New Age Top 10
June 8, 2008 12:16 PM   Subscribe

New Age Top 10! We've all read lists of best rock, pop & soul albums - but what would appear on your Top 10 list of recommendations for a New Age noob?

I know next to nothing about this world, so I'm trying to learn. I've been researching on Amazon but - as I'm sure is the case with all musical genres - I'm finding there's a lot of chaff I have to wade through before I find the wheat.

I guess specifically I'm looking for chanting or gong, perhaps moving into flute or sitar. But either way, if you have a New Age album you love, or can go as far as a top ten, or perhaps point me towards a site that has recommendations, that'd be awesome.
posted by forallmankind to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It might be worth taking a look at New Age Reporter's award-winning albums.
posted by box at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2008

Also Hearts of Space's playlists (although I'm not sure Hill would like the 'New Age' designation).
posted by box at 12:42 PM on June 8, 2008

Clannad mixes traditional Irish/Celtic music with new age-y stuff. I haven't listened to it in ages, but I used to really love Magical Ring (which features the song "Harry's Game," which you might have already heard on various film soundtracks). Landmarks won a Grammy for best new age album.
posted by scody at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2008

Shiela Chandra- ABoneCroneDrone
Ray Lynch- Deep Breakfast (totally synth, but one of my favorites from way back)
posted by kimdog at 12:52 PM on June 8, 2008

Enigma: MCMXC A.D..
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kitaro - Sacred Journey series
posted by mrmarley at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2008

Pure Moods (Wikipedia) was a very popular, mid-90s compilation of mainstream New Age hit songs.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2008

The soundtrack Peter Gabriel did for the Last Temptation of Christ is pretty drone-y and new age-y. The wikipedia entry for it gives you an idea of the instrumentation.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:44 PM on June 8, 2008

Someone described Virginia Astley's "Hope In A Darkened Heart" as New Age's only mean-spirited album - which it is! Lovely, but cruel and angry, with vicious lyrics. That one's tough to find, so I would recommend the easier-to-find "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure," which is a lonely, haunting and insanely beautiful collection of pastoral instrumentals with odd "source" sounds - a creaking swing, birds, church bells . . . the effect is disquieting but relaxing and lovely.

None of the artists above has a patch on Virginia Astley, musically, vocally or conceptually.

Here's a link to a Youtube video of her adaptation of Wilfred Owen's WWI-era anti-war poem, Futility:

And here's a (homemade by someone and somewhat simple) video from the aforementioned "From Gardens . . ." which will give you some idea of that album, though it's not my favorite track:

And search for her adaptation of one of Mahler's "Songs On The Death Of Children" ("Die Kindertotenlieder"), which oddly uses only the words with original and improved music.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:57 PM on June 8, 2008

I don't know why those links aren't working - but anyway, you can find the stuff on Youtube.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:57 PM on June 8, 2008

10) Windham Hill Sampler 86
9) Book of Secrets -- Loreena McKennitt
8) Themes -- Clannad
7) Deep Forest -- Deep Forest
6) Bach to Africa -- Lambarena
5) Fiesta Fatal -- B-Tribe
4) Greatest Hits -- Enigma
3) Paint the Sky With Stars -- Enya
2) Celtic Classics -- Shanon
1) Soundtrack from The Sorcerer -- Tangerine Dream
1++) Songs of Distant Earth -- Mike Oldfield
posted by forrest at 4:29 PM on June 8, 2008

Enya is a popular New Age artist; I would recommend her two most recent releases: Amarantine and A Day Without Rain.
posted by purplesludge at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2008

They're a little more world music than specifically New Age, but you might like Afro Celt Sound System, aka the Afrocelts.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:53 PM on June 8, 2008

Oh yeah, Enya definitely has to make that list. It would be hard to pick a definitive album, though my vote would be between Shepherd Moons and Watermark, with the edge going to Shepherd Moons.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:45 PM on June 8, 2008

Robert Phoenix writes about new age music for emusic - his top 12 list is pretty good.
posted by jbickers at 6:16 PM on June 8, 2008

Mike Oldfield: Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Incantations
Vangelis: Heaven and Hell, China
Jean-Michel Jarre: Oxygene, Equinoxe, Zoolook
Mannheim Steamroller: Any of the first four or five Fresh Aires, before Chip Davis got carried away.
Brian Eno: Ambient 1: Music for Airports, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
Manuel Göttsching: E2-E4
The Orb: Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
The KLF: Chill Out
Steve Reich - Pat Metheny - Kronos Quartet: Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint
Steve Roach - Kevin Braheny - Michael Stearns: Desert Solitaire

For the record: I don't endorse the term "New Age"; most of these are just abstract, sometimes meditative, primarily instrumental works of the sort that often end up in the "New Age" bins.
posted by Lazlo at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

By all means, look at Bruce BecVar. His The Nature of Things is absolutely superb.
posted by yclipse at 8:26 PM on June 8, 2008

Ray Lynch- Deep Breakfast

Seconded. You've heard it everywhere, but you didn't realize it.
Heck...the pre-school we took our kids to played Deep Breakfast every day for naptime. It was like you slipped quaaludes into the sippy cups.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:28 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Enya, definitely yes. I always liked "The Celts" the best.

