psychedelic influence

First evidence for higher state of consciousness found

Scientific evidence of a ‘higher’ state of consciousness has been found in a study led by the University of Sussex.

(Image caption: Image created using brain imaging technology, showing changes in neural signal diversity while under the influence of LSD)

Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity – a measure of the complexity of brain activity - of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state.

The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep.

This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply ‘awake and aware’. Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anaesthesia, or the so-called ‘vegetative’ state.

The team say that more research is needed using more sophisticated and varied models to confirm the results but they are cautiously excited.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said: “This finding shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from normal.  

“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness – as measured by ‘global signal diversity’.  

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal – but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

For the study, Michael Schartner, Dr Adam Barrett and Professor Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalysed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD.

Using brain imaging technology, they measured the tiny magnetic fields produced in the brain and found that, across all three drugs, this measure of conscious level – the neural signal diversity – was reliably higher.

This does not mean that the psychedelic state is a ‘better’ or more desirable state of consciousness, the researchers stress; instead, it shows that the psychedelic brain state is distinctive and can be related to other global changes in conscious level (e.g. sleep, anaesthesia) by application of a simple mathematical measure of signal diversity. Dr Muthukumaraswamy who was involved in all three initial studies commented: “That similar changes in signal diversity were found for all three drugs, despite their quite different pharmacology, is both very striking and also reassuring that the results are robust and repeatable.”

The findings could help inform discussions gathering momentum about the carefully-controlled medical use of such drugs, for example in treating severe depression.

Dr Robin Cahart-Harris of Imperial College London said: “Rigorous research into psychedelics is gaining increasing attention, not least because of the therapeutic potential that these drugs may have when used sensibly and under medical supervision.  

“The present study’s findings help us understand what happens in people’s brains when they experience an expansion of their consciousness under psychedelics. People often say they experience insight under these drugs – and when this occurs in a therapeutic context, it can predict positive outcomes. The present findings may help us understand how this can happen.”

As well as helping to inform possible medical applications, the study adds to a growing scientific understanding of how conscious level (how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of) are related to each other.

Professor Seth said: “We found correlations between the intensity of the psychedelic experience, as reported by volunteers, and changes in signal diversity. This suggests that our measure has close links not only to global brain changes induced by the drugs, but to those aspects of brain dynamics that underlie specific aspects of conscious experience.”  

The research team are now working hard to identify how specific changes in information flow in the brain underlie specific aspects of psychedelic experience, like hallucinations.

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Larry Lewis. Untitled, Shinola and Saddle Shoes, Derma Royale, The Girl and the Game, Untitled (Blue Clock), Untitled (Garbo and Von Stroheim), Boy with Bubble Pipe Blue, Untitled (Harlow and Van Gogh), Untitled (Woman with Camera), Don’t Suffer. 1940-1970.

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Some 60s-70s bands who were influenced by or influenced Psychedelic music, to a backdrop of Timothy Leary’s ‘ink art’ from The Psychedelic Experience.

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On this day in music history: April 22, 1985 - “Around The World In A Day”, the seventh studio album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at the Flying Cloud Warehouse in Eden Prairie, MN, Mobile Audio Studio, St. Paul, MN, Sunset Sound and Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA from January - December 1984. The second album credited to Prince & The Revolution, it is issued only ten months after “Purple Rain”. The new album is the first in a number of musical departures that Prince takes in his career. Much of the albums first half has a distinctively psychedelic influence, with the rest being balanced out with funk, pop and gospel sounds. Initially it is released with minimal publicity and without a single until nearly a month later. Prince suggests that “Paisley Park” be the first single (which is released in the UK), but with US radio already giving “Raspberry Beret” heavy airplay as an LP cut, Warner Bros in the US insists that it be issued instead. The album receives favorable reviews, and a positive reaction from fans. It spins off three singles including “Raspberry Beret” (#2 Pop) and “Pop Life” (#7 Pop). The initial CD packaging of the album comes in a three panel cardboard long box that unfolds (showing the song lyrics, like the LP’s inner gatefold) with the actual CD inside of a mini cardboard sleeve (of the album cover artwork), inserted into a slot inside the longbox. This packaging is discontinued after the initial press run, and the CD comes in a regular jewel case on subsequent re-pressings. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued in September of 2016, replicating the original LP packaging and the “Balloon Boy” hype sticker.  “Around The World In A Day” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Foster the People interview: 'This record had its own pressure'

