Walter Carlos ‎– Sonic Seasonings

Label:
CBS ‎– 77290
Format:
2 × Vinyl, LP, Album
Country:
Released:
Genre:
Style:

Tracklist Hide Credits

A Spring 22:09
B Summer 21:31
C Fall 20:56
D Winter
Vocals – Rachel Elkind
20:31

Companies, etc.

Credits

Notes

From Rachel Elkind's sleeve notes: Sonic Seasonings is "an aural tapestry, created by the imagination and expertise of Walter Carlos, from impressionistic and expressionistic experiences of Nature. It contains natural sounds, recorded in Quad as realistically as possible and subtly mixed with electronic and instrumental sounds in an effort to create four evolving, undulating cycles, evocative of the moods of earth's seasons. We have manipulated these sounds - electronically orchestrated them, so to speak - into an amalgam of the natural and synthetic".

Release in Gatefold sleeve

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Labels A and B sides): S 73095
  • Matrix / Runout (Labels C and D side): S 73096
  • Matrix / Runout (Side A side stamped): S 73095 A1
  • Matrix / Runout (Side B side stamped): S 73095 B1
  • Matrix / Runout (Side C side stamped): S 73096 A1
  • Matrix / Runout (Side D side stamped): S 73096 B1

Other Versions (5 of 12) View All

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
KG 31234 Walter Carlos Sonic Seasonings(2xLP, Album) Columbia KG 31234 US 1972 Sell This Version
S 67267 Walter Carlos Sonic Seasonings(2xLP, Album, RE) CBS S 67267 Europe Unknown Sell This Version
KG 31234 Walter Carlos Sonic Seasonings(2xLP, Album, Gat) Columbia KG 31234 Canada 1972 Sell This Version
SBP 474099, KG 31234 Walter Carlos Sonic Seasonings(2xLP, Album) CBS, CBS SBP 474099, KG 31234 New Zealand 1972 Sell This Version
S2BP 220177 Walter Carlos Sonic Seasonings(2xLP, Album) CBS S2BP 220177 Australia 1972 Sell This Version

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sunshine-recorder

sunshine-recorder

January 26, 2015

Before a time of ambient music, of new age music, were the pioneering sounds of Walter Carlos. Released all the way back in 1972, Sonic Seasonings represents a fascinating document of the progression of electronic synthesis and multitracking; listening to it today, it is easy to draw parallels with many later ambient-inspired works. Taking the form of four sketches spread over four sides of vinyl, each around 20 minutes long, the title of the record is very literal. Here, the four seasons are rendered in epic stereo.

Each of these sketches are very visual. Spring bursts forth from the first side of the record, painting a picture of a picture of a rising sun emerging from the darkness of winter. The sounds of birds in conversation fades in and out, along with the beautifully recorded thunderstorm taking up around a third of the first side, that blends in with the sounds of urban life - trains pulling into a station, rain falling on metal. Distance is a key element used well on these recordings; psychedelic, tremolo chords bounce across the stereo image before morphing into more delicate tones from Carlos’ expert manipulation of the Moog synthesiser, further validating it as an instrument in a time of reluctant acceptance of electronic synthesis. Chords and tones rise and fall on the Spring side, recreating the ebb and flow of the hemisphere, the weather and the days gradually opening up. It’s commendable how the sounds of the synthesiser and field recordings blend together so effortlessly - the fact that up to 48 channels were used to produce these amalgamations of sound is pretty astounding, considering this was produced in the early 70’s.

The Summer side starts as it means to go on - arid, desolate and hazy. Again, there’s a vivid sense of imagery present here with sounds that are tense, stagnant and disorienting. Menacing walls of tone drift across the recording, interwoven with the sounds of insects, creating the most alien, out-there sketch on the record - listening to this, once can draw a comparison between the music of groups and artists like Boards Of Canada or Vatican Shadow. The noise here is the sound of dread - stranded in the desert, confused, with mirages distorting the view. While the recording here doesn’t sound like it utilises the availability of vast amounts of channels to it’s full extent, the more minimal palette results in a more hypnotic, slightly disturbing and paranoid mood. It’s probably the least accessible track of the four, but it certainly rewards the listener by digging deep into the psyche, conjuring one’s imagination and again, painting a picture that’s more dry and abstract, rather than vivid and focused like the other three tracks present.

Beginning side three, the Autumn side, is the sound of surf lapping against the shore, blended in with some gorgeous Moog sounds, arranged in such a way that they’re perhaps the most musical tones available on this record. Of course, with Autumn, one would think that the moods here would be somewhat more downbeat; instead, the sounds here are rendered in a celebratory tone; an ode to the power of nature, the seasons, the weather and mother Earth. Details present here are more focused, rather than drifting in and out of view as tends to be the case on the other tracks. The sounds of a crackling fire are seeming present through most of this record, making it feel warmer and less ominous than the Summer recording; they’re more layered - just like one would be dressing at such a time of year. For many listeners (on a cursory browse of the wider Internet), it seems Autumn is the most accessible to a wider audience. The melodic progression of the synthesiser here is more serene, resembling most the esoteric vibrations of new-age music that would follow on from this record.

You know as soon as the needle enters the opening grooves of the Winter that again, it will be a desolate evocation of the moods one experiences during the winter months. This track is the most conventionally ambient of the four, using the cool tones of a long, evolving pad to progress the listener through the audial sketch. Lightly, far back in the mix, the listener can hear nuanced, sharp sounds, producing image of ice and snowflakes, giving a slightly magical, psychedelic air to the recording. It’s esoteric, but not nearly as pronounced as the Autumn side. The sounds of a wolf howling on this track makes it feel kind of cheesy and clichéd, but in the scheme of things the record as a body of work redeems itself of this minor misdemeanour. Subtle drops of piano are peppered over the later portion of the track, giving rise to imagery of a landscape mostly dormant and devoid of life. You can’t really overstate how visual this music really is - whilst being a testament to the skill of Carlos to create evocative soundscapes it also makes one think about the wider implication of the capacity of imagination and preconceived notions of seasonal imagery and moods. Going back to the recording, the feature of soft, wordless vocals blended in to the sound of howling wolves provides an interestingly human touch. Whilst giving a sense of mystery to the proceedings on the latter part of this track, it gives rise to more ominous tones in the form of a textured, fat synthesiser sound signalling the complete and utter darkness, depravation and emptiness of winter before abruptly fading out.

It’s a strange record, that’s for sure. Regardless, it feels like important listening for those interested in evocative, visual music. It certainly hasn’t aged at all.