Michael Garrison

In the Regions of Sunreturn (Windspell Records 1979)

http://www50.zippyshare.com/v/54145587/file.html (NEW LINK)

Over the past two years since my son was born, I’ve slowly weeded the more aggressive sentiments from my music collection in favor of the mellow, zen vibes I try to instill in my own household. Long gone are the days when I would find some sort of cathartic release while blaring some nihilistic bullshit and tackling my first-world problems with six-pack in tow. I guess that’s why I now find myself sporting some seedy little “dad beard” and soaking in the questionable ambiance of albums like Michael Garrison’s In the Regions of Sunreturn.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for hippie-dippy keyboard excursions, but kind of limited myself to a small cache of records by the holy triumvirate of Cluster, Roedelius and Moebius and their assorted offshoots and back alleys. However, I’ve been tripping down a wormhole of new age detritus that my 18-year old self would punch me square in my jaw if he caught wind of some of the shit that’s found its way onto my turntable these days. I read a thread on the Waxidermy message board about PINA, or Private Issue New Age, which is a loosely-defined genre that was entirely new to me. I dipped by toe into some of titles championed there and I now find myself totally enamored by such albums like Daniel Lentz’s Missa Umbrarum and Kay Gardner’s Moon Circles. However, Michael Garrison’s In the Regions of Sunreturn might be the one that takes the cake so far.

A brief description of the record opined that it was an “Oregon classic…by an American private synth wizard record.” That was enough to hook me these days, which is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but it sure paid off when I tracked down a copy of it. In the Regions of Sunreturn kind of falls somewhere in an unforseen nexus of Cluster/Roedelius/Moebius, Mannheim Steamroller and a John Carpenter soundtrack of the early 80s. It all kicks off with a slow-motion hiss then one of those zoned-out beats, like a teutonic pulsation, takes hold and slowly builds in intensity as some majestic synth tomfoolery commences high above the playing field. It’s just one of those beats that taps into your cortex and gets your head a-noddin like its far-flung cousins in such songs as “Yoo Doo Right” by Can or “You Make Me Feel(Mighty Real)” by Sylvester. Yeah, they nothing in common, yet everything in common since they all get your attention right away and suck you into their respective worlds.

Most of this album is a series of variations on the formula trailblazed on the opener, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Michael Garrison obviously agrees with this weathered, but well-meaning cliche and barely varies the pace but does unleash a kaleidoscopic series of cascading melodies that kind of bathe you in mellowness. Yet, the recurrently repetitive beat that chugs through each track has this jubilation and energy that counteracts the haze of synths. It’s hypnotic, yet amazingly kinetic as Garrison maintains this tension between stoned meandering and an electronic choogling that keeps your toe tapping while fight the urge to nod off.

The best parts might be few tracks that serve as intermissions from the incessant variations of that beat where the earth suddenly drops out from the rhythm and Garrison lets it all devolve into some primordial whoosh where everything suddenly becomes echoing and ominous. These ambient interludes are kind of spellbinding only last a few minutes, but they place you in such a stasis that it feels much longer. They are so soothing that the eventual reintroduction of the beat kind of gains an added power each time it sucks you of the morass towards more ecstatic heights.

Yeah, In the Regions of Sunreturn kind of sounds like its title, but that’s a good thing. No one speaks a word on the album, but the music fills in all of the blanks as Garrison kind of takes you on a bit of journey through some candy-coated 80s sci-fi adventure that deserved a soundtrack as worthy as this.

Global Communications

76:14 (Dedicated 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zbpv5lhpz3r8wz8

Sometimes I obsessively search for the “perfect” album to post here at the expense of countless ones whose brilliance is overshadowed by the filler that hinders its chance at greatness. That’s a shame since this omits so many beloved fragments just because they don’t quite complete the jigsaw puzzle I’ve built up in my snooty mind. These meanderings rambled through my noggin as I revisited Global Communications’ 76:14 album for the first time in a decade and literally became teary-eyed while listening to the opening strains of “14.31.” All of 76:14’s titles signify their length and I found myself wishing it could be renamed something approximating” infinity and beyond” as a deceptively simple trio of a circular keyboard pattern, waxing and waning waves of synthesizers and a ticking clock coalesce into the kind of aural experience that makes you feel like you are levitating a few inches off of the earth. It’s easily one of the true ambient records in that it changes your mood instantly and alters your immediate reality without ever quite rising above a whisper. If only I lugged a blood pressure cuff around for kicks so I could test my new theory that 76:14 lowers my blood pressure when the right tracks are played in my general vicinity.