About halfway through “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy”, singer Mark Foster segues into a spoken-word piece that recalls Gene Wilder’s memorable lines in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, complete with that ominous bassline running beneath it.

It’s one of many moments that should surprise fans who listened to Foster the People’s first two records. Sacred Hearts Club is an album by a band who seem to have finally broken away from the trappings of what people think they are.

They’re in London for the Somerset House series, and Foster – who has a fresh tattoo on his arm – and keyboardist Isom Innis, who joined the band as an official member this year after touring with them since 2010 (“it feels exactly the same”) are detailing how the album came together.

“We were totally referencing that [moment in the film],” Foster nods. “Actually there was a different variation of the lyrics… so the beat dropped and we actually did this…”

He starts to sing: “A world of pure imagination, take a look, and you’ll see/into your imagination…” And then the beat came back in, “duh duh dom”, and there was this instrumental string thing. We played with it for a few days then ended up scrapping it.

“It’s been interesting, making this record,” he continues. “We started working on it at the end of the Supermodel tour. When we’d catch a few weeks off me and Isom [Innis] would go into a studio in LA or wherever we were and just start writing. And when we finally ended the tour for that, for the first year we just wrote as much as possible. Verse chorus vibe was kind of our rule.”

By the end of that year the band had about 100 ideas to choose from, and the record had begun to take shape – with plenty of twists and turns along the way. What began with a 60s psychedelic influence transitioned to something altogether more “weird”, which Foster credits to Innis’ skills as a beatmaker.

“On ‘Sid & Nancy’ it was originally this atonal kind of beat that you hear in the verses, like an atonal dance track,” Innis exlains. “Mark took it in the studio, added a chord progression, arranged a song that was really meant to be in the dance world. And that’s when it started to transform.”

Members of the band are split between LA and Nashville, which seem to have overtaken New York as the creative hubs of America, where artists from the US, the UK and everywhere in-between are forming their own communities.

“I think you can have a more comfortable life as a musician there, in terms of having your gear and moving around,” Innis suggests. “I lived in Boston for four or five years and would commute to New York to play gigs. New York City became so expensive, all the recording studios started shutting down because they couldn’t afford rent anymore…”

“I moved to LA when I was 18 and it was a piece of s*** city,” Foster says. “It was terrible. You had the weather and the ocean which were great, but it’s really developed in the last six or seven years.”

For Foster the People, LA has been “a very generous muse, for a long time”. You can hear it on Supermodel, this sort of wry, suspicious look at artificial beauty. But the band have widened their gaze, and Sacred Hearts Club is a more critical look at global issues that Foster would see every morning when he turned on the news.

“For the past two years I felt like I’ve woken up and something has happened that is tragic,” he says. “A bombing, a terrorist thing, refugee crisis, the political situation with Trump, with the DNC leaks, watching what happened with Brexit and seeing nationalism rise around the world, racism, homophobia… All these things I thought we were evolving past as humans seem to have come back in full force.

"It was an interesting narrative, walking into the studio with that being on my shoulders from that morning. And for us it was really important, it became clear that as artists we wanted to make something that was joyful and unifying, and remind people that life is still beautiful. Supermodel is very pointed, politically, because I feel like we were pretty apathetic and living in a bubble.

"The world seemed in some way pretty comfortable, it didn’t really care what was going on in other places, and that record was very much like… I wanted to slap people a little bit, throw some cold water on them. This record, it would have felt wrong to do that. I felt like people needed a hug.”

After Trump won the election, explicit statements from artists were released in full force; artists who were angry at the world they lived in, at the people making the decisions, and perhaps also at themselves for not speaking out sooner.

