Thursday, October 18, 2018

Album Review: A World Away by 2002

2002 began as the husband/wife duo of Randy and Pamela Copus who released their widely successful debut album Wings in 1992. Initially making their mark on the scene with a traditionally ‘new age’ style in the vein of Herb Ernst or Liquid Mind, the band gradually evolved over the years to adopt more symphonic and neoclassical signatures, such as on their notable 2000 release River of Stars, which employed classical strings and wordless ethereal vocal layers reminiscent of Enya. Evolving ever still, 2002 started incorporating gentle progressive rock elements (as heard on their 2012 album Believe) with Randy’s lyrical-vocal style impressively recalling that of Jon Anderson’s. By the time their 2014 album Trail of Dreams rolled around, Randy and Pamela’s daughter Sarah Copus had joined the line-up as lead vocalist, officially becoming the band’s third member. Comprised of ten alluring compositions, 2002’s latest album entitled A World Away is themed around a cosmic love story of kindred spirits traveling together among different worlds and time periods, becoming lost along the way until eventually reuniting, as if the music were playing out like the soundtrack to a fantasy romance novel. Together the trio not only provide vocals, but play a variety of Celtic, classical and acoustic instruments plus keyboards/synthesizers.

From the opening piece “Dream of Life” the listener is seemingly swept up on a magical night-flight guided by the song’s choral-pop vocal arrangement, which is feathered among a richly cinematic soundscape likewise mirrored on other compositions such as “Butterfly”, “Stars and Moon” and “Strings of Your Heart”. One of my favorite pieces is “Finding You”, which unfolds like a Celtic lullaby with its tender harp and gentle guitar. Randy’s progressive rock influences are especially noted on “To Live Again”, which he beautifully sings to a gentle arrangement of piano and symphony. “Memory of Tomorrow” is perhaps the ultimate highlight for me; the most haunting piece on the album due to its mysterious, minor key affections along the way, it enchantingly lulls the listener into a dreamlike haze.

Collectively, the lyrical vocal portions on this album are somewhat reminiscent of the male/female ‘new age’ music duo Llewellyn of whom I’m also a longtime fan. Additionally, the gorgeous CD booklet includes the songs’ inspiringly romantic and celestially poetic lyrics accompanied by stunning fantasy-nature artwork. Overall sweet and sparkling yet rich in depth, A World Away is, unsurprisingly, another top-notch album from 2002 that will likely appeal to fans of Enya, Llewellyn and Jon Anderson, as well as lovers of Celtic, ethereal and fantasy music! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other music retail & streaming platforms. For more information please visit the artist's website.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Album Review: White Sun III by White Sun

White Sun is a California-based musical trio comprised of television and film composer Adam Berry, Gurujas Khalsa and Harijiiwan Khalsa. The band’s previous album entitled White Sun II was one of my favorite vocal/world releases of 2016 with its exquisite musical blend of east-meets-west that showcased Gurujas’ stunning ethereal vocal arrangements. Since their self-titled debut release in 2015, White Sun has organically evolved their sound with each successive album – and their newest installment entitled White Sun III is already proving to be my favorite release from this band thus far. A double-album comprised of twenty-three prepossessing compositions, White Sun returns with their signature ensemble of Gurujas on vocals, Harijiwan on gong and multi-instrumentalist Adam Berry on bass, guitar and synthesizer. Other musicians joining the trio on various tracks provide additional instruments such as fiddle, guitar, kora, tablas and other world-percussive elements. Following along a musical path carved out by Deva Premal in the late 1990’s (and shortly thereafter Rasa in the early 2000’s) White Sun likewise creates enchanting melodies from heartfelt mantras which are accompanied by gentle atmospheric arrangements – all while pushing new boundaries and establishing a clear musical identity of their own. Though often lending an orchestrally cinematic touch to the compositions, White Sun never once ventures off into overelaborate spectacles of musical excesses. Rather, their sound always retains a simplistic beauty about it that allows for plenty of breathing room – and as such – effectively transfers a relaxing and rejuvenating effect upon the listener.

One of my favorite pieces herein is “Wah Yantee One”, which imparts a velvety atmosphere around Gurujas’ layered and reverberating voice. In fact, on several pieces the infusion of delicate classical strings and ethereally echoing vocal layers somewhat resembles an Enya-esque soundscape – albeit laced with Indian rather than Celtic overtones. Another pristine highlight is “Mere Lal Jio”, which atmospherically recalls Sheila Chandra or Lisa Gerrard with its haunting vocal intonations and shadowy minimal soundscape. In a complimentary contrast, “Ram Ram” gets a nice groove going with its emphasis on Indian tablas, swirly guitar accents and catchy vocal melody.

Ethereal yet earthy and always heavenly blissful, White Sun III is an impressively beautiful, nurturing and comforting album which is certain to further grow the devoted listener following that White Sun has already garnered in just a couple of years! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon and iTunes.

Album Review: Dreams Beyond Terra by ELEON

Dreams Beyond Terra is the debut album from electronica recording artist ELEON who co-produced this project with guitarist and ambient musician David Helpling. Comprised of twelve engrossing compositions, Dreams Beyond Terra is a sonically epic and soulfully elevating listening excursion into euphoric ‘chill’ and downtempo-trance. Likewise, some cuts feature Helpling on electric guitar, which he ethereally weaves into these lushly majestic soundscapes.

Sounding off this fantastical journey is “Species Communicating”, a piece that immediately conveys a rapturous sense of travel by flight with its pronounced bassline and steady trance-dance rhythm. Seemingly unbounded by any specific locality, it’s as if one is viewing oceans and landscapes while soaring high above the earth. Moving next into “Terra Sanctuary”, breathy vocal intonations add another element of intrigue to what could be described as a ‘chill-trance’ anthem. Tracks like “Carbon Beings” and “Bionic Travelers” employ the kinds of digital sequencing and heavy downtempo beats that often characterize ‘psybient’ music, except that the overall mood here tends to the more euphoric and extrospective as opposed to the psychedelic and introspective. My favorite composition herein is the mesmerizingly beautiful “Earth to Heavenly Places”, with its title perfectly summarizing the overall feel of the album. Sensually trippy and fantasy-like, softly-uttered female vocals lightly scattered among the piece lends it an extra dimension of mystifying intrigue. “Will Your Heart Dance with Mine” is the most subdued and light-bodied track on the album, with its subtle rhythm and ethereal synth-pads conveying a floating airiness that pleasantly recalls some material from Bryan Carrigan’s Inspired album.

Integrating trance, downtempo and ambient musical concepts for an end-result that will appeal to a wide-range of electronic music lovers, Dreams Beyond Terra easily makes the short-list for this year’s finest electronica albums! ~Candice Michelle

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