New Weird America

The Golden Apples of the Sun

New Weird America describes a subgenre of psychedelic and indie music, often psych folk, of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The term is generally believed to have been coined by David Keenan in a 2003 issue of ‘The Wire,’ following the Brattleboro Free Folk Festival organized by Matt Valentine and Ron J. Schneiderman. It is a play on Greil Marcus’s phrase ‘Old Weird America’ as described in his book ‘Invisible Republic,’ which deals with the lineage connecting the pre-World War II folk performers on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music to Bob Dylan and his milieu.

The musical style described as New Weird America is derived mainly from psychedelic rock and folk groups of the 1960s and 1970s, including American performers Holy Modal Rounders and English and Scottish groups, such as Pentangle, The Incredible String Band, Donovan, and Comus. It also finds inspiration in such disparate sources as heavy metal, free jazz, electronic music, noise music, ethnic musics, musique concrète, tropicália, and early- and mid-20th century American folk music. Another primary inspiration is outsider music, often played by technically naïve and/or socially estranged musicians, such as The Shaggs, Roky Erickson, and Jandek. Other genre classifications with similar aesthetics are psychedelic rock, psych folk, freakbeat, and freak folk.

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