1. Simultaneous to how it all started, in fact simultaneous to everything I've been listening to for the last year or two, was my ongoing if slow consumption of all things krautrock—a genre I thought I was "into" many years ago but upon further reflection all I really was "into" was Tago Mago and, like, Tortoise. So after grabbing the Neu! and La Düsseldorf discographies and beginning to do the same with Faust and Amon Düül II, I started itching for new catalogs to sink into.
I don't know what made me search Cluster on eMusic for the fifth time since joining a year ago, but I did and was happily surprised to find that they'd added a bunch of their records. I'd snatch up a Cluster immediately no matter when I saw it, but this instance happened to dovetail with when I bought the Mountains album, so my ratio of instrumental spacey shit was increasing at a quick clip. I went for the earliest one on offer, Soweisoso. Since picking it up I've been going back to it over and over again as it continues to reveal itself to me. Cluster belongs on the "pioneering electronica" side of the krautrock coin, as opposed to the "pioneering prog/psychedelic" side, and from what I've heard they seem to do it better than the various Klaus Dinger-related projects. They're not as funny, nor as repetitive—Neu!'s two most definitive qualities—and they're more compelling for it.
- Cluster: Sowiesoso
2. Simultaneous to my purchase of Soweisoso and the Mountains record, my brilliant wife and I were having a conversation about music and our impending baby, due any day now. (In fact, I've been posting a song a day for Baby Tennent on my Tumblr, in case you don't follow me there.) This got my brilliant wife to repeat her desire for Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby. Scott, if you're not familiar with him, was a pioneer of electronic music back in the 60s (as well as a jazz player who composed soundtracks for cartoons). He made three Soothing Sounds albums at the time—abstract sound works meant to lull your baby to sleep (each of the three albums was meant to be played at different points in the baby's development, with the sounds and patterns getting more and more complicated as the baby gets older). Again I went to eMusic and again I was surprised to find that they were available, despite my certainty that I'd looked once before and came up empty. I downloaded volume 1 and was pleasantly surprised to find that it... kinda sounded like Cluster! (Though the Soothing Sounds are about ten years older than Soweisoso.) Honestly, I had them on shuffle—yes, I even put my ambient music on shuffle sometimes—and I wasn't always sure who was who. That's a good thing, and I don't really give a shit if this soothes Baby Tennent or not. It soothes me!
- Raymond Scott: Sleepy Time
3. Simultaneous to these purchases—this is roughly that week between Christmas and New Years—I received the first Silver Apples album as a gift. I'd put it on an Amazon wishlist about three years ago and never revisited the wishlist again. My Sister-in-Law has just been winnowing down the wishlist every year and has finally gotten to the point where everything on the list is totally obscure and mysterious to her, so she took a shot with this one—thank God! Silver Apples gets a little repetitive after a while--at least two songs seem to use the exact same bassline—but all such negatives are erased by the constant reminder that these guys were making this record in freakin' 1967. This got me thinking about the similarly pioneering United States of America along with the Raymond Scott and Cluster records, and I got this notion that not only do I need to return to electronic music—a genre I'd once been pretty into, some time back!--but I needed specifically to immerse myself in the genre's origin point. What a great and inspiring world to explore, don't you think? Then I was directed to this blog which is uploading 62 discs worth of 60s-70s electronica and I was overcome by fear of what that would do to my hard drive. I mean, that's an amazing resource but I think I need to take baby steps. I'm going to act like I didn't see it.
- Silver Apples: Program
4. Simultaneous to that, I keep checking in on my friends' blog the Cargo Culte, which consistently has excellent mixes (not counting, okay, when they do powerviolence clusterfucks, but that's just me). I don't know how many random songs I picked up from them over the course of that week, but it was a bunch and they too fit this mold of instrumental, ambient, drone, space, electronic.
5. Simultaneous to that, I was reading that Coke Machine Glow blurb for Mountains' Choral, which noted that 2009 was a really excellent year for ambient records, so I scribbled all their recommendations down and generally kept an eye out specifically for other sites' mentions of the genre's 09 peaks. Most often championed seemed to be Emeralds, so I gobbled up What Happened; and I also started hearing of White Rainbow, so I tracked down New Clouds. The latter speaks to me more; there's something cold and unwelcoming about the Emeralds disc, though it is good, whereas White Rainbow's four twentysomething-minute tracks manage to be hazy and dense and spacious and varied and immersive all at once.