Harsh Tokes: A New Age Experience in 15 Steps
Mark Mangini, Roxanne Carter, & Jason Baldinger
On a particular Wednesday evening Mark Mangini, Roxanne Carter and Jason Baldinger sat down with various provisions to listen to the I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950-1990 (Light in the Attic Records, 2013). We decided the best way to handle the review was to record the three of us talking as we listened to the three record set, which led to a very daunting 120 minutes of audio files. What follows is the eventual degradation of discussion, comprehension, and general sense that follows such extended exposure to the general aesthetic of the genre. Without further ado, here is our review of I Am the Center.
1. Max Schreck Hiding from the Sun: A New Age Experience
RC: This is a good start, just like “Sweet Leaf.”
JB: Alright Mark, let’s get it on.
a momentary conversation about Lonesome Dove.
JB: First, that’s the opening chords to “Flashdance.”
MM: This reminds me of an early Erik Satie composition.
JB: Yeah, it’s similar to “Gymnopedies.” I think my annotation for this was: this is the saddest piano in the world and it just hung itself.
MM: Yes, yes it did. There’s a silent film quality to it. Whatever it was recorded on gave it a sort of warble. Can you hear the warble?
JB: All I see in my head right now is Max Schreck hiding from the sun.
MM: Or like a woman in a flapper dress running from a monster in a Fritz Lang film.
JB: Did they have flappers in Germany?
MM: No but it’s a movie and anything can happen. Like a dream. That’s the point. If an artist can make music that lets you have an imaginative vision when listening, whether a drug thing or a psychedelic music thing, I feel like that’s how I judge good new age music.
JB: Anything that gives you headspace. I mean Gurdjieff definitely puts you into a specific head space, which is interesting being he was a cosmic joker figure that made sad music. The dichotomy there is...
JB: Thank you! That was the Jack Nicholson moment in Easy Rider that he gets so high he can’t remember his line. That’s where I was...
conversation turns to Easy Rider and Pink Flamingos. there is at least one mention of chicken sex.
2. Space Clit and Star Phallus: A New Age Experience
JB: New piece of music, new headspace.
RC: That piece was too short for me to get into any headspace, seeing a German woman in a flapper dress...
MM: It’s a collection.
JB: It’s how you get there eventually. When you listen to this again you will immediately be in a flapper dress. So this is Gail Laughton.
MM: “Pompeii 76 A.D.”
JB: This was in Blade Runner. Vangelis is credited as the writer.
MM: This is 1700 years before the United States was founded.
JB: You mean after?
MM: I don’t know...
laughter at MM’s faux pas
MM: This artwork, what the fuck?!
JB: There’s your clammy phallus.
MM: This is a vagina; a Space Clit!
JB: The head space of this song is Space Clit injected by Star Phallus.
MM: It’s still kinda phallic, there’s a celestial condom being placed over it. There are two balls...
3. Wanna Smoke a Bowl and Listen to My Noise Tape?: A New Age Experience
MM: This is Nesta (Crain), the woman who plays the bowls.
RC: Oh, the hoarder. I like her!
MM: She was a Broadway actress.
JB: This is space age gamelan.
some talk here about the liner notes, disparaging things are said about people who drink cough syrup and play guitar like Derek Bailey (this never happens to the best of our knowledge).
JB: I’m on an ocean, waiting for Frankie Ford. Mangini, there’s a ship in your living room!
this last sentence said in the voice of a pirate
MM: I think she’s awesome, I can’t tell if she’s trying to find a melody, or if there is a melody or if she’s banging at random, that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around.
JB: She’s got her eyes closed and is spinning around and trying to find the sounds that will allow her to march into the presence of god.
MM: That’s the beauty of this comp; it’s all homemade and privately issued stuff so it could be either, but the conversation of what makes that good or bad is fucking interesting. Maybe she’s making this melody that I can’t conceive of because it’s so far beyond my ability to understand. Maybe she is this mystical seer and she’s making this music that is perfect and I dismiss it ‘cause I can’t sing to it. Or maybe she’s just banging around like ding ding ding ding and you have no idea.
RC: I feel like if there’s a melody, you would know.
JB: There’s no melody.
MM: I don’t think there’s a melody.
JB: I mean maybe it’s a melody if everything was tuned to 400 instead of 440 like Harry Partch.
MM: I love Harry Partch. Delusion of the Fury is killer shit!
JB: Alright, we’ve transitioned to spaghetti western guitars, robo-tripping guitars stuck in a tonal loop.
RC: I think I have four friends who made this record.
