the true and charming british new age albums of 2013

What a positive year for wonder and calm 2013 was. I’m a bit late in submitting a music list, for which I apologise, but I was in deep aromatherapy for most of December and have only just regained my eyesight. I don’t believe in favourites so these are in no particular order, I’ll just say that if 2014 is half as musically diaphanous as 2013 was then we can all consider ourselves to be quite lucky indeed!

wheatwithers

Mary Wheatwithers
That’s Just Is My Butterfly Bag, Baby
(Hedgehope Records)

Mary’s eighteenth home studio album in a staggering 42 year career that has seen her move villages seven times, get married once, have 5 children and grow 42 years older. Her 1971 album Elastic Chakra is said to have kick started the punk and new age music scenes simultaneously. However, her latest years have nurtured the development of a milder side to Mary’s bucolic musings and in That’s Just Is My Butterfly Bag, Baby we find her wandering further into the fractals of her own daydreams and wandering out again with 24 2-minute wonders on the ways in which 24 different species of butterfly could enter 24 different styles of bag. These are rendered for us with light guitar strums, the lighter wispy tones of her frayed voice and the lightest bongo touch. Lovely.

“Lovely”                                                                                                                           (David Angelo, Proud Moon Progeny Weblog)

confectionery

Confectionery of the Spectral Horizon
The Gong Parade
(Ascended Masters)

CSH turn their sights to the electric gong and the electric gong agrees to commune with them! A new Confectionery of the Spectral Horizon release is always a stimulating challenge to be welcomed with open slankets and this one is most certainly no exception. Possibly their most moving album since the similarly themed Release Your Mind To Cymbal Time, The Gong Parade is a single track 2 hour double disc of delightful clonging distraction. A single gong tone is repeated and layered with mesmeric effect for a full hour and a half until we reach 181gpm (apparently with psychoactive results that regretfully completely passed me by I’m afraid!) and there follows a full half hour winding down for a safe return to Earth. The edition sent to me also included a thought provoking A3 poster of the sound wave produced by the gong tone that, although stared at for five days uninterrupted, also refused to gift any disruption to my disappointed prefrontal cortex.

“Susan, it’s skipping I think. What? No. No! The disc is scratched it’s skipping!”           (John Miller, Intercreational Beings Podcast)

peacock

Michael Peacock
Mike Stands
(Stand Alone Projects)

The return of Michael Peacock after a seven year hiatus following his debut album Pursuing the Peacock all the way back in 2006. This is also the first release on his own fledgling label Stand Alone Projects. “SAP” says Mike, “provides a supportive home in which up and coming new age conceptual artists can feel safe to explore their most embarrassing ideas.” and it’s not hard to spot where the spore of Michael’s desire to found such a venture has sporulated from. If I just spin around and pick out my autumn 2006 copy of the Sodden Frontiers leaflet like…so and turn to the review of Pursuing the Peacock I find such quotations as “a desperate attempt to discover whether harrassed wildfowl can cough up relevant ideas. Michael, any sane individual could have told you that they cannot!” and “disgustingly desperate” (!) Anyway, following this backlash Michael has had some time to think, reapproach his creative process and gently tap up this new album, which is a surprisingly nice collection of gentle knockings on the discarded microphone stands of his home town, Stoke-on-Trent. “I thought it’d be nice,” he said in a recent Parallel Colours interview, “like something that no one could have a go at me about.” and he couldn’t be more right.

“It should be rubbish but it’s actually fine.”                                                                      (Vicky “Pepper Meadow” Newgent, Sodden Frontiers)

stacey

Stacey Chapman
The Invention of Liquid Love
(Vaunted Days)

Stacey plucks and sighs her way through another good set of nice songs. Lyrically she has come a long way since last year’s Oh, Joy of the Pastel Pillars in which she ran out of cloud related words halfway through the third track, with heartbreaking results. This time I also found her humming and aaahing to be even more engaging thanks to the “saturation delay” effect specially developed for her by her producer husband Tommy Riddles. “I love Tommy, he is so nice” said Stacey when I asked her what it is like to work professionally with her own husband. When I asked Tommy the same question he told me how he sleeps wearing a set of headphones that play a single saturation delayed sigh for twelve hours every night. “She sighs me to sleep and she sighs me awake again. I can’t get enough of Stacey!” He cried.

“I smiled, I sighed, I fell in liquid love.”                                                                             (Carol Moore, CEO of Vaunted Days Recordings and Distributions Inc.)

SIT-tZOO

SIT-tZoo
The Adventure Beyond the Future
(Ascended Masters)

Where on earth (or not!) did this come from? And right at the back end of the year. One minute I’m cooling down my tired ears in preparation for the winter solstice handfasting ceremonies followed by deep aromatherapy and the next Zwaiiing! sitar everywhere. The Adventure Beyond the Future is the debut album from the SIT-tZoo collaborative project between Sitarist Aloevera Wonderful-Simmons and kazooist James Thompson. Never has the high pitched twanging of the sitar and nasal abrasive drone of the kazoo sounded so transcendent, carrying us on a wave of stinging white noise on a voyage across the galactic plane. The single track 2 hour double disc also comes with an A3 poster capturing Thompson entering a fugue state whilst performing a 45 minute long improvised psychadelic kazoo interlude. I happened to see this take place live and when combined with Aloevera’s accompanying interpretive dance it became a truly life considering experience. An essential album and one that proves Ascended Masters to be the most progressive and intelligent label on the new age scene.

“When I regained consciousness I could no longer feel my arms.”                           (Dandelion Sunrise, Stroke Matters Magazine)

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