This is an album which has so surprised and delighted me that I have not been able to stop listening to it for the last two months and felt I needed to share with you. This was an album released in 1986 and largely commercially ignored until the artist was 72 (2016).
The artist responsible is Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a man endowed with such rare fortune that he remained more or less a non-entity to the music-curious public until the age of 72 when a particularly influential record collector from Japan sent him a life-altering email asking for any remaining physical copies of his early music. Deep into a peaceful, years-long toil in the Canadian hinterlands with his wife, Copeland was suddenly faced with the task of living his way out of a placid, relatively private existence, and into one in which documentarians tour his home like a museum and take seriously his thoughts on the intersection between science and the divine. Pitchfork
Copeland bought an Atari computer and two synthesizers—the Roland TR-707 and the Yamaha DX7 to create Keyboard Fantasies, a work of, I believe, supreme and simple beauty. Pitchfork describes the album as “a sextet of chuggy, spare, somnambulant pieces built by some of the most basic preset tones from the DX7.” I am inclined to agree. The opening track, Ever New, is serene and peaceful as well as beautifully composed. Copeland’s vocal talent is the icing on the cake.
Winter Astral is a wonderfully sparse synthesizer journey which pulled me straight in. Let Us Dance may be my favourite piece on the album. The drum work and synthesized bells just blow me away. To think this is all programmed in a computer and played on a keyboard baffles me. There is a great energy and progression to Let Us Dance which borders on hypnotic.
Old Melody is almost oriental in feel and superlatively dreamy in delivery. Sunset Village is considered by many an exceptional piece and is certainly an excellent way to close this wonderful collection of songs. The final piece of Keyboard Fantasies is otherworldly in a way I struggle to describe. It treads the line between familiarity and a feeling truly alien in a beautiful way. Like so many retirement villages of the same name, the track is in a way a peaceful resting place.
I could not describe this album better than Pitchfork have in their closing paragraph:
Stare at that window long enough and you can start to imagine everything—the sea, the sky, the sand, even Copeland—in a state of total suspension, deepened by the light of a sun that seems like it takes forever to set. He has never really needed much to grant him fullness. We’re so obviously the ones that do.
I would also like to bring your attention to Glenn Copeland’s debut album which is self titled:
The folk is freaky. The riffs are seraphic. With all the leider residue in his arias and tremolos, these albums feel like songbooks of spirituals for the unspiritual. There have been obvious parallels made to Joni Mitchell in the music’s blueness and timbre—especially in how Copeland warbles like god has just asked him a difficult favor—but a more fitting comparison would be to Judee Sill, an artist who shares with him an alloy of Christian folklore, Bach-indebted chord progressions, and a sense of servitude to a quiet, inarticulable secret. “By and large, the early music was looking at death, love and the difficulty of love,” he once indifferently summed, though I would argue that a track like “Untitled (Make the Answer Yes),” is the sort of song that one could sensibly choose to be buried to. Pitchfork
I hope both these albums bring to you as profound a joy as they brought me.