Long overlooked and misunderstood, over the last decade, via a carefully curated canon of reissues of albums by artists like Arial Kalma, Joanna Brouk, JD Emmanuel, Pauline-Anna Strom, Laraaji, Iasos, etc., the movements of ambient and New Age music from the '70s and '80s have finally become regarded with the understanding and nuance that they always deserved. These artists are distinguished by a fierce sense of independence - self-releasing their own music - and display a close alignment with avant-garde ideas, approaches, and techniques. Among the most interesting of these was the San Francisco Bay Area based project Emerald Web. Until now, largely overlooked outside of a small fanbase of new age devotes, the Czech imprint, Stoned to Death, takes a deep dive and delivers them into the broader consciousness with the first ever vinyl reissue of "Traces of Time”, Emerald Web’s eighth full length, originally issued in 1987 on cassette. A ripping series of cosmic dreamscapes composed on a myriad of analog synths and acoustic instruments - the original 4-track reel-to-reel master tapes meticulously restored and remastered for this release - it’s a beautiful immersion into the West Coast new age movement during the 1980s, pressed on 180g vinyl and accompanied by a zine that includes a long read article about Emerald Web's history by Miloš Hroch (The Wire) and an in depth interview with Kat Epple. Absolutely essential for any fan of the ambient and New Age underground.
Founded in 1977 and active until 1990, Emerald Web was the husband and wife duo of Bob Stohl and Kat Epple, who had met during the early '70s at a jam session in Florida, before relocating to Connecticut toward the end of the decade, where they formally founded the project and recorded their first three releases, “Dragon Wings” and “Wizard Tales”, both issued in 1979, and 1980s “Whispered Visions”. Following their relocation to the Bay Area in 1980, where they joined a larger movement of ambient and New Age projects in that area, the band, primarily centred around the two multi-instrumentalists’ mutual compositions on flute and analog synthesizers - Arp 2600, Moog, various sequencers, etc. - would eventual become historically regarded as being a pioneer of electronic music and music technology of its era. Producing twelve albums of sweeping, melodically dense soundscapes over their run, Emerald Web infiltrated popular culture via an extensive body of soundtrack work and film scores for PBS, Apple Computers, Carl Sagan, and numerous others, and were renowned for their live performances at unconventional locations - planetariums, observatories, science museums, forests, and science fiction conventions - which incorporated visual elements, including contemporary dance, live artist painting, lasers, liquid projection, computer animation, photography, and analog video feedback projections.
“Traces of Time” is the perfect entry point Emerald Web’s body of work. The duo’s eighth full-length, originally issued in 1987 on cassette, the album is fittingly subtitled “A Musical Anthology”, comprising some of the most celebrated tracks from the band’s output from the first six years of the 1980s, as well as three brand new compositions. As such, it represents a central axis in their output; a summation of where they had been across the '80s, while also pointing toward the realms into which they would progress over their final three years, prior to Bob Stohl's untimely passing in 1990, at the age of 35.
Featuring a vast ranging of electronic and acoustic instrumentation - notably the Lyricon 1 Electronic Wind Instrument, a hybrid synthesizer/woodwind that uses additive synthesis and a bass clarinet mouthpiece - the seven compositions that make up “Traces of Time” culminate as transportive projections into a palpable sense of otherworldliness that bridges fantastical imagism and the internal wanderings of psychedelic states, with sweeping synths lines and sprawling ambiences laced with bubbling arpeggiations and slow motion, melodic clouds.
Inducing states of tension releasing calm, Stoned to Death’s beautiful, first ever vinyl reissue of “Traces of Time” represents a much-needed reappraisal of Bob Stohl and Kat Epple’s Emerald Web project, nearly three and half decades since it came to a close. Issued in a lovelingly produced edition on 180g vinyl and accompanied by a zine that includes a long read article about Emerald Web's history by Miloš Hroch (The Wire) and in depth interview with Kat Epple, whether an introduction to the 1980s West Coast New Age scene, or continuation of the journey of seasoned heads, this one is not to be missed.