Posts Tagged ‘New Age’

North Americans

Aiding an expanded focus at Third Man on another side of guitar based records, North Americans’ Patrick McDermott follows up 2018’s Going Steady with his most transcendental work yet. The previous album was rooted in American Primitive, with a bubble of outre synth and experimental touches rising just below the surface. He drew in Julliana Barwick, Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings), and pedal steel player and fellow Driftless alum Hayden Pedigo into his orbit and the resulting record had an immediate feel like a woolen blanket for the soul. For Roped In he’s extending the comfort and calm, spending the majority of the record elevating the serene with pedal steel player Barry Walker, though this time friends Mary Lattimore and William Tyler add harp and guitar respectively. Largely, this is a landscape built and maintained by the gentle lap of Walker and McDermott and the world they envision is radiant, rippling in all directions with the slow pick of strings and painterly melt of slide passages.

That Tyler appears on the album is fitting as Roped In evokes many of the same communal cares as his own aching entry from 2019, Goes West. Every song feels like it might have beamed from the players to tape fully in tact as dawn rose over the hills. The playing is nothing if not verdant — alive with a natural fragility and reverence for the meditative state. Every opportunity the record hits the speakers time and trouble seem to melt away. McDermott roots the album in the same American Primitive that brought him to focus in the past couple of years, but its now mixed with a New Age thrum that’s slowing the fingerpicked pace, buoyed by Walker’s weeping slides that land somewhere between harmonious drone and mournful sigh. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, too. This is the kind of new age that Laraaji is born from, the true believer strain that smooths the edges of angst. While Walker has his own gem of a record on the way later in the year, here he and Patrick have pushed North Americans towards a bliss that cannot be ignored. Quite simply there may not be more beautiful records than this in 2020.



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Luke Schneider

This week’s been on a mercurial kick and I say why bump the tiller now. This record from Luke Schneider reinvents the Pedal Steel as force for ambient float and it’s an absolutely stunning take on the instrument. While the steel has long been the secret weapon among the cosmic country fare cropping up here, and even found its way into the minimal stretch of the Ezra Feinberg release from yesterday, Schneider elevates the form. He gives the instrument its due as a focal point while all but rendering the sounds unrecognizable as they’re refracted through the psychedelic and new age prisms at either end of his spectrum. Solo pedal steel can often be showy, and can flirt with melancholia and comedy, but Scheider pushes the past aside.

While the instrument has a grace and some might say its the heavy heart that adds a mournful edge to country, its also a virtuoso’s tool. Luke’s had a history of unconventional use, but a breakthrough into sobriety and a steady diet of ambient in the headphones lead to an unconventional, yet stunning record that’s more indebted to Laraaji than Herb Remington. There’s a fragile ebullience to Schneider’s work and he’s made a record that’s as complex in temperament as it is stark in aproach. The sounds here resonate with the humors of the soul, stirring euphoria in the same way his instrument typically divines sorrow. Peace and calm radiate from Luke’s compositions as if the balance of the universe rested on his slide.

When he’s not crafting crystalline tones, Schneider has been a constant in alt-country circles playing with Natural Child and Black Lips before a change in life direction and higher profile stints backing Margo Price, Orville Peck and William Tyler. He continues to work as one of country’s leading sidemen — never the most technical player, but a unique force that allows him to continually put his stamp on his recordings. Here he proves that he’s more than a key element in an ensemble and that pedal steel can float as far as the synths into the edge of the cosmos. This one’s a 2020 essential.




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Tengger

The new album from pan-asian duo (or trio if you count their child accompanist / dance enthusiast) is a glittering example of Terra Firma synth explorations. While many of their contemporaries explore the cosmos, looking to dip their synth strains in an otherworldly light, Tengger are doused in earthbound explorations of natural beauty given sonic flight. The band has long embarked on pilgrimages to inspire their work and it’s clear that the high, green-draped peaks of mountain trails and the verdant expanses of highborn waterfalls and streams give life to their new age psychedelic soak in ways that seem more dazzling than the outer realms could ever hope to achieve.

On the fittingly named Nomad, the couple move more towards an embrace of rhythm than on past Tengger records. The stratospheric float remains in place, but underneath there is a burbling, wondrous sense of movement that picks from the German Progressive template and adds a hypnotic flow to the album. With the DNA of Neu and Klaus Schulze in their veins, the band push the motorik impulses into a new generation, eschewing the modern tendency to mash these influences into a fine paste. They embrace the dichotomy of ambience and propulsion with a clear vision that ripples nicely in all directions. The album finds them balanced, clean and focused on a terrestrial peace that’s enviable, yet attainable, at least for the 37 minutes that they radiate from the speakers.



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Tengger – “Eurasia”

While pan-Asian duo Tengger often lounge in the tranquil waters of ambient float, content to soundtrack the mists that encircle lost peaks along the road to Nirvana, “Eurasia” slots the band into a slightly more propulsive mold. The track is the midpoint of their upcoming album Nomad and its as much a turning point as any. The track reasserts an aptitude for blending atmospheres with beats that push ever forward with an insistence that’s never needling. However, their pull is felt. The band envisions the track as the pace of the Nomad mentioned in the title — a measured gate that gives into the unseen forces around him. To, “accept and flow with life, wherever we are,” the band puts forth as a mindset. With the DNA of Neu and Klaus Schulze in their veins, the band push the motorik impulses into a new generation, eschewing the modern tendency to mash these influences into a fine paste. They embrace the dichotomy of ambience and propulsion with a clear vision that ripples nicely in all directions off of “Eurasia.” The album is out June 12th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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