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Various Artists – 70 Years Of Sunshine

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70 Years Of SunshineOkay. Let’s get the press over with; as a press release, this is actually pretty sweet:

Given the bleak times we find ourselves in today, Cascone felt that another (he’s referencing the 50 years of Sunshine DBL on Silent) tribute to Herr Hofmann was in order. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first LSD trip, a batch of etheric lysergic soundscapes were contributed to this project by Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mother’s Temple, Robert Wheeler of Pere Ubu, Legendary Pink Dots, Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound), Andy Rantzen (Pelican Daughters), various artists from the Silent label and some newer sound artists as well. Consider 70 Years of Sunshine to be a much anticipated software update. One that will hopefully make your auditory operating system run smoother and more colourfully.

And now let the affective out of the way too:

I really like this album. It’s makes me feel fuzzy. I’ve listened to it quite a lot.

And then we can get to what’s a little disturbing about it because this is a very disturbing compilation, if not perhaps in the way it was intended. In fact, you could argue that it’s much less about LSD than it is about the lack of LSD. It’s less an update, more a flipside. 50 years annoyed me a little because it tended towards (there were quite a few excellent exceptions) the rather prosaic cyber-glaciation of the ’90s and felt like sheen and purposeless drift when it should have been cosmick / kosmische but now, 20 years later, 70 years is a very different beast succumbing to a very different form of trance and drone.

Whereas 50 years seemed attracted to the peak of the flash when nothing much matters, 70 years is mostly come-down, when everything matters. This is no bad thing, but listened to straight through it seems a little unnecessary, especially in the context of “(making) your auditory operating system run smoother and more colourfully”. The colours here are come-down colours, fuzzy browns and greys, faded purples, whatever is the opposite of Technicolor. Colours leeched out of Inner Space. This is mostly music for 5.45 am, music for staring at old postcards and wondering how it seems like everything is worse than it might have been. You could imagine this from some of the more ‘mature’ artists – you can sense their disappointment – but even the newer guys (I’m still using this as a non gender-specifc term, whatever you say) seem a little infected with this melancholy. And I’m talking about the Ascent disc as much as the Descent one which, paradoxically, seems to have more of the flash-ier moments.

And it’s not just the composition, it’s the drones themselves. Whereas on 50 they were sometimes almost irritatingly shiny and missed the griminess and earthiness of LSD, now they are all grime and earth and the smooth edges are pecked with static and the fire-crackle of glitch and granular synthesis. Now, this is exactly how I like my drones, worn and almost falling apart at the seams, but there’s too much here that, judged collectively, just sound too similar. Not everyone can hear LSD like this. The point was always that people all hear it differently and yet still understand one another. Here, everyone seems to think that LSD self-evidently leads to a kind of learned helplessness and this seems a world away from the bright (some would say naïve) and bouncy optimism of 20 years ago (which, in itself was a resurgence of the original).

There are exceptions. Cotton Ferox keep things bright and dub-loose on their track. The ever-dependable Kawabata Makato makes an absolute virtue out of the kind of attenuated semi-acoustic, swirling beauty that only he can. Lord Tang has a sense of acid whimsy that evokes some of the happier moments of The Orb, and Ceremonial Dagger captures a joyously disorientated and hallucinated moment which for some reason reminds me of those My Little Pony mash-ups that keep appearing on message boards. Best track (or rather most apposite track) for me though comes right at the end. The Andy Rantzen piece is a little bizarrely scheduled as the last track on the Descent disc when it seems most suited for somewhere in the middle of the Ascent. “No One Plays Upon Your Mind” is simply, creepily effective acid pop which sort of squirms into your head and accurately mimics the inner voice and doubts that appear as you’re trying to adjust to the chemicals; it works in light and shade (the sound is light, the voices are speaking to you in a way that might be shade). As such, this one track captures the perfect duality at the heart of the LSD experience, the fact that the beauty is the terror and the laughter and the ugliness and the sense that, somewhere, deep inside you, there is a questioning Other who one day might want to be free.

-Loki-

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