The Impulse! release of Translinear Light in 2004 was heralded as a re-emergence from self-imposed spiritual exile for Alice Coltrane, but that narrative only held true for those of us on the outside listening in. Though more than two decades had passed without a widely released album, Coltrane never stopped making music, even as she devoted herself to the Southern California ashram she founded in the mid-1970s. This new compilation released by David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint is a revelatory collection of devotional music from four cassette-only private-press releases that Swamini Turiyasangitananda, as she was known to her followers, recorded between 1982 and 1995.
Spirituality and music were always intimately intertwined for Coltrane. Growing up in Detroit, Alice McLeod found her earliest musical experiences in the church; she met John Coltrane in 1963, as the saxophonist was focusing his explorations on his spiritual path. The couple shared a searching intensity, though after John’s death in 1967 Alice’s music became increasingly ecstatic and blissful. She seemed to find inspiration less in the urgency of her husband’s late-career questing and more in a sense of transcendent contemplation.