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Album Review: Kula Shaker – Natural Magick

3 min read
Kula Shaker release "new collection of hypnotic soundscapes" with new LP Natural Magick @kulashaker

Continuing their 2022 reboot with 1st Congregational Church of Eternal Love (And Free Hugs), English psych-rock outfit Kula Shaker have followed with a new collection of hypnotic soundscapes on their newest release Natural Magick. Consisting of frontman Crispian Mills, bassist Alonza Bevan, drummer Paul Winterheart and keyboardist Jay Darlington, the band brought a unique sound to the post-Britpop era in the late 90s with projects inspired by Indian music and spiritualism.

Natural Magick is the second record to come of Kula Shaker’s return from an extended hiatus, ahead of a run of UK tour dates this spring. Across the thirteen tracks, they have kept to their core of mystical numbers which seem to meld retro grooves with a modern indie pop-rock feel.

Opening track Gaslighting feels like a reintroduction for Kula Shaker, as it begins with a spoken verse: ‘Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here to witness the great congregation in this Aquarian age of communication and re-humanisation. The revolution will not be live-streamed across all social platforms, you will receive no notifications, only de-hypnotisations, revelations and realisations.’ In a rejection of modernity, a call to action for revolution and ultimate embrace of many “New Age” mantras perpetuated throughout the 1960s, Kula Shaker encourages listeners to favour love and truth within a manipulated society. With rhythmic electric riffs, tight percussion and soulful organ fills, it is a driving first track which sets the band’s spiritual and political stance early on.

Following track Waves feels more Britpop inspired and lighthearted in nature. It stands as one of the record’s catchier numbers with melodies driven by overdriven guitar and a bright, plucky sitar, an anthemic chorus and sticky hooks. It deviates from political drives to continue encouraging messages of love and light, living up to its name with a distinctly beachy touch. Leading into title track Natural Magick, a sense of variety is given as the number feels far more funk-pop oriented with a deep, rhythmic bassline and chants of ‘M-A-G-I-C-K!’. The song even seems to incorporate touches of synth-pop and disco-style runs, creating a hypnotically packed landscape.

Indian Record Player and Chura Liya (You Stole My Heart) draw upon Indian culture more directly, as Indian Record Player cruises through the experience of exploring the sounds of the region, while Chura Liya directly incorporates the Hindi song of the same name from 70s Bollywood film ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’. The track also sees Santana-esque electric runs, and Mariachi-inspired acoustics to really carry a passionate, romantic feeling home.

Peppered with traditional percussion and notes of Eastern mysticism, such as chants of Hare Krishna on Happy Birthday, Kula Shaker do well to never lose sight of their influences throughout the record. While advocating for love and peace, they deliver more direct messages of protest with Idontwannapaymytaxes and F-Bombs, singing ‘I don’t wanna pay my taxes/I don’t wanna pay for World War Three/I don’t wanna pay my taxes/I don’t need no man to die for me’ and ‘Fuck war, fuck tax, fuck the government men’ respectively. While these are similar sentiments that have been expressed in protest songs across genres from the 1960s onwards, Kula Shaker has looked to frame them within a context that does not exactly replicate the demonstrations of the past, but looks at the frustration expressed within today’s society.

In spirit, Natural Magick feels like a traverse down the hippie trail as it holds its ground in psychedelia. What makes Kula Shaker stand out is the element of protest that they bring into their lyricism, customary of the time that they are emulating but not commonly seen in psychedelic rock today. Listeners can certainly look to Kula Shaker for an inspired voice on today’s social climate, creating a sense of intrigue for what might come next from their return.