In light of the recent psychedelic resurgence (a Covid silver lining: free time many among us used to expand our minds), techno auteur Jon Hopkins hopes his new album Music for Psychedelic Therapy, set to release on November 12, will take listeners on a new kind of meditative musical journey. It’s the English artist and producer’s first full-length release since 2018’s Singularity, an album Pitchfork.com said was “pitched between heat-seeking acid house and ambient bliss” and a “beat-music odyssey that thrums with spiritual resonance.”
More ambient bliss thrumming with spiritual resonance than heat-seaking acid house, Hopkins’s new album grew from the artist’s expedition to Tayos Caves in Ecuador. “Music for Psychedelic Therapy is not ambient, classical, or drone but has elements of all three,” he says. “For me, it’s a place as much as it is a sound. It works for the sober mind but takes on a new dimension entirely when brought into a psychedelic therapy.”
To make the album, Hopkins began working with researchers in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London who were exploring experiential therapy using psychedelic drugs. The department was investigating the importance of music in positive therapeutic outcomes, and Hopkins began suggesting tracks for the accompanying playlists.
But Hopkins soon noticed an incongruity: The playlists used in the Imperial research were made up of pieces of music written by many different musicians—“disparate pieces of music for what really are quite long, coherent experiences,” he explains. “And that will take the patient somewhere very different, suddenly. There aren’t cohesive single bodies of work.” And with that, Music for Psychedelic Therapy was born.
“Sit Around The Fire”, the album’s closing track, is one that will make spiritual seekers “om” so hard, a collab between Hopkins, producer and ceremony guide, East Forest, and legendary spiritual teacher, the late Ram Dass, whose iconic book Be Here Now celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
“‘Sit Around The Fire’ exists from one of the deep synchronicities that ushered this thing—Music For Psychedelic Therapy—into being. I was contacted by East Forest, who had spent some time in Hawaii with Ram Dass. He was given access to several [of Dass’s] lesser-heard talks from the ’70s and asked to set them to music.”
Hopkins took East Forest’s vocals, added his own, and began to play Ram Dass’s talk in the studio. In front of his piano, eyes closed, he began to play as Ram Dass spoke. “And basically what you hear is, was the only time I’ve ever played that,” Hopkins says. “No forethought, just a full improvisation. It just appeared with so little resistance.” Its place at the end of the album, Hopkins believes, brings a sense of release. “If you’ve had a very intense experience listening to this album, when Ram Dass’s voice comes in, it’s such a relief because his voice is embedded with all that knowledge, and all that spiritual experience, and where he’s been, and what he’s been through. It’s all in the peace in his voice.”