Release date: February 10, 2023
In 2014, Craig Leon’s seminal cosmic synthesizer albums Nommos and Visiting were re-editioned in definitive form for RVNG Intl.’s archival series as the Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1. Now, in 2023, Leon has updated the two classic albums with spatialized mixes streamable in Dolby Atmos for a truly immersive sound experience.
“During the pandemic, I was able to continue experiments in spatial audio in my expanded studio in conjunction with Dolby Labs. It was plain to see that you could create “you are there” moments working in classical and electronic genres. At first, I concentrated on visualizing iconic recordings as a source, particularly 20th century music, and placing them in a new virtual environment. Dolby Atmos was the format chosen to create a totally virtual, speculative, “other place” where I placed my early electronic pieces, Nommos and Visiting.”
The twin brainchildren of studio wizard Craig Leon, Nommos and Visiting were issued originally and respectively by John Fahey’s legendary Takoma Records in 1980, and Leon’s own Arbitor label imprint in 1982. Leon’s production was pivotal in realizing the early recordings by Ramones, Blondie, Richard Hell and Suicide. While those albums broke ground in new worlds of sound, Leon’s own solo albums were arguably, if not literally, more alien.
In 1973, the Brooklyn Museum hosted a comprehensive collection of sculptures by the Dogon of the Republic of Mali, a tribe whose religion is based in reveries and recollections of a visit from an extraterrestrial species they named Nommos. Years after experiencing the exhibit, Leon remained fascinated by the idea of alien visitors sharing not just stories of their home-planet, but musical traditions as well. For the classically trained Leon, a puzzle was presented and a challenge in place: what would music sound like if handed down from an ancient alien species? And how best to imagine it?
Upon meeting Fahey in the late 70s, Leon pitched the concept as an opportune time to employ the latest and greatest synthesizer technology available. An avant empathist and eternally free spirit, Fahey enthusiastically green-lighted the project for his Takoma imprint. After a secluded week in an Austin, Texas studio with his creative and life partner Cassell Webb, Leon returned with a collection of incorporeal melodies generated by the Oberheim OB-X, Roland JP-4 and Arp 2600 synthesizers and propelled by primitive rhythms programmed on a prototype of Roger Linn’s nascent drum-machine, the LM-1.
Issued by Fahey with zero expectation of the same radio airplay Leon accomplished with his pop productions, Nommos now stands as an innovative example of cosmic-synth composition that wasn’t made for its time or any other. For the 2014 edition, and 2023 spatialized update, Leon has in fact re-animated Nommos by re-recording the exact audio signals as preserved in the album’s original studio notes. Every patch, tape-delay speed and outboard setting was transcribed as first scored, materializing the best possible audio of an album whose masters were inaccessible to Leon due to a major label merger milieu from years ago.
Additionally, the re-master of Visiting was supervised firsthand by Leon. As its title suggests, Visiting materialized in 1982 as a conceptual continuation of Nommos. The album is in equal measure more improvisatory and constructed than its predecessor. Both albums were intended to be listened to as a set in the first volume of Leon’s Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music (the title was an homage to Harry Smith’s influential collection of folk music issued two decades prior). A creative evolutionist, Leon made subtle edits and compositional additions to both albums to enhance the connectivity and encourage infinite interpretation.
Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1 remains the definitive, authorized version of Craig Leon’s singular solo album, and in this new spatialized edition, reinvents this formative work once again for immersive listening and experiences.