Psychedelic folk or psych folk is a music genre that originated in the 1960s through the blending of folk music and psychedelic rock or psychedelic pop.
Psychedelic folk generally favors acoustic instrumentation although it often incorporates other instrumentation and chanting. Early music and ethnic music influences are often found. Much like its rock counterpart, psychedelic folk is known for a peculiar, trance-like, and atmospheric sound. Its lyrics are often concerned with such subjects as the natural world, love and beauty and try to evoke a state of mind associated with the effects of psychedelic drugs.
Early Incredible String Band, Donovan, Fairport Convention (see electric folk), The Pentangle, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Synanthesia and perhaps most prominently, Syd Barrett are all prominent early examples of psych folk artists. Notice that all of these musicians are from Britain, where psychedelic music often had a stronger folk element.
American bands include early The Byrds, Love, Bermuda Triangle Band, and Pearls Before Swine.
New musical artists continue to draw on this tradition, although many of them would not necessarily describe their own music as psych folk (the term freak folk has gained favor). Current 93 whose new folk direction of 1988’s "Earth Covers Earth" rekindled the freak folk styles of such groups as the Incredible String Band. Indeed the album cover is a post-punk parody of the Incredible String Band’s album, "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter". David Tibet, the main, and most consistent performer of Current 93 has continued predominantly with this style (his variation also called apocalyptic folk) to this day, having collaborated with folk singer Shirley Collins.
Since the 1990s, this style has included existentialists Pinkie Maclure & John Wills, known as Pumajaw in Scotland. Also, the Georgia-based Elephant 6 Recording Company, which includes bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, has been known to release psych folk records.
Michael Gira has also assisted in a sort of psychedelic folk revival. Gira may have named his newest project Angels of Light after San Francisco hippie Hibiscus' transcendental theatre group of the same name (though another possible source of the name is the Psychic TV associated project Thee Angels Ov Light Meet Thee Angry Love Orchestra. In interviews he says he cannot remember where he got the name from) and is responsible for guiding the career of new psych folk stars, Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family. Julien Aklei is an underground psych folk luminary, giving the genre a fresh and lighthearted color with her fairy-pastel point of view. .