Welcome to a new series on music genres that you’ve never heard of before, but according to Spotify, you listen to regularly. This is what happened to me in the case of Chamber Psych, a genre I’d never heard of before Spotify told me that my most listened to genre of 2020 was indeed Chamber Psych.
I soon discovered that I was not alone. Many people came out to say it was their favourite genre too. Some behaved as if they knew what Chamber Psych was, “yeah mate, been listening to Chamber Psych since 2007, I think I might have even created the term at Rachel’s party, remember? I was like, this sounds like fuckin chamber music, it’s psych!”, but most people sheepishly admitted they’d never heard of it and were suddenly intrigued. Which bands and artists are Chamber Psych? Are they aware of what they are? What does it even mean?
So began my in-depth investigation into the genre. Okay, it wasn’t that much of an investigation as I only had to look at Spotify to find out who I was listening to that labelled me a Chamber Psychic? Or is it Chamber Psycho? Anyway, on my travels, I did find this incredible website that has mesmerised me somewhat over the last few weeks. Every Noise at Once website lists 5293 different music genres. Creator Glenn McDonald says of the map:
“Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 5,293 genre-shaped distinctions by Spotify as of 2021-03-27. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general, down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.”
I looked for hours to try and find Chamber Psych on the map but to no joy. Then I realised you could search via a list, which made me feel stupid, but also relieved. I was closer now. There at number 756 on the list, sandwiched by Melodic Metal and Trancecore, sat Chamber Psych. Clicking on it took me to a Spotify playlist of 100 great Chamber Psych songs. So, was it true? Was I a blissfully ignorant fan of the genre? Yes, it seems I was.
There are plenty of artists on that list that I listen to regularly; Goat Girl, BC Camplight, Julia Holter, Shame, Beak>, Billy Nomates, Black Country, New Road, SUUNS, Working Men’s Club, Protomartyr, Anna Calvi, The Horrors, Bat For Lashes, Fat White Family. I also made a little “ooh” sound as I realised that many of the acts are Welsh — The Anchoress, Gruff Rhys, Super Furry Animals, Hen Ogledd, Gwenno, Cate Le Bon, all feature on the playlist. So, not only did I learn that I secretly love Chamber Psych, but I also really enjoy music by Welsh artists. Which, as a person who has lived in Wales for the vast majority of her life, probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
“Every Noise at Once,” tells me that the closest genre to Chamber Psych is Art Pop. Okay, I suppose that makes sense when considering the artists listed. The furthest genre away from Chamber Psych is Wind Ensemble, which can’t be right, surely? There must be some bassoon in a Hen Ogledd track? It’s got to be closer to the soothing sound of a wind ensemble (or, you know, like actual chamber music) than say Charred Death? WTF is Charred Death? I hear you ask. I have no idea, but look out for my future article, “WTF is Charred Death?” coming here soon. I bet it’s nothing like Chamber Psych, that’s for sure.
So take a listen to Spotify’s selection of songs, and I will be back next week as I explore another obscure genre of music that nobody realised they loved. There’s 5293 to choose from. Will it be Drill & Bass? Or perhaps Tolkien Metal? Or even Saskatchewan Indie? Find out next week on WTF is…?