Love's Secret Ascension
November 14, 2013 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Love's Secret Ascension: Coil, Coltrane & The 70th Birthday Of LSD. "Author and new Quietus writer Peter Bebergal celebrates the original synthesis of LSD with a thoughtful look at acid and transcendent, magickal music." [Via Technoccult]

Here are the Fortean Times and Brainwashed interviews with John Balance.

Here's the Erik Davis article Technoccult quoted: Return trip
posted by homunculus (32 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
The ease by which LSD is obtained, the ubiquity of it in not only the counterculture but the mainstream as well, has turned using it into both a parlour game and an overly valued source for enlightenment.

Wait, what? Finding LSD is easy? I haven't been able to find more than 2 or 3 hits since the spin-off labs that Owsley established were raided and closed. If anyone finds it "easy" to get quality acid these days, please hook me up!
posted by hippybear at 9:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

I miss Bill.
posted by flabdablet at 10:15 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love Coltrane, psychs and reading about his journey through all that. But Ascension is a hard record to listen to. After about 15 minutes I feel like I'm starting to understand but have a headache. Later recordings take that spark and go in their own direction, but I don't know if any other album is as much of a brain scramble.
posted by fishmasta at 10:35 PM on November 14, 2013

I haven't been able to find more than 2 or 3 hits since the spin-off labs that Owsley established were raided and closed.

You mean since that missile silo got raided around 2000.
posted by empath at 11:24 PM on November 14, 2013

Also, Nicholas Sand's superlab ("literally better than the Health Canada lab") in Port Coquitlam, BC
posted by mannequito at 12:27 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

reminds me that it's been far too long since I've listened to love's secret domain and horse rotorvator. those albums feel like part of what makes me who I am.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:57 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I truly found Coil, around the Horse Rotovator period, I was also heavily obsessed with Coltrane. The two seemed to be of a thing. My own investigations into sound were heavily influenced by the ideas that seemed inherent to their sets. Ideas about freedom and improvisation and a definite desire to commune with something far outside of 'us.'

The author's statement that magicians and spiritual advisors attempts at defining and outlining the mystical are far outstripped by the work of music speaks to something almost unearthly and impossibly true. Music and sex. Music and sex and drugs being the holiest of holies. And thus Coil.

I met one of Mr. Coltrane's sons at a party in San Francisco many, many years ago and the conversation we had was deep and went on for hours. All we talked about was sound. It was fantastic to discuss music as art with someone who obviously had that in his genes given who his mother (Alice!) and father were. And we were shouting the entire time to be heard over my then girlfriend's dj debut.

Not long after that I met the Psychic TV crew and and it was as if my head was caving in from synchronicities coming together. I didn't get to speak to Mr. or Mrs. Coltrane, but I randomly met their literal legacy. I didn't get to meet Sleazy or John Balance, but I sat on Genesis's lap and hugged Paula good night. So strange to miss your idols by what felt like moments, but that's freedom, too.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:41 AM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) Syntheses from Recreational Drugs by Professor Buzz makes an interesting read, even if you aren't a chemist.

LSD related : Woman draws self-portraits during LSD trip
posted by jeffburdges at 3:19 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is astonishing how completely the LSD experience has vanished from the scene. One hears rumours of availability in the UK, and about once a year I meet someone who claims to either have just come back from some farmhouse weekend swimming in the stuff or to "be able to hook you up with some righteous liquid" (this last, rather fabulously, at a Google corporate party), but these seem to be fairy tales. Likewise, I hear stories of the Australian scene - but again, no evidence has ever been produced.

In the eighties, though, I knew some people who had been on the periphery of the Operation Julie crew before they got busted, and they were carrying on the good fight. (There were some Subgenius Dobbshead blotters; a pal had designed the graphic on his Archimedes PC, and got paid with a sheet of backstop blotter which had been used during the spraying process during production and was impregnated with an unknown concentration of acid. What could possibly go wrong?)

For something that had such a profound effect on so many things and so many people, I find its complete extirpation from a society that seems perfectly happy to carry on using everything else very hard to explain. I've read official reports from drugs agencies that seem rather bemused on the fact themselves; they congratulate themselves on having reduced the incidence of LSD so comprehensively, but note that they don't know which of the measures has actually been responsible.

OK, so the precursors are much more tightly controlled - and synthesis is involved and tricky for a drug with little street value - but the whole evangelical drive to get the stuff out has evaporated. I guess it'sj ust hippies getting old and dying.
posted by Devonian at 4:08 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Devonian, ha! I know, right? In the 80s you couldn't escape it. In the 90s it wasn't terribly different. Then kaboom! ALL GONE. and everyone lies about availability.

P.S. Not just the hippies miss it as a cultural force.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:15 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The 70th Birthday Of LSD

The ancient Mesoamericans used to extract the alkaloids from the seeds of the xtabentún vine (a relative of the morning glory) in order to see visions.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I thought all the acid infrastructure converted to ecstasy because of simple supply and demand.

The other day I read a funny take on the beginnings of LSD on a conspiracy-type website that Wasson and Leary and McKenna all at one time or another were employed by the Feds and that there was a government skunkworks project to push LSD into the population to make them more malleable a la' Huxley -- Brave New World -- soma. Here it is if you want to read it which you should not do if consuming Alex Jones media makes you angry.