“Look, I was fighting like hell before the election, to try and get people to vote against him,” Foster says. “But after he got elected, I started to realise that I really wanted to unite people. That political race was so polarising, these two extreme factions seemed more divided and more volatile against each other than ever. The last thing I wanted to do was add gasoline to that fire.”

While there was plenty to say on the record, the band maintained a strong level of self-discipline. Some of the songs started out at seven-10 minutes; the outro on the closing track used to be much longer.

“I’m really glad we cut it down because we ended up sequencing it all for vinyl, to flow in one continuous listen,” Innis says. “That outro on the final track is one of my personal, favourite moments on the record.”

“We had that saying which was 'no stone left unturned’,” Foster adds “So we took the ideas in many different ways and there was this process of construction and deconstruction.”

Sacred Hearts Club brings in plenty more of the catchy-as-hell pop hooks that Foster is such a master of, but there are also plenty of nods to DIY punk and post-punk, dance, and hip hop.

“We’ve always loved to play in the grey areas between genres,” Innis says. “All of our favourite records do that. 2000’s Donuts, J Dilla - that’s like the manual of hip hop production. When you start making beats and writing, it comes out of your subconscious. You’re not sitting down necessarily to emulate a certain record, but you play this pattern and realise there are 10 different influences that caused it.”

“We wondered whether we wanted these different sounds we were creating to interact with one another… or to separate it,” Foster says. “And as we continued to write, the sounds started to come closer again, intersect in a way that felt like we wanted to put it on one record. The records that excite me the most are the ones that take me on a ride.”

“Growing up playing the drums I idolised Questlove from an early age,” Innis says. “Phrenology was the first Roots record that I ever heard, and that was like my introduction to hip hop. The first song on there is in the hip hop vein, and then track three is a blast beat, hardcore punk track, like an exclamation mark. If you look at that record, they’re all over the place, and it fits together so well. I’m about to be 30, and people around my age and younger were just used to playlists, putting Johnny Cash on the same mixtape as Jay Z - that’s where that comes from, I think.”

It’s an interesting point that few other artists have pointed out in interviews - that as much as we like to thank streaming for a younger generation’s adaptability at genre crossovers, it’s been going on for a little longer than that. There’s still that problem with attention spans, though, and how a band can keep fans interested when they’re constantly demanding something new. To sate their appetite, at least for a short while, Foster the People released an EP before Sacred Hearts Club as an aperitif, giving them a hint of what was to come.

“Even with Kendrick’s record Damn., when it dropped it was this incredible deep record,” Innis says. “And To Pimp A Butterfly, as well. A week later people were sniffing around like ‘what’s next?’. So with people’s attitudes to music today, it’s hard to sustain their attention.”

Perhaps this is partly why the end process for Sacred Hearts Club saw the band re-mastering the album another two times, after thinking that they were done.

“I don’t even know how it happened, but I’m so thankful that it did, because it doesn’t normally happen this way,” Foster says. “We have this ritual of getting together, pouring a drink and then sequencing each record. Then we’ll listen to it top to bottom, change a few things until it feels right. So we sequenced Sacred Hearts Club, and then halfway through I just had this sinking feeling come over me.

"I paused it and said ‘guys it’s not done. It’s too long, it’s bloated’. And luckily, our label and management talked separately about it afterwards and they agreed. We’d been working so hard to finish it… but to open that back up again, it was so painful.”

“More power to Mark, because I was ready. I was almost ready to say ‘we’re done, it’s mastered, it’s great’,” Innis says. “But he really pushed for us to go back. I think it took me a night to really think about it.”

“We added stuff like 'Orange Dream’, 'Time To Get Closer’, to tie things together,” Foster explains. “We ended up cutting about five minutes. 'Pay the Man’ has a whole other verse that no one’s ever heard.”

On Supermodel he experimented with the way he wrote songs, making lyrics the priority. Before then, he would listen to the music, flip the mic on and then channel “whatever energy there was that day”.