Global Communication consisted of an English duo, Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, who were an integral part of the 90s ambient scene popularized by The Orb, early Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. People tend to forget albums like the KLF’s Chill Out and Future Sounds of London’s Lifeforms and artists like Biosphere, Higher Intelligence Agency, Pete Namlook and early Black Dog which is a shame since many of the aforementioned artists released work that fits snugly against the discographies of Brian Eno, Roedelius, Cluster, Moebius and Tangerine Dream, let alone the swath of 70s synth loners that seem to get reissued and snapped up by folks turned onto these sounds by today’s kinded spirits like Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never and Steve Moore. Maybe it’s because the 90s ambient scene got lumped into the unfortunate genre of electronica that it gets snubbed due to its unfortunate association with such unfortunate genres as trip-hop and electronica and folks got blinded by the haze of glow sticks and MDMA, but there are so many gems patiently waiting for your discerning ears to validate their existence.

Anyhow, lets get back to the thesis laid out in the first sentence of this rambling mess of a review. 76:14 is by no means a perfect album as a few tracks dull its edge as Pritchard and Middleton let the beat take center stage at the expense of the pristine ambience that is meticulously crafted throughout the remainder of the album. However, even the stinkers are bearable in a mellow, shuffling and aimless way, but 76:14’s summits erase your mental chalkboard pretty quickly and you forgive them for their foibles. I’ve even grown to love “9.25” even though it is centered around a slow-motion breakbeat since it slathers on a healthy slab of 4ad inspired etherealness comlplete with angelic coos and a subliminal wash of whispers that make it just weird enough to pass muster.

Even though I sheepishly admitted that “14.31” nearly reduced me to quivering jelly, the true centerpiece of 76:14 can be found in its majestic finale “12.18.” During my admittedly amateurish research of this album, I consulted the sages at amazon.com who’ve reviewed this album over the past 17 years and was pleasantly surprised to see the litany of praise for this track as one of the most gorgeous ambient compositions of all-time. Yes, it sounds like pure bullshit and sheer hyperbole, but it is so goddamn true. This track sends that same shiver up my spine as Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Roedelius’ Lustwandel, Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, Lisa Gerrard’s Mirror Pool and countless other albums and songs that seem like they were plucked from an alien universe to teach us how life affirming, moving and goddamn radiant music can be when you aim for synchronicity. For once, I must pay tribute to those surprisingly erudite souls at amazon.com because they are right on the money. “12.18” honestly eclipses 99% of anything ever  it labeled as ambient music as qualifies as a spiritual cleansing through sound. It’s the kind of ethereal fog you want to dive into during times of distress as if it were an aural womb. It is a peaceful, calm place where all is right in your godforsaken world and it alone makes this admittedly uneven album a transcendent one.

Moebius-Tonspuren

February 18, 2012

Moebius

Tonspuren(Sky 1983)

http://www.mediafire.com/?nlydjzdzxho

As a recent transplant to the universe of fatherhood, the connotations of 3am have changed dramatically. What was once a tardy witching hour spent winding down after an evening that should’ve mercifully ended long ago has been replaced with a piercing cry that jolts you to your very core as it brutally catapults you from the stasis of slumber into a panicked race to cradle and comfort your child. Don’t get me wrong. I greatly prefer my newfound existence far more than my latter days spent aimlessly meandering towards unconsciousness with stoned drones and their ambient counterparts as my trusted escorts towards a deep sleep. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have many fond memories of late night drives to nowhere in particular or burning the last drops of the midnight oil with Moebius’ Tonspuren as my co-pilot on countless bouts with insomnia. I love Tonspuren because it is simultaneously soothing and familiar, yet ominous and alien like some bastardized misappropriation of muzak. Its uneasy listening perfectly captures the vibe of driving through a strange metropolis once all the bars have closed and its citizens are asleep and all that’s left is the gauzy illumination of skyscrapers and steam rising from ramshackle vents until everyone repeats the same routine in the morning. It’s the sound of circuitry winding down as all the machinery slowly comes to a standstill. I’ve always had a fascination for meandering through whatever city I reside after life undergoes its nightly standstill and Tonspuren has been my trusted companion on many a nocturnal voyage.

