July 30, 2015

Pauline Anna Strom - Trans-Millenia Consort, 1982

Self-taught Bay Area new age composer and synthesist Pauline Anna Strom sends us on a journey to other worlds on her debut album. Little is known about Ms. Strom apart from that she's a blind musician living in the Bay Area, who released all her later works under the moniker Trans-Millenia Consort. Strom explained the name change in the liner notes for Trans-Millenia Consort:
I consider myself the 'Trans-Millenia Consort,' by which title I wish to be known. This to me is a personal declaration that I have been in previous lives, that I am in this life, and that I shall in future lives be a musical consort to time.
 Oddly enough, the most information available about Strom is in the comments section of the Waxidermy page devoted to this album. It features an interview she did with Eurock in 1986, in which she discussed her musical/mystical philosophy, how her blindness is an advantage in musical creativity, and her opinion on "New Age" as a genre. There's also a rant about the music industry in which she evidences that little has changed: 
The hypocrisy, greed, jealousy, and spiteful intrigue that permeates the music business is disgusting, and in my opinion, anyone who sees it otherwise is naive or deluded. Also, don’t leave out the financial factor: money opens a lot of doors. Try being an artist living on the fringes, tying to hold onto your individualism in creativity, with just enough dollars to pay for rent and food, not to mention being a woman, blind, and divorced.
Strom is obviously a hero, conquering the odds to go forth and create, which becomes even clearer upon listening to this work. Apparently she just picked up these instruments, started playing, and with her blindness and lack of experience as an electronic musician, created an album which is full of feeling, and stunningly beautiful. This album isn't available for purchase anywhere but you can purchase her other releases here.

July 28, 2015

Henri Texier - Amir, 1976

The debut album from French jazz double bassist Henri Texier, who has worked with Don Cherry, Bud Powell, Donald Byrd, Chet Baker, and Total Issue, and co-founded the Transatlantik Quartet and European Rhythm Machine. Amir is spare and stark, vibrating and volatile with unrealized possibility, slightly sinister and about to burst at the seams. Long stretches of double bass drone, lyricless vocal chants (Texier's voice sounds an awful lot like a string instrument), and a few brief forays into free-jazz, moments at which the record threatens to break apart. Texier on double bass, viola, oud, flute, percussion, piano, and vocals. Unsettling dinner-eating music.

July 24, 2015

Tatsuro Yamashita - Moonglow, 1979

Tatsuro Yamashita, reigning king of Japanese funky vibes, released this incredibly slick album in 1979 to critical acclaim. Track to track, we're treated to absurdly solid grooves with Yamashita demonstrating his impressive vocal abilities throughout. The first track, "Nightwing," is a short but pretty a cappella track.  After that, the record is mostly lightning speed funk, except for the tender "Touch Me Lightly" and the laid back, expansive "Rainy Walk" (below) on which Haruomi pays us a popping visit on bass. "Storm" is also a chilled out treat. Let me just say here that Yamashita is the MAN. He produced this entire thing too. So insane. Great record. 

July 21, 2015

[RIP Dieter Moebius] Cluster - Sowiesoso, 1976

This post is in honor of the life of influential synth-based German musician Dieter Moebius, who passed away yesterday at the age of 71. He was most famous for co-founding Cluster and Harmonia, and for his longtime collaboration with Connie Plank.

Sowiesoso ("always the same") is Cluster's fourth full-length album, recorded over a period of just two days in Forst, Germany, and mixed in Connie Plank's studio. Compared to their other albums, Sowiesoso is gentler and more melodic, alternately wading through a dense jungle inhabited by robotic synth-chirp birds and picnicking with people you just met but already love. It's shimmering, warm, and surprisingly nostalgic, as far as Cluster goes, with track titles that translate to "For Eternity," "The Wanderer" (fretless bass!), and "Once Upon A Time." Outlier "Halwa," replete with middle Eastern kitsch, is a reminder that Cluster still deals in the scronky sense of humor innate to so many krautrockers. Closer "In Ewigkeit" ("For Eternity") is an opiated smoke drift, ghostly and sensual, a soundtrack to leaving the party at five am wide awake but with heavy eyelids.

 Safe travels, Moebius, and thank you for everything!

July 20, 2015

Karma Moffett - Sitting Still Within / Sitting Still Without, 1982

Guest post by Gaurav Bashyakarla (Beer on The Rug

This cassette was gifted to me by a very close friend in 2011 after returning from travels through the great state of California. The album was originally digitized with the intention of being shared on the Crystal Vibrations blog around the time it went defunct. Unfortunately it never saw the light of day there but is here now for your listening pleasure.

The sounds, frequencies and overtones on this tape lend themselves to a stillness of mind and chakra activation/harmonization. Just listen and you will see/feel.

July 17, 2015

Double Fantasy - Universal Ave., 1986

For those who don't mind a healthy smear of cosmic cheese. Molten guitar streaks, shivery synth grooves, and unhurried drum machines. Very sick and very slick. Makes me want to throw on some mirrored sunglasses and drive a silver convertible along winding cliffside vistas smoking an e-cig in front of a photoshopped sunset. Alternately meditative and searingly emotive, this thing is a few pan flutes shy of Pure Moods (a very high compliment). There's not much decisive information about Double Fantasy available online, but it seems to have been the project of Klaus Schulze disciple Robert Schröder, who was only allowed to release two records under the Double Fantasy moniker because of legal clashes with his label, Innovative Communication. He went on to release many more records under a slew of different aliases, but both this and the other Double Fantasy release, 1994's Food For Fantasy, are worth tracking down.

