The history of rock n’ roll is a journey from raw and rough and tumble to highly complex works of High Art, and back again. This is in response to the prohibitive, exclusionary ideals of prog and technical forms, giving way to the inevitable populist explosion of things like punk, folk and stripped down, blue-collar rock.
This vacillation has shifted in the 21st Century, thanks to the instant availability of nearly all of humanity's art at the click of a button. Rather than "progression," each artist seems to occupy its own weird, individualistic pocket universe, as every musician puts together the pieces of different influences and genre signifiers in their own particular way.
Psychedelia has been particularly prone to this tendency with many of the traditional psychedelic effects, like delay, reverb, echo, phaser and flange referencing both the way that we listen to music, as well as conjuring strange mental movies that those warped effects conjure.
Zed Songs Part I & 2 is the most recent, and most ambitious, collection from UK experimental singer/songwriter Gudjohr. Inspired by the weird, wild and wooly millennial psychedelia of Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs, Gudjohr's persona non grata Kips Golden returned to classic British psychedelic folk, Nick Drake and John Martyn, as well as newer influences like Tame Impala and Sufjan Stevens.
A lesser known, but equally great, band - The Clientele - should also be added to that list, with a similar evocation of gentle British pastoralism, delivered in a wide-eyed, blurry-gazed cinematic cast, thanks to de-tuned, chorused vocals and bits of lo-fi noise and grit, beneath the intricate finerpicked guitar.
The production inevitably conjures the specter of nostalgia over these proceedings, but they shouldn't. This isn't "fake old" like some Instagram filter, instead Zed Songs Part I & 2 recalls the concept of hauntology as "the past inside the present." This is the sound of memory, of remembrance and taking stock of the past.
Gudjohr also gets bonus points for personal, slice-of-life psychodramas, as with "Hey Gurl" about a young boy who nearly drowns and is brought back to life by a lifeguard to fall in love with his savior. Likewise, "Beaten By A Girl" is the chronicle of a young boy who's regularly beaten up by an older sister.
Classic British psychedelia, like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, had this element of childishness - the feeling of rain-soaked afternoons spent indoors, rummaging through tea chests for costumes and haunted board games. It is the sound of imagination and, in this case, the memory of it.
Zed Songs Part I & 2 lays to rest the argument that technically proficient music can't be personal, emotional and experimental, or that "lo-fi"/DIY musicians can't aspire to greatness.
Kips Golden has done more than aspire; he's overshot the mark. Zed Songs I & 2 is a glorious, ambitious record that is both personal and masterful. For those who want to see psychedelia shaped and molded into wondrous new configurations, who want to see folk music get with the times, or those who truly believe that rock n’ roll is for the masses, swoop this one up right away!
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