“And after the initial response to a song, that was where a lot of the most pure ideas would come from,” he says. “It was like spiritual improvisation.

"Supermodel was way more methodical, and in some ways I think it has some of the best lyrics I ever wrote, but it doesn’t have the same life, or the cadence. So I kind of went back to how I was doing it before… or a mix of the two.”

“Those were some of my favourite moments in the recording process,” Innis says smiling, “when Mark would go in the booth and open up and just channel these vowels and certain words until all of a sudden something would come into the room. Like on the bridge for 'Doing It For The Money’, he was vamping and it was ‘silicon rush’. I don’t know where that came from.”

“This record, it had its own pressure on it,” Foster nods. “It was me and a creative kindred spirit locking ourselves in our own studio, with nobody in the room who could ‘contaminate the water’. No one who could put their hands on it and change it. We had absolute freedom and time to explore things and get weird and not judge it.

"It was a very non-judgemental process until the very end, and I think the last six months, at that point we put on a different hat that was more methodical. And I think learning from this process, it’s something that I would repeat again.”

Sacred Hearts Club, the new album from Foster the People, is out now via Columbia Records

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On this day in music history: July 12, 1971 - “Maggot Brain”, the third album by Funkadelic is released. Produced by George Clinton, it is recorded at Universal Studios in Detroit, MI from Late 1970 - Early 1971. Having established themselves with their self-titled debut and “Free Your Mind… And Your Ass Will Follow” in 1970, Funkadelic cultivate a sizable and loyal cult following with their unique brand of R&B, Funk and psychedelic rock influenced by the band’s prolific intake of LSD. The songs on their third album address concerns such as class and racial inequality, interpersonal relationships, the need for unity among people, and the ongoing war in Vietnam. The albums’ mesmerizing title track recorded in only a single take is its centerpiece. A nearly ten and a half minute long opus, featuring an epic solo by guitarist Eddie Hazel is inspired when George Clinton, who is tripping on acid, tells Hazel to play like he has just heard that his mother had died, and to put his emotions into his solo. Prior to the release of “Maggot Brain”, original members Hazel, Tawl Ross, Billy “Bass” Nelson, and Tiki Fulwood leave the band over financial and business disputes with Clinton. In spite of this, “Maggot Brain” becomes another success for Funkadelic, and its status as an important and influential album grows as the years pass. Numerous bands including Santana, Pearl Jam, Widespread Panic and Gov’t Mule cover “Maggot Brain” in live performances. The album  spins off three singles including “Can You Get To It” (#44 R&B, #93 Pop), “Hit It And Quit It” and “You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks” (#42 R&B, #91 Pop). It is remastered and reissued on CD in 2005 with three bonus tracks, including an alternate mix of the title track. The albums striking cover photos of a black woman (fashion model Barbara Cheeseborough) buried up to her neck and screaming (with a skull posed the same way on the back), taken by photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors), become iconic images. “Maggot Brain” peaks at number fourteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number One Hundred Eight on the Top 200.

Foster the People Announces New Album Release Date for 'Sacred Hearts Club'

On Tuesday (June 13) Foster the People announced that their upcoming third album, Sacred Hearts Club, is set for release on July 21 via Columbia Records. 

The band’s new record will feature 12 tracks and is available for preorder now. When you preorder the album, you will receive downloads of their singles “Doing it For the Money,” “Pay the Man,” and “SHC.” FTP also shared that they will be touring out their new music on a number of new tour dates this fall.

Along with the group’s announcement, they shared a new documentary style video, “Sacred Hearts Club (the beginning),” featuring footage of their recent rehearsals. In the video, the band gives insight into their forthcoming record, saying Sacred Hearts Club will feature ‘60s-inspired sounds and a psychedelic influence. 

Int the video, front man Mark Foster said, “With this record, it’s like I felt like every morning I woke up, you know, and I would look at the headlines in the news, and there was just something catastrophic that happened… I felt like on this record I really just wanted to make something joyful.”

