Ned Lagin's 'Seastones: Set 4 and Set 5' Reissue Sheds Light on a Proto-Ambient Classic

BY Slavko BucifalPublished Sep 1, 2020

In 1975, before the giants of ambient music released their seminal albums, Ned Lagin would give us his Seastones collection, whose minimalist electronic soundscapes would go on to create the modern ambient musical tropes of our era. In Seastones: Set 4 and Set 5, pieces from the original release are combined with unreleased material from the studio sessions. The result is an exceptional and timeless reissue that feels right at home in the modern age.

The tracks, simply titled by number, feature long languid musical shapes that would find comfort on far away moons, synced melodic generative stepped patterns hatched in the labs of sound scientists and eerie modulated voice compositions (performed by a host of well-known artists, including Jerry Garcia). The album as a whole conveys a very minimalist approach to sound design with the empty space as much of a part of the compositions as the frequencies that interrupt it. Like his contemporary John Cage, who perfected the use of the atmosphere in which the pieces were played (or not played, in some cases), Ned Lagin's soundscapes evolve based on the noise happening in the room the moment they are being observed: a passing airliner, the sound of a distant lawn mower or the constant buzzing of the fridge easily stroll alongside Seastones, slightly altering the way they are perceived.

Lagin's artistic pedigree runs deep. He is an accomplished photographer, painter and musician who played alongside the Grateful Dead. His Seastones collections is a testament to the longevity and relevance of his work, and the reissue is another classic in a growing list of excellent experimental and avant-garde music being brought back to life.

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