Ned Lagin: Seastones Set 4 and Set 5
During the set breaks of 23 Grateful Dead shows between June and October of 1974, audience members who didn’t take the opportunity to hit the snack bar or the restroom were treated to a short-lived phenomenon called Seastones. Electronic music composer Ned Lagin, who had already been contributing to Dead music since 1970, was joined onstage by bassist Phil Lesh and, depending who felt like it, other members of the Dead, to engage in a mini-set of music that some fans found fascinating and trippy and others—well, let’s just say not everyone loved it. An album, simply titled Seastones and released in 1975 on the Dead’s Round Records, presented a small section of the larger work, and featured guest appearances by Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Grace Slick and others. In 2018, a new two-CD collection presented more of the original Seastones—nearly two hours of it. Now, some of that music has come to vinyl for the first time, initially for Record Store Day 2020. Suffice to say that the “new” Seastones doesn’t expand the definition appreciably; it’s more of what was introduced 45 years ago, and those who got it then may welcome these other compositions (and it is largely composed music, not improvised), while those who found it irritating back in the day are unlikely to be swayed. Those who have never heard Seastones, however, and who are predisposed toward edgy, early computer/synth-based music, may want to take the plunge: Lagin was, without a doubt, an innovator in his chosen discipline, as his was music challenging and “out” enough to grab the interest of members of the Grateful Dead during a period when they were each trying on different musical clothes to see what fit. Seastones’ visit to Dead-land didn’t last long, but its impact was significant—just listen to any “Space” segment of a Dead show and its influence is there.