Let This Playlist Guide You Through the Early Roots of Latin American Psych Rock

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.

“Psychedelic” has once again become a buzzword used to describe the trippy, guitar-driven sound bubbling across Latin America. A psych renaissance is emerging in Chile, and the country is exporting a stable of stellar bands, mainly from the BYM Records roster. Artists like Föllakzoid and The Holydrug Couple have even joined the ranks of Brooklyn label Sacred Bones. Similarly, Other Music Recording Co, another label from New York, has put out two albums by Brazilian band BoogarinsMexican outfits like Lorelle Meets The Obsolete and Vaya Futuro have steadily appeared on festival lineups and have toured in Europe and the U.S. These are just a few examples of the projects garnering international attention; DIY venues and tape/LP labels all over the Spanish-speaking world play host to a veritable army of psych explorers.

The roots of psychedelic rock are easy to trace. The hippie movement in the U.S. and Europe introduced Eastern spirituality and consciousness-expanding drugs to youth culture in the 1960s and 1970s, and encouraged Americans to indulge in experimentation of all kinds. Music became one of the primary avenues for this experimentation.

Of course, there are rock staples like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix, but tracking the biggest psych exponents in Latin America is a little trickier. To help us compile a representative portrait of the genre, psych expert Luis Alvarado put together this finely curated playlist. Alvarado has rescued many recordings from obscurity through his label Buh Records, which released Sonidos Esenciales, a series consisting of 13 albums by experimental artists from Peru as well as a double album compilation of roots psych sounds for Munster Records. Sonidos Esenciales will soon expand to include other countries, starting with Paraguay.

“Psychedelia means ‘to bear a soul,’” he explains in a note that accompanies the playlist. “For that reason, when we delve into the best of the psych rock tradition, we’re flooded with music that escapes the traditional…Latin America was fertile ground for psychedelic sounds and experimentation, and there’s still much to be discovered, [including] music that circulated on specialized labels and collectors who will pay a fortune for original LPs,” he offers.

“There’s a predilection for extended tracks, psychedelic jams, and songs that took advantage of the innovative recording techniques of the time (i.e. tape effects, use of synthesizers, audio collage)…This selection is a good pretext to understand the level of exploration many Latin American psych bands reached, considering the fact that they emerged in a different context, one of dictatorship. For that reason, it was difficult for them to be aware of the many musical innovations that were taking place in the rest of the world…The conditions for pure, hard psych experimentation weren’t in place, considering the context in which this music came to be. There weren’t well-established networks for Latin America to communicate with the centers of avant-garde music elsewhere (excluding Brazil), but there have been cases where the most radical cut from a record has served as inspiration [for many contemporary artists]…Despite that, there was a vanguard of Latin American psych. These are true universal treasures of the genre,” he concludes.

Spark one up and stream the latest edition of our “The OGs” playlist via Apple Music below.