Never so clearly has an album conveyed its message on the cover AND within the name. The blue figurine atop the blue rock/mound, surrounded by plant life, is probably more zen than any of us could ever be. He’s probably transcending the very fabric of time and space with the help of Joel Van Droogenbroeck’s Meditations volumes. Meditations is equal parts space rock, psychedelia, and ambient music melted in to one wax disc. This is a reissue, so there’s a reason it sounds… “aged,” if you will. I hesitate to use that descriptor because some of it sounds… “archaic,” but on the whole both volumes have aged quite well. The electronics aren’t cringeworthy/embarrassing like so many eighties bands/artists’ and countless others’ from yesteryear. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve assumed this was a recent release, what with the revival of the 80s in the underground. Check out the Spotify stream of Meditations Vol. 2 below and see what you think of it. Cheers!

The Details

The story continues... A few months Aguirre released Joel Vandroogenbroeck’s first solo effort Biomechanoid, an outstanding dark electronic ambient album. Now we present his two Meditations albums. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. In these library music albums the emphasis lies on his flute talents, paired with some great moogy electronics and mellow pre-new age ambience. Both volumes still stand after all these years and prove Joel’s ability to create wonderful library albums. Think Klaus Schulze, Harmonia, JD Emmanuel and Joanna Brouk.

Though the Belgian-born Vandroogenbroeck, 74, may not be a household name; in an ideal world, he would be. As the founder, flautist, harpist, sitar player and keyboardist of the seminal acid-fried Swiss psych outfit Brainticket, he spearheaded the groups three main (and collectible) releases in the early 70s – Cottonwood Hill, Celestial Ocean and Psychonaut. Combining a love of exotic instruments coupled with mind-bending out-of-body excursions, the ever-changing collective developed something of a cult following throughout Europe and earned a reputation as one of the heavier psych outfits on the circuit – which was something of a double-edged sword. While their experimental sound resonated with hippies everywhere, it didn’t with the authorities, who associated the act with heavy drug consumption and subsequently began a ban of their music, especially the Psychonaut album, if for the title alone. After that bitter brush with censorship, the group quietly disbanded in 1972.

After the dissolution of Brainticket, Vandroogenbroeck departed for the island of Bali with the intent of learning to build and play the gamelan – an ensemble of primarily percussion instruments from Indonesia. It would become yet another weapon in his ever growing arsenal of exotic instruments: he was already proficient in the sitar, harp, kalimba, assorted percussion oddities and all woodwinds by this point. Vandroogenbroeck became so enraptured with the frenetic sound of the gamelan that he subsequently left the tropics to start up a joged bumbung (a variation on a gamelan) band back in Switzerland. While playing small festivals and civic events with this group, Joel began to slowly gravitate towards the synth-heavy kraut sounds of artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze at the same time. And once he began dabbling with oscillators, he never turned back.

After inking a library deal around this time with the nascent Coloursound label, who gave him complete creative control, Vandroogenbroeck began turning out releases at a rapid rate, often three to five a year, and under a variety of aliases like V.D.B. Joel, J.V.D.B, and Eric Vann. Starting with the desolate synth drone of Biomechanoid, he continued to expand his sound palette on while on Coloursound, moving from early arpeggiators on Computer Blossoms to percussive sound collage on Birth Of Earth; and from Oberheim DMX drum breaks on Video Games & Data Movements to Apple II ambient programming on Digital Project.

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