Daffodils: Australian psychedelia’s watershed moment?

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GIVEN Mark Ronson’s growing reputation as one of the world’s preeminent indie music producers, it has become somewhat of an honour to be chosen to work with him, at any capacity.

Having previously worked – and achieved success – with artists such as Robbie Williams, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Nas, Lily Allen and Lana Del Rey, among a host of others, Ronson has reached the point in his career where he can collaborate with almost anyone in the global music scene.

It is interesting, then, that he chose the poster boy of Australia’s psychedelic rock scene, Kevin Parker, to work on several of the songs on his latest album, Uptown Special.

The Tame Impala front-man sings on three of the songs (Summer Breaks, Daffodils and Leaving Los Feliz), and contributes instrumentation on a number of others.

Earlier this week, Ronson explained to Australian Associated Press (AAP) why he chose to collaborate with Parker, revealing his love for Tame Impala and Australian psychedelia.

… [Ronson] revealed the album has a distinctly Aussie influence.

“Kevin (Parker) from Tame Impala is on three songs and also played drums and did backing all over the record, and (Aussie singer/songwriter) Kirin J Callinan is amazing and played this incredible guitar stuff on Daffodils, the song I did with Kevin,” he told AAP in Sydney on Tuesday.

He said his collaboration with Parker was prompted by a “nerdy” conversation the pair had about drum recordings at the Future Music Festival four years ago.

“He’s the best. That’s my favourite band, Tame Impala for sure,” he said.

With a clear love for psychedelic music, he also named Sydney’s Jagwar Ma and New Zealand’s Connan Mockasin on his list of favourite musicians.

“I guess these are all people I find interesting and like to make music with,” he said.

Daffodils, a genious fusion of modern psychedelic synth-work and a ghetto funk riff that just goes perfectly together, was released as the album’s second promotional single.

Ronson has previously stated that the song came about when Parker sent him a demo of the riff and the ideas for its vocals in 2013, to which Ronson then added the synths and Callinan the “insane guitar solo”.

It is easily my favourite hit on the album, to admit my prejudice towards it.

Yet in any case, it has surely been pivotal in helping land the album at Number 2 on the Australian ARIA charts, to complement its other accomplishments of being Ronson’s first number one on the UK Albums Chart and reaching number five on the US Billboard 200.

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Kevin Parker with his major musical project, Tame Impala.

 

KEVIN Parker’s contribution to the Mark Ronson record is just one of the ways he’s exporting his Australian psychedelic rock project overseas.

His major project, Tame Impala, is beginning to get noticed internationally.

I first became conscious of this when I heard an Italian guy start playing songs from the band’s first record, Innerspeaker, at an Irish-themed pub in Torino.

The band’s 2012 album Lonerism was rated 88 out of 100 by Metacritic, based on 35 international reviews, described by the site as achieving “universal acclaim”.

Along with this, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014.

In Australia, we’ve become accustomed to the rise of psychedelic rock, in large part due to the efforts of Parker and his colleagues at Tame Impala.

Late last year, The Guardian published an article entitled, “Tame Impala kickstart the Australian psychedelic explosion“.

The band was shown to catalyse interest in the music sub-culture which had been simmering under the surface of the Australian music scene since the 1960s and 70s.

Now, there’s renewed interest in the genre domestically, with bands such as Tame Impala spin-off Pond, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, the John Steel Singers and Blank Realm capitalising.

But, to this day, they continue to thrive underground, apart from the odd occasion they’re exposed to the masses by featuring on Australian independent radio station Triple J, or – as in the case of Pond – backing up internationally acclaimed artists like the Arctic Monkeys.

Even Tame Impala is played in large part mainly for the enjoyment of indie-scratching hipsters, psych aficionados and alternative rock fans.

But now, with the explicit endorsement of an international superstar like Mark Ronson, Australian psychedelia has a global audience, even if it’s only through the pop-rendered psych stylings of its poster-boy, Kevin Parker.

It will be interesting where Parker now chooses to take his massive psychedelia project – which has seen him participate in, or spawn, other Australian psych bands like Pond, Mink Mussel Creek and Melody’s Echo Chamber – given that he has up until now based it all on a stripped-back, down-to-earth psychedelic feel.

With Tame Impala expected to release an album later this year, it’s an exciting time for locally-grown psychedelic rock, anyway.

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