Synthedelia: Psychedelic Electronic Music in the 1960s


“‘Rock & roll is electronic music – because if you pull the plug, it stops.’ So says Louis ‘Cork’ Marcheschi of Fifty Foot Hose, whose sole album, Cauldron – a pioneering collision of abstract electronics and psychedelic rock originally released in 1967 – was reissued for the first time on vinyl at the end of 2017. Marcheschi’s remark is a reissue too, in a way. He originally made that assertion early in ’67 when he and guitarist David Blossom were drunkenly hatching the idea for Fifty Foot Hose, as a rock group that ‘really incorporated the concepts of electronic music not as sound effects but as a substantive part of the music.’ Fifty Foot Hose weren’t the only ’60s rockers who’d had this lightbulb moment. Although these bands were largely unaware of each other’s existence at the time, you could group Fifty Foot Hose among a confederacy of acid-era bands from North America who embraced synthesizers and musique concrète’s tape-manipulation techniques. Silver Apples and United States of America have long been cult groups, but there’s also lesser-known exponents of the style, such as the Canadian trio Syrinx (and its avant-garde precursor Intersystems), Lothar and the Hand People, Beaver & Krause and Tonto’s Expanding Head Band. Since retroactively invented genres are all the rage these days – nobody at the time talked about minimal synth, or freakbeat, or junkshop glam – it’s tempting to float a comprehensive coinage. Synthedelia, anybody? So, what defines this quasi-genre? First, the shared approach to electronics was abstract and sound-painterly, often utilizing hand-made electronic instruments. Second, most of these outfits had a direct connection to the ’60s avant-garde, with one foot planted in psychedelic rock and the other either in the realm of academic composition or in the Fluxus-style underground of multimedia happenings. Finally, nearly all of these groups released just one or two albums before disbanding. …”
Red Bull Music Academy Daily (Video)

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