What follows is a collection, small in size, of recordings neither sought, nor denied, but discovered through curiosity alone, or even more magnificently in one case, which came to me through the curiosity of another. There are only a handful of records in my collection that came to me in this way. Like most, I imagine, my curiosity has led me to many more undesired than desired records. Yet, somehow despite digging through countless depressing and humorous records, these seem worth it, regardless of whether they are all great albums as a whole.
It comes as a relief to find something no one has told you about; the record is no longer the spoken of prescription for future happiness you may never obtain. It is not a Holy Grail. This strange and unfamiliar record has not been written on your "want list," and yet there it is before you unlike that rare coveted record you read about. The significance lies in the way it enters your life; you do not read about it, and then go get it. Only a stumble gets you there.
Where will you be led?
#1) John Tavener - 'Opening Section' of "The Whale" (Apple, 1970).
A most unusual album from this Englishman. It is a work based on the allegory of 'Jonah and the Whale', featuring musique concrete sounds, spoken word, operatic singing and perhaps some classical composition tendencies, yet is all clung together by a unique fabric. One cannot help but think too of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," while hearing Tavener speak of the kinds of whales, their physical attributes surrounded by a mixture of sounds, somehow nautical. The album ends with a section wonderfully titled, "Vomit on to the sand." My mother found this in a record sale at a book store in Cleveland, OH.
#2) Vortex - 'Red Sea' from "C Album" (Soundscape Presents, 1984).
Every track on the album has something to do with the sound of the letter "C." A wonderful album all the way through from two musicians entirely unknown to me before finding a sealed copy of this record in an abandoned record collection in a vast basement. Consisting of Ralph Blauvelt and Brad Graves, they are joined by percussionist Daniel Ponce on several tracks as well. The musicians involved have connections with Karlheinz Stockhausen, McCoy Tyner, the works of Ezra Pound and the art of sculpture, bringing together a variety of influences to create the sounds heard here. Listen to the wondrous sound in the background. What is it? A bellows? Vortex excel in an area where most human beings do not, and especially those involved in improvised music: knowing when to stop. Found in Cleveland Heights, OH.
#3) Willem Vermandere - 'd'Historie van Steentje' from "...met mijn simpel lied" (Decca Belgium, 1976).
Willem Vermandere is a musician from Belgium, who has been recording since the late 1960's. I have been unable to find much information in English about him, though he does have a large discography. This LP stood out to me in a thrift store because of its album artwork, and the stark black and white photos on the inside. The album as a whole has a contemplative and lonesome sound. A hazy group of trees nearby. Found in Santa Fe, NM.
#4) Julos Beaucarne - 'Je Reve d'un Concert' from "Front de Liberation des Arbres Fruitiers" (RCA Victor, 1974). Found alongside the Vermandere LP. Born in a Belgian province, this French LP from Julos Beaucarne is a mixture of self-penned poems and songs, as well his renditions of several other poets, including Victor Hugo. Synthesizer, flute, drums, trumpet, harpsichord, spoken word and singing can all be heard living together. He has been recording since the mid 1960's up to this day. Found in Santa Fe, NM.
#5) David Hykes' Harmonic Choir - Excerpt of 'Part III: Arc Descents' from "Hearing Solar Winds" (Ocora, 1983). Though unknown to me, this LP appears to have been pretty influential in certain niche groups since its release. This is the only record discussed that is still in print. A small group setting of vocal performances drawing on a variety of sacred music as well as throat singing from different traditions. Formed by Hykes in the mid 1970's, he still performs with the Harmoic Choir to this day. Released on the record label formed by Pierre Schaeffer and musicologist Charles Duvelle in the 1950's. Found while haphazardly browsing in the "new age" section at a shop in Missoula, MT.
#6) Port Said - 'Indian Ocean, Voyage 2' from their self-titled 45 (Self-Released, 1981).
To me, an unbelievable find at the Lutheran Mission Thrift Store six years ago in Annapolis, MD. Where did it come from? This is the only vinyl document from a short lived electronic duo made up of Stefan Tischler and Keith K. Walsh. A variety of cassettes were released after this, however Walsh sadly died of AIDS in the early 1990's. Tischler continues to make music to this day, and you can order directly from his site HERE. It seems you can even still order a copy of the original 45! The B-Side is just as good.
#7) Carol Kleyn - 'Street Song' from "Love Has Made Me Stronger" (Lyra, 1976).
A private press LP from a harpist\pianist\vocalist from Washington state. This track is not entirely indicative of the overall sound of the album, as it is the only instrumental one. The track is amazing regardless. Side A consists of harp-based songs, while side B of piano. The title track is another standout track, with some otherworldly vocals. The music of Joni Mitchell would be a very reasonable comparison to most of the LP. My copy is signed by Ms. Kleyn, "The Loving Shepherdess." Found at a thrift store in Missoula, MT.
#8) Georgia Kelly - 'Nilapadmam (Blue Lotus)' from "Seapeace" (Heru Productions, 1978).
An all instrumental solo harp LP, also featuring electric violin on one track. This chosen piece weaves western and eastern melodies, and is partially an adaptation of an Indian raga. Greek and Chinese modes are also explored throughout the rest of the LP. Research revealed that this release might have been popular as background "mood music" for massage therapists and the like! Found in Missoula, MT.
#9) Gail Laughton - 'Stonehenge 1600 B.C.' from "Harps of the Ancient Temples" (Laurel, 1978).
How is there yet another album with harp? Another piece from this album was heard in "Blade Runner!" Each piece on this album aims to capture a certain time and place in history (other examples being: 'The Hebrews 425 .AD.,'Lemuria 16,000 B.C.' and so forth). Most of the pieces are succinctly stated and spare. Found in Santa Fe, NM.
There are of course always more examples, but I stopped here. What are yours?
I am Led to Water.