Space For Music Records

Ahh the new age ambient music composer, alone with the synthesizer and keyboard, wearing a billowy shirt, surrounded by new age paraphernalia, and burning just the right kind of incense. It's an image that may come to mind when you think of this genre of music. Local spacemusic group Spacecraft is able to (quietly) shatter these stereotypes. With the vastness of space as inspiration, this five person group creates a luscious soundtrack to the cosmos, making this group a natural to use planetariums as a setting for their live performances. And indeed this CD was recorded during two shows at the Cybersphere Planetarium in Tennessee.

While there is a lot of the expected swirling synthesizer textures, their sound is infused with other natural instruments. Guitar, pipe organ, electric cello, percussion and piano flow in and out adding a warmth to the sound textures. Vocalist Diane Timmonds adds that extra layer of humanity with her angelic echoing voice, albeit sparingly. Her sound is such a marvel it is surprising not to hear her more in this recording.

It's hard to get mainstream audiences to listen to music that doesn't follow that expected 4/4 beat. They simply don't know what to do with it: no predictable beat, no lyrics to hold on to, no hit single. But it all seems to make sense when you are staring out at the stars, or at least the images of them in the planetarium. Then it seems like so much more than just background music. -Jim Shambhu

Bardo Pond

I love this band. So much so, I was gonna drive to Carrboro, North Carolina, to see them play. But then I found out it was gonna be about sixteen hours round trip, and nobody could go with me, and I'd forgotten to factor in the cost of gas, and some dudes told me the cops in Tennessee are on a tear, and the car started sounding funny, and I couldn't find even a crappy ol' microdot jeez, do Phish fans have these problems?

So I wussed out and missed what was no doubt an amazing show by the current champions of neo-psychedelia. As heavy as Skullflower, as sweet as My Bloody Valentine, as epic as Mogwai, as organic as Palace, Bardo Pond hail from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, Speed, Density. After the supernova of Lapsed and Set and Setting's wall-of-drone, BP has gone for a sparser, more intimate sound. Dilate is a picnic in a downtown park. You lie back with a smile on your face, tripping on the wind in the leaves and the song of traffic, as Isobel Sollenberger's voice kisses you there and there and there Groove on the supernal sprawl of "Two Planes," the Neu-esque drive of "Inside." Dig the dreamy acoustic number "Favorite Uncle," the sunset sensuality of "Despite the Roar." Then bang that head to "Lb" and fall into the sun with "Ganges."

With Dilate, you don't have to hit the road to take a trip. -Bill Widener

Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt
Vanguard Records

It's a Sunday evening and you are sitting on the porch swing on a cool summer night. You have friends and family accompanying you, reminiscing of times past, gossiping of those you know so well. Playing in the background is Avalon Blues, A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt. Your little cousin Ray finds himself lost in the song that so simply repeats itself making it almost impossible not to sing along. This is the image that comes to mind when thinking of this excellent choice of music for a most relaxing pleasant summer night spent with folks you love.

It is a compilation of the best songs by Mississippi John Hurt, according to those who know him as "one of the coolest guys in the world." The songs are covered by an array of musicians from Ben Harper and Beck to Taj Mahal and Bill Morrissey. Those who contributed to the album claim that Hurt's music changed and rearranged their lives. It's a must hear for those who love blues with a lighter edge. Hurt most definitely had a style all his own. Take this on a camping trip or maybe just play it while relaxing at home with a glass of Jack; either way it gives a release from the daily grind. -Valerie Massey