Elysia Crampton – American Drift

This is hard to explain, but I promise that Elysia Crampton has recorded some of the most ecstatic and staggering music you’ll hear all year. There’s a deep spiritual undercurrent to her new album that elevates it far beyond mere conceptual music. This connects to my heart, my head, and my gut, rendering me speechless.

The album is  only 30 minutes, but covers a galaxy of feeling that I’m feeling unprepared to describe this morning. Just listen if you want to hear something startling and beautiful.

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Walking With Jesus

I had a conversation with a friend today about Christian music and why it mostly bothers the hell out of me. (ha) I realized it’s that sense of overt politeness, the way it’s crafted – an official Christian musician seems to have all rough edges sanded off, as pious as a politician tries to look – that takes away any depth and feeling in the lyrics or music itself. It lacks almost anything that I could normally grasp as enjoyable.

Then I thought, you know what? I love a lot of artists who are either Christian themselves, make music about Christ-like ideals, or simply use the forms of traditional Christian music as a foundation for their own thing. Spiritualized does the latter, employing the language of early blues and gospel to speak directly to my soul.

Here’s the band playing a timeless live staple, Walking With Jesus.

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Flying Saucer Attack – Instrumentals 2015

So suddenly Flying Saucer Attack appears again, nearly 15 years after last contact, with a set of unnamed instrumentals. It’s gorgeous, droning guitar music that makes no apologies for its obliqueness and doesn’t try to reach out to the uninitiated.

This slab of ashen dream is ready and waiting for anyone interested.

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Kendrick Lamar’s arresting new video: Alright

Watch this right now. Just do it. You don’t need to thank me.

If you want to see an artist at the peak of his powers absolutely nailing the zeitgeist, click play.

Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp A Butterfly just a couple months ago, and it’s already one of my favorite albums of all time.

The brazen mixture of politically, socially, and psychologically aware lyrics with an incredibly nuanced and evolved delivery; the dark and deeply funky production, shot through with an entire jazz band’s worth of all-star live players; the live-wire theatricality of the entire endeavor… all of these parts coalesce as Lamar’s ambition and talent meet in in the stratosphere.

It’s both incredibly audacious and earnest to a fault. The album feels embarrassingly personal at times, the rapper spilling his demons in a drunken crying jag. At the same time, everything’s wrapped in a sense of universal struggle, the intrinsic knowledge that we’re all in this together. There’s no wonder that it’s proven as divisive as it is beloved.

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Seashore (DJ Sprinkles Ambient Ballroom)

“It’s so easy to be confused.”

DJ Sprinkles (Terre Thaemlitz) has made it a mission to reclaim house music from the blandly hedonistic masses. As we’re reminded on the opening to 2009’s insanely perfect Midtown 120 Blues, “the house nation likes to pretend clubs are an oasis from suffering; but suffering is in here, with us.” His (Terre is “she” and Sprinkles is “he”) dreamlike house undulations evoke a distinct melancholy while oozing comfort and acceptance.

This track is a beating heart at the center of what people mean when they say emotional dance music. It can destroy anyone who’s paying attention, but it’s also incredibly addictive, a spiked dopamine drip at the center of my nervous system for 12 consecutive minutes.

“It’s so easy to be confused. It’s so hard to love ourselves and to find what’s good for our lives.”

There’s a moment in this pulsing cloud where these words pierce the veil, sending a thunder-drum to the pit of my stomach. In fades a brief spoken word passage, full of encouragement and gratitude and bravery. At the same moment, deep in the background we hear the word “faggots” emerging as part of a foggy repeated loop; it’s a knife stabbing through the narcotic cloud, upending any placid mood.  turns out it’s a loose thread of this Gil Scott-Heron song that I’ll only link the lyrics to, that makes me cringe. This juxtaposition of deeply loving and open dialogue against the sharp and ugly surrounding voices is the most affecting and honest expression of how it feels to be tender in a hard world that I’ve heard in music in a long time.

It’s about a lot more than that kernel of feeling, but this is what disarms me quickest.

The bass throb and side chain melodies flare up and the words are dissolved quickly. Only feeling remains. It’s a slow but bumpy ride down as a cascade of wordless female vocals ease the song to an end. For a few fleeting seconds, the ghosts of the dialogue echo. In a weirdly fitting twist, we hear a house cat calling to the gauzy, disembodied voices in perfect clarity. This is a perfect track.

DJ Sprinkles

Seashore is actually a remix; as part of the two and a half hour Queerifications & Ruins compilation, DJ Sprinkles radically transformed Oh, Yoko‘s original song. I’ve shared it below. If the atmosphere is at all part of the draw for you, you’ll love this dreamlike torch song as it drifts into pure mist over the course of 7 minutes. Take heart, as the cat remains.


