Image – The Fantastic Adventures of Unico / 1981. Forced to forget his friends, Unico falls asleep in the wind fairy’s hands; she reluctantly hides him away from jealous gods.
Its not often that we get a chance to hear guest mixes compiled for us by fellow bloggers, but today is an exception! Brevyn from Moons and Melodies put together a mix that explores lesser known corners of 80s and 90s new age/ambient scene and animation soundtracks. It comes in multiple flavors – there’s 8tracks version, Youtube version and Mixcloud version.
This mix highlights the surprising darker and sadder corners of new age music. Despite common aims to soothe and uplift, these songs dive into downbeat and/or ambiguous feelings: vulnerable, longing, bittersweet, haunting. The bright synths of a meditation cassette meet the murky lows and fragile heart of your favorite oddly-sinister children’s VHS.
In addition to running M&M (named after the Cocteau Twins / Harold Budd album of the same name), Brevyn also writes his own music. His album Gemstone Study Vol. 1 came out on Vulpiano Records in July 2019 and is totally free for download.
Suzanne Ciani – The Eighth Wave
The Velocity of Love (Private Music, 1991 / Finders Keepers / B-Side Music, 2012)
Ciani is one of those special new age artists who put both admirable sincerity and notable use of cutting-edge synths into their work. The Eighth Wave is a classic of those ambiguous yet profound feelings that fill vintage new age, the kind that douses you in rich colors and emotional warmth.
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Singing Stream (Spring Mix)
Wet Land (Eastworld, 1993)
Another now-cult artist but sadly, he didn’t live to see the praise. Wet Land is my personal favorite. It ditches the minimalism to show us the strong emotions and textures he could create over that limit. A sad and sweet garden-refuge to get lost in.
Bob Foster – The Water Garden
Shades of Green (Music House, 1990)
First in many great library obscurities here, matching the Spring Mix with it’s sad-refuge feel. An adorably shy lullaby for pond life.
Hiroyuki Onogawa – August in the Water 1
August in the Water (Factory Ishii, 1995)
Taken from a cult sci-fantasy film, this song could rise from the ocean’s depths and swallow you up. Those sleep-inducing chords make it hard not to give in.
Michael Genest – Reflections on a Moonlit Stream
Crystal Fantasy (Sona Gaia Productions, 1984)
I vote Genest as our next new age-reissue fave. His eighties work keeps gathering dust but it mirrors so many cult sounds at once: Bruton’s sci-fi records, Rubycon-era T-Dream, private-press new age hypnosis.
He’s a great mood-setter too; the song sounds just like the title.
Medwyn Goodall – Dolphin Dreams
The Way of the Dolphin (New World, 1992)
No shock that new agers loves dolphins, but the true shock? Not even these cute sea mammal songs escape sadder or darker tones. Great ocean ambience here, complete with classic Vangelis mystique and, yes – authentic dolphin sounds, not that fake stock sound!
Spencer Nilsen – Title Theme
Ecco the Dolphin (Sega Enterprises, 1993)
I can’t do a ‘dark-age’ mix without Ecco. Nilsen’s film-worthy score blends soft, (V)angelic warbles with crushing sci-fi void like it’s nothing. Campy as ‘magic dolphin fights aliens’ sounds, this is some of the saddest and most sinister new age out there.
Peter Seiler – Reef Moods
Dream Music (Innovative Communication / Chameleon Records, 1987)
Quiet drips in a sea cave, eerier than usual for the infamously kitschy IC label.
Milan Pilar – Way to the South
Floating Line (Selected Sound, 1993)
Milan Pilar is a long-standing library favorite of mine. A shame he didn’t score fantasy films; whenever I listen, it’s like I’ve found a magic necklace in a secret meadow or cave. He had great ears for gleaning all the right tenderness from lofty themes.
Simon Benson / Michael Tauben – Dreamworld
Ambient (Music House, 1995)
If true new age depicts our hopes and dreams, ‘dark-age’ is our questions and fears. This is a quiet nightmare: it plays as you uncover the dark corners of your mind.
Graham de Wilde – Underwater World [A]
Atmospheric Journeys (KPM, 1985)
Displays the haunting neutrality that eighties rhodes induces so often. Vague relief in “Dreamworld”’s nightmare.
Milan Pilar – Nocturne
Nostro Mondo (Selected Sound, 1985)
More fragile forest music by it’s master.
Sumio Shiratori – Muumin Tani Fuyu
Tanoshi Moomin Ikka OST (1990)
Sumio’s sugary flute themes for the ‘90 Moomin cartoon display the charm of this era like few others. This subtler piece expresses Moomin’s loneliness after discovering winter and best friend Snufkin’s yearly trip south.
