The return of new-age?Posted: July 14, 2011
On July 3 The LA Times published “A New Age for New Age?”, a piece written by Andy Beta that discusses the revival of the “much-disparaged” genre of new-age music through young artists like Animal Collective, Teengirl Fantasy, and Gang Gang Dance.
New-age carries a mockery-worthy connotation as cheese-tastic adult contemporary music, which brings to mind smelly yoga mats and talk centering around healing crystals and ‘chakras.’ But this genre is seeing a revival through artists such as Animal Collective, who featured pan flutist Gheorghe Zamfir on “Graze,” a track from Fall Be Kind, their 2009 follow-up EP to breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion. Fall Be Kind gained the most press at its time of release for featuring the first-ever licensed Grateful Dead sample (of “Unchained Melody” on “What would I Want? Sky”). AC linked their thoroughly modern sound of looped layers with new-age through the inclusion of instruments generally used by centaurs.
[Disclaimer: I write this post while wearing an aqua Grateful Dead skull tee, having recently burnt the last of my favorite Nag Champa incense. I hold a soft spot in my heart for patchouli-drenched drum circles and tie-dyed apparel resembling rainbow vomit… I blame this affinity on my upbringing in Eugene, Oregon. So, I may not be the most unbiased of all sources on all this hippie shizz.]
Beta of the LA Times describes new-age as a “balm in the age of digital overload.”
” ‘New Age’ is a thoroughly discredited term,” said Douglas Mcgowan, who reissues rare New Age albums through his Yoga Records imprint. “Part of why I like the term is because of how much it bothers people. I think it’s more fun to enjoy something that is frowned upon. There’s a rebelliousness to embracing something that has been discarded and deemed worthless by the culture at large.”
Contemplative, meditative music has seen an upswing in terms of live festivals, most notably through the popularity of 4-day yoga/music fest Wanderlust, which takes place at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe. (Shameless plug: check out my coverage of Wanderlust 2010 here, featuring an interview with founder Jeff Krasno.) This year’s music lineup definitely has new-agey feel (Jai Uttal, The Wailers), a departure from last year’s whomp-heavy, electronic lineup (Bassnectar).
Music videos featuring out-there visuals are also makin’ a comeback, featuring fractal patterns and fluorescent imagery straight outta an iTunes visualizer circa 2003. Teengirl Fantasy’s song “Cheaters” was directed by Greek new-age legend Iasos, lookie here to see it in HD.
Check out Gang Gang Dance’s video for “Mindkilla” from Eye Contact, released last May on 4AD records. Jellyfish-looking celestial orbs, wowee.