Nabbed some of the last copies of the now out-of-print CD edition of the one and only album of 1974 spook-tronics from album from Mort Garson's Ataraxia. Canadian composer Garson, best known for his weird early sci-fi tinged "proto-New Age" electronic releases (specifically his Mother Earth's Phantasia, an album designed to be played for plants), also previously explored the darker realms of early analog synth with his Lucifer project, which received similar reissue treatment from Rubellian and Sacred Bones. The man is a pioneer in the field of analog synth composition and progressive and experimental electronics, a true Moog-master among other things, and the gorgeous shadowy atmospheres that he briefly created with these two projects are intensely evocative sound-invocations. The Ataraxia material is absolutely crucial dark synthesizer music from the golden age of analog electronic experimentation; of course, it was the sheer darkness and strangeness of both its music and its visual presentation that drew me in, but it's also one of the most idiosyncratic albums from that era.
This gets bonkers right off the bat, "Tarot" exploding into a micro-nova of crystalline tones, luscious Moog drone, swirling spaced-out sinewave formations, booming low-end synth melodies that evoke all kinds of majesty and wonder, gradually building to a batshit crescendo of clanking keys and weird, almost ritualistic drum patterns, eerie noises panning from one end of the room to the other, this one slightly menacing riff coming to the forefront but also surrounded by a rush of jazz-rock flute sounds, pounding metallic percussion, and an ending that makes you feel as if you've just been transported to the center of Stonehenge. This is a blast. And there's quite a bit of variety here, considering the time period that this was produced in. Murky textured drift billows around "Sorcerer", evoking chant-like tones and slow, processional reverberations, like the accompaniment to a black light-hued march of cowled characters slowly moving through a wonky electronic shroom-hole; this soundtracky stuff sounds huge, too, you can easily imagine this music actually being used in some 1970s-era "Satanic panic"-style chiller .Some of the music on Unexplained offers more complex keyboard structures and instrumental voices; it even moves into something resembling early Giorgio Moroder on the creepy / groovy disco territory on the songs "The Unexplained" and "Deja Vu" (dig that buzzsaw Moog riff on the former, that thing is a monster, while the solarized funk of "Astral Projection" even seems to possess what sound like steel drums....my favorite stuff is the music that sounds like background sounds to a ghost story adaptation from a late night public broadcasting station- this stuff evokes all kinds of nostalgia and feel for the darker fringes of a certain cultural moment.
That otherworldly vibe continues through "I Ching", emanating a druggy, woozy feel as the melodies writhe around harsh metallic peals, odd low-register chordal noise, Theremin-like fluctuations and other weirdness. There's abstract atonality on "Cabala" that produces one of the albums creepiest pieces, all off-kilter effects and detuned notes flitting like spectral shadows over rhythmic booms and an eruption of awesome church organ-esque drones. This falls back to Earth with the haunting closer "Wind Dance" that mutates into rather shocking proto-techno arrangements; this track has parts that actually sound like something Autechre would come up with, again displaying the experimental abstraction and new approaches to soundcraft that's way ahead of its time. There are few reference points while listening to this; some of the album reminds me of the berserk synthesizer psychedelia of The Visitor soundtrack - I bet at least a handful of zonked-out Italians heard this and lost their collective minds, because there's quite a bit of Ataraxia's style and sound that feels like a potential influence on the soundtrack work that would start to appear with great frequency in Italian horror / fantasy films of the mid-70s onward. Of course, everyone around the world was bewitched by then wild new sounds of synthesizers and other electronic sound generators, but I haven't heard that much that sounds as gleefully ominous as the nine songs presented here. A couple moments evoke the feel of the iconic backing music for Leonard Nimoy's original In Search Of... series, as well.
This Rubellian Cd edition includes descriptive liner notes by Jacques Wilson, which I believe were included in the sleeve to the original release. A benchmark in the field of occult proto-electronica and innovative supernatural mood music.