Toshifumi Hinata – Fire And Forever
Story (Alfa, 1987 / 1994)
Lighter than most on this mix, but more of those bittersweet sentiments new age does so well.
Joe Hisaishi – The Huge Tree / Path Of Wind
My Neighbor Totoro OST (1988)
A melody that gripped me the moment it boldly crept into this movie. Similar tone to The Eighth Wave here: peace and fulfillment mixed with something intense and unforgettable. Needless to say, it fit the end credits like a glove. And what’s a mix like this without haunting credits music?
Warren Bennett – A Time to Remember
Pathways to Love (New World, 1989)
Another awestruck dreamworld from a notable library artist.
Bel Canto – Unicorn
Shimmering, Warm and Bright (Crammed Discs, 1992)
Bel Canto found their niche merging crisp new age sounds with ethereal wave. Anneli’s sweet voice merged with such pained melody defines this mix to a tee. With a title like this, I think back to Unico’s tragedy shown in the mix cover; a unicorn blessed with magic, but cursed with jealousy from the gods.
Spencer Nilsen – Skylands
Ecco: The Tides of Time (1994)
One in many adorable new age flute uses. Ecco’s sequel brought a prog spirit to Nilsen’s sound, but kept a decent fix of the signature synth warbling.
Happy Rhodes – Ra Is A Busy God
Many Worlds Are Born Tonight (Samson Music, 1998 / Gold Circle Entertainment, 1999)
Happy became a cult fave through her vocal+lyrical likeness to Kate Bush. This fan-favorite album brought new layers to her sound, ending in hypnotic tapestries like this. Synth pads as huge flapping wings.
Miami Vice – Tokyo Negative
Palm Haze (Illuminated Paths, 2013 / 2016)
An all-too-brief step into new age from this vaporwave gem. Could grace a medieval world and a Miami Vice beach all at once. A single glittering tear.
Delicate Features – Taurus Moon
Sky of Earth (Not Not Fun, 2016)
An enticing mix of new age synths, medieval voices and 4AD. Look into this duo if you love DCD or Bel Canto.
Mychael Danna – Sky 2
Skys (Hearts of Space, 1992)
Captures the intensity I get from gazing at the sky. Uses new-agey theatrics for sinister purpose, like Vangelis.
Aine Minogue – The Grove
Between the Worlds (RCA Victor, 1998)
Displays the celtic harp’s unique flavor of tender sadness.
John Hall – Illusen’s Glade [Youtube Only]
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie (2005)
New age gets around; this game comes from my childhood. John Hall fills it with all kinds of feather-light flutes and celtic harp. A blanket for ears. This song plays in a fraught quest to rescue an earth fairy’s home, making a perfect scene-setter for paradise under threat.
Emerald Web – The Red Vapour Of Still Lakes
Manatee Dreams of Neptune (Scarlet Records, 1990)
Emerald Web knew how to induce peace, but they found their niche casting fairy curses through song. This one brings Darkest Faerie to my mind through the epic medieval accent.
Kirsty Hawkshaw / Adrian Carson / Robin Bibi – Modern Mermaid
Atmosphere 26 – Enlightenment (Music House, 1999)
The vocalist for Opus III happens to be library giant Alan Hawkshaw’s niece; she even made new age for his then-choice label Music House. Don’t think the mermaid lacks her own darker paeans; this song distorts it’s peace with her uneasy wails.
Milan Pilar – Green Velvet
Green Planet (Selected Sound, 2004)
A ghost in the summer cabin. Somehow Pilar carried his distinct sound into the noughts.
David Rogers / Paul Shaw – Ice Kingdom
Atmospherics (Atmosphere, 1990)
A library gem sounding just like the title; a frozen fantasy world. Bells are a new age signature, and this song uses it for optimal secrecy.
Emerald Web – Soft Silence the City
Catspaw (Audio Recording Co, 1986 / Anodize, 2015)
A spot-on portrait of big-city isolation, with an odd celtic touch. Emerald Web were experts at evoking night-time’s mystery.
Patrick O’Hearn – Espana
Indigo (Private Music, 1991 / One Way Records, 2001)
Indigo sits with Ecco as a defining dark-age album. Each song wallows in it’s little murk, like a forbidden forest in a child’s bad dream. Just what this mix is about: dark fantasy with heart. “Espana” proved such a haunting closer that I had to give it the same role here. That outro belongs in a VHS credit-roll.