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RYM Ultimate Box Set – New Age Revival

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Cover Image: Soda Lite – In Eco, 2017

Main list here

Youtube playlist

The 10s saw a slow but steady resurgence from new age in a few different forms. The blossoming period was around 2015-2017. FACT called this story ‘how music’s most maligned genre finally became cool’. Eventually, Simon Raymonde wrote about it. While smaller than many other online-based genres in 2020, I can predict it’s growing. After all, the much-discussed resurgence in calming, nature-centric music is going strong.

To make my best summary, I’d call the revival a few loosely connected scenes in one. Like the original new age, it has a looseness and tendency for overlap. Common roots for these artists are 80s-90s retro culture, lo-fi tape scenes, ambient and psychedelia. Many older artists are long-time fans or collectors; others have experience with all-out meditation.

Finally I can share this, made on-and-off over a six-month period. For my second-ever entry in this popular RYM-birthed series, I put great effort into illustrating this loose, wipe-open ‘scene’. (Check out my first one on 80’s library music too.)

Main features:

  1. Intro explaining some origins and influences
  2. Two-part mix, made from popular or influential releases within the niche, plus a few personal faves
  3. A ‘further listening’ section: ‘close but not quite’ entries in the niche, compilations,  labels
  4. Many quotes and links for full immersion

It began a simple idea for fun; after all, this is super niche and deserves more interest. Given the surprising lack in canons and communities (I thought all small genres had a subreddit!) though? It got tricky to get ‘definitive’ enough. I had at least three moments bordering on giving up. I struggled to find a good collaborator on RYM, since not many users care about this music. The few who did weren’t so active, so I ‘finished’ it alone.

I figure smaller edits will come, then, but I’m surprised I cut this down and mixed it up as much as I did. So please, check this out and discover some new artists!

 

Mix · On other sites

Cottage Lullabies – Guest mix #2 for I Heart Noise!

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🌻 I Heart Noise 🌻

🌲 YouTube 🌲

Excited for the debut of my new spring-time mix and 2nd guest post for I Heart Noise! (Here’s the first one)

The legacy of vintage stock music usually centers on edgy funk samples, but it’s soft side is notable for it’s own reasons. For one, the ever-present ‘pastoral’ category brought the gentlest, most touching sounds in the field. These were nostalgic chamber pieces filled with harp, strings and timid flutes; the soundtrack to barns, cabins or a grandmother’s cottage.

The pure tenderness of this music was quick to strike a nerve with me. Like an unspoiled garden or antique, this is a very straightforward and fragile kind of tenderness. It seems many generations could find something nostalgic in here. Fitting as it sounds that it wound up stashed away like a dusty farm diary, they’re too beautiful not to un-dust.

Dedicated to my grandmother’s backyard ❤

Track listing

  1. John Cameron & Paul Martin – Moment Of Warmth (Little Creatures, Bruton)
  2. Fiachra Trench – Reminiscence (Pastorale, KPM)
  3. Paul Williams – Wistful Dreams (Memories, Parry Music)
  4. Eugene Cines – Natures Colours (Seeds In The Wind, KPM)
  5. Brian Bennett – Drifting Shapes (Tone Poems, Bruton)
  6. Richard Harvey – The Water Garden (life cycles 2, KPM)
  7. James Clarke – Running Waters (Nature Study Vol. 1, Bruton)
  8. Dick Walter & Eugene Cines – Quiet Reflection (Seeds In The Wind, KPM) [YouTube Only]
  9. James Clarke – Midsummer Haze (Country Calendar, Music House) [YouTube Only]
  10. Joel Vandroogenbroeck – Romantic Garden (Open Air Impressions, Coloursound)
  11. David Snell – Recollections (Reflections, Bruton)
  12. Adone Grossi – Fiumi e Salici (Agreste/Bucolico, Commenti Musicali) [YouTube Only]
  13. Andre Tschaskowski – Personal Mood 2 (Emotionally, Coloursound)
  14. Volker Kriegel & The Groove-Combination – The Gentle Old Man (Leaf, Biton)
  15. Johnny Pearson – Autumn Reverie 60-Second Edit (Piano and Orchestra 1, KPM)
  16. John Fiddy & Norman Candler – Tender Feeling 2 (Softly, Sonoton) [Mixcloud Only]
  17. Andre Tschaskowski – Sentimental View 1 (Emotionally, Coloursound)
  18. Keith Mansfield – Wonderlust (Soft Horizons, KPM)
  19. Brian Bennett – Summer Reverie (Love’s Themes, KPM)
  20. Robert Viger – Limpidite (Climats, Musique Pour L’Image)
  21. Paul Williams – Pretty Flowers (Electric Piano Solos, Bruton)
  22. Jim Lawless – Rest (Reflections, Bruton)
  23. Nino Nardini – Morning Dew (Nature – Nocturne, L’Illustration Musicale)
  24. John Tender & Mladen Franko – Sweet Dreams 2 (Children Pets And Clowns, Coloursound)
All-Time Favorite VGM

