Psychedelia is back. Forget about the Goth revival, all that paleness and blackness. Right now it’s all about tie-dye, crazy colours and acid (sounds, that is). Last 10th of September the Wysing Arts Centre held the ‘Past Present Future Space–Time’ music festival in collaboration with Electra, Strange Attractor, Bad Timing and Escalator Music. It was the culmination of the six-week residency of the artists Mark Essen, Hilary Koob-Sassen, Kate Owens and Damien Roach who, under the suggestive name of ‘The Department of Psychedelic Studies’, explored the links between psychedelia and art through text, film, sculpture and print.
On arriving to the festival I was greeted by the psych-pop set by The Doozer, a Syd Barrett-esque character from Cambridge that set an accurate tone for the things to come. I then went to the gallery to listen to a talk by the artist Liliane Lijn, the first female artist to work with kinetic text mixing light and text, and who used to hang out in the 1960’s NY with the mighty William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Declining participation on a yoga lesson held at the Wysing’s Stone Circle –a setting that made it all look more like a witchcraft ritual than some sort of sports– I returned to the gallery to catch the devilish performance of the duo 6666, which felt like a cross between a concert, a satanic meeting and a horror film.
Later that afternoon the band Diagonal played a fantastic set, one of the highlights of the day for me due to their geeky concoction of prog, acid and kraut rock. The band, hailing from Brighton and formed by six excellent musicians including a saxophonist/singer front man, sounded very tight while unfolding their long and hypnotic compositions that reminded me at some moments of both Can and Neu! At 6,30 it was time to listen to English Heretic, a music project/society which presented a series of song inspired by the writings of the London occultist Kenneth Grant, incorporating original recordings on witchcraft and Satanism. Part séance part gig, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. By the end of it, all the spectators felt united in a sort cult. Throughout the day, as the music played all around the premises, artists Fay Nicolson and Oliver Smith performed a ‘manifesto-parade’ as well as creating poster display, part of the ongoing curatorial project ‘Constitution of the Damned’.
The night slot started with a live set by the post-dubstep lot Old Apparatus and reached its climax with the performance of Demdike Stare. Now, I might not be entirely objective here, since they are probably my favourite band these days, but the Manchester-based duo offered a truly mesmerizing performance. Accompanying their unique mix of dub and hauntological sounds with footage from European erotica and horror films from the 70’s, it was no doubt one of the best juxtapositions of music and image I have seen in quite some time. The festival, a ‘connoiseurs’ programme sadly a little wasted on a very small audience, ended with an unexpected hardcore-gabba techno DJ set by the artists Ed Atkins and Andy Holden. Psychedelia and the occult might be where is at, but it is –perhaps fortunately– still small business.
An edited version of this review was published on this is tomorrow
Photo Credits: Ruta Balseviciute, courtesy Wysing Arts Centre