Upper Astral is an interesting artist that I found when scouring YouTube for vintage new age cassettes releases. I found a variety of Upper Astral recordings, but when I looked at how I could put them together for a single Ambient Soundbath program I couldn’t get many of them to work well together. I played around with different configurations of recordings of the era (1981 – 1988), generally released on the, long defunct, Valley of the Sun label during that golden age of the new age music genre.
Some might argue that it wasn’t a golden age at all and was, in fact, a highly opportunistic period where consciousness trends hung over from the 1960s, 1980s capitalism and the price-points (and accessibility) of home recording studios all intersected to create a miasma of products and services that tried to sell well-being with little regard to quality. That may be somewhat true, but there was also some great music and some great sounds happening during this period. Frankly, even if there was a lot of schlock to wade through, there were some fine recordings made by little-known artists capturing the wide range of synthesizers that were hitting the marketplace.
This episode of the Ambient Soundbath features re-imagined and re-treated Upper Astral compositions, two in fact – Celestial Harmonies and Astral Massage, sides one and two. I reworked these recordings to take off some of the rough edges and artifacting left on the decades-old cassettes, thereby increasing the listenability and immersion of the pieces. Howard Givens of Spotted Peccary Recordings, when counseling me as a young recording artist, once cautioned: “You don’t want the fidelity of the recording to be a barrier to listening to the music.” Sage advice. He probably doesn’t even remember that, but I never forgot it and think about it often.