By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
From the Foundation of the World
New age music is tasteful background music for people who don't need music at all, aural wallpaper for people who'd rather stare at blank spaces. When done right, when the music gives into the ambience and atmosphere and doesn't concern itself so much with "melody" and "mood," electronic music serves a purpose (see: Brian Eno); otherwise, it becomes offensive in its histrionic blandness, repetitive because it sounds like nothing at all. It's the worst sort of "music" because it serves not to conjure emotion but to deaden it, novocaine injected through a stylus.
Which, believe it or not, isn't necessarily a knock against Chris Snidow, a local electronic musician whose music is the sound track to an entire subculture that exists well out of sight and out of mind; in fact, Snidow's something of a musical hero in the new-age underground, his previous outings winning raves in such "magazines" as Heartsong Review (billed as "A Resource Guide for New Age Music of the Spirit"), Dream World Magazine, and Aftertouch. To knock Snidow for his music (much of which is "based" on Scripture) would be like picking on someone because you didn't like his religion or didn't agree with his politics; it's the very thing that defines him, a life instead of a lifestyle, not some half-assed hobby. Still, you know what they say about the road to hell being paved with the best intentions.
From the Foundation of the World would have been prog-rock in the '70s, a ethereal symphony created on keyboards and synthesizers and acoustic guitars. Songs like "Firmament of the Heavens" and "Reluctant Metamorphosis" and "Talitha Cumi" manage to be both bigger than life and extremely tiny; they're at once lush and cold, delicate and inhuman, ambient until they begin to foist a melody into the atmospherics. To the converted, they're relaxing melodies that transport you to a place where crickets chirp and oceans roar and rain drops trickle all the time; to the non-believers, though, they're as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard, enough to tense up every muscle and numb every nerve.
According to their modest bio, the artists formerly known as Apartment 213 live by the motto "If you can't play it acoustic, it's not a song"--which were braver words before Great White and Bon Jovi birthed "Unplugged" back when. Then, Transoma Five (made up of former Shagnastys and Voyeurs) are a band that plugs in by necessity, using electricity to amplify the droning, half-beautiful songs that rely as much on feedback and occasional roar as the flat and buried vocals (about what, who really knows?) and the flat and buried beats. Electrified, they're sort of hypnotic and captivating; acoustic, they'd probably be lullabies.