Deep Sea Soundings: Walt Rockman’s ‘Underwater: Vol. 1’

By K.E. Roberts

A lush selection of library and ambient music—the two often overlap—attempts to evoke the ocean in its many guises, an artistic practice that goes back in the West to the tone poems and symphonic sketches of classical composers from Beethoven to Debussy. After World War II, the orchestrations of what came to be known as exotica, a subset of lounge music, attempted to capture the enchanted South Seas…

All Graphite and Glitter: ‘Down the Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story’

By Michael Grasso

Earlier this year, while on a YouTube nostalgia tear through NBA highlights from the late ’70s and early ’80s, I made the following observation on Twitter after watching a live performance of Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Let It Flow (For ‘Dr J.’)” set to vintage hoops footage: “The sound of my early childhood is ineluctably a Fender Rhodes electric piano”…

Where Magic Meets Technology: Peter Bebergal’s ‘Strange Frequencies’

By Michael Grasso

I remember vividly the rich variety of books that I was surrounded by in childhood that talked about the history of magic, or then-current trends in paranormal research, or how investigators were searching for the signs of the afterlife on magnetic audio tape. If you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like me, and loved books like these, then go out and get yourself a copy of Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

A Future with Nobody Inside: Chrome’s ‘Red Exposure’

By Richard McKenna

Though sometimes dismissed as a disappointing compromise between the two phases of Chrome’s musical output—the delirious, expressionist SF punk cut-ups of Alien Soundtracks (1977) and Half Machine Lip Moves (1979) and the more “traditional” LPs that followed, like Blood on the Moon (1981) and 3rd From the Sun (1982)—Chrome’s fourth LP, 1980’s Red Exposure, could scarcely sound more uncompromising…

“Going At Ghosts With Science”: ‘Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale’

By Michael Grasso

Legend of 20th century science fiction Nigel Kneale (1922-2006) would likely bristle to be described as such. Andy Murray’s terrific biography, Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, readily conveys Kneale’s sometime ambivalence at being pigeonholed as a genre writer. But the full parade of Kneale’s fascinating life gives perspective to the inseparability of the mundane and the fantastic…

Deserts, Screens, and Empty Smiles: The Vast Wastelands of Jean Baudrillard’s ‘America’

By Michael Grasso

In the early 1980s, French philosopher, media theorist, and cultural scholar Jean Baudrillard visited the United States several times, taking in the vastness of the continent-spanning nation, from Manhattan to Manhattan Beach. In 1986, his account of these trips, America, was published in France. Two years later, the book came to the US in a translated edition. In the work, Baudrillard ruminates upon Mormons and breakdancers, fitness nuts and canned laughter on television, on all of the sources of beauty and horror of American culture and society in the 1980s…