Glasgow Psych: Helicon Keeping The Scene Alive

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Last month, Jonathan Rimmer checked in with Helicon, a leading light in Glasgow’s psych scene, at Stereo as they followed up on the success of the city’s Psych Fest. Dig in below for his thoughts.

If you didn’t catch this year’s Glasgow Psych Fest, you missed out. Currently the only genuine celebration of psychedelic music in Scotland, the festival has since spawned several mini-events in small Glasgow venues. One of these found Helicon, local purveyors of particularly trippy psych-rock, headline to a small but passionate following at Stereo.

Considering the spike in popularity that psychedelic rock has enjoyed in the past few years, it is surprising that the scene here is so lacking in size. Bands like Tame Impala and the Horrors have gained huge popularity for intoxicating but accessible approaches to the form, although to include Kasabian on the list would perhaps be to utter a dirty word.

Tonight we’re treated to truly authentic ‘70s and ‘80s flavoured psychedelia, particularly the latter from support act Electric Garden. Sonically, the band are more Stone Roses than the Doors and there are few chord changes, with more emphasis placed on driving bass lines and thumping crescendos. These guys know dynamics, even if their big shifts into choruses don’t always come off as intended.

Helicon are more intense, starting their set with a five minute build up into their first song. There is a kinetic energy to how their music moves, with a tribal, rhythmic style complementing their Verve-like grooves and guitar effects. Perhaps where both bands are lacking is a sense of purpose, where you might cite Spiritualized, who use cutting lyricism and more varied structures to keep listeners engaged, as a template.

Psychedelic rock in Glasgow is undeniably alive. Perhaps the scene as a whole is still restricted to plodding along with few artists able to feed off each other, but Helicon and Electric Garden are both fighting on.

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