JB: Didn’t we all make this record when we first got a guitar? I mean I remember when I would put a guitar against a wall, grabbed a shitty tape deck, put it between me and the guitar and then stood back and threw quarters at it.
MM and JB in unison: And record it!
MM: There are way too many kids who don’t get to experience the beauty of throwing things at a guitar and calling it art.
JB: We’ve changed tones, not tracks
RC: I think I’m fine with it, but I know I sat around and listened to so many dudes tell me they made this.
JB: You wanna come back to my dorm and listen to my noise tape?
RC: Actually, wanna smoke a bowl and listen to my noise tape?
4. SF Dollar Bin Staple: A New Age Experience
MM: Sorry Wilburn, we’re onto Iasos.
RC: Whoa, can I get a better look at him?
JB: He wants to cuddle.
MM: Iasos or eyeosis?
JB: A San Francisco dollar bin staple.
RC: I saw that!
MM: This guy sucks. Look at these album covers. Look at that one, it’s the worst shit.
RC: It’s the same...
MM: “We can never do better than this, so let’s just make the art smaller, put a border around it, and give it a different title...”
JB: When you run out of money you just put a border around it and you get a whole new album cover.
MM: No art ever surpasses it.
JB: Your art is the best of all the arts.
RC: I can’t handle this dude’s face, take it away!
5. Who Goes Back to School for a PhD?: A New Age (Clout) Experience
MM: The thing about this next guy is he’s a PhD, a fucking doctor! There’s no passion. “We can just put this sound in this spot...”
JB: Insert tone A into column B.
RC: Maybe he needed money.
MM: Who goes back to school for a PhD?
RC: Why the fuck not, he was looking for new age clout.
JB: New age clout!
JB: We are listening to space music. The synthesizer is lapping waves on the shore.
RC: How does it not get electrocuted?
MM: It holds its breath.
6. Zima: A New Age Experience
* Editor’s note: by this point we have either changed songs or gotten lost.
MM: I just want Steven Halpern to stop playing “7th Chakra Keynote B (Violet).”
RC: I am not opposed to seeing violet from this.
MM: But not after that title. “7th Chakra Keynote B.” Jesus.
RC: What year is this?
RC: I think the dude was into it. He feels what he’s doing.
MM: Clearly, he’s got his eyes closed. He’s either playing piano or masturbating...
JB: He’s masturbating into the morning sun.
RC: Maybe that’s how he meditates.
MM: Or he’s attaining the 7th level of nirvana.
JB: Whatever gets you there.
MM: He’s totally fucking gone.
RC: I can’t even imagine masturbating to this.
MM: I can!
JB: What rhythm would you pick?
MM: When I’m trying to get into the mood, I just put on my Stephen Halpern album and drink a glass of Zima.
7. Peace Love Harmony and Doing Babes: The Top of the New Age Experience Pyramid
MM: So this next piece is Joel Andrews, “Seraphic Borealis.”
JB: Hence the harp.
MM: Look at this picture!
MM: That’s a heavy picture!
JB: Is that a beard?
RC: That’s his hair.
MM: It’s like Kenny Rogers slaying on a harp.
JB: He looks so self-actualized.
RC: He’s at the top of the pyramid
JB: He’s the eye looking out of the pyramid.
MM: He’s seeing in sound.
JB: I’m not seeing in sound, this is like driving in the rain.
RC: That would be great if when you drove through the rain, the drops sounded like harps when they hit the windshield.
JB: Now that you mention it, that does sound pretty cool.
RC: Cause by muses he meant the bevy of ladies he convinced to live with him and fuck him all day, and call it spiritual ecstasy. Good for him, he is at the top of the pyramid.
[Editor’s note: we realize this is a strange transition but hey]
MM: So you have this cheesy Aquarian, perverse hippie ideology that is corny. That being said, the idea of creating peace love and harmony with music is a beautiful idea.
8. Does This Music Have Drug Connotations?: A New Age Experience
RC: Does this music have drug connotations?
JB: I would assume there is marijuana being smoked, if I may be so bold.
MM: If you’re meditating for four hours a day to have an experience that is vaguely similar to being tripped out, why not just smoke a bunch of pot and have way more time in the day to do cool shit?!
JB: You cannot be the eye!
title suggestion--It’s My Turn to Yell at the Sky: A History of the New Age Experience.
9. Banishment: A Lack of New Age Experience
MM: She (Constance Demby, although we may not even have a clue where we actually are in the track listing) was a sculptor before she was a musician, so she was creating visual art that was created in a three dimensional space and so now she’s...
