Monday, May 25, 2020

PGM 262: Destination Paradise 5

Another chilled mix of trance ambient & dreamy downtempo inspired by exotic getaways!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
Dream Twice / Dosada / Enta
Tigerforest (ft. Aly Frank) / Away / Discovery
Schiller (ft. Kate Havnevik) / Velvet Aeroplane / Sun (Chill Out Edition)
Nicholas Gunn / Sailing / Pacific Blue
Le Voyage / Magic of the Senses (the secret garden mix) / Chill Sunset Maretimo Vol. 1
Kamarius / Rise to Paradise / Enigmatic Traveler
Side Liner & Eguana / Forgot to Say I Love You / Trilogy, Vol. 2 [single]
Le Voyage / Late Night (step by step cut) / Spring Time Vol. 8
Whitewildbear / Fine / Fine [single]
La Estación del Mar / Sol de los Andes / Landscapes
Gregory Paul Mineeff (ft. Kerensa Stephens) / A New Gesture (Eguana Remix) / A New Gesture [EP]
August Eve / Ashes / Ashes In A Vase [EP]

Monday, May 18, 2020

PGM 261: Avalonian Mists 3

Another enchantingly ethereal soundscape inspired by Arthurian legends!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
Robert A. Wolf / Avalonia / Pangea
2002 / David of the White Rock / Celtic Fairy Dream
Rémi Orts Project / Woodland / Reign of the Forest
Eurielle / Rescue Me / Arcadia
Amethystium / Hymnody / Aphelion
Michael Whalen / The Inbetween / Sacred Spaces
Steve Gordon & Deborah Martin / Earth Dweller / Ancient Power
Medwyn Goodall / The Sorcerer’s Daughter / The Sorcerer’s Daughter
Peter Sterling / Pool of Love / Sanctuary of Light
Clannad / Who Knows (where the time goes) / In A Lifetime
Age of Echoes / Beyond the Farthest Shore / Beyond the Farthest Shore

Album Review: Pacific Blue by Nicholas Gunn

Nicholas Gunn is an English recording artist who first rose to prominence in the early 1990s with his innovate soundscape music that explored themes of the American Southwest. Among his iconic works include the landmark albums The Sacred Fire and The Music of the Grand Canyon, which helped to shape what was then an emerging style of music commonly dubbed ‘ethnic fusion’, and having remained widely popular since. But these days Gunn has shifted his focus from world flute vistas to electronic dance culture with his trance music recording moniker Limelght. He’s also continued releasing works under his own name, but in a more ambient/chillout style that's on similar par with Schiller, Blank & Jones or (Above and Beyond presents) Oceanlab.

Following his stunning 2019 full-length release, Riding the Thermals, Gunn has returned with the equally enthralling Pacific Blue for another sensual voyage into Balearic ambient-trance. Drawing much of its inspiration from the ocean, the album paints vivid images of open waters, sunny seacoasts and endlessly blue horizons.

The gorgeous opener “Into the Vastness” sets sail with dance-trance sequencer patterns accentuated by sparse piano notes and cinematic swells, which effectively evoke oceanic waves crashing upon the shore. Joining Gunn once again on a handful of cuts is singer Alina Renae. Her sultry vocals deliver accessible melodies on highlights like “Fallen” and “Out from the Deep”, which perfectly compliment the overall beachy and breezy vibe of the compositions. My favorite piece on here is “Sailing”, an epic chill-trance instrumental that intensely bursts forth with electrifying passion while culminating into a whirlpool of sonic ecstasy. Additionally layering in both fluidly electric and warmly acoustic guitars along the way, Gunn's lushly organic-electronic soundscapes often convey a sense of euphoric escapism and wishful longing.

An indisputable musical legend in the realm of atmospheric and electronic music, Nicholas Gunn can demonstrably transition from one style of music to the next, both masterfully and authentically. Another supremely blissful offering from one of ambient/chillout’s finest, Pacific Blue is a must-have album that deserves to be on everyone’s summer playlist! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other music retail and streaming platforms. 

