There's little arguing electronica's link to '60s psychedelic practice, especially when you think of peace, drugs 'n' noise-filled raves to paraphrase Austin Powers as latter-day "happenings" that'll freak you out. But most well-known electronic artists who've tried to integrate early psychedelia into their music have wound up stumbling about in forced clichés by simply squishing token distorted guitar squiggles and hazy lyrics into the mix.
Leave it to a dark-horse outfit like the U.K.'s Akasha to get the balance right. On their second album, Love Philtre Magick, producers Damian Hand and Charlie Casey (along with a load of musicians) run myriad psych flavors through their beat-head romps without sounding hackneyed, which is good news for fans of both influences.
A simple listing of the tripped-out styles referenced on the album would make it seem like a top-heavy, unfocused mess. But Akasha's arranging skills and sense of pacing are both key to the album's success, as its songs allow the genre-blends to breathe. The opening kraut rock jog "21st Century Boy" glides gracefully in and out of ambiance and down-tempo breakdowns, while the Arabic-flavored "Al Kamiri" melts into a violin-soaked dub phase before morphing into a thumping acid-rock jam. And when Akasha follows up the surf-guitar monster-mash "Mugwamp Mondo" with the brooding, one-piano-note meditation "Duke," they come off as more logical than clever.
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With Love Philtre Magick, Hand and Casey avoid the dangers of simply reviving the psychedelic era and translating it for the digital age. Instead, they've subtly boosted its coolest aspects with their considerable tools and an irresistibly smart sense of fun. Take that, Dr. Evil!