Please, check out Terre’s website, Comatonse Recordings, to purchase any of her works. They’re not cheap, but they’re better than the gouging you’ll receive elsewhere. Here’s a link to purchase Queerifications & Ruins, where this song resides at the very center.

Rest In Peace, Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese

My morning news just brought word that Edgar Froese, founder of one of my favorite bands of all time, Tangerine Dream, has died at age 70. The cause of death was pulmonary embolism.

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Tangerine Dream, for those only familiar with the name via a smattering of mostly-great 1980s film soundtracks, were one of the most innovative and popular bands to emerge from the 70s German krautrock / kosmiche scene. Constantly evolving, they helped birth the modern ambient sound and informed generations of electronic music in every form. Froese was the only consistent member through dozens of lineup changes that included the luminous contributions of Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler.

Moving from spooky moonscape-scouring meditations through epic space rock and pulsing dance music, Froese never let the band stay perched on one sound for long. With over 40 years worth of music to choose from, fans of the band can never reach consensus on what is the best. Personally, my heart will always return to Rubycon. The eerie psychedelia on these two tracks laid the blueprint for ambient rock, but was so much more than a chill-out session. Analog synth arpeggios lay a spaced out bed for for a quietly propulsive rhythm. With a wash of disembodied choral voices influenced by György Ligeti, plus tactile sounds from gongs, strings, and woodwinds, the eponymous pieces build tension and ease it away like a tidal wave in slow motion.

I hope you enjoy this full album stream and, if you’re not already familiar with the band, dig in to the body of music Edgar Froese and company have left behind. I’ve collected below a selection of the most important Tangerine Dream albums. These form a distinct arc from the sparkling cosmic tones of Phaedra, when the band emerged from purely drone-based sounds into more structured orchestration, to the distinctly 80s dystopian futurism of Exit.

This music has inspired an entire wave of modern artists, including Yellow Swans, Emeralds, Bee Mask, and my favorite currently working musician, Oneohtrix Point Never. (Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Jones!) Special mention must be made of the most obvious nod toward classic Tangerine Dream I’ve featured on this site: Skyramps. The one-off collaboration between Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix) and Emeralds’ Mark McGuire soars between the ambient guitar and pulsing synth ends of the sound that Froese and company conjured at their peak. There’s no more fitting a love letter to this man’s work than listening to the albums themselves.

Here are those full length albums:

Phaedra, 1974

Ricochet, 1975

Stratosfear, 1976

Music from the Motion Picture, Sorcerer, 1977

Exit, 1981

If you’re interested in purchasing any of this legendary music, check out the band’s Discogs page for used vinyl and CDs. However, since I know barely anyone purchases music anymore, I’m happy to let you know that the vast majority of the Tangerine Dream catalog is available on Spotify. Enjoy any way you prefer!

PS: If anyone has any thoughts or recommendations to add, please leave a comment. I will be editing and amending the post with any thoughtful words my fellow fans leave here.

Edit 1:  I forgot to mention that Froese worked extensively on the music of Grand Theft Auto V, being the central mind behind that morphing, interlocking, dynamic score that elevates the game in a way over all of its predecessors. Whether the pulse pounding moodiness of a night flight in a helicopter, or the ballistic brass shards erupting during a police chase, Edward Froese gave the game a distinctive atmosphere that harkened back to Tangerine Dream’s scores for Thief (Michael Mann) and Legend (Ridley Scott) and their own mid-70s runs of lush space rock.

Alice Coltrane – Divine Songs

This is a glowing gem known only to those who have burrowed deep enough into the inimitable catalog of jazz legend Alice Coltrane.

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“Divine music is the sound of true life, wisdom, and bliss.  This music transcends geographical boundaries, language barriers, age factors; and whether educated or uneducated, it reaches deep into the heart and soul, sacred and holy…” – Alice Coltrane

Released in 1987 on cassette only, Divine Songs is the purest expression of the spiritual drone jazz sound that Alice had been perfecting ever since establishing the Shanti Anantam Ashram in the decade prior.

Soaring into ethereal space, leaving only the faintest jazz roots visible, the sound here is birthed in minimalist Indian organ modes. The atmosphere cracks open with harp and strings, shining brightly around her transcendent voice. It might not be for the casual fan, but if you’re tuned in to the celestial vibe Alice developed in the years after her husband, John Coltrane, died, you’ll settle in perfectly here.

A bonus for fans of Flying Lotus, and his album Cosmogramma in particular: keep your ears open for fleeting moments where he sampled his great aunt directly. With such a heavy influence she’s had on his music, the cameos feel especially poignant.