This is second time round for the Psychonauts’ debut album, given a new coat of paint and a set of new remasters. It’s also a chance to reappraise a record that has become increasingly influential as dance music has progressed, and it has been cited by none other than LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy as having a major impact on his own music.
The story goes that when the album was completed in 2003 for MoWax, the label were expecting a smoky, DJ Shadow-type album. What they got instead was a demonstration of the Psychonauts’ versatility, showing they could master that style but presenting it alongside equally effective takes on deep house, disco and lounge. And here it is on its re-release, still sounding contemporaneous with the people it’s inspired.
The man responsible for the reissue is DJ Hell, whose Gigolo imprint has picked up the album and given it a rerub, keeping the spirit of the original but in the process highlighting the record’s influence on his own work, both in musical style and in the concept of getting interesting and unlikely guests to appear on your tracks.
Even now, when most singers worth their salt have contributed to one or more of UNKLE, Gorillaz, Simian Mobile Disco or The Chemical Brothers, the list of collaborators is very intriguing. Getting James Yorkston to appear on Hips For Scotland was something of a masterstroke, the folk troubadour’s voice deadpan and introvert, yet strangely moving in a song that sounds closer to a homage to Absolute Beginners. Also appearing is Siobhan Fahey, with the pair making economical use of her talents on Fear Is Real, an atmospheric and drawn-out piece of house music.
By the time we get to that the Psychonauts have explored many a genre, from the classy wake-up lounge music of Circles through to the more energetic Empty Love and Hot Blood. Through these it’s now possible for the listener to play ‘spot the influence’ – though this can be done both ways, with the likes of Dream Chaser lifting plenty of useful tips from 1980s synth pop.
This is that rare breed in electronic music, a record whose secrets have become clear over time, the two Psychonauts revealed as influential figures on both sides of the pond. Their moment in the spotlight is well deserved, having missed out the first time around.