Monday, January 30, 2017
Album Review: Mystic by Al Conti
“Mystic” opens the album with the solemn toll of a church bell followed by the reverent intonations of The Oxford Court Monk Choir. A stunningly beautiful introduction, it reminds me somewhat of the opening piece, “The Mystic’s Dream”, from Lorenna McKennitt’s The Mask and Mirror album. Jeff Pearce lends subtle brushes of electric guitar, as the soaring wordless vocals of Charlee Brooks join the monk choir – their voices collectively echoing among the halls of what feels like a vast cathedral hidden in the mountainous mists somewhere. An earthy and sensual rhythm comprised of both Indian and electronic percussion ensues, as the piece is carried along by a gypsy-like melody led by an arrangement of flute and other exotic instruments. “Trance” follows next and is one of my favorite pieces on the album, bringing to mind that of a night caravan trekking across the desert, as brushes of chimes remind me of twinkling stars spread across the sky. This piece is likewise supported by an earthy, sultry rhythm accentuated by Indian tabla drums, and showcases an exquisitely exotic melody comprised of santoor and harmonium. The more contemplative sixth track, “Contemplation”, is another favorite of mine which incorporates a distinctly Celtic flavor, blending ancient western and eastern musical influences to perfection. Showcasing Pamela Copus on harp, she leads the lovely composition with a lulling melody among a luxurious arrangement of instruments that include tabla, santoor and electric guitars. Another personal favorite is the seventh track, “Ritual”, which is dominated by an encompassing rhythm, as it seemingly paints a picture of festive lights and ecstatic dances by the Mediterranean seashore. Wrapping up this magical, mystical journey is the soulfully shining yet soothingly serene “Anima Aeterna”, which concludes with Charlee Brooks singing among of sea of both exotic and orchestral instruments.
Sensually imbued with a haunting mystique, Mystic could easily serve as the perfect soundtrack to an Arabian Nights tale. For comparison’s sake, those who are especially fond of more world-flavored works by Chris Spheeris, David Arkenstone and Loreena McKennitt are almost certain to relish this album as well. The music herein is earthy yet fiery, making the album a perfect companion for sacred dance and ritual. While listening to these breathtaking compositions, images frequently came to mind of temple dances, candlelit chambers and travelling nomads in the desert. A luxuriant weaving of cultures veiled in mystery, ecstasy and sensuality, Mystic is exemplary of new age world fusion at its finest! ~Candice Michelle
For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes and other music retailer & streaming platforms.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Album Review: Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway
“Sequence of Life” opens with a dynamic and rhythmic arrangement of sequencers and pulsing effects. A fantastic introduction, it conveys a feeling of moving through space and time. Following next is the hauntingly beautiful “Timeless e-Motion”, which gently paces along on a dreamily floating, liquid-like current. Easily my favorite piece on the album, hazy tones, scattering chimes and vocal-like washes are carried along by a hypnotic bassline and rhythmic pulse, which gradually evolves into a subtle chill beat. Digital bleeps and signals echo throughout, as if emanating from somewhere deep in the galaxy. At just over eight minutes in length, this piece could easily drift on forever, perhaps while one endlessly tries to solve the infinite mysteries of our vast and largely unknowable universe. Varying between the more dynamic, travelling pace of the first track and the floating ambience of the title track, the compositions always seem to move in a linear, forward motion. Each employs a varied degree of digital sequencing, synthesized vocals, spacey signals and pulsating electronic rhythms. The seventh track, “Behind Close Eyes”, is another especially notable and mesmerizing piece, which effectively brings to mind that of being in virtual reality or dreamlike simulation. Despite these distinctive sci-fi motifs, the compositions herein convey human warmth and a conscious presence throughout, as if musically illustrating a narrative of the cosmos and how it relates to life here on earth. Another favorite is the twelfth track, “Cosmic Shift”, a classic ambient-space number characterized by ethereal chords, sparkling chimes and a wondrous sense of mystery, as one can easily imagine numerous constellations of twinkling stars against a stark midnight sky. Aptly concluding the album is “Timeless e-Motion (radio edit)”, which clocks in at just over five minutes, lending itself as a sort of reprise of the title track to wrap-up this fantastical cosmic journey.
Jim Ottaway’s previous album, Southern Cross, was one of my favorite recordings of 2016 and this one is surely destined to become another. In fact, Timeless e-Motion may very well be the best output from this amazingly talented artist thus far, unquestionably solidifying Jim’s place as a distinctive and innovative electronic music composer. Fusing ambient, modern electronica and classic space music, I can detect several decades of musical influences here, as Jim masterfully carves out his own sound and style that he has both developed and gradually improved on over the years. Lending itself to an emotive sci-fi quality, the music of Timeless e-Motion conveys a mesmerizing notion of having entered some futuristic parallel dream-world that’s dominated by themes of hyperspace, wormholes and time-travel. Likewise permeated by an ever-present and intangible mystery throughout, this album is both an interstellar and inner voyage that’s absolutely not to be missed! ~Candice Michelle
Available at Amazon, Bandcamp and other music retailers. For more information please visit the artist's website.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Album Review: The Recognition by Art Patience
“Compassion” opens the album with subtle acoustic guitar, as Art’s haunting and reverberating harmonica glides upon an enveloping soundscape of synthesizers that highlight many spacious notes and expansive chords. Seemingly lonesome sounding, I have always found the harmonica to be an instrument of solitude, and that essence certainly comes through on every one of these lovely compositions. The next track, “The Wishing Well”, is one of my favorite pieces on the album, initially beginning with the tranquil sound of the ocean’s tides rolling in and out with lone harmonica in the distance. A droning and resonating atmosphere enters the space, and I’m reminded of being on a beach as a darkening sky encroaches. A billowing, muffled rhythm soon follows at a gently parching pace, seemingly transforming the scenery into an overcast afternoon, in what feels like a confluence of nature’s power and serenity. Likewise, several other compositions feature audio-visually stirring environmental and nature sounds, including that of thunderstorms, running water and birds in the wild, as well as many ethereal textures and chimes sprinkled throughout the musical landscapes. These elements are especially exemplified on the aptly titled sixth track, “Spirit of the Woods”, which is comprised exclusively of lush environmental sounds and improvised harmonica intonations. Seemingly evocative of nature’s purest elements, it’s easy to imagine a man alone with nature in search of peace and solitude. Perfectly concluding the album is the gorgeous title track, “The Recognition”, a characteristically more spacey and nocturnal-sounding ambient piece that additionally features deeply hued and reverberating piano notes, as Art’s harmonica seemingly echoes throughout a vast terrain beneath a star-studded sky.
The Recognition is easily one of the most uniquely intriguing albums I’ve heard recently, boasting beautifully surreal soundscapes full of warmth, depth and mystery. Like an aesthetically alluring contrast of sorts, its compelling fusion of harmonica – an instrument that brings to mind the more arid regions of the mid and southwestern United States – in tandem with the dreamily liquid ambience throughout, felt perpetually evocative of a tranquil oasis in the dry desert. An outstanding work in its entirety, The Recognition will surely appeal to a wide range of listeners, although particularly those with a taste for gently understated though melodic ambient music! ~Candice Michelle
For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Bandcamp and Amazon.
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