Various Artists

The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986

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(The Microcosm) is a companion of sorts to I Am the Center, Light in the Attic's monumental 2013 collection of private press new age recordings from America. This time out, the compilers focus on works by European composers, subtitling the compilation Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986, carefully avoiding the "new age" tag as some of these artists have no interest in being associated with it. As such, there isn't really as much of a focus to this album -- it's simply a collection of good, spacy music of interest to fans of ambient, drone, and the kosmische side of Krautrock. A few big names pop up, particularly on the first disc, which is kicked off by an early Vangelis composition. Ash Ra Tempel are represented by the shimmering, pulsating "Le Sourire Volé," recorded for the soundtrack to a 1976 film starring Nico titled Le Berceau de Cristal. A slightly edited version of Popol Vuh's side-long "Brüder des Schattens - Söhne des Lichts" follows. It's one of the darker selections on the album (fitting, since it ended up being used in Werner Herzog's film Nosferatu the Vampyre), but it still radiates with hope and light. Ariel Kalma's "Orguitar Soir" features gentle guitar murmuring and organ drones beneath a blanket of hissing insects and chirping birds. There's also the joyous, relaxing title track to Hans-Joachim Roedelius' 1981 classic Wenn der Südwind Weht, and also a selection by new age pioneer Deuter, although surprisingly it's from one of his mid-'80s cassettes instead of his more groundbreaking albums from the early '70s. As far as rarities, there's an amazing piece by underrated French guitarist Bernard Xolotl, taken from a private cassette recorded in 1979. Also sourced from a rare cassette is "Shiva's Dance" by Suzanne Doucet and Christian Buehner, a lush, hypnotic piece filled with simmering drum machines and bird calls. One of the more surprising inclusions is "Der Grosse Atem" by Deutsche Wertarbeit, whose sole release was an excellent self-titled album that appeared in 1981 on Sky Records, and was later reissued by Medical Records and Bureau B. While much of the album consists of uptempo minimal wave with vocoders, "Der Grosse Atem" is easily the album's spaciest cut, even if it begins and ends with manic, frazzled synthesizer squiggles. While not as much of a revelation as the essential I Am the Center, (The Microcosm) is still highly enjoyable and a worthwhile purchase for anyone who appreciates otherworldly music.

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