Barry Craig was an important figure in the early years of minimal and ambient music in L.A., first with his Trance Port Tapes label and later with his project A Produce. He died last week, on September 4, of acute pancreatitis.
In the early '80s he was a part of new wave band Afterimage, and launched his Trance Port Tapes label in 1983. He released spoken word by Timothy Leary, music by L.A.F.M.S. madman Tom Recchion, Brad Laner's Debt of Nature, and a cassette by John J. Lafia, the filmmaker behind the first Child's Play movies.
Presented in exquisitely packaged letterpress folders from Bruce Licher's Independent Project Press, these tapes would mysteriously appear in the dusty plastic bins at Aron's, kicked underneath the trance CD section.
After launching the A Produce LP The Clearing in 1988 and later issuing several self-pressed CDs of organic brilliance, Craig became obsessed with recording ambient sounds. Everything from the traffic outside the window of his Glendale apartment to the wind on desert dunes was fair game.
"He was a purveyor of California minimalism and the L.A. experimental music scene," says Tom Recchion. "He was committed to his own vision of sound that stood without interest in its connection to what was going on elsewhere."
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Craig's latest work, a collaboration with Loren Nerell called Intangible, came out on Hypnos this summer. "Intangible generated a lot of excitement among the ambient music community, and I know this favorable reaction meant a lot to Barry and re-energized him about recording again," says Mike Griffin, who released Craig's recordings on his Hypnos label.
"He would often use the term "deep listening" as an umbrella term for the kind of music he played, but 'deep listening' is a term that could also be applied to how Barry listened to music," adds Jeff Pearce, Craig's Hypnos label mate. "He could hear things in pieces of music that so many others - including me - would miss."
"We were going to get together on the Sunday that he passed away to play around with his new keyboard," says Loren Nerell. "No one knew he was sick."
"By using the phrase 'trance music' he tried to distinguish our efforts from '70s European 'space-music' or Eno's 'ambient,'" says Robert Rich, a "sleep concert" pioneer. "He tried to distance our more edgy style from the bliss of New Age spiritualism. He wrote essays explaining that 'trance music' should have shadows, that it could be more urban and could reflect the challenges of our time."