Today's New Age Music Is CrapCommentary • Entertainment • Opinion • culture • trends • music • ISSUE 35•25 • Jul 22, 1999 By Doug Wortham Doug Wortham Boy, nothing stays good for long, that's all I can say. I went to Falling Water Books & Music right after work Tuesday, because I'd heard the new David Lanz CD was finally out. So I shelled out my $15.99, and raced home to listen. And you know what? It fucking blew. I'm not kidding. David Lanz has let us all down. The first three tracks, I'm like, "Okay, this is kind of derivative of the earlier stuff like Heartsounds or Nightfall, but he's probably just reacquainting us with the style before hitting us with the new shit." And then the next five tracks... I don't even know how to say it. It sucked. I'm like, "Is this the same David Lanz who put out Woodlands?" Believe me, I wish it were only The Lanz. But it's all of them. The golden age of New Age music has come and gone. I remember when I first heard Yanni, back in '85. It was my junior year of high school. One Saturday night, I was hanging out at my buddy Steve's, and he looks at me and says, "Dude, you gotta hear this record. This shit will blow your mind." So I'm like, "Okay, whatever, Steve." So he puts this LP on, and I hear the first notes of Optimystique come out of the speaker. Needless to say, my jaw hit the floor. It was like the moment in The Wizard Of Oz where everything goes from black-and-white to color. The next day, I bought my own copy, and I listened to it for like 24 hours straight. I didn't get to sleep until, like, 4 a.m., so I skipped school the next day and just played Optimystique non-stop. I actually wore out the needle, moving it back to listen to "Butterfly Dance" over and over again. After that, New Age pretty much became my life. I started devouring the old masters like Cluster, Tangerine Dream and Kitaro. I spent all the money I made at my pizza-delivery job on New Age, and when that wasn't enough, I started mowing lawns. Then came my college years. The gang on my floor at the dorm would stay up all night playing the coolest shit, like Angels Of Venice and Gordon Burnham. We'd go through a whole box of Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger in a night. Once, we rented a van and drove all the way to Vermont just to see John Anderson live. That was back when I was dating Alicia Leupke just because she looked a little like Enya. That was back when New Age was a real thing. Back when Windham Hill Records was an exciting new upstart indie label. Now they've sold out and are doing all these Beatles tributes and jazz festivals. They've forgotten what it's all about. It used to be about the New Age music! Now, it's just about having the hottest stars and promoting them. Or getting that next album finished in time, to satisfy the record executives who don't even care if it's any good, so long as it's done on time. I mean, can you name one track on Chris Spheeris' last album? I didn't think so. I was out with this chick a month ago, and she asked me what kind of music I was into, so I said New Age, and she goes, "Oh, I just love John Tesh." I'm like, what the fuck?!?! That shit isn't New Age! New Age is about harmony with nature! It's about ambience and calming down! Not about some Hollywood pretty-boy banging on his Casio! I hear Tesh doesn't even have real ocean sounds—that's all synthesized, too. Frankly, none of these idiots on the charts nowadays know the first thing about the true spirit of New Age. I mean, Bruce BecVar? Where was Bruce BecVar during the harmonic convergence of 1987? Moussing his hair, most likely. And what about all these bands that are wearing a different crystal in every photo? They're using crystals for fashion purposes, not for focusing their personal, unchanging chakras! I swear, these poseurs wouldn't know the voice of Seth if they channeled it! It's all been downhill since December by George Winston. A great album, no question, but it was too successful and went mainstream. Then all the phonies came out of the woodwork, the big labels wanted in, and the next thing you know, the scene is totally ruined, turned into a giant, money-sucking corporate whore-beast. I know what you're gonna say: "What about Dreamsea? They're independent." Yeah, but it's so obvious that their whole goal is to sell out. Look how they're promoting Book Of Dreams, talking them up like they're the next Secret Garden or something. Yeah, right—they sound more like me and Steve screwing around in the garage with our flute and harp back in high school. They just want to get a million-seller so they can whore themselves to Time-Warner, you just know it. Ah, well. I guess I'll always have Optimystique. And my memories.