What a lovely hour of music. What’s else is there to say about Ric Kaestner’s criminally unknown Music For Massage? “an hour of soothing music designed for massage therapy” is what the cassette cover states on the Japanese-influenced woodblock album artwork, for once who am I to disagree? Made up of two cassette sides – one a-side devoted to music based on the keynotes B,A,G,F,E,B,A,G,F and a b-side devoted to music based on the keynotes of D,G#,F#,D,F#,A,B,C,B – Music For Massage grounds each side in comforting melodies that play out in various, soothing ways. Ric Kaestner touches on early ambient and New Age music to create something far closer to the minimalist music coming out of Japan from the likes of Hiroshi Yoshimura, the gentle krautrock of bands like Cluster, Popol Vuh, and Between, even hints of Eno’s early ambient music. What’s most surprising, at least to me, is that this unlikely masterwork comes from Gainesville, Florida.
Who was Ric Kaestner? Ric originally was a member of American, Floridian progressive space band Trance Form. Trance Form was, thankfully, a placeholder for two of its most important members to go on and do things that were far more substantial. George Tortorelli would quietly go on to fashion his own post in the New Age world releasing his own sublime flute-driven experimental or meditative ambient music. Ric himself took a calling to this new form of electronic music by transforming all that learned synthesizer and tape manipulation knowledge into creating his own electroacoustic form of instrumental music.
Reading the liner notes found in the cassette booklet, one can see the special role Steven Halpern’s influence in aspects of tuning music for the human body and John Beaulieu’s work in exploring the historical role music can play in therapy formed in the creation of Music For Massage. The scope of his arrangements is mind-boggling, for being something ostensibly for a relaxing day at a spa. Air-breathing bell-like melodies, in all their pure analog synthesis glory, intertwining with open-tuned guitars like they were born for each other. Aerial synths bouncing radar off doppler-like wind instruments, Ric adding barely-there whispers, all amounting to truly comforting musical ideas.
We can roll our eyes at all the new age mysticism but (in this case) it all makes sense. What better time than when you’re at your most vulnerable – in the hands of others – would you need to truly hear music that really gets in your space, to put you at ease. You need thoughtful music that comforts you as much it engages you. I’m just thankful Ric took extra time to work on the second bit.
Music For Massage is interior music for everyone’s inner temple.