Drifting Like Smoke: Hiroshi Yoshimura’s ‘Soundscape 1: Surround,’ 1986

Japanese ambient music grew out of the 1980s “economic miracle” that saw the country undergo massive urban development and industrial expansion, with Tokyo emerging as a global financial and cultural mecca. Hiroshi Yoshimura, a sound designer by trade and a musician since age five, was the defining figure of a close-kept movement he and fellow pioneer Satoshi Ashikawa called “environmental music”…

This Green and Pleasant Apocalypse: Graham Oakley’s ‘Henry’s Quest,’ 1986

Four years after the release of Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows, children in the British Isles were treated to another misleadingly cheerful-looking jaunt through a postlapsarian landscape in Graham Oakley’s 1986 book Henry’s Quest. I’ve spoken elsewhere about the extent to which the British culture of the 1970s and ’80s seemed determined to inculcate feelings of dread and hopelessness in young people, but with its superficially light-hearted tone, Henry’s Quest took a different approach…

Murder Ballads, Stately Homes, Elven Armies: Steeleye Span on ‘Electric Folk,’ 1974

British folk-rockers Steeleye Span were arguably at the height of their powers and popularity in the mid-1970s, and their television series Electric Folk, broadcast on BBC2 in 1974 and 1975, shows exactly why. The series showcased the band’s blend of traditional British folk music and rock and roll to perfection, with the added bonus of being recorded in some of Britain’s oldest stately manors…