Various Artists

Love, Peace & Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music

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There are innumerable compilations of obscure 1960s psychedelic and garage music from the U.S., U.K., and the European continent. But the field of Asian '60s psych has, for the most part, remained relatively untapped, at least as far as reissues for Western consumption. In part that's because there wasn't nearly as much Asian psychedelia as there was Western psychedelia; rock music and psychedelic rock originated in North America and Europe, after all. And, in part, it's because Asian psych is hard to find and collect, that field just beginning to develop among record collectors more than 30 years later. However, there was some Asian psych, and some of what has been found comprises this 14-song compilation. Actually, only four of the tracks are from the 1960s; about half is from the early 1970s, and there's even a Korean ringer from 1977. Don't necessarily be put off by the relatively late vintage, though; it's the consequence of trends taking longer to reach the far corners of the globe, and most of the cuts are plugged into a firmly late-'60s vibe. What might surprise you, though, is how much the songs sound like second-division North American and European bands, not just Asian ones combining indigenous influences with Western rock music. Yes, there is some Asian and Middle Eastern color to the melodies and arrangements, sometimes prominently so, as in the modish rave-up by Erkin Koray (from Turkey) and certainly in Cambodian Rocks' "A2," a missing link between psych and the B-52's with its stiff rhythms and female banshee vocals. At least as often, though, it's rather standard fuzzy, drone psych-garage that could have almost been done by local bands from English-speaking nations, or from Holland for that matter. It just sounds more novel to English-readers because of the unfamiliar languages (and accents, when they do sing in English) from Japan, Turkey, India, Singapore, and Korea. All this is to say that it's not quite as exotic as you might hope (or fear), and that while it's enjoyable (usually in a moody sort of way), it's short on really outstanding songs. There's some rather cool stuff here, though, like the Fentones' raunch'n'raga instrumental "Simla Beat Theme" (from India); Mogollar's "Katip Arzvhalim Yaz Yare Boyle" (from Turkey), whose fusion of full electric band and indigenous melodies sounds rather close to what is now commonly known as "world music"; the Confusions' "Voice from the Inner Soul" (from India), which sounds very much like a savage Rolling Stones-type garage rocker that an American 1965 band would have done, although it was cut in 1970; and (from Singapore) the Quest's unlikely psychedelic version of the Four Preps' hit "26 Miles" with humming distorted guitar and atmospheric foghorn blasts. Best of all is the ten-minute closer, "Korean Titel A2" (from Korea, of course) by Jung Hyun and the Men, which has a beguiling minor-key melody and snake-charming interplay between a reed instrument, woozy organ, and backup vocal harmonies.

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