JB and MM: Sculpting the sound!
JB: I see leaves.
MM: I think she’s creating butterflies.
RC: I’d like to state for the record that texting isn’t very new age...
let the record show that JB was texting at that moment. he is now banished from the wizard’s beard.
MM: What would have been awesome is if they ended every side with a locked groove. So many people would have just wasted hours and hours of their lives thinking the side wasn’t over yet.
general agreement by everyone.
10. Enya: The Inevitable New Age Conversation
MM: I’d be really interested in listening to an Enya record after this to see how the genre develops into mainstream artists. JB, you work in a record store: do you know any popular new age artists?
discussion of Enya’s hit single “Sail Away.”
MM: But how different can that be from the Sigur Ros on the back half of Valtari?
MM: Sigur Ros have a very different way of being looked at than Enya does.
JB: It’s also not that far removed from Phillip Glass or Terry Riley in his kinder moments. Yeah, Terry Riley.
MM: So maybe we have to separate by genre. I always thought of Sigur Ros as being a psychedelic band. New age stuff is always...
JB: It’s easy to stigmatize
MM: One could argue that “Sail Away” has a structure. It’s a pop song.
let the record show we talked about Enya for a long time. as the discussion veered a bit, it somehow came back to Enya and the state of new age music today.
JB: Tangible tangerine dreams
after Enya comes a discussion on memory
JB: You were a fetus.
11. Marijuana, Finally: A New Age Popcorn
MM: We need to take out all the references to pot.
JB: My god, these people smoke a lot of popcorn.
RC: I don’t think I can eat enough popcorn to enjoy this song.
JB: My dad wears a sweater vest and makes the best kettle corn and then sits in the closet and plays a synthesizer while wearing a monkey hat.
12. Group Whoa: A New Age Experience
RC: These people are directly responsible for punk rock music.
RC: I hear laaraji babes are easy.
MM: Unicorns in paradise.
JB: I am not seeing unicorns in paradise.
MM: It’s part of a larger piece.
JB: This is where the unicorn is meeting the mountain?
MM: It’s exploding, while being hit by lightning.
13. Homage to the New Age Camel-toe
MM: On to Peter Davison. These pictures show his virtuosic skills.
RC: What the fuck? He’s a snake charmer and he’s working with telephone wires?
JB: He looks like David Crosby.
MM: It’s the ‘stache.
RC: I don’t even understand how you make music from something like that.
JB mansplains patch cables
MM: Most of his professional work is for PBS and yoga videos and the like. Yeah! I want to make music for yoga videos! You get to just make the most psychedelic shit!
RC: This isn’t “far out.”
JB: Homage to the camel-toe.
14. Nonesense: A New Age Misspelling
JB: This song sounds like the fucking Eat’n Park cookie commercial, you know the one where the star tries to mount the tree and fails, then the tree picks him up.
In the future stars ride sandworms, Mark gets a lamp, I have no idea where the magic genie is. JB hates flute. Things are crawling up spines. Mangini wants to jam out to Jethro Tull. Bungle in the Jungle v. Locomotive Breath. There is little left but deconstruction.
JB: Can you see chakras, 'cause I can.
RC: No but I can see this dude’s earrings.
MM wants Eat’n Park cookies. JB talks in yinzer accent about the mating rituals of stars and trees. There is laughter and people thank each other. The bedroom and a sweet piece comes into the conversation.
RC: Michael Stern.
MM: The earth kisses the moon.
RC: We’re just getting to the tongue.
RC: I wonder who made the first move, the sun or the moon?
RC wonders if she is funny, but realizes in listening to this that she is indeed hilarious. MM wants to write an endcap, this is now nonsense.
15. New Age Nipple Discrimination
RC: I hate new age music, I fucking hate this shit.
attention is turned back to the cover art
RC: Under a black light this would be sick...real visionary art.
JB: Dark side of the moon.
RC: Approximately 25 artists founded a movement of healing to align the chakra.
MM: The new age that I like is secular.
disparaging things are said about the cult of new age music
JB: This song should be called “Stab a Dick in Your Eye.” Then it would be experimental.
RC hates men with earrings
JB: I can see the light of your chakras in my earrings.
It’s all dark. Robert Fripp took a shit on my pancakes. New age discrimination. My chakras are two eyeballs looking at two different things. I get lost in your hands. Do all your hands have nipples?
MM: That was a crazy nipple: a new age experience.
RC: The starship enterprise has been compromised.
Mark Mangini, Roxanne Carter, and Jason Baldinger are all alive and well and living in Pittsburgh.