I mean that. Back in the 80’s and 90’s I must have written up hundreds of reviews and articles on New Age, or as we liked to call it, Contemporary Instrumental Music. There were other names to hang this type of sound on, but those two popped up regularly often enough. I wrote a column for a number of national health magazines and the albums I spent many years learning about numbered in the thousands. I had spent the 70’s and some of the 80’s getting into Progressive Rock. But pre-internet and predominant genres of Rock put paid to Prog which with no mention by the media had disappeared without warning. Well at least here it did, and in a way it had. It went underground and only the giants of Prog put out albums which were becoming more and more pop leaning by the day, You know what I mean. We all went through it. So I went looking for the next best thing in instrumentals. New Age music offered it in spades. It came with so many different sub-genres to make it very interesting. Even certain Prog artists got into it and tried their hand at it like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman (oh so many from Rick), and so the lists goes on. I listened to it, wrote about it, spent three and a half hours a week playing it on a local radio show I convinced a station manager to do. I even bought the tee shirt. Literally. Musicians just as good and talented and expressive as what came before in Progressive Rock. Speaking of which… And then it all changed in the early 90’s. Enter the internet, and the world got closer. I found out to my surprise Progressive Rock was still alive. Better yet, new bands were putting out albums by the mountain-load. And still do. We connected in newer ways. All those New Age albums were put aside and I moved on and lost touch with the genre and what was going on. So it is with delight, mixed with some trepidation (because I might be slightly rusty on this) I bring to your attention a whole bunch of New Age/Relaxation Music/Contemporary Instrumental albums for you to chill out to in your own mind. It’s still going strong as “wellness” and “well being” plays a large part in our collective health in a business that generates going by the figures a 4.2 billion dollar ongoing enterprise world-wide every year, and music plays a good and important part in that.
We start with Andrew Colyer who is no stranger to myself and to some of you. Well not in Prog circles at least. His band Circuline has put out some really strong Progressive Rock contenders on a number of albums I’ve written about in the past and recommended. I was surprised to find out this is Andrew’s 4th solo album, but not surprised he’s making good use of the New Age genre as a vehicle to channel his talent also as a classically/jazz-trained at-Julliard musician. Certainly if you listen to him and his keyboards on the Circuline albums you get an adept artist who comes at you from all angles and time signatures with very interesting sounds, or as Andrew likes to refer it as, “ambient soundscape arrangements and non-traditional solo piano improvisations” encompassing piano, keyboards, guitar, percussion and wordless vocals. Andrew is inspired as a fan himself of a who’s who of New Age, contemporary Instrumental music we used to hear a lot of on radio shows back in the late 80’s and 90’s such as ‘Hearts Of Space’ which to my delight is still going as a syndicated radio station drawn largely from the ambient, new-age and electronic genres. George Winston, Peter Kater, Michael Whalen, Brian Eno and Deuter to name a handful are name dropped in Andrew’s promotional sheet, who I’m very familiar with, and I can see why. It’s not so much the music sounds like those others. Far from it it. Andrew has travelled a long path to have and support his own stamp on the sound he wants to create and play. It’s more the feeling or vibe you get being taken to another state of mind. One of the reasons I moved away from this music was I thought it was getting derivative and cliche if not stale back in the 90’s, but listening to Andrew’s new album, ‘Mists Of Time: Solo Piano and Ambient Soundscapes‘, it’s like the curtains have been opened and brilliant light is flooding into the room. It’s like some part of those decades I really enjoyed this type of music in has returned. If nostalgia is making a comeback for some of us then this artist is announcing it through albums such as these. Especially the first track here with ‘Rain Notes: Storm‘ with its clever harmonic guitar solo at the very start which may have even been an unconscious homage to Steve Howe. Sounds to me a number of guitars were used for this effect on this one. The track then opens up to piano playing the same notes with a splashing of reverb, and a ton of atmospheric keys to build on. It’s a great intro to this album and sets the mood throughout
First and forefront on this album it’s Andrew on piano, and no better example than on the eleventh title: “Overcoming” creating or expressing a mood, which going by the video for it weaves a story of passion and tenacity to “overcome” obstacles. Then again, maybe they’re not obstacles at all. A delicate melody that builds to the end.
In a sense ‘Mists of Time’ plays out like a personal journal for Andrew. Take for instance the ninth track, ‘Ghosts of Aberfan’ telling the sombre and horrific story of the 1966 Welsh mining disaster where an avalanche of coal sludge from a man-made tip above buried Pantglas Junior School and other buildings after a rainstorm. 114 children and 28 adults lost their lives to this catastrophic event which still haunts many to this day. Andrews solo piano sums it up perfectly the sadness and loss in such a melodic dirge of keys.
I get the impression they’re all touches of memories within feelings and stored collective emotions that are channeled through Andrews fingers onto his piano keys surrounded by a solid sonic collection of other musical instruments. Personally I think Andrew has left the best track until last with ‘Serenity.’ It’s gorgeous (in a manly way) with it’s memorable sweet melody, and a track which Glass Hammer founder and musician, Fred Schendel mixed for this album. See, I knew there was a Prog connection here 🙂
01. Rain Notes: Storm
02. Oliver’s Journey
03. In Alex’s Orbit
05. Strings of the Ocean
06. One Thing (Remastered 2020)
07. Rain Notes: Forest
08. A Thoughtful Moment
09. Ghosts of Aberfan
10. Moons of Jupiter
Title: ‘Mists Of Time: Solo Piano and Ambient Soundscapes’
Artist: Andrew Colyer
Label: Inner Nova Music