Cosmogony can be described as a model constructed to study the origin of the universe. In this case, I wanted to put together a mixtape for charting the path of fourth world jazz, new age, ambient, and kosmische synth music from its origins in the 1970s on up through today. This stuff is kind of my bread and butter, the music that’s always looping between new releases and old favorites alike. Press play and close your eyes.
This one hit me at the perfect moment. A confluence of events created an opening for this slim, untitled 12″ release, allowing it to sail right into my heart of hearts.
Qluster is the current incarnation of one of the longest-running acts on the planet, continually vibrant and productive from 1971 onward. In this possibly final form, the band once known as Cluster has mellowed some of the rough edges and grown subtly complex, losing none of that original alien magic they’ve conjured for 45 years running.
Swapping a C for a Q seems relatively minor, but the twist it signifies has been significant. Since 2011, the band has been incredibly prolific, dropping more than one album per year. The latest, Echtzeit, is the most vibrant yet.
Remember how I mentioned springtime last week? Just kidding! It’s winter again here in Michigan, and I’m pretty broke, so I ended up staying home and listening to warm tunes most of the time. I discovered some real surprises by going out and simply looking for anything that felt new, an activity that I should do more often.
There’s nothing much more rewarding than setting out to surprise yourself and then doing exactly that.
Every once in a while, a great album by a favorite artist slips right by me. Nightvision is a perfect example. Mark Van Hoen released the album in November of 2015, and I stumbled upon it only this week. Van Hoen’s work has appeared on my best of lists and his former band, Seefeel, created some of my favorite music of all time. This was a huge oversight, as it turns out.
After just a few listens, I really wish I’d heard the album a few months ago. I have no doubt that it would have appeared somewhere on my best of 2015 list. Nightvision is frankly incredible.
This is a list of seriously amazing music. The best albums released in 2014, no shit. You probably haven’t heard of some of these artists. That’s okay. That’s awesome, in fact. Most of it’s off the beaten path, and it’d be a shame if that’s the only reason you never heard it. My biggest pleasure with this blog is hearing from friends who discovered something that’s become absolutely essential in their lives. I treasure that feeling and only hope to spread it. Enrich your life. Be adventurous, try out some of the music streaming on this page! It’s free right now and you’re definitely not doing anything better!
I know this is late in the sense that most people publish their lists before the year is done, but I couldn’t care less about being first in judging an entire year’s worth of beautiful music. I’d always rather be finished than first.
Every piece of music on this list deserves attention. You’ll probably love some and hate others, because that’s how taste works.
See the Best of 2014 Honorable Mention list for the greatest albums that didn’t quite make the final cut!
[Note: excepting the ABSOLUTE FAVORITES section, these albums are listed in the order I heard them.]
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.
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.