For better or worse, from the sublime to the ridiculous, psychedelic tropes have weaved their way back into popular music. Be it Tame Impala's astral disco-rock reaching the heights of headlining Coachella, or King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard infusing all forms of mind-melting guitar music, psychedelia is amid a renaissance of sorts and no longer a countercultural relic.
It's not like it ever went away either, rather infiltrating a myriad of sub-genres like shoegaze, garage-rock, and even acid-house over the past half-century. Now, once again front-and-center, guitar music appears to be the favored modality of tripping the proverbial light fandango.
Formerly entitled Austin Psych Fest, Levitation's reputation has grown in tandem with the burgeoning retro-gaze on psychedelia, championing the genre (if you can really call it that?) for over a decade now. Levitation also has established festivals in Paris, Chicago, and Vancouver given its universal appeal.
Across multiple venues in Austin, Texas come November 7th, you'll hear the buzziest, fuzziest tracks from the purveyors of all things quirky and kaleidoscopic. Here are ten of them you need to hear live:
The Flaming Lips - 'The W.A.N.D.'
Wayne Coyne and his colorful entourage have forged an unmistakeable, at times illogical, but consistently rapturous blend of psych-rock and prismatic visual stimulus when performing live; complete with confetti canons, zorbing throughout the crowd, and multi-coloured bouncing balloons, it's certainly a show.
Having sailed the rings of Saturn in search of interstellar sonics for over thirty years, 'The W.A.N.D.' encompasses the band's knack of lobe-tingling riffs, nonsensical lyricism, and emotive yet euphoric choruses.
Devendra Banhart - 'Kantori Ongaku'
Probably (definitely) being the most handsome man in contemporary music is enough to see Banhart in the flesh alone, however, his vividly stylised, intentionally off-kilter indie trappings is what attracts music lovers the most.
'Kantori Ongaku' from his recent album Ma sounds like a marriage of Lou Reed's oddball dramas and Mac DeMarco's goofy guitar work, all the while paying homage to hero Haruomi Hosono, one of Japan's most influential popular musicians. It's weird, but it's wonderful.
Angel Olsen - 'All Mirrors'
Not considered traditionally psychedelic per se, Olsen's admission atop the Levitation bill is indicative of how broad and influential psychedelia actually is. New album All Mirrors is a swirling, mystical mediation on the strengths and vulnerabilities of womanhood and the world; it's epic, it's dramatic, and it's none better summed up than by the album's title track.
Kikagaku Moyo - 'Green Sugar'
Unkempt is one way to describe this Japanese five-piece's visual aesthetic, though their music is far harder to determine. Drawing from the instrumentation of their native folk music, Kikagaku Moyo also merge reverb-laden fretwork with soft, intricate melodies, evoking krautrock pioneers Can amongst others.
Stonefield - 'Sister'
When we caught up with Australian sludge-rock sisters Stonefield at The Great Escape earlier this year, their charming, welcoming demeanors were somewhat of a surprise given their penchant for the machismo riffs of yore. Not that we knew what to expect, but they were incredibly laid back, despite making music that's centered around powerful, 70s-inspired guitars and keys.
Wearing their Black Sabbath and Deep Purple influences on their sleeves, 'Sisters' is the four-piece's ode to both sisterhood and stoner rock in a nutshell; ideal for swinging long hair around in a hazy venue.
Allah-La's - 'Tell Me What's On Your Mind'
Formed whilst working in Amoeba Records and sharing a kinship for music of the British Invasion, Allah Las' modus operandi is to illicit imagery of 60's surf, washed-out photography, and lazy days in San Francisco bay.
Listen to their breakthrough single 'Tell Me What's On Your Mind', and you'll get the jist.
The KVB - 'Above Us'
It's not a typical gig when experiencing The KVB - a self-professed audio-visual duo, the onus is on what you see and feel as much as which tracks you hear. Of course there's reverb and delay aplenty, but it's more of a club night approach that a standard gig.
With 'Above Us', don't expect a sing-a-long, but prepare to be dazed.
The Black Angels - 'Young Men Dead'
Members of The Reverberation Appreciation Society (the collective that curates and produces the festival each year), The Black Angels traverse the crunchier, harsher facets of psychedelic rock.
Made famous by seminal series True Detective, the cavernous plucked guitar line intro to 'Young Men Dead' is instantly recognisable, which only precedes a wall of fuzzy, pounding instrumentation washing over you like a bad trip.
BEAK - 'Sex Music'
Experimental trio BEAK, who's fulcrum is none other than Portishead maestro Geoff Barrow, incorporate fluttering synths with intense, driving grooves. Post-punk, avant-garde electronica, and funk music sound world's apart, so for an audio Venn diagram of that combination, look no further than 'Sex Music'.
Kurt Vile - 'Life Like This'
Embodying what could generally be considered a typical stoner (scruffy long hair, eyes to the ground during conversations, stumbling through sentences etc) Kurt Vile openly admits to rarely having partook in mind-altering substances.
His music - acid-drenched guitar lines, sprawling psych-rock jams that stretch out towards the ten minute mark, and surrealist introspections of daily life's mundanities - doesn't really fit his claim either. Not that it matters; 'Life Like This' emphasises Vile's emotive songwriting capability, yet never veering away from his mellow, trippy trademarks.
Levitation 2019 takes place in Austin, Texas, USA from 7-10 November. Book your tickets and accommodation here.