Mannheim Steamroller's Fresh Aire albums. Fresh Aire V is my favorite.

Secret Garden, especially "Once In A Red Moon."

The first two Adiemus albums, "Songs of Sanctuary" and "Cantata Mundi," are excellent. The third, "Dances of Time" is almost as good, but I found the fourth unlistenable.

If you like Adiemus, you may like E.S. Posthumus's "Unearthed."

I enjoyed Windham Hill's "Winter Solstice" albums, but the first was the best.

Look at the music from any Cirque Du Soleil production. Benoit Jutras has written a lot of their music, and I highly recommend his soundtrack to their Imax film, "Journey of Man." My favorite show score is that from "Alegria."

I tend to see my favorite "New Age" music as closely related to classical music. In the same way, I find many modern motion picture soundtracks to fit into the same space. Look at the soundtrack to "Great Expectations" by Patrick Doyle (actually, the proper CD says it's "the score," not the "soundtrack" album, which is a completely different set of music).
posted by lhauser at 10:13 PM on June 8, 2008

David Parsons
posted by rhizome at 12:28 AM on June 9, 2008

It occurs to me that if you're looking for chanting, a great recording is Officium by the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek. This fabulous recording pairs chanting with a saxophone. It sounds offbeat, but it really works. The link gives you a chance to hear some of it. My favourite track is the first ("Parce Mihi Domine").

They have another recording (Mnemosyne) which I haven't heard but which is on my wish list.
posted by purplesludge at 3:19 AM on June 9, 2008

Another person that frequently gets grouped in the "New Age" category (and can often be heard & sold at the sorts of places that also trade in crystals and power pyramids) is George Winston. My favorite albums of his are December (probably his best-selling) and Forest, many songs of which were featured in The Snowman animated short.

The Snowman's Music Box Dance from Forest
Joy from December
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:26 AM on June 9, 2008

I guess specifically I'm looking for chanting or gong

You may want to shade from New Age into world music a bit, then; there are some wonderful collections of gamelan gong music from Indonesia, and some great collections of Buddhist chanting that are mind-blowing, soothing, send-you-into-another world experiences.

perhaps point me towards a site that has recommendations

The Ambient Music Guide is useful, especially their "essential releases" pages.

And I'm with Lazlo on the vagueness of "new age." If what you're looking for is some of the best and most influential intelligent, meditative, instrumental music, then Brian Eno, early Orb (U.F. Orb is one of the greatest meditative albums ever), early Tangerine Dream and this early Kraftwerk set you up nicely with some of the cream of the crop. Happy exploring. :)
posted by mediareport at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome - thank you everybody for taking the time to give your recommendations. Plenty of research to do!

(mediareport - I have U.F. Orb and never gave it a proper listen: I'll revisit it today. Hell - now!)
posted by forallmankind at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2008

No one has yet mentioned David Arkenstone. I particularly like "Wake of the Wind." Good stuff!
posted by Spyder's Game at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2008

In this sort of music, I'm surprised no one has suggested Osamu, "FM Shrine". There's some Japanese flute going on in there that will knock your socks off.

Some of this music should come with instructions and warning labels. Enigma should be listened to as albums. Flow with the moods of the music, and it's rather restorative, relaxing you then getting some energy.

Ray Lynch's Deep Breakfast demands serious attention. It's rich in vitamin D50 (Roland) with bass notes that will tickle your soul (at least on a couple tracks). If you're open to it, you could have a spiritual orgasm.

Then there is the root of a lot of the influence in this genre, Isao Tomita. Mostly, he did electronic versions of classical music. Ah, but the sounds he created and chose for his work are amongst the richest textures of analogue goodness ever created. His "Snowflakes are Dancing" album is all DeBussy, and dates to the early 70's.
posted by Goofyy at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2008

Whispers of the Dragon by Tunisia
posted by Plug1 at 2:49 PM on June 9, 2008

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Bobby McFerrin's Circlesongs. Circlesong 6, in particular, is very haunting (to me), but the entire album is beautiful.
posted by planetthoughtful at 8:59 PM on June 9, 2008

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