Many people have tried to encapsulate the feeling of a psychedelic experience, whether it be through elaborate art, detailed trip reports, or even in the form of music. However, I find the singular experience of one artist cannot represent the true accuracy of a trip.
This is not to say that this playlist is the be-all-end-all to describing the mystical and mysterious insights of psychedelic trips; rather it is an acknowledgment that it takes the spectrum of human musical creativity to capture the strangeness of such an experience.
The beginning of the trip is known as the come-up. This is usually the most anxious and scary part of a trip for most people (unless one archives ego-death). As an antecedent to the come up, you are likely anxious about dropping the tab or eating the shrooms and I think this feeling is represented by Interpol’s single “Obstacle 1.”
The anxious and cold sound of this song symbolizes the fear of possible change that might happen during a trip. In fact, one could use the line of “make playing only logical harm” as a reference to ego-death, the dissolution of your sense of self. The idea that you might change, perhaps radically, may elicit fear and anxiety. The lines like “I’ll never see this place again” parallel this sense of losing control.
After you get over your initial anxiety of taking the drug you will start to feel anxious as you realize the process has begun in earnest. This is the part of the trip where you realize that you have gotten on a ride and that you cannot exit. This point in your trip can be represented by the song ‘Breathe (In The Air)’ by Pink Floyd.
The song builds with chaotic screaming, loud noises, and a slowly increasing heartbeat to match yours. This fades into a wave of relaxation which makes you feels like you are floating and the world is starting to change around you. Unexpected patterns start appearing, colors brighten, and the objects around you begin to breathe and become alive, pulsating to the omnipresent beat of the universe. You aren’t exactly sure what will happen next but you are starting to feel different.
After the come-up, the next phase of the trip is the peak, where you experience the most intense hallucinations and alterations of thought. This initial different feeling is now intensifying every minute. It feels like your mind is ascending and everything is getting more intense, as euphoria sweeps over you in ever- increasing waves. This feeling is represented by the dramatic and epic pop beast that is Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’.
Much like the peak, this song feels like you are going to meet a spiritual entity. Maybe that figure is God and all the inherent repercussions that come with such a meeting.
Regardless of the specific mystical encounter you have (or not), you feel like you are rising and are going to connect with something beyond the physical and tangible realm. You feel like you are running up a hill as the epic synths carry you beyond the physical world towards a higher plane.
While the anxiety from before is gone, it is possible that you might be faced with some intense thoughts and epiphanies. There may be a chaotic, potentially overwhelming feeling that builds within you as you wrestle with yourself and your place in others’ lives, with who you are at your essence. This part can feel scary and that’s why the song “Screen Shot” by Swans is perfect for this. “Screen Shot” is an intense, noisy post-rock song that builds and builds and builds until it explodes into a wall of chaotic noise and energy.
Much like the waves of a peak, the song’s lyrics also match the rambled and quickfire thoughts of tripping, touching on life’s simple but important experiential moments, moments that ultimately define who we are. “No Pain, no death, no fear, no hate, no time, no now, no suffering”. These quick screenshots of life flash by in your mind as you face your darkest demons and as well as the angels of your better self. This song relishes its last chaotic moments by reminding you of the most important time in your life as Gira repeatedly screams “Here!, Now!” . . . until the song fades, leaving you exhausted as you await the next wave.
After this intense and potentially frightening part, you are sucked into a world of realization as your mind begins to process all this information, to put all of the components together. The pieces start fitting and everything starts making sense (to you at least). You start to feel at one with the universe as everything starts to melt together and become one breathing, pulsating entity.
This intense wonderment and awe can only be represented by one song in my book. That would be ‘Festival’ by Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. I think the intense but sweet build of luscious strings against pounding drums and guitars takes you into a world that can only approximate the mystical beauty of a trip. However, this song gets pretty close and because of that, it is amazing.
After you have put it all together you have to simplify your findings into human language and what I’ve learned at the end of the day is that everything leads back to love. Love for your family, love for your friends, and love for everyone around you.
You realize that most of the world’s problems could be solved if people just got along and learned to love each other. Who better to hear this message from other than the masters of love themselves The Beatles. I think they express this raw feeling of love in the universe with their song ‘All You Need is Love’. It’s expressed so simply “All you need is love, love is all you need”. Through thick and thin love will keep you alive and happy and once we realize that, we can finally and truly harmonize with each other.
After you peak, you reach the come-down. You are still feeling the effects of the drug but you are starting to fade from the trip. I think the beginning of this feeling works best with the song ‘The Rip’ by Portishead. The idea of slowly leaving this magical world can be referenced by the lyrics “Wild, white horses. They will take me away.” The transition from a dreamy world to a more rhythmic-based sound can represent your fade back into reality along with these lyrics: “And in my thoughts, I have bled, For the riddles, I’ve been fed, Another lie moves over.”
Eventually, you start to sink back into reality, your vision clears, your heart rate drops. This sinking feeling is perfectly executed by the Aphex Twin song ‘Xtal’. You can feel yourself able to do things you could do sober as your mind tries to processes everything that happened. The low rumble of the bass, the constant pulsating beat supported on a backdrop of heavenly voices guide you back to the real world. Everything is back to normal; but nothing will ever be the same.
The final part of the trip is known as the afterglow. You are done with your trip but you are seeing everything around you in a new light. You are starting to appreciate nature more and you start to see the people around you differently. This observation works perfectly in the song ‘Sunday Morning’ by The Velvet Underground.
This song feels like walking around on a Sunday morning after a long Saturday trip and just taking everything in as you reflect on your experiences. Even the lyrics reflect this state of mind. “Watch out, the world’s behind you, There’s always someone around you who will call, It’s nothing at all”. You have learned so much but yet there is so much to learn and you will never have the same trip twice.
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