate, relevant, spiritual, affective and effective. Music that demands to be listened to. However, while psychedelic music is often a means through which to escape the mundane world, here it is used to direct and amplify what is going on within our own reality and encourages us to contemplate upon that nature of that reality and questions what our response to it should be. This would be a great album without this element: with it it is absolutely bloody ESSENTIAL!”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Mantra Music by Megaritual (White Dwarf Rock)

“This, then, is not your average rock record, it doesn’t hit you straight between the eyes from the outset. What it is is a study in the meeting point of Eastern and Western psychedelic music that provides a liminal space in which to perform the mega-ritual of the project’s title. This means that it is not an album that you are likely to ‘get’ straight away yet repeated listen peel back the layers delivering more each time. I’d better put it on again then.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

TBWNIAS Box Set (Birdman Sound Records/ Cardinal Fuzz)

“This box set is for people who like psych music, who like rock ‘n’ roll, and who like their music raw and unadulterated; in its entirety it’s a sonic tour de force that you will never tire of listening to and just want to play again and again. If that wasn’t enough Chris Hardman’s re-mastering of these albums takes them to another level, meaning that those lucky enough to own these albums already may just want to check them out again.”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Body Cults by Narcosatanicos (Bad Afro Records)

“If you like you music safe and unchallenging the steer well clear of this album…you’ll hate it. If, however, the very breakdown of this name Narco-satan-icos, there is definitely a latin influence to this satanic album of death, is something that peaks your interest…if you want to know what it feels like to be on the very edge of a smoking chemically radioactive lava-filled abyss, then stick this baby on and you may never be the same again. Watch your exposure though…that geiger counter is clicking!”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Entranced Earth by Myrrors (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

“…this is an album with a simple message about our relationship with our planet and our impact on it. It presents the enchanted nature of or world (as suggested to me by the title), and for me encourages us to see the relative simplicity of that relationship, basically by taking us away from all the shit that is secreted on top. You may well like this album from the first moment you hear it, it took me a while but my perseverance has been rewarded many times over…”

To read the full review, click here.

 

Strange Pleasures by Dreamtime (Cardinal Fuzz/ Sky Lantern Records/ TYM Guitars)

“This is an album that wants to take you on a journey. It’s an album that makes you want to feel, to experience things. It’s an album that will reward you more and more with every play. It’s an album that feels like every single bar has been meticulously thought through to produce just what the band want to do, right down to the fantastic art work by Indonesian artist Riandy Karuniawan. It’s the album I have been waiting for, and, if I didn’t know that before…I do now. I’m now going to go and lie down into a darkened room now…and listen to it again!”

To read the full review, click here.

 

 

If, after all that, you still want more here are the albums that I was absolutely gutted to have to leave out (click on album title for review where available):

Subversive II by Radar Men From The Moon (Fuzz Club Records)

Third Sight by Landing (El Paraiso Records)

Complekt by Landing (These Are Not Records)

Spectral Laundromat by Shooting Guns (Cardinal Fuzz)

Born To Deal in Magic 1952 – 1976 by Shooting Guns (Cardinal Fuzz)

Sun by Dreamtime (Cardinal Fuzz)

Dreamtime by Dreamtime (Cardinal Fuzz)

Anthroprophh/ Big Naturals by Anthroprophh/ Big Naturals (Cardinal Fuzz)

III by Cosmic Ground (Adansonia Records)

Psychic Lemon by Psychic Lemon (Drone Rock Records)

Blezard by Cavalier Song (God Unknown Records)

God of Silver Grass by Scattered Purgatory (GuruGuru Brain Records)

Lee Van Cleef by Lee Van Cleef (White Dwark Rock)

How’s Your Favourite Dream by Wooden Indian Burial Ground (EXAG)

New Cruiser by Blown Out (Riot Season Records)

Menimals by Menimals (Riot Season Records)

Magical Solutions For Everyday Life by Telstar Sound Drone (Bad Afro)

Mirror by GNOD (Rocket Recordings)

Sweet Chariot by Earthling Society (Clostridium Records)

Inner Journey Out by Psychic Ills (Sacred Bones)

Exploded View s/t (Sacred Bones)

Dandelion Sauce of the Ancients by Terminal Cheesecake (Box Records)

Drakkar Nowhere by Drakkar Nowhere (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

Vol II by Cholo Visceral (Cuaderno Roto Producciones, Necio Records, Toxiko Records)

 

Thanks for looking at my ‘Essential Psych’ list.

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You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.