Bayou Moon – Tom Newman – 1985

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Have you ever gotten fed up with the vague-orientalism of your standard New Age album? Have you ever listened to a Hearts of Space release and thought, “OK, I’m pretty sick of hearing about seasons, oceans, white people’s conception of ‘Africa,’ forests, and rain-forests. What other themes were they exploiting?”  Have you ever wanted to open a Reki tent in a Louisiana Swamp? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Tom Newman’s Bayou Moon is for you.

Continuing the rich tradition of theme albums on New Age labels, Bayou Moon is a weird and wonderful take on Cajun, Blues, and Zydeco music. It combines the basic motifs of these genres with occasional moments of Berlin-School synthesis, reverb drenched guitars, ominous bass progressions, and  the occasional jaw-harp. The first track “Concerto De Mango in E-major” sounds someone tried to adapt Vangelis’ Antarctica (1983) for the bayou part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

Brooding ambient tracks like “Moonrise” and “Straw Dogs” are excellent listening, but for me the upbeat and jangling track “Gumbo Fling” takes the proverbial cake [or gumbo].  Though I constantly grapple with my love of this kind of New Age music  and its issues of appropriation and essentialization [more on this in the  near future], Bayou Moon is quirky, refreshing, and adventurous in a that way many themed New Age albums aren’t. Side note, Tom Newman is incidentally the guy who produced Mike Oldfield’s classic album Tubular Bells.

This is the perfect album for your next paddle down the Mississippi, documentary on the everglades, or just sitting around in your living room. Enjoy!

Gumbo Fling I:

Concerto De Mango in E-major:

 

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Telectu -‎Camerata Elettronica -1988

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Telectu’s Camerata Elettronica sounds like Mark Mothersburg and Henry Cow  were asked to collaborate on a soundtrack for the film The Man With the Golden Arm.

This is a  noir-y album of experimental jazz composed using plastic-sounding synth approximations of standard jazz  instruments, samples of live instruments on a Roland-s10, and live instrumentation. The results are spectacular, bizarre, and still avant-garde by today’s standards.

Some musical relatives can be found on the weirder tracks off Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell (1986),  but Camerata Elettronica is far more raw and unhinged. The album’s post-modern logic is both jarring and endearing – there is a quota of artifice per every song. On some of the earlier tracks on the album you will hear live guitars and bass juxtaposed by thudding drum machines and synthetic saxophones, and on some of the later songs you will find the opposite.

Telectu was a duo formed in 1982 by guitarist Vítor Rua of the Portuguese rock band GNR [no, not Guns ‘n Roses]  and keyboardist Jorge Lima Barreto. Both Barreto and Rua are accomplished musicians who who have released a lot of experimental music that can be described as minimalist and improvisational. Most of it is not quite my bag, but this album really hits the spot.

Zingaro’s Tune:

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Hubert Bognermayr & Harald Zuschrader – Erdenklang Computerakustische Klangsinfonie – 1982

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Why not start with a bang?  This is a record that sounds like  Perrey and Kingsley fell in with the wrong crowd and accidentally became members of Ashra. Erdenklang – Computerakustische Klangsinfonie  [Earth Sounds – Computer Acoustic Sound Symphony] is a lush, stunning record of symphonic melodies, brooding ambience, and cut-up sounds composed entirely on the Fairlight CMI. And to top it all off, it was released a full year before the Art of Noise made Fairlight sample collages their signature on the EP Into Battle With the Art of Noise

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Why wasn’t this the album cover?

In addition to having the most German sounding names of all time, Hubert Bognermayr & Harald Zuschrader were both part of the Austrian rock band Eela Craig, whose releases ranged from a spaced-out concept album on Catholic high mass [which must be heard to be believed]  to the kind of standard prog-rock that you would find in your uncle’s basement. Previous to Erdenklang, Bognermayer & Zuschrader also released the unnerving and wonderful album Sternenklang, a collection of classical religious and children’s song covers made using only [you guessed it] a Fairlight CMI.

But back to Erdenklang. Replete with scintillating synth pads, emulated woodwinds, and moments of maniacal sample-based polyrhythms, this is the kind of album you can effortlessly put on repeat for a few hours. Without one trace of cynicism, a track like “Erdentief,” which sounds like it was pulled from the soundtrack of a madcap 16-bit RPG, flows effortlessly into sprawling synthscapes and samples of flowing water.  Starting off mellow and almost classical, the album hits its crescendo on “Eden,” which contains cut-and-paste sampling complex enough to put old Perry & Kingsley to shame.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Wendy Carlos herself had this to say about the LP:

With the appearance of Erdenklang by Bognermayr and Zuschrader the medium of electronic music has crossed another threshold … To me it has been a long tedious way for this to happen … More than a medium is advanced. We might say that the symphony itself has come of age…

Erdenleicht:

Eden:

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