Also check out our exclusive audio interview with Nicholas Gunn that we conducted earlier last year here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Top 25 Albums for April 2020

01. Jeff Pearce – Archive 1: Songs for the Gathering  [Bandcamp]
02. Tigerforest – Discovery  [Bandcamp]
03. Nicholas Gunn – Pacific Blue  [iTunes]
04. Hollan Holmes – Milestones  [Bandcamp]
05. Michael Whalen – Sacred Spaces  [iTunes]
06. Clannad – In A Lifetime  [iTunes]
07. Lingua Lustra – Astra  [Bandcamp]
08. David Helpling – Rune  [Bandcamp]
09. Various Artists – The Best of Maretimo Lounge Radio, Vol. 1  [iTunes]
10. Stephanie Sante – Dark Matter Evolution  [Bandcamp]
11. Kenneth Hooper – Directions  [Bandcamp]
12. Eguana – Invisible Civilization Vol. 4  [Bandcamp]
13. Evenfall – Indigo Skies  [Bandcamp]
14. Thievery Corporation – Symphonik  [iTunes]
15. Monica Williams – Within Us All  [Bandcamp]
16. Steve Roach – The Sky Opens  [Bandcamp]
17. Paul Speer – Sonoran Odyssey  [iTunes]
18. Various Artists – Psychill Blossom, Vol. 1  [Bandcamp]
19. Tom Moore & Mike Clay – Beyond Our Orbit  [Bandcamp]
20. Chris Russell – Destiny  [Bandcamp]
21. Halftribe & Spinnet – Patterns of Sync  [Bandcamp]
22. AeTopus – Deep Variants  [Bandcamp]
23. Sherry Finzer – Transcendence  [Bandcamp]
24. Ambiscend – Tranquility II: Mind and Soul  [Bandcamp]
25. Billy Denk – Soul Immersion  [Bandcamp]

Monday, May 4, 2020

PGM 260: Strange Visitation

Otherworldly ambient electronica inspired by inexplicable phenomena!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
Dream Twice / Optica / Raneous
Alien Mutation & Cyberix / I Had A Hallucination / Chill Out Trance Vol. 2
Peter Edwards Ambient / The Quantum Mechanics of Time Travel through Post-Selected Teleportation / Temporal Divergence

Cosmic Cadence / Lunar Logic / Lunar Logic [single]
Hollan Holmes / West Texas Backroads / Milestones
Remote Vision / Survey Pilot / The Outer Plateau
Isostatic / Honeycomb Ripples / Cloud Forms
Germind / Paintings of gods / Thoughtform
Ancient Astronaut / Awakening of Memories / Spheres of Love
Forrest Smithson / Extra Galactic / The Five Gates

Monday, April 27, 2020

PGM 259: Aquatic Dreams 7

Another immersive waterscape to convey an undersea adventure!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
Unusual Cosmic Process / Bathyscaphe / Frames of Silence
One Arc Degree / Sea Level / The Glow Beneath
Thomas Lemmer & Andreas Bach / Deep Ocean / Night Travellers
Stephanie Sante / Moonlit Starfish / Clear Light
David Helpling / Free Dive / RUNE
Michael Whalen / The Pure and the Calm / Sacred Spaces
Forrest Fang / The Mouth of the Sea / The Fata Morgana Dream
Jeff Pearce / An Isle / Archive 1: Songs for the Gathering
Michael Crain & Jason Carey / Ocean in the Stars / Tiamatu: Twilight of the Arctic

Monday, April 20, 2020

PGM 258: Earth Trek 3

Another nature themed mix of lush atmospheres and smooth grooves inspired by Earth Day!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
ELEON (feat. David Helpling) / Terra Sanctuary / Dreams Beyond Terra
Tigerforest & Der Waldläufer / Mountains / Discovery
J.P.illusion / Bare Trees / Bare Trees
Erik Wøllo & Byron Metcalf / Light and Ground / Earth Luminous
ll nøthing ll / Oxygen / Artificial Nature
Twilight Pilot / Gaia / Chill Out Trance Vol. 2
Kamarius / Native Landscapes / The Flow of Life
Hibernation / Beautiful Sky (Ambient Version) / Ambient Re:Works 01
Sverre Knut Johansen / Flying Birds / Earth From Above
Nicholas Gunn (feat. Alina Renae) / Out from the Deep / Pacific Blue
Solarsoul / Tears of the Earth (Original Chillout Mix) / Heart and Soul of the Earth

