Tag Archives: New Age

Ambient in Outer Space: Seven Artists Exploring the Final Frontier

Planet---Full

Animation by Andrew Khosravani

Space has always inspired contemplation. In his legendary work The Republic—published in 380 BC, over a millennium before Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first person to travel to space—the Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.” For at least a century now, humans have sought not only to explore the great beyond, but soundtrack it: Gustav Holst wrote the seven-movement orchestral suite The Planets in 1916; Stanley Kubrick employed the works of grandiose composers such as Richard Strauss to signify the epicness of space; and Sun Ra and David Bowie employed transcendental jazz and art rock, respectively, to bring cosmic sounds to the forefront. But in terms of output, and scale, few genres can match the longstanding partnership of ambient music with space.  Continue reading

Album of the Day: Kankyō Ongaku, “Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980​-​1990”

Corporate big bucks and avant-garde music aren’t the most obvious bedfellows—but throw user experience into the mix, and you’ve got a viable cultural phenomenon: kankyō ongaku. In 1980s Japan, as the country continued to enjoy an unprecedented post-war boom, it became the world’s second-largest economy; companies like Sanyo and Muji pumped cash into the arts to enhance the experiences for its consumers.

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How an Album Meant for Scientific Research Became Therapy for Its Co-Creator

Passages

In 1982, musicians Paul Voudouris and Chris Spheeris co-wrote and released an ambient album called Passage. It was different than anything they’d done to that point and, perhaps for that reason, it didn’t sell well. Still, 36 years after its release, Passage still occupies a special place in their hearts—Voudouris says he listens to it once or twice a day. “It’s the perfect music. Not because I did it,” he says. “I’m overly critical of everything I do. I think it’s the lack of melody and structure which gives it longevity for me.”

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Big Ups: John Dwyer and Matt Jones Pick Their Favorite Castle Face Releases

Bronze

Bronze

Castle Face Records, the California DIY label co-owned by Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer, Male Gaze frontman Matt Jones, and their friend Brian Lee Hughes, is most commonly associated with the last decade’s wave of psychedelic garage rock. They released the first Ty Segall album, cosigned King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard right before they broke out, dropped a seminal White Fence record, and have released nearly every Oh Sees (sometimes self-referred to as Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, or OCS) album since the label formed in 2006.

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Hi Bias: Notable Cassette Releases on Bandcamp, August 2018

Hi Bias

Welcome to Hi Bias, a monthly column highlighting recent cassette releases on Bandcamp, and exploring the ideas behind them with the artists who made them. Rather than making sweeping generalizations about the “cassette comeback,” we prefer here simply to cover releases that may escape others’ radar due to their limited, cassette-focused availability.

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Suzanne Ciani: A Lifetime at Electronic Music’s Forefront

Suzanne Ciani

Suzanne Ciani’s life has always been filled with music. Throughout the composer’s Quincy, Massachusetts upbringing, it was deeply cherished. Though her father, an orthopedic surgeon, at one time had dreams of becoming a musician, Ciani’s mother, a housewife wrangling five girls and one boy, was the driving force. She was the one who brought the Steinway piano and classical records into the home that made such a significant impact. Ciani played the Steinway for hours each night, getting lost in Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Music—especially classical music—was an immediate passion for Ciani, one that quickly became the focus of her life and education. After finishing high school, she went to Wellesley College to study classical music.

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Inside Laraaji’s Beautiful Meditation Music

This month, Numero Group reissued Vision Songs Vol. 1, a collection of 11 pieces culled from a self-released 1984 meditation tape by New Age music legend Laraaji. These “celestial sounds,” as Laraaji calls them, were originally released as a short run of 60-minute cassettes designed to guide and soundtrack transcendental meditation. Constructed in the artist’s Manhattan studio, Laraaji used an MT-70 Casio synthesizer, drum machine, and his long-standing signature instrument, the zither, to create works of longform electronic ambience. Vision Songs Vol. 1 was one of over 20 Laraaji releases that, in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, were almost exclusively available in a constellation of New Age book shops in cities along the East Coast of the United States.

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Ruven Nunez’s Guitar Work is a Spiritual Practice

Ruven Nunez

Ruven Nunez says he lives in a bowl; the Swiss guitarist interrupts a thought on a recent Skype call, lifting his computer over his right shoulder to show exactly what he means. Out a window, across the entire horizon, is a row of mountains in either direction. Nunez explains that it circumscribes all of Bad Ragaz, a town of less than 6,000 people set in the foothills of the eastern Swiss Alps that he’s lived in most of his life. It can feel isolating, he admits—but at least today, he feels safe here, comforted by the range that separates him and his family from the rest of the world.

When he was younger, Nunez felt the pull to live elsewhere. At 18, he moved to Shanghai, but he was quickly overwhelmed by the bustle of the city and the geographical flatness of the environment that surrounded him after a lifetime in the mountains. He moved back home after three months. Over the next half decade, he’d try stints in Japan, Korea, and Singapore—but the bowl always called him back. In his mid 20s, he moved back to Bad Ragaz for good, to settle down, lead a simple life, and to be near his mother, who’s lived with various forms of cancer for nearly 10 years and who he now lives with and cares for.

Ruven Nunez

Around the same time that he moved back to Switzerland, he slowly dedicated himself to playing guitar, which he’d done off and on since since he was a teenager. He’d made attempts at playing with other people in bands throughout his travels, but back home he started recording alone. His first efforts were attempts at recreating the spaced-out guitar tape experiments that Brian Eno and Robert Fripp recorded in in the early ‘70s; nothing much came of them.

But then, he had an intense panic attack at a supermarket near his house, spinning him into an intense period of personal enlightenment. “It was a punch in my face, saying that there’s more to life than what I’d been doing so far,” he explains. “You can’t imagine how much more. After that I started recording again.”

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