Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Somewhere In-Between By Jim Ottaway


Somewhere In-Between

By

Jim Ottaway

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Jim Ottaway is back with a sparkling new album that will raise his profile in the electronic genre tenfold; this work of crafted brilliance is called Somewhere In-Between and is a release that portrays an interesting dimension between time, space and realities, one this is created by an artistic hand that cares so deeply for his work.

Our journey starts with the open and vast realms of the piece Dawn Of Time, this is a truly smart beginning and one that reminds me of the UK’s Geigertek at times with its slow onward build and progression, one that eventually morphs into an undeniably master work of EM.

The following musical narrative is a horse of a completely different colour; there is a lightness of touch within A Dream Within Reach which is so very appealing, in fact after listening to this specific track a few times I found myself constantly whistling the melody over and over, always a good sign for a musician when a song takes home in your head and refuses to leave!

This next one gave me so much pleasure, the hovering intensity and then the Vangelis inspired mood brought One True Vision to my door, and what a sublime track this opus is as well. This safe passage of electronic awareness literally takes the listener on a constant forward movement into somewhere in between perhaps?

The John Carpenter styled opening to this next track was utterly brilliant and Chosen Place would soon become one of my favourites off the album because of it. The smooth and tranquil synths here create a true juxtaposition of sound, something really rare to achieve, let alone to attempt, a very clever offering indeed.

Fire Of Truth has elements of various electronic musical styles within its construction, from Jarre, to Glenn Main to David Wright perhaps. Here Ottaway manifests another airy offering, one that takes a flight path all of its own in an ever elevating energy of brightness and light.

As we reach the second half of the album we come across a fascinating composition called Sacred Ground, in its early stages this tentative track seems to be hiding in the shadows, but then slowly grows in a way that a summer mist burns off on an early July morning, and once the edges of care are dropped, the true essence of this piece burns through to explore a wonderful fluency, and a lush melodic tapestry of tone.

There can be no doubt that Jim Ottaway is one of the finest electronic musicians of his time, and on this next track entitled Carried In My Heart he could well have had a huge hit single with a composition that is easily the most commercial on the album, if the artist had decided to have gone that route of course, however in my view, this piece is to Ottaway, what Oxygene was to Jean-Michel Jarre, a wonderful hook, a sublime melody, and a mood and performance that captures a pure sense of absolute love in the moment.

Sometimes I wonder, sometimes I fear that there is little care in our Lost World, this powerful offering seems to state something similar, and perhaps the key word that is the strongest on the planet today, is a total and unrelenting fear of just about everything! The dark realms of this magnificent piece by Ottaway perhaps explores that aforementioned narrative, and done in a way that reminded me of the old school values of musicians like Michael Shipway.

The vibrating energies that begin this next splendid composition gave me a slice of self-assurance, as I have just used this effect on a new track of mine for my new album, as of yet released, here on Winds Of Promise, the artist builds, and lays brick by brick, one of the most wonderful creations of his release, on a track that truly does what it says on the can.

So here is that illustrious moment, the unveiling of the title track, the main canvas that portrays the entire album, and the piece we reveal is of course Somewhere In-Between. Gentle and progressive keyboards lay a path that is straight and narrow, but true; a fine example can be found here on how to manifest a title track, which speaks volumes for each and every other composition within this collection of wondrous electronic stories.

We have arrived at our last port of call and the artist has one more musical gift to bestow upon us before we disembark from his inner dimensional starship of enlightenment, it is called Shores Of Eternity, apart from being a sublime title, this explorative cornucopia of ambient electronic delights is without doubt the perfect way to conclude the album, a spectacular offering indeed and one that at times reminded me of the late but great Vangelis with his masterpiece, Albedo 0.39.

Somewhere In-Between by Jim Ottaway in my view is the artist’s best work thus far, yes it’s an easy thing for a writer to say, and you may have read similar summaries many times before, but I am far from being disingenuous. On this album I truly believe that Ottaway has elevated his standing within the electronic music community.  Somewhere In-Between by Jim Ottaway has to be a total must for fans of this genre, or seekers of music that search for sonic sanctuaries created with honesty, artistic craft, and sublime intelligence.


 

Wild Monsoon By David Vito Gregoli & Ricky Kej

 


Wild Monsoon

By

David Vito Gregoli & Ricky Kej

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The duo of David Vito Gregoli & Ricky Kej have just released an album that will enthral, entice and bring much calm to the avid listener, as we see the emergence of this new collaborative album entitled Wild Monsoon. An album of 10 tracks, and underpinned inside is a heavy and loving sense of the natural world and all that resides within it.

