Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Roland P. Young: Press

Meditative jazz comes in all forms, sometimes it’s too close to new age, while other times it could be the closest thing to an epiphany you’ve been looking for for most of your life. Roland P. Young’s Istet Serenade (Em) is a bit closer to the latter. Young plays the kind of jazz that sounds like it could have been an obscure soundtrack album from the late 60’s or early 70’s, imagine Pharoah Sanders teaming up with Vilayat Khan and you would enter the trippiness of the music found on this album. Its structure comes from it being abstract and tranquil, meditative because the listener has to allow themselves to simply float into the sounds that somehow feel distant through the thick wall of reverb and echo. If the first person you thought of was Paul Horn with his classic albums recorded in the Taj Mahaj, it’s a bit like that but instead of Horn looking to discover something, Young sounds like that thing has been found, and he is speaking with his inner consciousness, and together they have a dialogue. The sounds within are created with a saxophone, clarinets, kalimba, and various electronic ingredients, with the clarinet being played at times to where it might sound like a guitar. Young’s approach to the clarinet is not unlike Jeremiah Cymerman and his album In Memory Of The Labyrinth System (Tzadik), in that he plays it but it is not heard as you might expect. What you can expect is to be taken places, mentally and if you’re in the right frame of mind, even physically. Albums like this move me because even though Young’s pieces sound very foreign, it’s as if you’ve been (t)here before. Istet Serenade is the sound of home, or the home you wish to end up in when your existence in this lifetime comes to a close. Moving.

This is Book’s Music ( (Jun 27, 2010)
Clarinetist Roland P. Young was combining electro-acoustic experimentalism, avant jazz, and world music as early as the mid-‘70s, but despite the free-wheeling nature of his early recordings, Young has proved to be a cunning cat. In later years, he realized that his early recordings foreshadowed a number of developments in ‘90s electronica, and began releasing albums overtly targeted toward the IDM market, from danceable, high-BPM techno to Deep Forest-esque ethno-chillout. Istet Serenade, however, seems to hark back to Young's pioneering, recently reissued 1980 album Isophonic Boogie Woogie, inserting more jazz into the mix and taking a more "serious" overall approach. It should be noted that Istet Serenade is not a free jazz outing. Young is no wild-eyed Jackson Pollock of jazz, throwing sounds on top of each other in spontaneous combinations. It's immediately apparent that the layers of clarinet and synthesizer coruscating throughout these tracks were arranged in a very premeditated manner. While there's occasionally an air of Pharoah Sanders-meets-Aphex Twin, much of Istet Serenade is closer to the deep listening work of modern avant-garde composers like Pauline Oliveros and Stuart Dempster, where minimalist drones are deployed with pinpoint accuracy despite their organic vibe. There's at least as much synth here as clarinet, if not more, as Young seems more focused on creating sonic atmospheres than showing off his jazz chops. There are a number of moments where he drops an extended clarinet solo over his electronic latticework, but it all feels like it's moving toward a specific destination -- like part of a composition, not a free-for-all jam. And while the mood throughout much of the album is meditative, this is no turn-off-your-mind chillout record, either -- there are plenty of edges and sharp corners in these pieces, striking just the right balance between ambience and intensity. ~ J. Allen, All Music Guide
J Allen - All Music Guide (Jun 27, 2010)
The first music we've heard in years from Roland P. Young -- and just as enigmatic, hypnotic and atmospheric as the rare genius that came so many years earlier! It's spacey, trance inducing, beautiful stuff -- a dreamlike blend of clarinet, sax, kalimba, Native American flute and echoey atmospherics of many kinds. Wonderful stuff -- here's hoping he'll be more prolific with recording in the years to come!
Dusty Groove America
Dusty Groove America (Jun 27, 2010)
Roland P. Young enhances his woodwinds with much electronic and studio treatment, making great use of echoplex and digital delay to create some remarkable effects on Istet Serenade (EM RECORDS EM1087CD). The record reminds one of the 1970s experiments carried out with an echoplex by West Coast player Stan Getz, but Young is far bolder in his reach. These ‘Isophonic Comprovisations’, as much composed as they are improvised, are intended to straddle many musical genres and styles, including jazz, ambient, electronic and classical chamber music. There’s no denying the basic jazz inflection of Young’s confident and intricate phrasing, and though he may occasionally lean towards the saccharine in his melodies, the record has a brilliant glistening surface and is by no means an unpleasant listen. Curious listeners may wish to know that EM Records also put out Isophonic Boogie-Woogie by this man in 2006, but I think it’s sold out. A vinyl edition of this new one has been released however; note the Risa Young artwork printed in powerful red and black amoeba blob-shapes that comes across like a cosmic version of Scottie Wilson.
The Sound Projector - London (Jun 27, 2010)
BellaOnline's Emerging Music Editor

Isophonic Boogie Woogie Emerges Again

A quarter century ago an enterprising, talented, seminal artist stepped away from the box and created his own jazz; an experimental blend of jazz and electronics that thrust open the door to today's style of Electronica Jazz. From this early venture into this near virgin turf, composer/producer Roland P. Young laid down his audio visions on his solo album, Isophonic Boggie Woogie. The year was 1980 and the tailwind from that project has never stopped streaking across the sky.