Monday, April 13, 2020

PGM 257: Secret Caravan 5

Exotic grooves meet desert atmospheres for a mysterious night journey across Middle Eastern and North African terrain!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
Desert Dwellers / Dreams Within a Dream / Breath
Obsqure / Sufi Bazaar / Oriental Banquet
Meriem Ben Amor / La Rosa Enflorece / La Rosa Enflorece [Single]
Zenobia / Tawahan / Zenobia EP
Kamarius / The Sufi’s Tavern / The Flow of Life
Thievery Corporation / Forgotten People [Symphonik Version] / Symphonik
La Estación Del Mar / The Nile / Landscapes
Sambox / Arabic Spring / Mille Métis
Sundrugs / A Bird Made of Gold / Desert Underground
Toires / Tali / Buddha Lounge 2
Monica Williams / You are Adventure / Within Us All
Marcomé / Arabica / River of Soul

Friday, April 10, 2020

Album Review: Autumn Monsoon by Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy

Married musical partners Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy create outstanding global instrumental music that is often meditative yet movement-oriented. They also release music as part of an ensemble group called Mystic Journey (which also includes band members Dann Torres and Jon Ossman) whose previous album, Kingdom of Mountains, made a lot of noteworthy impressions in the scene. The duo’s latest album, Autumn Monsoon, is certainly no exception and I’ve been thoroughly enamored with it ever since the first listen.

Originally from Berkley, California, Suzanne is an acclaimed world flutist who holds a Master’s degree in music from Boston University’s School for the Arts. Having released several albums to date including solo recordings, her music has garnered critical praise in mainstream publications and she’s performed live on national television. Not only does Suzanne play all the flutes from the Western flute family, she also plays an array of indigenous flutes from around the world including Native American, African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern varieties.

Born in raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Gilbert began playing drums at an early age, later going on to perform professionally in bands and clubs located on the famous Bourbon Street. Eventually, he made the transition from mostly playing in R&B, jazz and pop music bands to playing world drums, notably African and Middle Eastern hand percussion as well as the metal melodic Hang. He’s also expanded his global musical palette to include several stringed instruments.

Comprised of ten enthralling compositions spanning approximately forty-eight minutes, Autumn Monsoon invites the listener for a mesmerizing musical sojourn across India, West Africa, the American Southwest, the Saharan desert – and even making a stop at the Andromeda galaxy along the way. Suzanne opts for Native American flutes as the main navigator throughout this album, while Gilbert gently propels the voyage along with a multi-cultural array of percussion. In between these prominent instruments, exotic strings and synthesizers are layered in, with added contributions along the way from Jon Ossman on Indian dilruba and Dann Torres playing both nylon and steel string guitars.

Opening with the title track, “Autumn Monsoon”, we’re immediately greeted by the soothing sounds of Native-style flute and the lovely tonal melody of Hang, a percussive instrument that has long been one of my favorites. Added bass dulcimer and a synth-beat join in for an organically downtempo rhythm, as all the musical parts collectively create a warmly intoxicating sonic brew.

On “Indian Sisters” Suzanne plays an enchanting flute melody to the seductive rhythm of shakers, tabla and udu drums. Enticingly sensual and one of my favorites, this fluid composition seemingly moves along in coy, serpentine fashion. We’re also treated to the hypnotic pulse of frame drum on the mysteriously nocturnal “Traveler”, which additionally showcases a nomadic flute melody and woodsy strumming of the Turkish saz.

Imparting an American southwestern feel, the equally stunning “Canyon Ghosts” is led by a slow drumbeat with a pulse that seemingly connects to the heart of the earth. Gorgeously complimenting it is an echoingly distant flute melody accompanied by another one brought more to the foreground, as the music effectively occupies a space where ancient spirts dwell and secrets of the stars are pondered.

