It doesn’t matter where they come from, whether it’s from New York or Texas, whether it’s from Australia or Norway, or even from Colombia… Psychedelic music travelers cross borders and cultures to feed on new beats and fuse global sounds.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Gitkin found the channels to unite the Tuareg desert blues with the Amazonian cumbia, the surf rock of California in the 60s with the Afrobeat of Nigeria in the 70s. Producer and multi-instrumentalist, he was formerly known as Brian J, the frontman of the infectiously groovy soul band Pimps of Joytime. He’s also recognized for his work for Cedric Burnside’s Grammy-nominated country blues album. Gitkin is a guitar-driven project that begins with the premise of “exploring tonalities” that he’s never messed with. It’s also a traveling project. Because it involves cultural exchanges that inspired him musically. And sonic journeys that take him toward the enchantingly strange. It’s no coincidence that he defines himself as a “psychedelic world beat guitarist” – he’s also part of Wonderwheel Recordings, the label run by global sounds DJ Nickodemus.
Gitkin’s debut album, 2018’s 5 Star Motel, fuels the myths of his old job as a traveling guitar salesman – he spent nights in not-so-healthy motels across the US and used to meet immigrants from places like Ethiopia, Mexico and Indonesia. On his follow-up album, 2020’s Safe Passage, the itinerant guitarist expands his funk and blues foundation with elements from all over the world, from the melodic modalities of Greece and the Middle East to the spells of Peruvian chicha. Released this year, Nowhere To Go But Everywhere was inspired by his younger hitchhiking years and a quote from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. This new album is the most complete soundtrack for Gitkin’s traveling and psychedelic soul, from the Caribbean to the Sahara Desert, from Africa to the Amazon.
Straight from Bogotá, Colombia, BALTHVS is a world psychedelic funk trio made up of Balthazar Aguirre (guitar and vocals), Johanna Mercuriana (bass and vocals) and Santiago Lizcano (drums and vocals). In a short but profitable journey of just four years, they’ve already released three albums: 2020’s MACROCOSM, 2022’s Cause & Effect, and this year’s brand-new Third Vibration, among many singles and EPs. They’ve also been playing a lot, not only in their country but also taking small tours around the US, including performances at large festivals such as the local Rock al Parque or the Texan SXSW. Social networks and streaming platforms were key to increasing their audience.
Of course, BALTHVS has an unavoidable reference and that is Khruangbin. Not only is their lineup a trio, with a female bassist, but they also like to color the rhythmic groove of soul and funk with Middle Eastern music. They also lean towards a rather clean guitar sound, full of echo and surf rock tricks. Their psychedelic devotion also brings them closer to other sonic trances, such as those of trip-hop and Afrobeat. However, they’re Colombian and have cumbia in their blood – check out one of their new singles called “Pájaro de Cumbia”. Latin roots are also very present in songs like “Ojos Verdes”, “Danza del Mar” or “Eclipse Solar”.Their mix definitely rounds out a unique hypnotic trip.
The enigmatic is almost a condition of the psychedelic trip. This was understood very well by the Australian trio Glass Beams, as they hide their faces behind dazzling masks created by a Russian jeweler. Their mantras are made from cyclical riffs and dizzying melodies that immediately connect with India – a lysergic voyage that makes you think about what spaghetti westerns would have been like if they had been filmed in Bollywood. They achieve a psych-fusion that also refers to the futuristic space jazz and early 70’s prog jams.
Remain in relative darkness so that the narrative focuses on the music itself. That’s the founding concept of this band. Of course, that also limits us to their 2021 debut EP Mirage. With the release of that four-song record, some information emerged from one of its members revealing the lineage of his father, born in India, and evoking a childhood memory as inspiration: watching with him a DVD of Concert for George, a tribute to George Harrison that features Ravi Shankar. We may not know much about the mysterious Glass Beams, but they’ve left us excited enough to want to know more soon.
“Is it blues? Is it world music? Is it pop?” asks the Norwegian band Orions Belte rhetorically on their YouTube page. To answer, of course, that you can choose what you want because they don’t mind being pigeonholed. Always eclectic and atmospheric, they’ve been labeled as indie psych-pop or dreamy prog-pop. They’ve even flirted with lounge jazz and surf rock. But the truth is that everything depends on the journey that their songs suggest – they write as a soundtrack, inspired by moments of daily life that have become unforgettable, situations that they’ve experienced and deserve to end up in a song. They’re difficult to classify. The only constant thing is their psychedelic-tinged guitars.
Orions Belte began when Øyvind Blomstrøm and Chris Holm left behind their jobs as session musicians in Oslo, back in 2016, to give life to their own project. The two of them were joined by Kim Åge Furuhaug to establish a trio. They took the name from a 1985 Norwegian film about a group of local seamen who found a Soviet listening station and became targets for both the US and Russia. They released their debut album Mint in 2018, followed in 2021 by Villa Amorini. In 2022, each of the three members made a solo record with the support of the band. And this year they returned together with Women, including must-listening singles like “Silhouettes” and “Jai Alai”.
Last but not least, Khruangbin is the most successful name among these psychedelic bands fueled by global sounds. From the beginning, this Texas trio put together an unmatched blend of classic soul, surf guitar, psych vibes, dub mix concept, and an original approach to world music that ranges from the Middle East (Afghan music) to Southeast Asia (Thai funk). So rich are their influences that we even wondered if there were similar artists out there. Not so much because of the genres and styles that they could share, but because of that appetite for search that has distinguished them from the start.
Formed in Houston in 2004, Khruangbin is made up of bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer and drummer DJ Johnson. They have four albums released to date: 2015’s The Universe Smiles Upon You, 2018’s Con Todo el Mundo, 2020’s Mordechai, and 2022’s Ali(with Vieux Farka Touré). They’ve also released four EPs, including 2020’s Texas Sun with Leon Bridges. Mostly instrumental, Khruangbin always refused to be pigeonholed, although they’ve often been associated with Thai music, especially funk, maybe for having the band’s name in that language (it means “airplane” or “flying engine”, as a way to symbolize their music taking flight and crossing borders).