Evidence of that was recently brought to the forefront when EM Records re-released Isophonic Boggie Woogie. Japan based EM Records has re-released the project with not only two bonus tracks from Roland, but with all of the original tracks from the inital recording. You definitely will not want to be left out this time if you missed this masterpiece the last time around!
YOUNG, ROLAND P. Isophonic Boogie Woogie (EM Records) cd

Sometimes you know a record is gonna blow your mind before you even throw it on. Such is most definitely the case with Isophonic Boogie Woogie by Roland P. Young. Heck, it's called Isophonic Boogie Woogie after all! And it's on the seemingly infallible (and impossible to pin down) EM records from Japan who have quickly become our new favorite label, having released Jim Fassett's Symphony Of The Birds, Moolah's Woe Ye Demons Possessed and Sam Moore's MOOOHIEEE! and those are just the ones we've reviewed so far. Plus it's got super tripped out black and white hand drawn cover art, three heads, presumably all Mr. Young, one with a well groomed afro, one with headphones, one with crazy hair that drifts skyward like tentacles, and a third eye right in the center of his forehead, while surrounding the heads are leaves and electronic equipment, and ankhs, and black suns, scorpions, saxophones, sailing ships and cars and pyramids, and a bunch of little Roland P. Young's walking up hillsides, jamming on guitars, getting into cars... you get the idea. This is some seriously far out stuff, and we haven't even heard a note of music, and that's a heck of a lot of trippiness to live up to.
Thankfully, Isophonic Boogie Woogie is as weird and as wacked as all the above business would lead you to believe. Originally released in 1980, Isophonic Boogie Woogie was the first realization of Young's unique version of free jazz music, which he referred to as "Afro spiritual minimal electronic space music" which on closer listening is WAY more spot on. Young employs an unlikely arsenal: kalimba, saxophone, voice, clarinet, electronic bass clarinet, bells, chimes, electronic drones, electronic pulse and electronic accoutrements (!), to craft his spaced out free jazz minimalism. The first track is a warm melodic fugue, woven from the reverberating steel of the kalimba (sounding like a muted mellow version of Konono No.1 actually) with soaring falsetto vocals, before eventually a saxophone joins in, playing soft moody melodies over the rich bed of the kalimba. So nice. Wouldn't mind a whole record of this. But Young has different ideas. The second track is a brief but aggressive blast of solo clarinet, emitting gritty rumbles, a series of droney duck calls, very textural and oblique, and really mysterious sounding. As is the next track, an ominous low end groove, warm distorted and muted melodies, the electronic bass clarinet strangely alien sounding, a groovy jazzy thrum, pulsing and throbbing each note with a strange texture and a bizarre electronic after image that makes the whole thing sound that much more dark and droney. The record's centerpiece (and longest track) is "Loveliness", a 15 minute drift of dense ambient whirs, subtle drones, tinkling chimes, softly struck bells, sizzling cymbals and all sorts of percussive clatter, all beneath a wild free jazz workout, skronks and squeaks and trills, impossible melodies, a tangled free form melodic freakout. Afro spiritual minimal electronic space music indeed! The last track is another long one, with more of that alien sounding electronic bass clarinet, the notes and tones low and rough, with lots of reverbed echoes, the track starts as a thick corrosive drone of rumbling warbling horns, mumbled vocals and all sorts of spacey effects, swooping and swooning, before the clarinet begins to explore its freedom and offers up a litany of strange sounds, from free jazz skronk to percussive patter to playful melodic figures, before drifting back into a droning murky swirl.
Some of the coolest, weirdest, most far out free jazz we've heard for sure, and another check in the 'right fucking on!' column for EM!
This reissue includes two bonus tracks, one a shuffling funky rhythm, with primitive drum machine over a warm distant sonic glow. swooning sax, like mood music from some long forgotten eighties soundtrack, the other a soft stretch of dreamy mediation music, subtle electronic pulses beneath a swirling wash of moaning horns and shifting subtle tones. Both more melodic and less tripped out than the original tracks but cool nonetheless.
Like all the EM reissues, this includes extensive liner notes (all in Japanese, sorry), tons of photos, original album artwork and more.
Andee - Aquarius Records (Mar 18, 2007)
Roland P. Young's Isophonic Boogie Woogie

Roland P. Young was a huge advocate of underground music, culture, politics and radio, DJing in the Bay Area in the 1960's and 70's before creating the amazing Isophonic Boogie Woogie LP in 1980. Here, an entire realm of free sound gets channeled through Young's mind into what can best be described as "afro-minimal-free-electronic-drone music" (according to the site of Em, the Japanese label that just reissued this). It's a stunning statement indeed, with Young crafting his out sound with kalimba, sax, clarinet, bells, electronics and assorted other instruments, all flowing in their own space to amazing result.
Brian Turner - WFMU (May 28, 2007)
Press Release:

ISTET SERENADE, new music of contemporary, futuristic Isophonics. To be released on EM Records in December 2009. This is a contemporary extension of ISOPHONIC BOOGIE WOOGIE. A year of intense composing and preparation and dwelling in the Isophonic Infinite Source

Available at
Ramah Lev Shalem - Is Music (Dec 11, 2006)
Roland P. Young is back for his fifth release on EM Records, back in the United States, back in San Francisco after sojourns in New York and Israel, back where he resided several decades ago. But despite all this talk of return, he continues to resolutely forge forward, combining his tradition-rooted horn mastery with an ever-expanding electronic palette, fusing wind with electricity, fusing American roots with an outward global vision. Recorded in his home studio, Young’s expansive multi-instrumental mastery and studio skills have created a dense yet uplifting set of tunes, very melodic and groovy with a joyful sense of return and renewal. Roland is here. Hear it on vinyl or CD. (Jul 9, 2017)