Explore Records Similar to André 3000’s ‘New Blue Sun’
Explore influences and further listening for Andre 3000’s surprise flute album New Blue Sun, including Alice Coltrane, Brian Eno, Laraaji, Pharaoh Sanders, and more.
Although Outkast never officially broke up, when the singularly iconic Atlanta duo went quiet after 2006’s Idlewild, speculation around Big Boi and André 3000’s return stirred with an almost religious intensity. And while Big Boi would go on to release a string of solo albums throughout the 2010s, André Benjamin appeared only sporadically on guest verses, focusing instead on film work – until 2018’ surprise Mother’s Day EP Look Ma No Hands, featuring two tracks split between elegiac jazz arrangements and mournful balladry. Outkast reunited for Coachella and a world-spanning festival tour in 2014, but released no new music, and André said of the tour – on which he wore a series of text-laden jumpsuits posing political prompts or just stray thoughts – that he “felt like a sell-out” with “nothing new to say.”
In the years since, 3 Stacks remained enigmatic as ever, but in 2019 fans began spotting him like some rare rap Pokémon, popping up and playing flute, first around the streets of Philly, then at LAX, in New York City, and Japan. He was invited – and declined – to play the instrument at Virgil Abloh’s funeral in 2021. So while this week’s announcement of a new, largely woodwind instrumental album New Blue Sun dropped as a surprise, it wasn’t entirely out of left-field, at least by this Atlien’s already far-out standards.
“It’s not like I don’t try or it’s not like I have a lot of these songs just sitting,” he said in an interview with NPR. “I have songs but it’s not like rap things that I really feel happy about sharing. And really, that’s the most important part. I have to feel happy about sharing it. That’s why New Blue Sun was something that I realized, whoa, I really want people to hear it. I really want to share it.”
Leading up to its release, fans could find clues to New Blue Sun’s sound in its lengthy and idiosyncratic track titles, in voluble and forthcoming interviews with André 3000, and in the influences cited for the album, which included Alice Coltrane, Brian Eno, Laraaji, Pharaoh Sanders, and an ayahuasca ceremony in which André transformed into a panther.
While we can’t make you a panther, Discogs can help you find records from all of these influences, as well as further listening for anyone who loves André 3000’s long-awaited album New Blue Sun.
Laraaji – Ambient 3 (Day of Radiance)
Colorful new age icon Laraaji’s breakout album is the stuff of legend: a passing Brian Eno heard the musician busking with a modified zither in NYC’s Washington Square Park and dropped into his case a note inviting him to the studio to record. The result would be the third release in Eno’s landmark Ambient series, with one side a hypnotic, multi-layered polyphony of zither and hammered dulcimer, and the other a more typically muted ambient meditation.
Other listening: Vision Songs – Vol. I
Brian Eno – Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)
Although ambient music existed in various forms before Brian Eno’s album series of the same name, it was these releases which widely coined and popularized the term, with Eno’s famous formulation that ambient music “must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” Whether in an airport or (recommended) home listening, Ambient 1 delivers on that premise with a suite of tracks that pull the listener in and let them drift in equal measure.
Other listening: Another Green World
Alice Coltrane – The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
Recorded to tape at Coltrane’s Sai Anantam Ashram in Southern California across the ‘80s and ‘90s and originally pressed only on limited runs of cassettes for the Ashram’s devotees, Luaka Bop’s compilation of The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda presents a compelling and transportative collage, folding cosmic jazz past into mournful spirituals and ecstatic, worshipful chants.
Other listening: Journey In Satchidananda
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians
Composed from 1974 to 1976, and debuted that year with a performance at New York City, Reich’s minimalist masterpiece weaves lush, shifting texture out of hypnotically repeating phrases for clarinets, voice, marimba, xylophone, piano, violin, cello, and maracas. Across 11 sections or “Pulses,” the work swells and unfurls, giving rise to psychoacoustic effects as the individual parts interact.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
Pioneering spiritual- and free-jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders’ work stretches back decades, but 2021’s Promises, a collaboration with UK producer Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra makes both an easy entry point from which to explore that rewarding catalog and a fitting late-career tribute.
Jon Hopkins – Music For Psychedelic Therapy
Designed specifically with ketamine therapy in mind, Jon Hopkins’ Music For Psychedelic Therapy makes explicit what other albums on this list hint at: the connections between music and psychedelia, the therapeutic and the transcendent. The album incorporates field recordings from the Amazon rainforest and a spoken word passage from Ram Dass into soft layers of shimmering, aqueous synth tones. Also approved for recreational listening.
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington may be better known for his genre-devouring, multi-hour suites Heaven and Earth and The Epic, but the Harmony of Difference EP may be the best fit for this list – a relatively brief, breezy set of largely instrumental jams originally debuted as part of a multimedia work which showed in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.
Stuart Bogie – Morningside
Stuart Bogie has played clarinet, saxophone, and flute on records from TV on the Radio to Antibalas to Run the Jewels. Over the COVID pandemic, Bogie began posting short clips of himself playing clarinet at home each morning to Instagram, oftentimes accompanied by drones or ambient tracks submitted by friends. This two track EP captures Bogie improvising bright and meditative clarinet over treated piano and organ drones from LCD Soundsystem frontman and DFA label boss James Murphy.
Tim Hecker – Anoyo
Ambient electronic artist Tim Hecker created 2019’s Anoyo (and previous companion album Konoyo) out of sessions recorded with a traditional Japanese instrument ensemble at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Flutes, plucked strings, and chimes twist through electronic processing and effects to create calm yet otherworldly musical states.
Anthony Braxton – 3 Compositions of New Jazz
Experimental composer, academic, and free jazz musician Anthony Braxton –father of ex-Battles bandleader Tyondai Braxton – made his debut as a bandleader with 1968’s 3 Compositions of New Jazz, a release that laid the foundation for a lengthy career to come. Braxton titles two compositions here in his idiosyncratic graphic notation style, and within their scores is space for his wild improvisational runs on flute, saxophone, and clarinet, from flitting melodic figures to adversarial skronk.
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Where Richard D. James’ debut album as Aphex Twin, “Selected Ambient Works 85-92,” explored ambient house and techno, its sequel largely dispenses with drum machine rhythms for more traditional, though no less inventive, takes on ambient electronic music. Across 24 untitled tracks and over 2 and a half hours, James creates a deeply immersive series of unique yet interrelated atmospheres.
Irreversible Entanglements – Protect Your Light
Although decidedly not an instrumental record, Irreversible Entanglements’ 2023 album Protect Your Light shares much in common with this list and its inspiration in terms of vibe and poetic scope. Led by Moor Mother’s invocational free verse, the free jazz collective improvises on trumpet, saxophone, and rhythm section, summoning ghosts both personal, political, and jazz historical, and celebrating their light and their hard-won freedoms.
Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri
Along with helping to pioneer new age and electronic music, German group Tangerine Dream also launched the careers of early members Conrad Schnitzler (Kluster) and Klaus Schulze (Ash Ra Tempel). Their 1971 sophomore album Alpha Centauri centers around the 22-minute title track, a sprawling flute pastoral undercut with trilling synthesizers and warping effects.
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