Veetdharm Morgan Fisher – Water Music, 1985

Morgan Fisher, a London-born musician and photographer, has had a long and dense career in which he’s covered a lot of ground–both literally and figuratively. You can read about it in detail here, but some highlights include touring with Queen, building an ambient music studio in Japan (at which Water Music was recorded, among others), and working with Hosono, dip in the pool (he plays piano on “Dormir”), Roedelius, Yoko Ono, Yasuaki Shimizu, and Julee Cruise. He is still very active.

It seems that he’s acquired many names over the course of his life, and I can’t find any information about the origin of Veetdharm, under which this and a few of his other releases are listed on Discogs, but my guess would be that it was given to him either during his time living in India or in Medina Rajneesh, a Suffolk commune of Osho disciples housed in a giant mock-Tudor manor.

Water Music is immediately reminiscent of Yoshimura’s Surroundthough it predates it by a year. If anything, it’s slightly denser and more piano-driven, but aside from an obvious thematic interest in water, the two records share a delicacy and a proclivity towards synth pads that seem to evaporate rather than decay. As I understand it, the entirety of this record was improvised and recorded over the course of two days on synthesizer, piano, tape delays, bowed guitar, and shell chimes. The original was released on the legendary Cherry Red label; this extended version is from a CD-reissue released in, I believe, 1997. It’s very, very beautiful. Thank you, Ian, for bringing me here!

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[Mix for LYL Radio] The Oddlogs Episode 4

I made a two hour guest mix of long-form instrumentals for Lyon/Paris based online radio station LYL Radio. The Oddlogs is their series of guest sets with different music bloggers from around the world, and their lineup has been excellent thus far so I’m honored to be in such good company. I wanted to take advantage of the long time slot to use lengthier, more meditative tracks that are less synth-heavy and more acoustic-centric, with (almost) no vocals. There’s also a lot of excellent natural reverb and room tone in here. In the spirit of the music, I recorded my talkback segments in my bathroom for added reverb, and made my best attempt at ASMR-esque speaking. For what it’s worth, I think it makes a solid snow soundtrack. If you like the mix, you can download an mp3 version without my speaking in it here. Enjoy!

Tracklisting:
1. Joanna Brouk – Winter Chimes
2. Raul Lovisoni – Amon Ra
3. Daniel Lentz – Lascaux
4. Daniel Schmidt & the Berkeley Gamelan – Faint Impressions
5. Daniel Kobialka – Orbital Mystery
6. David Casper -Tantra-La
7. Ernest Hood – From The Bluff (Excerpt)
8. Roberto Mazza – Artigli Arguti
9. Vincenzo Zitello – Nembo Verso Nord
10. Pandit Ram Narayan – Rāga Kirvani
11. Seigén Ono – Suimen-Jo Niwa
12. Joel Andrews – The Violet Flame, Part 2 (Excerpt)
13. Stuart Dempster – Secret Currents

Dorothy Carter – Waillee Waillee, 1978

Guest post by Peter Harkawik

I was recently digging through sidebars on musical sculpture, when I stumbled upon two enchanting private press albums by the late Dorothy Carter—mystic, free spirit, wizard of the strings. According to a tribute by her bandmates The Mediæval Bæbes, Carter was born in New York in 1935, studied at Bard and the Guildhall School of Music, and in her later years toured Europe, playing festivals, cabaret, and at least once, a concert in a cemetery. She reportedly lived in a drafty loft in New Orleans, where she collected giant zithers, hosted salons, and played her brand of medieval folk music wherever she could. By another account, she “lived in a commune, worked on a Mississippi steam boat as a ships boy, raised two kids and ran away to a Mexican cloister with an anarchistic priest.”

Somewhat more secular than her 1976 debut Troubador, Waillee Waillee alternates between darkly enigmatic, inward melodies, and jaunty, exuberant hymns. Songs like “Along the River,” while populated with some familiar folk imagery—woodland creatures, mollusks, and rosemary bushes—are absent of the studio chicanery that so often accompanies it. Flutes, maracas, and tambura, some played by new age pioneer and instrument-builder Constance Demby, join Carter’s expert plucking and hammering to great effect. Her vocals might draw comparisons to Karen Dalton, Bridget St John, or perhaps Linda Perhacs, but here, in the service of her wistful paeans to nature, they stand alone. On the album’s haunting title track, Carter croons, “When will my love return to me?” with uncomplicated sentimentality, like a forlorn lover trapped in a block of ice. “Dulcimer Medley” and “Celtic Medley” are sprightly instrumental ballads that would not be out of place in a scene from Barry Lyndon.

For me, the standout on this album is “Summer Rhapsody.” Seven minutes long, expansive and majestic, it begins with a rumble like a jet engine, building to a crescendo of feverish dulcimer. It’s here too that the recording really sparkles, as though the dulcimer’s harsh textures are pushing the tape to its very limits. While it might sound like a hurdy-gurdy, the corpulent drone is produced by a steel cello, an instrument resembling the sail on a medieval cog. Here we see the fruits of Carter’s decades-long collaboration with artist Robert Rutman, who, like Walter Smetak, Ellen Fullman, and others, pioneered a hybrid art that was neither purely aesthetic nor musical. It was with his group the Central Maine Power Music Company, formed in Skowhegan in 1970, that Carter first toured, playing unconventional shows in New England planetariums, sculpture gardens, and museums.

Part of what’s so incredible about Waillee Waillee is that as much as it is a psych-folk record, it is also completely at home with the experiments of Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Yoshi Wada, Pauline Oliveros and Laraaji. Carter was a fascinating figure whose devotion to her chosen instruments was legendary. I hope you enjoy this record as much as I do.

David Casper – Tantra-La, 1982

Snow day favorite from private issue new age icon David Casper. Drawn-out, weightless instrumentation: piano, glass harmonica, kalimba, sheng, xiao, cello, upright bass, oboe, flute, ocarina, pennywhistle, gong, and synth–but never particularly busy, in spite of all that. Enjoy!

Gail Laughton – Harps of the Ancient Temples, 1969

You might already know Gail Laughton from the inclusion of “Pompeii 76 A.D.” in the canonical I Am The Center compilation, or from the same track’s inclusion in the Blade Runner score. Alternately, if you’re big on 1940’s rom-com, you may have heard Laughton’s harp recording pantomimed by Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife—Laughton also instructed Grant in harp-syncing and apparently served as a body double for some close-up shots. Though Laughton worked in Hollywood and played on many cartoon and film soundtracks—John Wayne, Looney Tunes, etc.—Harps of the Ancient Temple was his only solo release, and a radical conceptual departure from his typical work.

Harps uses ancient sacred rituals, each catalogued by year and location, as jumping-off points for his neo-classical and heavily impressionist-influenced interpretations. “Japan 375 A.D.,” for example, seems to mimic a koto played in a Japanese pentatonic scale. Much of the record is exactly as pillowy and perfumey as you might hope for from a harp record that’s regularly slung around by new age devotees. Still, many tracks lean into dissonance and spin out ominously, building to what feels like like an unobstructed fall down a very long spiral staircase in the closing track, “Atlantis 21,000 B.C.” Lots going on here, but happily this works well for both active and passive listening. Fans of Joel Andrews will appreciate this, and similarly it’s cloaked in a dense hiss of room tone.