I guess that’s enough hyperbole for one review, but Tonspuren is one of those albums near and dear to my heart even though it makes for a woozy, tense listen. Tonspuren was Moebius’ first solo album after his break with krautrock pioneers Cluster and a successful series of collaborations with Brian Eno and Conny Plank. Although it doesn’t stray far from the hypnotic, repetitive and lovely blueprint laid down in past works, it possesses an icy coldness and aura of alienation that only lurked in the background of his other works. There is an airy, ethereal ambiance in the forefront at first listen, but a dark, sinister vibe overtakes it on repeated listens as you get the sense he was not in a good place when he recorded this one. I also love how Tonspuren gradually grows more dismal and apocalyptic as each track documents a progression towards light melody to dark dissonance. It kind of serves as a fitting counterpart to Roedelius’, his former partner in Cluster, work during this time period. While Roedelius was crafting shimmering and perfect piano driven soundtracks, Moebius was doing the same, but dragging it through the mud and grime to conjure a wildly opposing reaction from his listener. It’s fitting that one would be the yin to the other’s yang as they both occupy the same stylistic orbit but have always explored diverging trajectories. Both artists aimed to create something moving and beautiful, but I will will always prefer Moebius because his music never settled for gorgeous gracefulness and allowed the ugliness and the glitches in the machinery to serve as a counterpoint, which is what makes Tonspuren an infinitely more compelling listen than most of what his peers ever created.

Shogun Kunitoki-Tasankokaiku

September 22, 2008

Shogun Kunitoki

Tasankokaiku (Fonal 2006)

http://www.mediafire.com/?hdjt1ugtzii

To many, the sounds of buzzing drones, endless riffs and repetitive chords may appear to be little more that a masturbatory exercise. To me, these are ecstatic moments that put me into a mental space where music becomes something spiritual and magical. I love a well-crafted pop song, driving punk scuzz and elegant classical composition that inspire me to reach for a snifter of brandy. Well, that last reference was a bit fancy for my cruddy mitts, but it does actually happen on occasion. However, there are certain albums that whisk you off into a nodding daze where you can only focus on each progression even though you know the next step is much like the one taken just moments earlier. Terry Riley, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Morton Feldman, Sleep and others occupy this mental suite, but another has wormed its way into my heart, rendering the others sloppy seconds in my noggin.

Shogun Kunitoki are the ones who have occupied this treasure space in my heart for over year. Drawing from the krautrock masters, Harmonia, Neu, Cluster and Kraftwerk while paying slight tribute to minimalist composers Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine. The band crafts interlapping waves of organ playing with sudden swooshes of psychedelic effects that are tempered by a restrained, but focused rhythms that bring it all back into your general orbit. Some psychedelic albums inspire mental sludge while others conjure lofty, ethereal moods, but Tasankokaiku makes my mind feel like a tangled army  of cheap Christmas lights set ablaze during the last moments before Santa Claus rockets down my chimney. If this was released 30 years ago, you would all revere their very name, but they are ours at this very moment and deserve your adulation. This is the sound of repetition at its most audacious and complex. The layers upon layers of organ provide moments not unlike those when you first heard your first krautrock album and wondered where in the holy hell this music has been your entire life.

Roedelius-Lustwandel

August 13, 2008

Roedelius

Lustwandel (Sky 1981)

http://www.divshare.com/download/5166874-ff5

Roedelius is one of the pivotal forces behind krautrock icons Cluster and collaborated with Brian Eno for a series of classic albums, but his solo work is a much more delicate piece of china compared to the robotic psych of his earlier works. Sometimes it reminds me a bit of Vangelis and I have images of me running in slow motion towards a hoagie and a bag of hot chips to the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire. However, a better comparison would be a more stoned Wendy Carlos during the more melancholy moments of the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. In reality, it is kind of its own bag of chips since his work transcends both Carlos and Vangelis’ entire catalogue of work.

I love this album because it is so tender and fragile. It is a masterpiece of small gestures and restraint. You could lump it into the new age scene if you didn’t listen closely enough. His piano playing is so evocative and bittersweet and always takes me back to blue moments in life, not in a depressing way, but a meditative one. That’s a quality I cannot apply to many albums in my life. It is so close to elevator music, but it devastates me each time. When you are lulled back into a regressive state, some oddball element like the pagan “Wicker man” vibe of “Wilkommen” pops up to shake you out of your reveries to examine this album more closely. I am still trying to figure this one out. It is so inoffensive, but possessed a power to whisk me off to other places in my mind.