Linda Cohen – Leda, 1972

Gorgeous minimal classical guitar on the first of three full-lengths from the largely self-taught Linda Cohen. Her fingerpicking pulls from folk, baroque, and blues, and given that she opened for Joni Mitchell, John Fahey, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at Philadelphia’s Second Fret in the late 60s, I would imagine these were influential artists for her. Though she was an active musician through much of her life, Cohen was most passionately a teacher, teaching classical guitar for 35 years at the Classical Guitar Store in Philly, where she was a fixture in the music scene. Her life was sadly cut short by cancer in 2009.

Leda is an exercise in restraint. Meticulously fingerpicked, just barely fleshed out with synth, theremin, celesta, tapes, and percussion. Much of the additional instrumentation is so subtle that it might not register without headphones–this is very much acoustic guitar music. Warm with room tone and (at least on this rip) crackling vinyl pops, it’s also prime cold weather, indoor listening. It includes instrumentation and effects from Charles Cohen (no relation), among others; with cover art by Milton Glaser. Sparse and masterful. Thank you Chad for the tip!

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Quarteto em Cy – Quarteto em Cy, 1964

Originally comprised of four sisters from Bahia (Cybele, Cylene, Cynara, and Cyva; their real names), Quarteto em Cy has been enormously prolific and has also undergone many lineup changes over the years. I’ve been unsure which record of theirs to begin with since this blog started, so I’ve decided to start at the beginning and share their debut (and also their first of maybe five self-titled records), from what Brazilian music snobs consider to be their golden period (although they weren’t signed to the legendary Elenco label until 1966).

Swooning vocal harmonies delivered with expressive precision and set over meandering jazz and bossa textures. No reason not to be listening to this today.

Bola Sete – Ocean, 1975

Swooning solo guitar. Sete’s fingerpicking is some of the best ever, and this release catches him at a particularly special moment: his samba, bossa nova, and jazz roots are out in full effect, but this was his first release on John Fahey’s label Takoma, and Fahey’s influence shows. Ocean dabbles in folk (seemingly from multiple traditions) and has that same expansiveness that marks much of Fahey’s work—music that, at the risk of sounding trite, seems to slip outside of time.

Side note: for those in New York, I’ll be doing a guest set of Japanese pop heavy hitters with Evan Neuhausen on WNYU (89.1 FM) tonight at 7:30. Spoiler alert: there will be bird sounds.

Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra, 1972

Hosianna Mantra is Popol Vuh’s third release, on which Florian Fricke made a complete 180 from the synth-based music of the first two albums to a piano and harpsichord-centric sound. He is joined throughout the album by voice, oboe, violin, tambura, electric guitar and twelve-string guitar. 
Fricke set out to make a devotional record that borrowed from both eastern and western sounds and traditions, without dedicating itself to any specific religion. The results are breathtaking. He says, “Hosianna mantra is actually a combination of two different cultures, two different languages, two different lives. It has a dual meaning; ‘hosianna,’ which is a religious Christian word and ‘mantra,’ from Hinduism. Behind all of that I was convinced that basically all religions are the same. You always find it in your own heart. “

Eddie Kendricks – People…Hold On, 1972

People…Hold On makes me excited to have kids so they can remember growing up hearing this around the house. A former frontman of The Temptations, this was Eddie Kendricks’ second solo record and cemented his solo career: the (slightly problematic) “Girl You Need a Change of Mind” was widely circulated in east coast clubs, and Kendricks went on to release 13 full-lengths and record a live album with Hall and Oates. People…Hold On is an immaculate classic. Funky, disco-flecked soul, bathed in sunshine and wah-wah, with a slow-burning politically charged title track. Eddie Kendricks’ trademark falsetto is effortless. A perfect spring soundtrack. Enjoy!

Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes – Paix, 1972

Over the course of this record, Catherine Ribeiro will either win your heart or rip it out with her powerful, uninhibited vocals. She leaves plenty of space for Alpes’s long instrumental sections of whirling medieval psychedelia. Alpes remind me of a more stripped down Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, with some spaghetti western guitar thrown in for good measure. Homemade synths including the percuphone and the cosmophone, both invented by band member Patrice Moullet (friendly bearded man above). Check out the super cute video of them on French TV below.

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Tangerine Dream – Zeit, 1972

Guest Post by Joel Ebner
In over twenty years of record collecting, there are only a few albums I’ve bought, sold, then repurchased at a later date. Of those albums, Zeit is the only album I bought twice because I’d had a complete change of heart about the music. As a teenager, the promise of Zeit (translated simply as “Time”) seemed on paper to be a godsend. Its associations with German kosmische favorites Faust and Neu! and its lineage of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II and Oval’s Systemisch sent me on a mission to track down a copy. Only thing was, I found myself completely unsatisfied with the record once I’d heard it.
Saw-toothed synth patches, 8-bit samplers, and reverb-drenched guitars made sense to my 18-year-old brain. but cellos? The opening moments of the album, “Birth of Liquid Plejades”—conjured from dramatic, legato strings—were too classical, too 20th century for me to find a link to the techno-futurist ambient artists of Warp and Thrill Jockey. And I certainly wasn’t given much latitude by the record’s length: well over an hour of long-form, rhythmless space is a lot to ask of even the most patient and adventurous listener, and after about 20 minutes I simply couldn’t make my way through composition in its entirety. For years, Zeit sat on the shelf until my senior year of college, when I sold it in a big stack of records.
I think I found a used copy of Phaedra 7 or 8 years later, giving me cause to ask whether my initial assessment of Zeit had been hasty. Upon second consideration, I was astounded. Had I changed, or had the record? Had the earth shifted under my feet? Today, in those cellos of “Plejades,” I now hear tragedy, and surprise, and sadness. Subsequent album tracks which I’d once glossed over—perhaps due to their increasing atonality—unfold slowly, a nascent universe, patient yet hostile. I look at that stark record cover—is it an eclipse? a black hole?—and I see the infinite promise of the world swallowed by the inevitability of death. It’s all there: the origin and the collapse, in one amazing record.
I spent this last weekend listening to Zeit after reading about Edgar Froese’s passing, and have found it difficult not to hear a funeral dirge, a tacit acknowledgement by Froese some forty odd years before the fact that he will be gone someday, that we’ll all be gone someday, that all the planets and the stars and space and music and possibility, it’ll all be gone. But I’m still here. And though I’m not sure that it was impossible for me to recognize and relate to the themes contained in Zeit as younger man, I certainly understand them better now. It only took me a little time to figure it out.

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Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges – Clube da Esquina, 1972

21 tracks written and performed by members of the highly influential musicians’ collective Clube da Esquina. This record gained a massive following in Brazil, but doesn’t get enough love in the states in favor of tropicália and bossa nova. It’s a complicated record, effectively a patchwork of moods and styles; and it’s experimental and volatile to the core, evading traditional song structures (and even traditional song lengths). “Saídas e Bandeiras Nº 1” is 43 seconds of sunny, psychy guitar-pop, ending abruptly only to be picked up 11 tracks later…for a minute and a half. “Dos Cruces” is five and a half minutes of meandering, drum-studded ache, winding up to a paltry 45 seconds of blistering chorus, overjoyed to have finally arrived, only to be cut off there, too. Always leaves you wanting more. Check out the string interlude halfway through “Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo” for some Xenakis steeze, or “Pelo Amor de Deus” for wild organ glissandos. I found myself sobbing on the M train listening to “San Vicente” the other day. I think Lô Borges was like 19 when they recorded this thing. It’s a crazy ride.