(By funny I mean both that I laughed and that it is an odd mix of perfectly plausible logic and some clearly half-baked premises.)
posted by bukvich at 5:33 AM on November 15, 2013

Chemistry related : Dynamic Periodic Table
posted by jeffburdges at 5:37 AM on November 15, 2013

everyone lies about availability

I ate some delicious candy watermelon slices a few weeks ago. It's kind of available, but not like, you know, REALLY available.
posted by Dr. Zachary Smith at 5:47 AM on November 15, 2013

What [the scientists say] about the relative dangers of drugs

Anyone else notice the total absence of a dependence bar for LSD and mushrooms? As I understand it, these pure hallucinogens simply don't act on the brain's reward centers, which probably produces lousy customers. I'd imagine you're looking for aficionados and connoisseurs, not just dealers making a living selling.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:57 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bukvich, I don't think it's supply and demand so much as ecstasy being much easier to synthesize. It's a damn shame, though. The world really needs more LSD.

The increasing acceptance of medical and now recreational marijuana use gives me some hope Vitamin L will someday make a comeback.
posted by alms at 5:59 AM on November 15, 2013

Thanks for this!
posted by Jairus at 7:07 AM on November 15, 2013

Yeah the economics of LSD are kind of warped. It's hard to synthesize, cheap, and customers tend not to consume much of it. When it is around there's often a glut because doses are so small. So nobody really makes much money on it I don't think.
posted by mai at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2013

LSD is not too uncommon on the west coast of the US, I swear. I suppose that would be the last place on earth for acid supplies to hold out, though.
posted by atoxyl at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2013

OK, so the precursors are much more tightly controlled

For just a split-second, I misread this as:

OK, so the precogs are much more tightly controlled

And I thought I had fallen into a Phillip K. Dick novel. About a drug like LSD that shifts you through different alternate realities. That nobody could find anymore. Or something. I forget.

I just got back from this amazing farmhouse...
posted by saulgoodman at 9:44 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

From 2001 to around 2009 it was extremely scarce. Most of what was sold as LSD was actually somewhat less desirable and possibly dangerous psychedelic amphetamines like DOB or DOI. It makes me really angry that people do this because DOx is ok if you're prepared to trip for 20 hours and know not to take too much lest you get dangerous and painful vasoconstriction. But if you're expecting LSD and have responsibilities the next day you're gonna have a bad time....

Anyway, LSD did make a minor comeback around 2009 and it isn't uncommon to find real blotter or liquid in college towns or big east coast cities. You still have to be cautious because there has also been a boom in ultra-potent "research chemical" psychedelics of many varieties. Some are wonderful and interesting in their own reguard but people continue to sell them off as acid and it's usually frightening to get something significantly different than what you were prepared for.
posted by WhitenoisE at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2013

it's usually frightening to get something significantly different than what you were prepared for

I find that I'm never quite prepared

Edit: To that end, quote from Cap'n Trips himself:

"My feelings about LSD are mixed. It’s something that I both fear and that I love at the same time. I never take any psychedelic, have a psychedelic experience, without having that feeling of, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” In that sense, it’s still fundamentally an enigma and a mystery."
posted by Dr. Zachary Smith at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My personal experience was mostly with acid of dubious potency and provenance in one of those aforementioned east coast college towns, petering out hard around 2004. I've heard very little of it since, and this is in circles where I'd expect to hear. A real shame, since it's getting close to time for me to bust out Coil's Winter Solstice album again, and as many times as I've listened to it, I've never, y'know, seen it.
posted by Rustmouth Snakedrill at 1:48 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The transcendence that can be written about in an article isn't the real transcendence.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2013

As I understand it, these pure hallucinogens simply don't act on the brain's reward centers

My brain doesn't think you understand it very well.
posted by flabdablet at 6:56 AM on November 16, 2013

There are any number of subcultures around where you can get still get LSD, but you usually have to be an active and social member of the subculture for the network to work for you. Go to five phish shows in a row and strike up friendships with the people you see at all of them. Camp for a week at your local regional Burning Man spinoff. Get involved enough with the electronic dance scene that you start hearing about the smaller parties that don't get advertised online. Go to a rainbow gathering. None of the acidified subcultures have gone away; they've all shrunk since their moment in the sun but they're all still out there, if you're young and/or commitment-free enough to really get involved. Basically it's a word of mouth phenomenon these days. Was it ever any different, or was I just younger and freer? Hard to say, hard to say....
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 8:36 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

In other art and magic news: The great Alan Moore turns 60 today
posted by homunculus at 6:18 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Alan Watts on LSD
posted by jeffburdges at 5:51 AM on November 21, 2013

To be clear, that's Alan Watts discussing LSD.
posted by alms at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

We need an fpp about MAPS but I don't personally know much about either psychotherapy or the substances in question. Any volunteers? Two links :

Miss Molly Goes to War (

Healing Trauma in Veterans with MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy (indiegogo)
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 AM on November 27, 2013

Meet Carl Hart, the Scientist Debunking America's Myths About Drugs

CG : What do you want readers to take away from High Price?

CH: When we think about drug effects, I want people to understand that they have less to do with pharmacology and more to do with context: the history of the user, the dose of the drug, etc. That's not to negate the role of pharmacology, but I do want people to understand the importance of context in trying to evaluate drug effects. We often talk about a drug as if it alone is causing all of these social harms. I want people to think about it in a more nuanced way.

I also want readers to re-think the way they view certain people who have been vilified by society. If they do that, they'll see that we've been racist in our thinking in this country. We have not really owned up to it. People need to understand the difference between individual racism and institutional racism. Individual racism is not a big deal these days. You'd be hard-pressed to find many people who are outright racist. They don't need to be, because our institutions are. I hope they understand that.

posted by jeffburdges at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2013

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