Like a waterfall washing over the senses, “Sueños” (meaning “dreams”) is perfectly illustrated by lulling synth-tones coupled with entrancing flute and percussion. Fittingly paired with the ensuing “Andromeda”, this hauntingly tranquil piece turns one’s attention towards the night sky with its reverberating flute melody amid a softly sustained synth-drone.

Overall characterized by fluid rhythms and encircling atmospheres, Autumn Monsoon is an alluringly beautiful and earthily sensual output from start to finish. Every melody, tone and space in between conveys a sense that these musicians were focused yet relaxed during the album’s creation. Simply one of the finest achievements in the overarching style of ambient-world music that I’ve recently discovered, Autumn Monsoon offers a remarkable transcontinental, trance-shamanic journey that listeners will want to embark on repeatedly! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon, iTunes and other music retail platforms. For more information, please visit Mystic Journey's website.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Album Review: RUNE by David Helpling

I recall first hearing the music of San Diego based guitarist and ambient composer David Helpling upon discovering his second album, Sleeping On the Edge of the World, which was released on the prestigious Spotted Peccary Music label in 1999. Since then, he’s recorded three collaborative landmark albums with fellow ambient musician and label-mate Jon Jenkins, followed by a solo space-ambient album in 2017 titled A Sea Without Memory.

Having grown up near the Pacific Ocean, its waters were always a source of healing, serenity and wonder for Helpling, hence it’s not surprising that he’s looked to the sea again for the theme of his new album RUNE. Drawing upon Viking mythology, his latest creation is inspired by the Norse rune “laguz”, which translates to “water”. Likewise, the rune's symbol adorns the album’s tantalizing cover image, which Helpling conceptualized with the help of photographer Joseph Abreu and artwork designer Daniel Pipitone.

Spanning almost seventy minutes in length, RUNE features eight compositions that were masterfully sculpted with electric guitars and a custom rig. This impressive feat may come as a surprise to listeners who might otherwise mistake many of these sounds for synthesizers. Comprised of lushly layered guitar melodies and stringed rhythmic patterns, Helpling spins scintillating aural threads into fluidly spiraling arrangements that reverberate all throughout the listening space. Echoingly iridescent tones in the higher range seemingly mimic siren calls amid sustained undercurrents of mellifluous sound textures.

Perhaps a way to illustrate this listening experience is by imagining oneself suspended in water, only every inch of liquid occupying the enveloping environment is comprised of these otherworldly sonic vibrations. Conjuring a sense of both the natural and the mythical – dolphins swimming alongside mermaids, lost underwater kingdoms entwined among the colorful growth of coral reefs – these enchantingly beautiful transmissions seemingly open a pelagic portal and unveil an ancient hidden paradise.

While the technical process of recording, editing and mastering any composition entails logical thought process, the creation of music such as this inherently strikes me as one that more involves ‘channeling’ than it does ‘thinking’. I can only imagine the mental space Helpling entered while composing this breathtaking album.

One of the most sublimely euphoric moments is a piece called “Be”. Majestically unfolding into back-spiraling patterns of shimmering tonal harmonies, it perfectly conveys the song title's notion of freedom and openness. And although the music throughout is nothing short of blissful, there’s a certain sense of melancholy that underlies its sunlight scattered surface, perhaps resulting from the artist tapping into the empathic nature of the water element. 

I recall Helpling citing the band U2 as one of his musical inspirations, and although he creates music of quite a different nature, that influence is certainly detectable at times. Additionally, while there are definite signature style differences between them, fans of both Erik Wøllo’s and Jeff Pearce’s pioneering ambient guitar works might concur that RUNE musically occupies a certain realm between the two.

Watching David Helpling’s musical evolution through the years has been fascinating, and this album is nothing short of another masterpiece among his magnificent body of work. Already one of the year’s top releases, listeners will want to unlock this musical treasure trove and discover the oceanic secrets of the RUNE! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon, Bandcamp, Spotted Peccary and other music retail & streaming platforms. 

You can also check out our insightful interview with David Helpling conducted in late 2018 here