Chris Parkin uncovers recent vinyl gems in a particular genre. Here, he looks at the resurgent interest in the work of new age and spiritual artists…
With news headlines harshing the mellow of even the most optimistic right now, it’s no coincidence there’s renewed interest in music of a new age, spiritual and transcendental bent. First-pressing albums by artists such as Laraaji and Iasos are worth a fortune and these pioneers have been joined by a new wave of musicians seeking similar enlightenment, including Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society, whose Simultonality (tak:til) we reviewed recently. The most notable release in this niche sphere is The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop).
In the late 70s – a decade after the death of her husband, John – cosmic- jazz harpist Alice Coltrane opened a Vedic ashram in California and, between 1983 and 1995 made four cassette-only albums for her devotees. This double-vinyl compilation, with two extra tracks and in-depth booklets about the recordings, is a heady brew of ecstatic synths, gospel-like Sanskrit chants and soulful grooves. It’s up there with Coltrane’s best work.
Japanese percussionist Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass is another record with numinous power. We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want and Palto Flats have reissued this 1983 album on single (33rpm) and double (45rpm) vinyl, with liner notes examining the genesis of an album that’s become a Holy Grail among collectors. And you can hear why: Through The Looking Glass is a four-song masterclass in hypnotic, celestial minimalism that borrows from African and Asian percussive traditions and modern ambience and somehow manages to set the standard for cosmic electronica-makers today.
THERE’S RENEWED INTEREST IN MUSIC OF A NEW AGE, SPIRITUAL AND TRANSCENDENTAL BENT, WITH A FRESH WAVE OF ARTISTS SEEKING ENLIGHTENMENT
Better known than Takada is 70-year-old New York musician and former bongo player for the beat writers, Charlemagne Palestine. His Strumming Music – a 52-minute piece of rapturous piano minimalism that has a discombobulating effect – was reissued recently, and now there’s a collaborative live album with UK mystic-rock duo Grumbling Fur. A lavish gatefold release, Omminggg And Schlomminggg (Important) sees the drone merchants meeting on a smoke-fogged astral plane to perform bewitching ritual music – clattering, bowing, looping swirls of sound – for another world. On the same label is Caterina Barbieri’s double-album Patterns Of Consciousness, a synapse-frying analogue-synth fest that’s more intense, but no less transportive.
There’s also a release from minimal music’s other renaissance man, Tony Conrad. A year after his death, the musician and filmmaker’s unreleased 1972 performance Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain is now given the double-vinyl treatment by Superior Viaduct. With its roots in his Theatre Of Eternal Music project in the 60s, this 90-minute piece features Conrad on violin, plus no-wave guitarist Rhys Chatham and electronic artist Laurie Spiegel. Conrad’s dedication to extended composition transforms something that starts off relatively din-like into trance-inducing music.
With reissues from prime kosmische acts Cluster and Popol Vuh, and releases by contemporary artists on a cosmic-explorer tip – acts like Floating Points and Lejsovka & Freund, on the reliably wonderful MIE label – now is a good time to tune in and float off.