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Best of 2021
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Alan Licht's minimal Top Ten

Alan Licht's revelatory lists of rare and obscure minimalism releases.

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Best of 2021

Raymond Scott

Soothing Sounds for Baby, vols. 1-3 (3LP Colour)

* Limited edition of 750 individually numbered copies * The legendary proto-minimalistic Soothing Sounds For Baby series by Raymond Scott were pressed in limited quantities and have been out of print for almost over a decade. Due to high demand, Music On Vinyl in cooperation with Basta Music now release a limited edition of 750 numbered copies on coloured vinyl: orange marbled vinyl (LP1), yellow marbled vinyl (LP2) and light blue marbled (LP3) vinyl. The 3 records are housed in printed innersleeve and a thick cardboard jacket. The package includes a download coupon containing all the tracks of the albums + an insert with credits and detailed information about this extraordinary release and as a special bonus; an informative booklet by the Gesell Institute of Child Development. Designed for babies one to six months old, the first volume of Raymond Scott's dreamy, engaging Soothing Sounds for Baby series emphasizes soft synth tones, repetitive melodies, and relatively simple arrangements. Keeping in mind a young baby's attention span, Vol. 1 also contains shorter, more numerous pieces than the following albums. Vol. 1 begins on a minimal, hypnotic note with "Lullaby," an appropriately trance-inducing, 14-minute song featuring twinkly keyboard figures and some airy synths. The reverie continues with "Sleepy Time," which combines a delicate, drifting melody with a gently rhythmic bass line.

As Soothing Sounds for Baby progresses, it grows livelier, more complex, and increasingly percussive. "Music Box" retains the hovering synth sound from earlier in the album, but sets it atop a perky rhythm. "Nursery Rhyme" is the most experimental track on the album, featuring a singsong melody along the lines of "Three Blind Mice" or "This Old Man" that jumps from key to key. Backed by a complex, syncopated rhythm and slightly atonal harmonies, as the song unfolds it becomes more improvised and spontaneous. Finally, "Tic Toc" takes the album's minimalism to its extreme, consisting of a clockwork, two-note melody that fades in and out of focus. As it explores sonic distance instead of melodic progression, the song achieves the same effect as the beginning of the album -- hypnotic and very soothing indeed. With each listen, Soothing Sounds for Baby, Vol. 1 reveals something new, retaining its freshness for young and older babies alike.


“Door prize: I’ve paid zero attention to the Scott “revival,” but these ultra-weird items are surely among the most startling rediscoveries of the digital age. Consisting of extremely repetitive miminal electronics (mostly ondioline and oscillators) designed for infants 1 month to 6 mos. (Vol. 1), 6-12 mos. (Vol. 2), and 12-18 mos. (Vol. 3), these bear many uncanny resemblances to the simple melodic improvs and incessant ostinatos of Terry Riley, and the use of echo on Vol. 3 is much like Discreet Music and No Pussyfooting. I’m also reminded of the Silver Apples, Kraftwerk, the Calico Wall, Moondog, and even Suicide (Vols. 1 & 2 especially). The 18 minute track, “Toy Typewriter,” with its interminably repeating rhythm figure that shifts as Scott makes adjustments to the tone controls is as definitive a “minimal” piece as I’ve ever heard… Volume 2 is my fave, but they’re all pretty cool.” Alan Licht

Details
Cat. number: MOVLP1854
Year: 2021

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