Forget everything you think you hate about New Age music. I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1999 is a stunning compilation of beautiful, chill, complex, psychedelic, trancy, spacey, and surprisingly deep music that was self-published and self-distributed, mostly on cassette tapes in a 1970s and early-1980s heyday of experimentalism. Of course, this was before major labels saw gold beside the crystals, wrapped the worst of the music in truly bad (as opposed to good bad) cover art, and unleashed marketing magick that forever stigmatized the genre. But the music on I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 is something else entirely.
This is the music of Laraaji (excerpt above), who Brian Eno discovered in Washington Square Park playing for spare change. It's the music of minimalist composer JD Emmanuel who could be easily be filed with Oneohtrix Point Never and Emeralds. It's the sound of Steven Halprin's "anti-frantic alternative" music from before he became a rock star of "healing music." Curator Douglas Mcgowan is the audio archeologist behind the collection and wrote the terrific liner notes. The beautiful cover art is by Gilbert Williams. I picked up my absolutely stunning 3LP vinyl copy at San Francisco's Aquarius Records. Check out the trailer below! The CD is also available from Amazon: I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990.
For more background, don't miss this excellent episode of the Expanding Mind podcast with Erik and Maja talking with Douglas Mcgowan about the compilation and "the hidden sublimity of a reviled genre."