Reissued, Enhanced, Enhanced CD
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Audio CD, Enhanced, Original recording reissued, November 11, 2003
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Before there was ambient music, in a time before the New Age, there was Wendy Carlos's Sonic Seasonings, a double LP released in 1972. Taking the form of Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Carlos orchestrated four side-long soundscapes designed, according to producer Rachel Elkind, to be "part of the decor." Using only her Moog synthesizer and environmental sounds, Carlos created prototypical ambient music, predating Brian Eno's similar work by a few years. Carlos weaves gentle, often reedy synthesizer melodies through chirping birds on "Spring," phase-shifted church organ drones across crystalline bells and wind on "Winter," and she seems to simulate an alien space landing on "Summer," mimicking nature with her synthesizer. An added treat on this special double CD is a 40-minute, unreleased, two-part suite from 1986 called "Land of the Midnight Sun." Using her Synergy synthesizers, Carlos orchestrates slow-motion melodies and overlapping minimalist layers that recall Steve Roach's "Structures from Silence." Sonic Seasonings is the first wave of a batch of Wendy Carlos reissues. While many of Carlos's classical, "Switched-On" orchestrations have an antique, dated charm, this original composition sounds fresh and current. In attempting a music that wouldn't draw attention to itself, Carlos achieved a prescient work of subtlety and depth on Sonic Seasonings. --John Diliberto
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There's not much to say that hasn't been said by other reviewers. If you're an old Carlos fan, you already know that SONIC SEASONINGS was as groundbreaking as her SWITCHED ON BACH recordings. You also know that, unlike a lot of pioneers of electronic music, Carlos, with meticulous devotion, delivered fully realized compositions, not half-baked experiments presented as novelties of sound. You also know she's a genius of unsurpassed originality. SONIC SEASONINGS stands the test of time, as do all of her original compositions; if you liked the vinyl edition of SONIC SEASONINGS back in the day, you'll like it now. This recording still amazes me, how so vividly it captures the FEEL of the seasons, a new-era equivalent of Vivaldi's FOUR SEASONS, a comparison I'm sure she intended in the conceptualization of the project.
If you're a fan of ambient music, this is a must-have CD. Of course, you Carlos fans already know what it's all about, so if you haven't upgraded to the CD edition, you need to correct the error as soon as possible. A couple of years back, SONIC SEASONINGS was released on CD, but the cost was close to $30. It was reissued last November at this amazingly low single-CD price, though it's the same 2-CD set. Also, sans the 20-minute-per-side limitation imposed by LPs, Carlos was able to fit three of the original tracks on one CD, which would have left a necessary second CD for the last original track with a lot of wasted space. Carlos generously fills the void with previously unreleased impressionistic compositions of the same ambience as the four original season-themed pieces. I thought it was quite kind of her, really, thus making this CD a bargain for any Wendy Carlos fan.
SS still gives me goose bumps after all these years. The only thing similar to it nowadays is some of the space music of Jonn Serrie. But Sonic Seasonings is in a class by itself. It will amaze you and never let you go. (Oh by the way, if you listen to Summer while wearing headphones, you may get vertigo. Only a master musician can do that! Don't say I didn't warn you.)