“In the Midst of Stars” is the collaborative effort of Arizona-based flutist Sherry Finzer and multi-instrumentalist Cass Anawaty, both award-winning composers who’ve released their joint debut under the name ‘Majestica’. Incorporating elements from various musical genres, the duo create an eclectic blend of acoustic and electronic instrumental compositions on this essentially chill-style album.

The title track “In the Midst of Stars” opens with drifty piano notes and warm synthesizers followed by a seductively swaying drumbeat. Evocative of walking in open terrain beneath an evening sky, Sherry’s flute and Cass’ guitar exchange lead melodies over a lush arrangement of chords. Alternating between rhythmic and beatless stanzas, an overall sensual and laid-back vibe is carried throughout much of the album. “In Bloom” is a dazzling example of the album’s more tranquil moments, characterized by hazy chords, sparse piano notes, and a plaintively subtle flute melody that collectively feel suspended in slow motion. “Lone Mountain” is especially notable for its perfect blend of Western and Eastern elements. Opening with watery percussion that initially gives way to an earthy, low-register flute melody and strumming acoustic guitar, it is then followed by a more eastern-tinged, high-register flute melody and mid-tempo drumbeat. The aptly titled “View from the Summit” is perhaps my favorite piece on the album. Permeated by a mesmerizingly immersive chord progression, and further enhanced by an evocate flute melody reminiscent of a gentle breeze, one can almost imagine standing atop a foggy mountain peak while gazing upon the horizon. Another particular highlight is “How Does it Feel”, which is led by a steady rhythm and accompanying flute. Pulsating electric guitar hovers about, joined later on by a sensuously emotive electric guitar riff that perfectly tops it all off. Closing out the album is the magnificent “Aurora Australis”, which clocks in at just over ten and a half minutes. Deep drones, shimmering tones and a subtly hypnotic flute melody suffuse this contemplatively ambient piece, evoking the mysterious beauty of the southern lights in the night sky.

Reminiscent of natural wonder yet imbued with a profound sense of human emotion and intimacy, “In the Midst of Stars” seems to move metaphorically between dawn, dusk and midnight, always retaining a sense of mystery throughout. Gorgeous and innovative, this outstanding collaboration between two amazing talents already sits among this year’s favorites, and is sure to have wide-ranging appeal among fans of chillout, ambient and contemporary instrumental music. ~Candice Michelle

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