Mark Banning’s contribution to Light in the Attic’s new age collection, I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990, an excerpt from his piece “Lunar Eclipse,” is one of the highlights of the set. Journey to the Light, Banning’s only commercially available recording, furthers his story.
In I am the Center’s liner notes, Douglas Mcgowan shares a message from one of Banning’s former guitar students: “Our block was the ex-con, bathtub meth lab in every other house type affair…While Mark looked kinda like a broke down Hells Angel, I think he was pretty responsible.” The music of Journey to the Light transcends that busted neighborhood. Recorded in September 1984, and released January 1985, the LP is a cosmic slab of Northern California mysticism. Featuring Banning on “processed electric guitar, zither, voice & ocean sounds” and his wife Helen Perez on zither, the album is available again via Students of Decay. Journey to the Light explores the through line connecting new age, drone, and minimalist composition, evoking the Krautrock sounds of Manuel Göttsching (Ash Ra Tempel; Ashra) and proggy ambience of Robert Fripp’s Frippertronics guitar treatments as much as it calls to mind the hazy nature music you might associate with its misty beach sunrise cover.
Banning’s former student relates the sound well to Mcgowan: “Both behind, and apparently, by the current interest, ahead of its time.” words / j woodbury