This new release has energies of a plethora of genres, the vibrancy of a global ethic on the opener Greeshm (summer), or the meditative qualities of tracks like Vasant (Spring), while pieces like Mahatma (Vito Remix), show up the skill sets of both Kej and Vito sublimely with its slow and almost sensual tones and vibrations.

One of my personal favourites would be Jharna (Waterfall), this wonderful creation manifested the ambient energies of an early new age composition, but the hovering intensities brought the listener something both vibrant and meditative at the same time, not an easy thing to do; the overall construction of this track was beautifully thought through.

I must draw the attention of the potential listener to the piece Badra (Rain) feat. Kimberly Haynes. The soft and sensitive musical narrative was completed by the appearance of Haynes, her ethereal like vocalisations added a whole new dimension to this quite magnificent work, a track where the strings would raise the power of the piece to its absolute maximum.

Baadal (Clouds) is our concluding composition and rightly so, in my view this is the most vibrant and rhythmic arrangement from the album, and the perfect piece to part company with on this sojourn of sound, the keyboards and plunging chords made this for me yet another personal and very memorable favourite, what a sublime way to end a great album.

Wild Monsoon by David Vito Gregoli & Ricky Kej is a simply delicious new album that needs to be spun like crazy, here within lives music that should cater for all tastes, full of rustic charm, yet as fresh and exciting as a new day dawning. There can be no doubt that the two super powers of David Vito Gregoli & Ricky Kej have indeed brought something very special to our musical tables here, one that we should feast on with pleasure, this is global new age music at its very best.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Ambient Religion By Al Gromer Khan

 


Ambient Religion

By

Al Gromer Khan

By

Steve Sheppard

 

For me, it is always a pleasure when I hear of a new Al Gromer Khan release, this means another huge slice of ambience is about to embed itself into my life, and that can never be a bad thing, in this instance Al Gromer Khan has brought to us, a wonderful vast realm of art now known to us all as Ambient Religion.

For me, ambient music is a journey to a place, a structure, something exterior from my world, and the opportunity to sit in the present and observe the now and to feel the flow of the energy around me; here the artist has manifested nine ambient constructs, and each of these pictures are a unique art form each to their own.

The opening piece is thoroughly Al Gromer Khan territory and called Esprit D’escalier, music for the afterthought perhaps, the artist’s trusty sitar wends its way smoothly through this inner dimension of tranquillity, and perhaps giving a moment of  pause to each and every listener in the most ambient of ways.

Al Gromer Khan has created many structures of ambience, many temples of meditative peace, and on Lichtblau we have another such example of mastery, the softness of the synths and delicacy of the arrangement are indeed a whole new world to enjoy, each and every steady footfall within this track alone will find an all-purpose sanctuary for any willing and open minded listener.

For me one of the key elements of ambient music is that hovering sense of timelessness, we can find that in the composition Avec Bilaka an arrangement that seems to float on a summer breeze, caught by the wind, and coalescing into a new form with each moment passed; light percussion, soft synth pads and a drift down a road less travelled can be found here.

As we near the middle part of the album, we are gifted a real treat with the piece Console. Al Gromer Khan for me is one of the legends in this style of ambience, and within this track there is an emptiness that is filled by musical expression, there is a gateway to a dimension that is in-between the tick and tock of the normally unrelenting clock.

The tone and timbre of the beloved sitar of the artist greet our arrival at this next piece entitled Morgenstern, the ethereal vocalisations added such a depth to the proceedings, here is a short-form musical narrative that introduces us to a world of ambience that proves not everything that is a concept of the genre, needs to be over 30 minutes long.

Carl-Zeiss-Jena is not a track I expected, but one gratefully received, I had not forgotten the East German football team who made such a name for themselves in the 60’s, a memory palace of a piece, beautiful vocals paint a haunting vibe to the arrangement, in a track that seems to touch the very scrapbook of time tone and days glorious, but passed.

We now move to the deep part of our musical reservoir, one so vast and all-encompassing, and one that would turn out to be my personal favourite pieces off the release, also a very unusual one, in that it contains natural sounds within its construct. Novene is a masterful opus of an almost dark ambience that would have gone down really well in Stephen Kings Dark Tower movie; it is a fluent composition with such a wonderfully layered ambience, and probably one of the finest examples of this style of music I have heard for simply years.

The swirling keyboards create mist filled layers on this next offering, our penultimate composition called A Room for H.G, it also partly reminds me of the sense of anticipation that the UK’s Kevin Kendle once built within his offering Night Blue Horizon, but here Al Gromer Khan manifests twists and turns of creativity with each passing minute, in one of the most artistic pieces off the release.

We now arrive at the concluding track of the album; the energy levels are slightly raised here to bring us, a final parting gift, one called Station Break. The light percussive ethic is added to by the artists blissful sitar, and we are gifted a composition that will draw to an end yet another sublime album by one of the all-time masters of the ambient music genre.

