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

Sunday, April 5, 2020

PGM 256: Water Retreat

A deeply tranquil and regenerating sound-bath evocative of watery places!

Artist Name / Track Title / Album Title
I-One / Water Springs / Forms of Water
Ishq / Alaya / Natural Born Chillers
Forrest Fang / Microna / Gongland
Noizefilter / Waters Edge / Ambient Road
Suzanne Doucet & Chuck Plaisance / Zen Garden (excerpt) / As It Is Now
Heartistry / Mysterious Alchemy / Inner Sanctum
Sherry Finzer / Ancient Roots / Transcendence
Ambiscend / The Soul’s Calling / Tranquility II: Mind and Soul
Acheloo / Remembrance / Debris of Nostalgia
Paul Adams & Elizabeth Geyer / Evening / Deeper Imaginings

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Top 25 Albums for the Month of March

No. Artist Title Listen & Buy
01 Michael Whalen  Sacred Spaces Amazon 
02 Hollan Holmes Milestones Amazon Bandcamp
03 Tigerforest Discovery Amazon Bandcamp
04 Various Artists The Best of Maretimo Lounge Radio, Vol. 1 Amazon
05 Clannad In A Lifetime Amazon 
06 David Helpling RUNE Amazon Bandcamp
07 Stephanie Sante Dark Matter Evolution Amazon Bandcamp
08 Various Artists Psychill Blossom, Vol. 1 Amazon Bandcamp
09 Rising Galaxy Acceleration Amazon Bandcamp
10 Tom Moore & Mike Clay Beyond Our Orbit Amazon Bandcamp
11 Darshan Ambient A Day Like Any Other Amazon Bandcamp
12 EvenfallIndigo Skies Amazon Bandcamp
13 Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy Autumn Monsoon Amazon
14 Forrest Fang Ancient Machines Amazon Bandcamp
15 Byron Metcalf & Jennifer Grais Sacrament Amazon Bandcamp
16 Acheloo Debris of Nostaliga Amazon Bandcamp
17 ELEON Cerulean Amazon Bandcamp
18 Hans Christian After the Fall Amazon Bandcamp
19 Thaneco Alien Species Amazon Bandcamp
20 Eguana Invisible Civilization, Vol. 4 Amazon Bandcamp
21 Reblooming Echo Earth Amazon Bandcamp
22 Billy Denk Starbound Bandcamp
23 Germind Synthesis Amazon Bandcamp
24 Kirsten Agresta Copely Around the Sun Amazon Bandcamp
25 Various Artists Winter Time, Vol. 8 Amazon

Album Review: Beyond the Purple Sun by Jim Ottaway

Beyond the Purple Sun is Australian music composer and synthesist Jim Ottaway’s 2019 conceptual sequel of sorts to his 2017 album Deep Space Blue. It’s also his chronological follow-up to 2018's Yesterday Passing, a comparatively more upbeat and contemporarily melodic album that was nicely nestled in between the two deep space listening excursions.

Although Ottaway has been releasing music for several years now, his earlier works were initially only available in his native Australia, until he later re-released them on the global market. Eventually, his landmark space-ambient album Southern Cross hit the scene in 2016, which quickly earned him notable praise and airplay in the Western Hemisphere. Later that same year, he released the more digitally dynamic and retrofuturistic Timeless e-Motion, my personal favorite Ottaway album to date.

Comprised of seven compositions, his 13th international release features music that was recorded from 2010 to early 2019, thereby echoing many hallmarks of his other space-ambient works released over that time-period.

As another imaginative sonic voyage to the limits of the known universe, Beyond the Purple Sun further expounds on the artist’s impressions and explorations of magnificent cosmic panoramas. Possessing intriguing song titles such as “Celestial Rainbows”, “Lavender Moons” and “Birth Of A Violet Quasar” – all of which deliver as much beauty and intrigue as they seemingly promise – the music herein often paints images of ultraviolet-illuminated celestial objects and plasma energies lighting up a black expanse. Imparting feelings of floating and weightlessness, ethereal intonations tantalizingly call from afar like intercosmic transmissions of incorporeal voices; while prismatic icy shimmers and crystallized modulations intermittently rain upon undulating drones and gurgling signal sounds throughout. Finally arriving at the hypnotizing title piece, “Beyond the Purple Sun”, a steadily forward movement is illustrated by the sustained vintage rhythm of pulsating sequencer patterns.

Continuing to impress and expound with each recording, Jim Ottaway has become one of today’s preeminent composers of ambient sci-fi and space music. Thoroughly immersive and transportive, Beyond the Purple Sun is definitive deep space listening for lovers of astronomical mysteries! ~Candice Michelle

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