As a music journalist, I receive a rather large number of press releases and pitches from a countless number of publicists and PR agents. Over the years, I’ve learned to sift through the sheer mass of these releases, preferring only to pursue musics sent by those with both a curated focus and a discerning taste. Some of these folks are constantly at the cutting age of “21st century music,” and falling behind on the bands they are representing means falling behind on what is current and relevant to the most discerning, critical-minded listeners in today’s vast musical world.
If music was to follow the global changes that have taken place over the past 50-odd years, what “should” it sound like today? I sometimes feel like I’m behind the times, simply because I’m still listening to bands that use instruments, and have real people playing them. Walk into these avant-garde venues in the deepest and most subterranean rooms in Brooklyn and, these days, and you’ll typically find one person controlling an array of equipment that is only sold in stores that opened within the past 10-20 years. Stores that are completely foreign to me. Take the guitar store down the street from my apartment, for example. Years back, it was a guitar store and a used guitar store split in two. Now, the used side is gone and it’s been replaced by a “studio” department that sells everything from oscillators to monitors to samplers to stuff where I really don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s a far cry from the four-tracks and basic studio equipment that The Beatles revolutionized on Sgt Peppers, or the drum machines and flangers of the 70s and 80s.
If you were to tell a person back in the 70s, “people won’t be wearing jeans much longer, they’ll be wearing air conditioned space suits,” that person would likely say “woah, that’s pretty amazing.” So, my question is, what would shock a music listener in 1970 if you told them it would be happening today? Three to six people playing instruments, singing songs, would not be shocking to them. One or two people, able to record studio quality music on computers the size of a magazine, with a slew of “oscillators” and “buttons to press,” would. So is that where music “should” be in 2014? Is it archaic to think that “bands” are still relevant? Are they equivalent to big band jazz in the ’70s? Is it archaic to think that “music,” if it sounds like “music,” is no longer “current?” What is happening in Berlin?!
These are the questions I think about every time an e-mail from these publicists comes my way. And, every time I see one, I think “well, this has gone beyond my taste.” But, rather, is it me who is stuck in the past, wishing said publicists was still sending me the next Woods, or the next Pure X? I remember going to Glasslands and seeing all of those bands, back when bands were still a thing. A.K.A. 2010. Now I walk in to most shows there and I feel like I’m the old hippie dude calling out for “Whipping Post.”
It’s for that reason that I decided to open an email containing a download link to the new album by German musical duo Boozoo Bajou. Apparently, the duo, consisting of Peter Heider and Florian Seyberth, have been together for 16 years; have just made the record of their career. Apparently, this is what 21st century music “should” sound like.
Upon listening, it’s a deeply meditative experience, that, to me, doesn’t seem all that new. The music sounds a lot like what you hear on the recent Light in the Attic compilation, I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990, with a dose of added dub. One could also draw comparisons to Brian Eno or even to Blues Control’s 2012 album Valley Tangents. But, again, this isn’t my genre and this isn’t what I tend to listen to. There’s no question that this is a “high-tech” record–the sound is futuristic, instruments and cultural definitions are unidentifiable and mostly blurred.
But after deciding to venture into these foreign musical waters, I came out wanting more of this new sound elixir. Much like new age, the listening experience is a transcendent one, and in many ways, a highly psychedelic one as well. Having begun a recent foray into the study of our natural surrounding and its connection to the music we make, it seems that this may be the music that has come closest to that concept. The subtlety and minimalism seem to mimic the perfect balance of a natural setting−and as I have recently learned, sonic examinations of those settings show that each element has its own place in the environmental orchestra, which prevents one from overlapping with the others. As new age musician Constance Derby says:
“Sound created the universe. It wasn’t a word. Sound created atoms; sound and light are the original manifesting principles for worlds…A musician sources that primeval, eternal sound, and it comes out as music.”
4 sounds like the music of the universe.
4 is out now, rather fittingly, on Apollo Records.