Tomoya Tomita – Credits theme for Kirby’s Epic Yarn

How does Kirby, a sugary ‘for babies’ series, endure so much with a teenager like me? In my case, someone who didn’t grow up with it? For me, the escapism. Sometimes it’s a nice break to dive into a fictional world that needs no reason for it’s relentless cheer, or to make sense. A game like Epic Yarn is so set on making you relax and feel it’s warm nostalgia, against all odds and without forcing it, that I have to pay respect. “Staff Credits” demonstrates more than any Kirby music, and not many songs give me such inner peace in general. It was enough for me to get the game used for my old Wii! (“Cool Cave” helped.)

I heard “Credits” at a low point, where I realized those ‘it will be okay!!!’ songs were over-assuming and even ‘good news if you reblog’ posts weren’t working. So, when THAT melody hit (0:37), so elusive but so knowing and ever-fulfilled, it was like the moon lit a cave. It doesn’t assume or promise too much but I preferred this. Nothing but one of the warmest, most loving pianos to grace a video game, with high notes nothing short of precious. It’s a carefree feeling unique to happy childhood activities, but it fell asleep on itself and flew to space. The playground became a refuge. I’d put this on to fill the miserable silence or wind down before bed; just a good energy to put out there at any time. The definition of ‘sweet dreams’ in song.

Tomita knew his stuff when matching Yarn’s ’storybook’ theme, because “Credits” gets me reminiscing without coming from my past. After all, it’s the exact kind of ‘haunting credits theme’ feeling that would catch my ears all those years ago. I’m looking out the car window in awe, the moon’s peaking in on the night before a holiday. These moments where I felt comfortable with unknown things and realized the beauty around me. Not everyday that music does this to me.

Dream Land may not exist, but Tomita did such a gorgeous job with capturing it’s purity that it’s comforting to imagine for a few minutes alone.

See also: Milky Way Wishes

new music

Kelsey Lu & Onyx Collective – “Where Or When”

Those precious few traces of (spiritual?) jazz on Kelsey Lu’s debut get to shine here. While Onyx Collective give it a definite swing (vibes included!) the strings add a movie-worthy sheen, with ever-talented Lu probably contributing her cello.

The surprise comes in the second half, where it’s like the threads that kept the original tune together slowly untied. Still gentle and trickling like honeydew, but much blurrier. As I predicted, Lu has no problem adapting to both sections. She begins peering above those strings like a true jazz ‘siren’ and turns to warbling in a nearly operatic falsetto by the end.

hidden treasure

Elizabete Balcus – Conarium, 2016

art pop / folktronica / chamber pop / synth pop

More like this – Glasser’s Ring, Tess Roby, Danielle Dax

When I play this I feel I’m wandering the misty forests and castles, maybe even at Elizabete’s home of Latvia. On the other hand, her electronics morph that into a kind of vortex with their surreal, uneasy character. This is no shock since Elizabete calls her dreams a major inspiration. Not long before she sings “is the castle real?”, I’m sensing a computer behind the courtyard. Yes, this is yet another album where folklore and synths make a fascinating pair.

The same song can flip from churchy vocalizing to hectic techno beats in seconds. A simple feather-weight ballad like “Vienīgais ceļš” has me swaying, but something as flat-out bizarre as “Monument” makes me giggle. Beyond that, her lyrics go for abstract ideas like ‘following the shape of butterflies’ and forgetting her name. The memorable ‘it is not yet a forest’ repeats until the last song fades.

For all the synth shenanigans (she triggers them live with fruit) it’s the way she mixes it with her flute and distinct voice that stands out. The flute has a way of twirling around just so like a ribbon, while her voice has this deep, rosy richness. The two Latvian songs make good showcases for the latter, plus an uncommon language (“Vienīgais ceļš” again, while “Negribas Iet Gulēt” could pass for a lullaby). Like a wise mage, she’s discreet, focused; conducting some kind of research, but a song like “They’re Coming” shows her more playful instincts. With a colorful arrangement like that (flute, mallet, synth, horns) it could fit a parade.

hidden treasure

Thomas Newman’s score for Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985

Thomas Newman’s knack for synths surprised me seeing he got his fame later on through classical Pixar scores. Susan doesn’t get much talk beyond “Into The Groove”, but the score is ear candy if you enjoy Vangelis or the mid-80′s digital gloss in general. (Dare I say vaporwave too?)