July 14, 2015

[RIP] Susumu Yokota - Acid Mt. Fuji, 1994

Guest post by Jon Williams (synths, Excepter)

I was disheartened to learn of electronic composer Susumu Yokota’s passing this past spring after a long illness. Like Florian Fricke – another musician who passed too young – Yokota’s works frequently evoked pastoral landscapes. Acid Mt. Fuji, in particular, marries the metronomic stomp of Robert Hood with the shimmering pads of Popul Vuh. Yakota’s palette of sounds was always distinctly his own, extending beyond the traditional acid staples found in the Roland TR series to include hand drums and animal noises.

This summer I took the occasion of my first solo hiking trip to listen to Acid Mr. Fuji, letting the drums set the pace as I struggled up the slopes of the Appalachian Trail, passing down swamps rimmed in Rhododendron bushes.

July 10, 2015

ARC Mix Vol. 17: Clandestinations

We're really excited to unveil our new look today, and to share a mix we made for Mexican Summer's imprint Anthology Recordings. If you like it, download it here. Enjoy!

1. Die Partei - Strahlsund
2. Jun Miyake - Pico Birds
3. Susana Estrada - ¡Gózame Ya!
4. Lio - You Go To My Head
5. Stephen Encinas - Lypso Illusion
6. Hector Zazou with Bony Bikaye - Reivax Broie Du Noir
7. Anna Domino - Caught
8. Joe Meek - I Hear A New World
9. Unknown Artist - Unknown Song (thanks Lolo!)
10. Brenda Ray - Hearts Entwine
11. Lena Platonos - Αιμάτινες Σκιές Από Απόσταση
12. Tri Atma - Neon Muscheln
13. RAH Band - Sam the Samba Man
14. Aragon - Polaris
15. Clifford White - Into the Blue

July 8, 2015

Upper Astral - Journey to the Edge of the Universe, 1983

This work of ultimate peace was recorded by David Storrs and Robert Slap in 1983 for Malibu-based Valley of the Sun publishing label. The tape is no longer available for purchase anywhere.

Storrs has been quoted as saying that "the album was experiment inspired by - and incorporating - a set of sounds from the plasma wave experiment which was riding aboard NASA's Voyager I and Voyager II space probes, the recording of which had recently been released to the public."

I first found out about this recording through Greg Davis's Crystal Vibrations blog and have listened to it probably around 100 times. Perfect for inner travels to outer regions.

July 5, 2015

[RIP] Charanjit Singh - Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, 1982

We were deeply saddened to learn that Indian musician Charanjit Singh suddenly passed away at home in Mumbai this morning, at 75 years old. His death came just a few months after the passing of his wife, Suparna Singh.

Over the past few years, Singh's story has been told hundreds of times, attaining mythological status. It started as whispers on the internet in 2005, rumors of a record of frenetic acid house renditions of traditional Indian ragas--but it was the record's release date that left listeners in disbelief. Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco beat was purportedly recorded in 1982, a full three years before Phuture wrote "Acid Tracks," generally acknowledged as the pioneering acid house track.

It took another five years for Synthesizing to be reissued, instantly cementing it as an electronic cult classic. Singh surfaced and started playing shows, largely thanks to the efforts of Rana Ghose. With Singh's reappearance we learned that he had been a Bollywood session guitarist, that he had bought his Roland TB-303 in Singapore shortly after its introduction in late 1981, and that Synthesizing had come about through at-home experimentation. Singh recounted:
There was lots of disco music in films back in 1982, so I thought, why not do something different using disco music only. I got an idea to play all the Indian ragas and give the beat a disco beat--and turn off the tabla. And I did it! And it turned out good.
We were fortunate enough to have Charanjit play at Body Actualized Center last August (photos below) and it was one of the most memorable musical experiences of our lives. The show was packed and sweaty, with Charanjit shredding through a long and ecstatic set on his Jupiter 8 in a suit jacket, unfazed by the heat. As was their tradition, his wife Suparna was seated next to him smiling the entire time.

buy / download

photo by Erez Avissar
photo by Erez Avissar

July 3, 2015

Susana Estrada - Amor y Libertad, 1981

I first heard Susana Estrada on a Spanish Bizarro compilation, and I had a time getting ahold of this record--after coming up short everywhere, Maria finally tracked it down for me through mysterious channels, and it was worth the hunt. Perfectly unabashed Spanish disco-funk with lots of wonderful vocal layering, judicious usage of the now-ubiquitous "Christmas Rappin'"/"Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" bass line, and enough hand clap samples to make Patrice Rushen proud. From the very limited information available about her (i.e. Google translate and what I can only assume is a photo of Estrada having sex with a robot), Estrada was a big proponent of sexual freedom, and as such, Amor y Libertad is full of drawn out moaning intervals and very "progressive" lyrics. "¡Gózame Ya!" is a favorite for its warped, weird synth lines, but there's not a weak moment to be found anywhere. Perfect 4th of July soundtrack! Apologies for the poor sound quality, but until somebody reissues this thing (ahem), it'll have to do.