Watch the video below and check out the group’s upcoming tour dates here.  

My favourite Londoner : Mark Gatiss on John Foxx

Actor and writer Mark Gatiss was born in Sedgefield in 1966 and found fame as a member of The League of Gentlemen. The Devil in Amber, the second of his Lucifer Box novels, is out now from Simon & Shuster.

So there I was. Fourteen years old. Spending endless afternoons trapped in maths lessons that seemed to exist in a gluey, over-sunlit no-time, combating an acne-blemished forehead and developing hopeless crushes on straight boys. Nothing could save me from the deadly ennui of it. But then something did. Electropop! I’d missed punk, but suddenly my pale, skinny self had a home where all was eyeliner, long coats, heavy fringes, sharp cheekbones, blurred faces and vapour trails. And I had a hero. Reigning in suitably detached fashion on some great, grey autobahn - John Foxx.

Born in Lancashire, Foxx moved to London in the early ‘70s to attend the Royal College of Art where he founded Ultravox (or Ultravox! as they were then). Initially show-casing a Roxy-ish post-glam sound, Foxx developed a highly influential electronic style for the band, culminating in the album Systems of Romance . He then went solo, releasing the singles Underpass , No-One Driving and Burning Car (in the JG Ballard-heavy time, everything seemed to be about automobiles). The records charted but not spectacularly.

Ultravox, meanwhile, recruited Midge Ure and went on to massive success with a song about Rigsby’s cat from Rising Damp. I always resented that, and the fact that John Foxx was written off as a Gary Numan wannabe.

Certainly, the Krauty, frigid, kipper-tied image would come to haunt Foxx. His album Metamatic, recorded in 'an eight-track cupboard in Islington’, is a hugely original work. But Foxx moved rapidly away from this style, re-emerging a year later with the lush sounds of The Garden album. In fact, Foxx’s whole sound became ever more romantic, through the psychedelic influences of The Golden Section to the quite lovely In Mysterious Ways .

Commercial success proved elusive, though, and he effectively vanished from the music scene after 1985, concentrating instead on pioneering work as a graphic artist, designing book covers as diverse as Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh and Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry. But I kept the torch burning. I looked a bit like him in my youth and cultivated my fringe while scouring Oxfam shops in search of cutaway waistcoats.

Foxx went on tour in 1983, by which time I was a sixth-former, and I still have the ticket for the show at the Leadmill in Sheffield. I still have it because the show was cancelled. Twice!

When I was 19, I came to London on a drama-school field trip. At the first chance I had, I fled the seedy hotel in which we’d been imprisoned and took the Central Line to Holywell Lane, Shoreditch. I can still remember the thrill of seeing the place I’d only ever read about in obscure music journals. I asked some technicians who were humping in equipment if this was Foxx’s studio, The Garden. “Yeah” they said. “Go right up.” But I didn’t. I mean, what could I say? “John, what was that line in Rockwrok that I could never understand?” “Where did you get your eyeliner?”

As the years have passed, I’ve kept a weather eye on his progress. Ten years ago there was suddenly a brilliant new album, Shifting city , made in collaboration with Louis Gordon. It was the first of many excellent new projects, all of which I’ve lapped up. Then came YouTube. And in just a few clicks… the video for Endlessly that I’d only ever heard rumoured! The video for He’s a Liquid ! And so everything seems to have come happily full circle for this charming self-effacing and underrated musician. I just wish that I could still carry off that blond fringe…’

Oslo In The Summertime
of Montreal
Oslo In The Summertime

Of Montreal (often stylized as of Montreal) is an American rock band from Athens, Georgia. It was founded by frontmanKevin Barnes in 1996, named after a failed romance with a woman “of Montreal.” The band is one of the bands of the Elephant 6 collective. Throughout its existence, of Montreal’s musical style has evolved from vaudeville late 60's Beatles and Kinks-influenced psychedelic pop to a mixture of electronica, funk, glam, and afrobeat music influenced by PrinceTalking Heads andDavid Bowie.

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