Within a minute, each piece reflects the movie’s wide metropolis and/or the lead character’s curiosity. While keeping with the film’s playful mood, it subtly counters the hijinks with a strong atmosphere unique to the era’s shimmering textures. His use of echo, reverb and high notes leaves a gorgeous panoramic effect. “Leave Atlantic City” demonstrates with it’s bubbly sequencer and subtle bass echoes that hit like a cool breeze. “Port Authority” continues the formula with a more tender mood and a sweet new-agey flute. “Key And a Picture Of” mixes it up with it’s murky slow tension and “Rain” adds some elegance with it’s thoughtful piano.

The closest to a ‘theme song’ is “New York City By Night”, a catchy synth-pop tune capturing the glitz and glamor of Prince’s Revolution era. One year after Purple Rain after all!

hidden treasure

Purple Pilgrims – Eternal Delight, 2016

dream pop / hypnagogic pop / hauntology / folksy

Sounds like ghosts haunting the farmhouse of your past. What was once warm and nostalgic is now dusty, sinister, hard to believe. The wildlife isn’t frolicking anymore, it’s lurking! My ancestors’ rusty portraits took on a weird new energy since this time away, so much that I’m hearing voices. The Pilgrims suggest they’re enamored or pleased in some way, but it doesn’t feel right. Are they playing tricks?

This is one of those precious few albums which filter that special oldtimey, farm-life kind of spook through electronics and ‘heavenly voices’. As on their newer album, I love the way they frame their otherwise folksy voices with dream pop effects. Imagine a lost folk siren from the 60’s time-warped to today’s ‘hypnagogic’ scene and you get the idea. Felt Mountain fans rejoice.

Besides that haunted feeling, it’s the emphasis on synths that sets this apart from Perfumed. Like with the Ghost Box label, this adds a distinct space-age kitsch. The knack for eerie mantras wind up muffling this into a drowsier shape not far from a mangled library record.

hidden treasure

Metal Mother – Ionika, 2013

electropop / gothic / art pop

More like this – Grimes’ Halfaxa & Visions, Fever Ray’s self-titled, Zola Jesus, Gazelle Twin’s The Entire City, Drab Majesty

I only got to know Metal Mother seeing Pastel Ghost promote her on Twitter. As much as I love PG, I didn’t expect this to floor me given the er, Hot Topic flavor of her other peers. I was wrong. MM ticks countless boxes in my taste, and the same goes for most people who love their moody electronic ‘avant-pop’. I know you’re out there. Ionika knows just what I want from this stuff: an amorphous fog of synths, elaborate vocal layers, thundering rhythms and an ear for adventure. I can’t decide if it takes place in a magical glade or some dark future world. You could call those opposites and I’d agree, but this makes no difference to her!

What gets to me is how MASSIVE Ionika sounds. Let me get this clear: Mother’s production values are amazing. She gets an orchestra’s impact from vocal, synth and computer alone. With each song I’d give up with trying to count the layers as I tend to; I was too busy riding the adrenaline rush. This deserves to soundtrack a movie, not gather dust on Spotify! (It had two ratings total on often thorough Rateyourmusic by the time I listened.)

I had many pleasant callbacks to my other favorites (Fever Ray vocals in “Windexx’d”; early Grimes vibes in “Tactillium”) but it’s gloriously hard to box as a whole. It can fit so many contexts: a goth club (“Doomdome”), a cathedral performance (“Little Ghost”), a forest celebration (“Mind_off”). Tempo and volume flex to Mother’s whim, sometimes within the same song, yet nothing sounds misplaced.

Her vocals have a way of gliding around like a gust of wind. She adapts to both light and dark, from a fairy’s soul-searching mantra (“Prism”) to a creeping siren song (“Iona”). With something as dense as “Tactilium” she could be weaving spells around crumbling mountains. As I hoped, her music matches her name.

For all the wacky witch-house aesthetics, Ionika has a lot more going on than doom and gloom. MM likes to explore, even combine various emotions; something I wish more modern goth music did. It’s closer to a powerful exclamation from a cliff. You’re in touch with your spirit etc. and the waterfalls, releasing something deep inside. It has such a wonderful sense of harmony, freedom.

Deep Cuts

Brothertiger feat. Laura Ornella – “Further On” (Future Splendors, 2013)

Phased synth chords like holographic tears, dripping into a river to form some kind of dance. Then, the most gorgeously trembling verses I’ve heard in some time. Many thanks to Laura Ornella for guesting here. Gave you all of my life and you told me we’d never survive / My heart burns heavy tonight / If you hold it up to the light / You will see all of the memories of a million lives. Such a regretful atmosphere, yet such dedication and hope when the chorus hits. When Brothertiger made his name with happy-go-lucky songs like “Lovers”, this reveals a compelling new side to him.

What is it about synth-pop that makes it PERFECT for bittersweet, vulnerable ballads? Ignore the cliche that ‘synths have no feeling’ as usual. To think this is the ‘lesser album’ from a ‘lesser artist’ in a ‘fake’ genre (chillwave)… If that’s true, why did I play this 20+ times in January? More important, how wasn’t this a single?