It's probably no co-incidence that the recent revival of interest in ambient music occurred when, after a 50 year hiatus, international research projects into the healing potential of psychedelics started up again. Here, UK electronic producer Jon Hopkins brings those two areas of interest together, leaving no room for misinterpretation, with the brazenly titled Music For Psychedelic Therapy.
This is is a double album rather than a 50 min record stretched over four sides of vinyl, with each side a continuous suite lasting over 20 minutes. The entire album is sequenced as a narrative that matches the stages of a psychedelic experience, with each side unfurling gently and very slowly via delicate sounds that hover in the air with a lovely shimmering quality, a bit like a slo-mo film of a flower opening.
Jon Hopkins worked with ambient maestro Brian Eno on the 2010 Warp Records release – Small Craft On A Milk Sea, and he obviously understands Eno's notion that true ambient music should aim to flavour the environment like incense. Consequently, the four sides of this album feature sounds that form and dissipate like clouds. Listening loud is recommended in order to hear some of the very quiet passages such as the closing of side one.
Some tracks are built around fragile piano motifs, others use swirling synthesiser textures, while side two - 'Tayos Caves, Ecuador' – includes field recordings of bird call and water, adding texture to impossibly delicate sounds that dissolve into space. Vocals appear on side three's 'Arrival', with an uncredited woman sweetly humming a simple melody, which leads into 'Sit Around the Fire' featuring a spoken word sample from psychedelic therapy pioneer, Richard Alpert R.I.P. (aka Ram Dass), reminding us that ultimately 'we are all spirits', which could have come across as cheesy but within the context actually works.
This is quite possibly the most gentle record I have ever heard and whether you want to soundtrack your own internal explorations or want to listen to an example of state of the art contemporary ambient music, from the gorgeous cover art to the sound experience contained within, this is an exceptionally beautiful and potentially therapeutic record.