Coming back from this year excellent Liverpool PsychFest I reflected that if there were two bands that I would have liked to have been added to the bill they would have been Dead Skeletons and Föllakzoid. It seems that by some sort of cosmic serendipity the organisers of said festival were of the same mind in putting together this ‘Xmas Psych Night’.
Both bands have been real finds for me in 2013. I came to Chile’s Föllakzoid through the Piccadilly Records half year list (their II album made 7 in the final list) and Icelandic band Dead Skeletons through Singapore Sling, both bands have Henrik Björnsson as a member; so I was really excited to see them come together for a gig.
I started the evening with high expectations and was worried that these could not possibly be met. These concerns were soon waylaid, however, as Föllakzoid took to the stage and ripped through a set mainly taken from their excellent II album. What I loved was that here was a band who interpret their songs live, and this is well suited to their fluid motorik style with its Can and Neu! influences, combined with space rock soundscapes. With the addition of an amazing light show, I found this a totally immersive experience as I lost myself in the music, a real psychedelic experience as Föllakzoid let each track build and build. Highlights for me were ’9′ and ‘Trees’ (the standout track of their album for me), but it was ‘Pulsar’ that really stole the show. On record this is a great track, but live it was transformed into a huge monolith of sound that just kept on going. Quite stunning.
So expectations met, and raised. Dead Skeletons were really going to have to pull out all the stops to nail this. And that is just what they did. I had been impressed with Singapore Sling when I saw them earlier this year, and hoped that Björnsson’s other band would be as good.
Björnsson is a sort of Ty Segall type figure, someone who has a hand in a number of different, and invariably excellent, musical projects. He first worked with artist (and Dead Skeletons front man) Jón Sæmundur Auðarson on an art show in 2008, and the resultant band have subsequently produced an album, 2011′s Dead Magick, and a string of singles and EPs, some of which have been released with one side of the vinyl music, the other containing Sæmundur’s art work.
The set began with some Magick ritual by Sæmundur, who then produced a picture at the side of the stage as the band developed a heavy and intense backing track. They then powered into a set which was powerful and deep, reflecting their cosmic image-laden lyrics. This is a band who utilise a repetitive psychedelic style in order to hammer out mantras thus building spiritual as well as musical expressions. The most obvious example of this is on the track ‘Om Mani Peme Hung’, a Tibetan Buddhist mantra, but also in different ways throughout the band’s oeuvre.
This is very much played out in their live set which I though brought out the complex structures of their songs very well. I was taken by Björnsson’s Duane Eddy/ Rockabilly guitar riffs and appreciated the atmosphere that Sæmundur takes care to create. Again the superb lighting added to the immersive experience, making a relatively small venue appear much bigger.
This, then was a terrific double header of a gig with two quite different psychedelic bands on top form. The effects were cosmic, the music was spaced out and the audience went away knowing that they had experienced something special.