09.06.20

Words by: Felicity Martin

The 10 Best Tracks To Take Psychedelics To, according to Juan MacLean

"For me, spending a night dancing for hours (or days!) on end is equally as valid as my time spent in ceremony with shamans in the jungles of Peru"

As well as producing and DJing the finest house and disco going, DFA legend Juan MacLean is someone who is interested in experiences with psychedelic substances. He now experiments with psychoactives that allow out-of-body experiences, finding that those moments can link in seamlessly with various forms of music. He’s just put out cosmic disco EP ‘Manthony’ with four slabs of transcendental dancefloor goodness, of which one (‘Bufomania’) is named after his time spent with mind-altering drugs.

“My closest friends know that I have been deeply involved with psychedelics as a means of transformation, healing (particularly depression and addiction) and exploration for some time,” Juan MacLean explains, “and how seriously I hold them in this regard. I am particularly drawn to Ceremony, finding the structure and container they provide to allow for a far deeper exploration and subsequent integration of the experiences. That’s not to say, however, as anyone who has run into me on a dancefloor or DJ booth might attest to, that I am against ‘recreational’ use. Far from it, though I don’t make any distinction between ‘recreational’ and ‘ceremonial’ anymore. I also don’t believe that ceremonial or intentional use means an absence of fun. For me, spending a night dancing for hours (or days!) on end with my friends is equally as valid as my time spent in ceremony with shamans in the jungles of Peru.

“That said, during this lockdown we have had to get creative, and me and my partner designed our own mushroom (4 grams) ceremony for at home. A big part of it, the centrepiece, is of course the music. Designing a playlist for psychedelic journeying, where you lie down with an eye mask on and go inward, is much like planning a DJ set. There are distinct and somewhat predictable phases that can be planned for with enough experience. With this type of journeying, you don’t want music that is too directive. What is more effective is pieces that provide a sort of platform without directing you too much emotionally one way or the other. It’s a bit like taking a trip down a rough river that might have rapids along the way: the music is the canoe that transports you, flowing with the experience rather than trying to shape it too much. Here are some excerpts from the playlist we used, in order.”

1. Vivaldi: Concerto For Lute, 2 Violins And Continuo In D, RV 93 – 2. – ‘ Largo’

“I actually took this one from the playlist Johns Hopkins used in their Psilocybin trials, where they used Psilocybin to treat existential anxiety in those diagnosed with terminal cancer. The onset of psychedelics can be quite anxiety-inducing, as it seems to take a minute to settle into these dramatic shifts in perception. This piece is a bit playful and hopeful, a nice intro.”

2. Ravi Shankar feat Philip Glass – ‘Offering’

“This is a nice piece that still maintains a bit of optimistic and playful flourishes with the flutes, moving things along nicely.”

3. Brian Eno & Harold Budd – ‘First Light’

“Now we are getting deep into the an altered state, maybe leaving the body at this point. I love Harold Budd’s music so much. I love the desert, where he is from, and his music can be very evocative of my favourite desert spaces, like Joshua Tree. Wide open expanses punctuated with a sort of melancholy.”

4. Daniel Kobialka – ‘Blue Spirals’

“This is one of my favourite pieces of music of all time, in general. For me it is a portal into another realm. It really lends itself to experiences of eternity and timelessness.”

5. H. Takahashi – ‘Halcyon’

“At this point in the journey, maybe the physical body has been left behind, along with the details of personal identity or even complete ego annihilation. This kind of track provides a sonic soundscape that feels boundless. There doesn’t seem to be a beginning or an end, no buildup or resolution. Perfect for the part of the journey where you might be experiencing pure transcendence of our consensual reality.”

6. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – ‘A Symphony Pathetique’

“Another deep journeying piece, with a bit of piano to move things along. Strikes a tone of a bit of melancholy that is common to deep psychedelic experiences and Is useful for exploring shadow material.”

7. Iceblink – ‘Pass Into Silence’

“From the wonderful ‘Pop Ambient’ series on Kompakt, the poignantly titled ‘Pass Into Silence’ is great for deep in the journey when you might be exploring other realms or dimensions. The filter sweeps are particular lovely and soothing.”

8. Craig Pruess and Ananda – ‘Devi Prayer’

“For me, one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, though I have a pretty specific attachment to it. It’s a Sanskrit prayer dedicated to the feminine divine. A while back I was in a Bufo (Bufo Alvarius, a toad that secretes 5-MeO-DMT) ceremony. Bufo is a tremendously powerful psychedelic, I would not recommend it without extensive research and consultation with a trained practitioner. It is inhaled as a freebase inhalant, and before I had even exhaled, I was complete transported out of my body. I had no idea who I was, or what I was, or that I even existed as a human being, and I was in a realm that defied any reference of three-dimensional space. At some point, after struggling to figure out what was happening (I wasn’t aware that I had taken something), I decided that I had died, and simply gave up. At the moment I entered a sort of paradise beyond space and time, and this song started playing. It was an experience that language fails on all levels to even being too describe.”

9. Steve Reich – ‘Mallet Quartet: III. Fast’

“Entering the last phase of the journey, it’s good to have a bit of a lift. This Steve Reich is both percussive and melodic, perking things up a bit. Good for transporting out of the quietly intense landscapes that have been dominating the previous hours.”

10. Nick Drake – ‘All My Trials’

“Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! This is a bit of consolation from Nick Drake and his sister Gabrielle. Returning to the realm of human consensual reality can be jarring, if not disappointing. Though Nick Drake is a tragic figure, I’ve always found this one to be comforting.”

Juan MacLean’s ‘Manthony’ EP is out now on Correspondant Music – purchase or stream it here.