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.

Terry Riley & Don Cherry – Live Köln, 1975

Guest post by Chad DePasquale (Aquarium Drunkard / Pride Electronics)

In 1975, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley and jazz trumpet cosmonaut Don Cherry joined forces for a magnetic performance in Köln, Germany. Recorded live, but never commercially released, the concert is something of a hushed treasure, as well as the only record of a profound spiritual experience and meeting of two free form jazz titans. Riley’s swirling synth, droning and clairvoyant and prescient in its clarity, parades along with a triumphant Cherry, leaving behind trails of mystery and a sense of beauty in a larger, more universal form. Side A, the twenty-minute “Descending Moonshine Dervishes,” is a transcendent moment of improvisational experimentation and spiritual jazz. As Cherry’s physical presence slowly liquifies, “the lonesome foghorn blows” into some kind of misty dawn. His mournful trumpet immerses the listener into dense layers of playful percussion and dissonance. When Karl Berger joins the duo on vibraphone for side B, the tone becomes more hypnotic and reedy – a strange mystical noir – with the final three-and-a-half minutes of “Improvisation” exuding a vivid imagination. A lucid and rhythmic front row seat to the startling beauty of minimalist explorations and eloquent fusions of Eastern and Western ideas.

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Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods, 1975

A personal favorite. A rare example of a record acting explicitly as a vessel for nostalgia without being maudlin. From Kill Ugly Radio:

Ernie was a Portland area Jazz legend, along with his brother, saxophonist Bill Hood. Ernie played with many great jazzbo dudes in the 30’s and 40’s, before his career was cut short by polio. He ventured into community radio and also played improvisational Zither music. His son Tom (who gave me this LP) once played me a recording at my house at 3AM of Ernie jamming in his kitchen with Airto Moriera. It was amazing! Ernie went on to help co-found KBOO radio, where his son is now the station engineer (and a damn fine DJ).

Comprised of zithers, keyboards, and field recordings of suburbia, Neighborhoods is heavy and hazy with childhood summer delirium–humidity, mosquitoes, and the smell of asphalt–but somehow it’s just as much about naivety as it is about aging; equally interested in the act of looking back and the thing being looked back upon. As Ernest says in the very moving liner notes, this isn’t social music–it’s almost invasively intimate, making it ideal for reading or headphones listening in the park. Give it a few listens to let it get its hooks in you. I hope you connect with it–this is a special one.

Sivakumar Sarma – Santur: Inde Du Nord, 197-

Perfection. Pandit Sivakumar Sarma (also Shivkumar Sharma) was the first musician to play Indian classical music on the santur (a hammered dulcimer traditionally used as a folk instrument). Sarma has had a hugely prolific career and has worked with the most legendary classical musicians, but I have yet to hear very much of his catalog because I can’t tear myself away from this. Achingly beautiful work from the master of the instrument.

Note: Nobody seems to know exactly when this record was released, but based on a few hints I would guess mid-70s. This never made it to CD and to the best of my knowledge, has never been reissued (cough).

Einzelgänger – Einzelgänger, 1975

One of the early electronic masterpieces from the wizard himself, Giorgio Moroder. Einzelgänger (roughly “lone wolf”) was a one-off experiment. Moroder says that about a year after its release he realized that he didn’t like the record at all, and personally bought all the remaining LPs to prevent anyone from hearing it. He seems to be warming up to it these days, in light of “some of his friends liking it very much” and “a fan once telling him that it was very futuristic and way ahead of its time” (that Moroder needed a fan to tell him this is very sweet; thank you facebook). Einzelgänger is sonically unrecognizable from the disco that made Moroder famous–the record lovingly riffs on German electronica, and unsurprisingly could easily pass for early, slightly rough Kraftwerk, replete with wandering synth noodles, sputtering vocoder, hazy cabbagescapes, and schnitzeling aqua beats. (“Ich bin der Einzelgänger/Habe keine Fans/es macht mir aber Spaß, Spaß, Spaß…”, roughly “I’m the lonewolf/having no fans/but I’m having fun, fun, fun…” is presumably a play on Kraftwerk’s 1974 “fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn,” oft misheard as “fun fun fun on the autobahn” and probably a Beach Boys reference, so there you have it.) Only Moroder could pull off an experimental joke this skillfully. Make sure to bump this on your skateboard during your next underwater pastoral road trip, smoggy sunset viewing, automaton-themed biergarten, or post-dystopian wasteland picnic.

Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir – Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, 1975

Heartbreaking, eerie, and otherworldly, this album is actually a compilation of various recordings dating back as far as 1952, when the choir was first formed by Bulgarian composer Philip Coutev. As the women in the choir are from all over Bulgaria, the music is a hodgepodge of differing vocal styles from the country’s quite isolated provinces. Marcel Cellier compiled these songs in 1975, but it went largely unnoticed until its rerelease by 4AD in 1986, to overnight worldwide renown. Volume II of this compilation won Cellier a Grammy in 1989. That same year, Kate Bush released The Sensual World, which featured three Bulgarian female soloists. The choir has been touring worldwide since then, and everyone and their dog loves them (as they should). Find out much more here and here.
The title translates to “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices”–an apt description, as it’s a complete mystery to me how music this majestic and unsettling can actually exist. It completely changed my concept of the relationship between dissonance and beauty. Powerful stuff!

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Steven Halpern – Spectrum Suite, 1975

This album is a close tie with Iasos’ Inter-Dimensional music as the first new age album ever, both released in 1975. There are a zillion versions of this record floating around; the version linked above was released in 1979. The first side is simply Steven on the the Fender Rhodes. On the b-side, he breaks out the Orchestron and the Prophet 5 and is joined by Iasos on the flute. Shimmering, perfect arpeggiation.