Category Archives: New Age

Walter (Wendy) Carlos – Sonic Seasonings

Walter (Wendy) Carlos was perhaps the first famous synthesizer programmer/performer.  At first rock & roll didn’t quite know what to do with synthesizer technology as it began to become commercially available in the late 1960’s.  The synthesizer was borne from the college campus and research laboratory, so I suppose it was only natural that the high-brow world of avant-garde classical music became the earliest users of the new technology, followed shortly by foley artists and jingle/commercial composers.  Walter Carlos was one of the earliest users of the Moog modular synthesizer and created a runaway smash, Switched On Bach, by painstakingly programming, tuning and multitracking the finicky instrument.  The album remains one of the best-selling classical music CD’s of all time.  Since Carlos was able to make so much quan off that recording, record execs saw the potential for their own Moog recordings and voila, you had a whole slew of Moog releases.  While some of those recordings are charming, none would have the effect of SOB. Shortly thereafter the Moog began to make its way onto popular recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Monkees and a little known prog group called Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Fast forward to 1972.  Carlos has had success with the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, which featured more reworkings of classical music plus the first appearance of an original composition, “Timesteps”.  The following year would see Carlos’ first release of all original compositions, Sonic Seasonings.

In this double album Carlos assigns one season thematically to each side of a double LP.  Those familiar with SOB will be surprised to discover a more conventional synthesizer album (meaning more atonal and avant-garde) than they are accustomed to from Carlos.  (S)he used lots of found sound, field recordings and nature sounds combined with the state-of-the-1972-art Moog modular and multitracking.  It’s not as hardcore “sound effect-y” as Subotnik or some of the minimalist 20th century musique concrete composers, but had more of a melodic flair and was arguably a commercialization of the 1960’s laboratory synthesizer composition style.

Carlos would go on to soundtrack Tron and record many other albums, but none quite like Sonic Seasonings.  It’s still in print on CD with bonus tracks. Have a listen to it hear first and then buy the CD if you like it.

SOURCE: The original 1972 Columbia Records pressing of the album -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition.  No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.

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David Lange – Return of the Comet

David Lange is an independent film maker and space music/electro composer.  This album is one of Hearts of Space’s earliest releases (1985) and Mr. Lange performed the album live to digital tape in a San Francisco studio with a Yamaha DX7, a Korg Polysix and a borrowed E-mu Emulator.  Hearts of Space, for those that don’t know, is a syndicated radio show that has been championing ambient and new age music for decades, airing on public radio stations and XM satellite radio.  Anyhow, Lange also recorded the material for a second album Mars Rising during the same sessions but, due to the limitations of vinyl, could not unite the session’s output until several years later when Mars Rising was added to the CD reissue of Return of the Comet.

The music itself…well, it’s new age alright but on more of a space vibe.  Lots of ethereal pads, LFO’ed washes that spread out like shooting stars, etc.  It is definitely on more of an early Vangelis tip than on a Yanni sort of thing.  This is the sort of album one would find in a POP endcap in some incense and candles New Age tarot sort of shop.  While most of that shit is R. Carlos Nakai or such vaguely ethno-world hooey this album still has enough of that initial Berlin School/ambient space vibe to keep it from getting positively corny.  One thing is for certain.  The longer I collect these odd synthesizer records I have learned that there are definitely differences in new age.  Something I didn’t understand at 16 when an English teacher was foisting Ray Lynch on us to help us focus on creative writing.  All it aided me in doing was having an unfounded 15+ year hatred of new age!

Anyways…this one’s fairly common on cassette but the original vinyl fetches $100+.  Have a listen here before hefting the mighty coin.

SOURCE: The original 1985 Hearts of Space pressing of the album -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition.  No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.

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Vangelis – Ignacio

Yeah, Vangelis.  I first became curious about his music 20 years ago when I went through my first wave of prog rock obsession.  When I would comb through used vinyl I would often run into copies of the Jon And Vangelis albums and, being a big Yes fan, thought I’d give one of them a try.  Yawn.  Big yawn.  Super disappointing.

Fast forward 15 years and at that point I had become an electronic musician.  I started to pay more attention to classic electronic music from sources that I had previously disdained.  Jarre and Vangelis in particular.  It took until a couple of years ago that i finally found the right Vangelis era, with a used vinyl copy of Heaven and Hell.  Then I began to find the right Vangelis.

I say that as though there’s something wrong with his music.  I think it’s more a matter of Vangelis being a somewhat singular musical talent.  He straddles the fence between groundbreaking New Age electronica, impressionistic orchestral tone poems and over-the-top Wagnerian bombast, sometimes really cool and sometimes really cheesy.  And that’s sometimes in just one side-length song!  The album I present today consists of Vangelis’s soundtracks to what I think are a couple of European films from the late ’70s.  The album compiles “Ignacio” on one side and “Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer” on the other side.  The music is definitely in the film score vein, more mood than song.  Side one is much more 20th century, side two has more piano and a serious prog rock intro.  If you liked Heaven and Hell then I think you’ll dig this album too.  It looks like both the vinyl and the CD are long out-of-print and run for serious coin online so try ‘er out here before you buy.

SOURCE: The original 1977 EGG Records French pressing of the album -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition.  No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.

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