Regardless of who was first, the point is that the genre took off like a locust swarm, inspiring New Age Music (hereby known as NAM) artists in Japan (Kitaro, Tomita), France (Jean Michel Jarre, Joel Fäjerman) and Greece (Vangelis) among a host of other locales.
One of the first figures to coalesce these sounds into a unified audio/visual package, was – once again – our boy Schulze, who founded the Innovative Communication label in 1979. While Schulze eventually sold the label in 1983 (though it’s still in full operation today under new management), Innovative Communication released a plethora of acts loosely grouped around the NAM genre during his tenure. Connecting these artists is a full embrace of the electronic chip: Whereas the American NAM movement often focused on soothing, organic nature sounds combined with ambient synth wash, Schulze’s IC label was merging computer culture, sequencing machines, vocoders and mountains of synth technology to startling effect. And while some of the releases veered into cornball territory, a great majority from the likes of Klaus Krüger, Clara Mondshine, Software and more sound remarkably futuristic even to this day.
Below, we dive a bit deeper into IC’s catalogue, as Stones Throw’s James Pants picks some of his favorite sounds from the imprint.
Clara Mondshine - The Final Ritual
Visions of Audio is definitely in my all-time top 20 headphone listens. It’s such a rich album, filled with layers of found sound, Emulator samples and, according to the label catalogue, “Asian Meditationmusic.” Reminds me quite a bit of Oneohtrix Point Never or some Laurel Halo stuff – albeit from 1987. There’s also another one from Mondshine called Memorymetropolis that is also quite good, but most of the jams from there are also found on this release too. Save yourself the dough.
Klaus Krüger - Hektik
One of IC’s more beat-heavy, non-relaxing releases, more akin to the Neue Deutsche Welle genre than New Age. Pretty much every song on the album is a winner and somehow encapsulates the German people in LP format.
Software - Island Sunrise
We’re getting into deep relaxation territory on this one. Dâm-Funk put this one on a mixtape he and I did some years ago called “Chart Toppers.” I’ve tried to track down every release by Software ever since, but none really compare to this slow-mo oxygen-bar boogie.
Double Fantasy - Children of the Universe
We’ve now hit the stratosphere of smooth. There’s an LP from this group which also contains this song, but I only have the album sampler. Reminds me of my time spent in utero.
Die Gesunden - Galaxy
Back to earth a little bit now. One of the more expensive IC records to find, but a complete gem throughout. Some minimal wave on ketamine really.
Eberhard Schöner & The Secret Society - Frame of Mind
I’m slightly cheating here, because this was originally released in 1977 on Harvest, but IC reissued it in 1991 on CD. Either way, it’s a piece of rarefied Gregorian psych – a strange sub-genre not yet fully explored.
Megabyte - Secret Destination
Basically eight different jams in one, alternating between definitive cheese and sublime sci-fi. But mostly the latter.
Baffo Banfi - Vino, Donne e Una Tastiera
A meandering kosmische riff that I utilize pretty much every single Sunday while I’m cleaning my house. I find it brings focus, fortitude and, ultimately, fulfillment to each and every task.
For more Innovative Communication, check out Kirk Degiorgio’s two hour tribute to the label on RBMA Radio.