With the recent passing of organ-guru/summer-of-love-sentimentalist Ray Manzarek, the term “psychedelic” is popping up in obituaries around the globe in order to contexualize The Doors within the classic rock canon. It’s not that I am entirely suspicious of this term being bandied about by music journalists, but like “punk,” “psychedelic” is one of those problematic genre signifiers whose boundaries become increasingly baggy upon each iteration of its corpse being dusted off. What is the essential element of psychedelia that makes music “psychedelic”? The mythic and overused delay pedal? Hippy-dippy naivete? Nay to all of these limitations. For those of us who consider ourselves “trv kvlt” warriors of the psychedelic-cloth, there isn’t an essential element so much as there is--ahem--a psychedelic initiative to perceive various strains of music as such. This initiative, if properly utilized, opens a realm of play in which any musical experience can become pure vibe--no drugs required. It’s an approach to reality that borders on interrogation; an elongation of time that defies monotony; a simultaneous disregard for and embrace of rot (which may or may not include rottenness). An unending sneer: the snake only appears to be eating its tail, maaaaaaaaan.
Enter Robust Worlds--aka Chris Rose--and his self-described “futuristic folk-rock.” As any one of the attendees at his Zoo City Apparel show this past October can attest, the mellow warmth of Rose’s music can inspire a kind of awe-stuck, thumbs-up hypnosis. You might hear sonic-antecedents in Kevin Ayers, Spacemen 3, or Neil Hagerty’s post-Royal Trux solo output, but Rose’s take on guitar-centric, insular, folk-informed psychedelia has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century (and beyond). The “futuristic” aspect doesn’t reside in the tasteful employment of drum-machines and synthesizers, rather, the songs themselves are small-scale re-imaginings of rock music as part of an expansive, global continuum. Though Robust Worlds straddles the space between organic and technological, Rose never diverts the listener’s attention away from that unplaceable humanness that makes his music so special. The result certainly sounds “psychedelic,” and the womb-like production enhances that “psychedelic” quality, but Rose busts out of that scare-quoted description by offering the listener more than trippy missives. His song, “Best Wishes,” applies that above-mentioned psychedelic initiative to what might otherwise be a simple coffee-shop strum, terraforming it into an inviting, Summer afternoon swirl. The song may not inspire bacchanalian head-banging so much as it demands some aggressive head-nodding, but that’s not to say its grooviness doesn’t pair well with your favorite ice-cold beer and the company of some fine friends. Personally, I can’t think of a more totally perfect trifecta-of-enjoyment in mid-August. Turn it up--on headphones or speakers--and get ready to high-five the sun.