There’s only one copy of the Bardo Thodol in Liverpool Central Library and it’s not to be found in the former lecture hall underneath the Picton Reading Room, because this is now the children’s section. Tonight, however, there are at least five copies of the text here present in the minds of JOSEFIN ÖHRN + THE LIBERATION. The ‘liberation’ in question is the Thodol itself; the liberation through hearing during the transitional state, AKA the Tibetan Book of the Dead. You don’t have to have read it (or been liberated) to get some idea of what they sound like. Balancing psych rock with shoegaze and pop production values via Serge Gainsbourg-esque vocal delivery, the eponymous Swede whispers the title of the band’s October release and re-establishes her mystique in Rainbow Lollipop: “Je suis un Mirage”.
Frontwoman Öhrn is not one to grab the limelight. In fact, there is no limelight, just oil-and-water projections and live manipulation of the band’s multicoloured silhouettes via video feed (the spirit of the UFO club is alive and well with a band who clearly have a soft spot for Pink Floyd’s post-Syd, pre-Dark Side era). She sings Endless Ocean not as a bird flying above the waves, but as a siren lurking in the depths with her entourage. It’s a really well-mixed sound that lets her low, sultry vocals cut through the throbbing synths and bass. They don’t reach the depths of introspection plumbed by some psych bands in a groove – most of the songs are too short for that – but they’ve still got the gloss of pop stagecraft, as evidenced by the lurch into Sunny Afternoon: it’s exactly the same segue from The Cowboy Song into The Boys Are Back In Town on Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous.
This is a perfect venue – there is something historical, mythological about psych that readies it for performances in Victorian edifices. It’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to see a gas-lit post mortem taking place in here for medical students. Live music rarely suits an autopsy, but it’s worth noting that these guys know how to build a song – whether it’s the tag-team of organ and vocals in lead single Mirage, The State (I’m In) or the drums kicking in halfway through Sister Green Eyes, galloping to the end of their most classically psych number, a moment which acts as a triangulation point, giving a sense of the gig’s dimensions.
This is the second date of an intense UK tour (11 gigs in nearly as many days), but after touring with Goat and appearing at Liverpool Psych Fest over the last two years and with two albums released in that time, the Liberation have made room for their selves in Liverpool. Until their next visit, are they worth a weekend break in Stockholm? More like a trip to Pzykholm.