Ambient Religion by Al Gromer Khan is a release that illustrates the absolute reality of the ambient music genre; we have space, a place, room to wander musically within, and a pristine delicacy that creates for each and every listener a musical sanctuary of choice. Ambient Religion by Al Gromer Khan is a release that has been brought together through a personal exploration of locational spaces, and persona places, and is an absolute must for those who wish to delve deeper into their own calmer moments of musical reality.


Thursday, June 23, 2022

24 Improvs By Tim Neumark

 


24 Improvs

By

Tim Neumark

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There have been many albums over the years by Tim Neumark that have totally resonated with me: he is a quality pianist that has an ability that is so very rare, he can connect with the listener, create emotional pieces, uplift that same listener, and seemingly change course at will, Neumark also has a wonderful knowledge of the technical side of music and today we are about to embark on a voyage through the scales, chords, keys and notes that is so vast, but also all-encompassing, and called 24 Improvs.

As a musician, we all have our heroes; we all have those who have literally touched our souls and their influence upon us if far reaching, in this case Neumark’s dedication goes to Michael Jones, whose music touched Neumark’s heart so very deeply indeed.

So improvisational genius is upon us, it is the ultimate canvas with which to paint naturally, allowing the muse free reign over our minds. Two magical element’s on a piano or a keyboard are the keys and those two words that soon follow are Major and Minor, and so on and so forth, normally I would create a review explaining my views and perceptions on each track, but if I did that here today this review would be about the size of a book, and I believe you want to understand more of what makes this album so special, and this artist one who I regard as one of the greatest creators of piano music currently around today.

24 Improvs starts with a  piece that has a Major Key and an upbeat mood, but with such dexterity and skill Neumark manifests a memorable almost anthem like beginning, and also one of the best compositions off the album through the medium of Improv in C Major (Gentle Stream).  

There now follows 9 tracks that each have their own special narrative Improv in C Minor, a piece as you would imagine with a reflective touch, Improv in G Major, a track for me bathed in the sunshine of a new day, or we can dive in the darkness of Improv in G Minor, where overcast tones reside, whilst pieces like Improv in D Major lighten the mood with its sunlit uplands.

Neumark’s abilities are far ranging, I have always admired his sensitivity and his amazing ability to manifest music that simply hits the spot every single time. Minor chords and keys always do it for me, tracks like Improv in D Minor a fine example of Neumark’s sense and awareness, or the glory of Improv in A Major, a tune with a blissful majestic quality, then there is the cleverly crafted Improv in A Minor (An Interlude), for me one of the most complex creations on the album, whilst offerings like Improv in E Major offer something for everyone with its delicacy and steady onward progression, and finally Improv in E Minor, an arrangement that has a deep rooted classical energy to its manifestation.

At this juncture of the album I would come across a curiously interesting piece, one that would remind me of the pandemic we have all suffered with, Improv Over One Chord (Social Distancing in B Major). We move swiftly into the second half of the album and Neumark’s intelligent performances take a further step up the ladder of brilliance with tracks like Improv in B Minor, perhaps one of the most emphatic and powerful presentations I have ever heard from the pianist.

We now slide into the arms of autumn and my birth month with November Improv, a piece I can relate to perfectly. I used to hate November in the country of my birth, now in my adopted home of Cyprus it’s my favourite month, and this is exactly what I felt within this piece, a touch of two moods, quite brilliantly done indeed.

Now things get even more interesting as we bring further dynamics into view, for example the track Improv in F-Sharp Minor, a stunning performance by Neumark can be found here, a reflective edge is pronounced, as with our next piece, Improv in D-Flat Major, which captures the mood of a brand new sun rise in its growing energies.

A fascinating offering can be found here on Improv in C-Sharp Minor (Numb), this was always going to be a sad refrain, one that reminded me of our lockdowns, and times that resonated with little help or even hope. Neumark has an artistic skill set to pull musical rabbits from his hat of many magical moments, and on Improv in A-Flat Major (The End of the Road) we have such a track, climatic, triumphant and concluding.

We now softly drift into the last six pieces from the album, some have a specific narrative, others not, the first most certainly so in Improv in G-Sharp Minor (Isolation), music to celebrate my time in lockdown and the success that isolation gave me, sadly more would feel the sadness and tragic elements of this deeply resonating arrangement.

We all need comfort in our lives and for me this next offering spoke of that sense of warmth we all desire and called, Improv in E-Flat Major (Stay Here With Me), while Improv in E-Flat Minor would be the looking glass equivalent of the preceding track, a composition crafted from aloneness. There are many songs that play both sides of the river too, like the ever hopeful Eternity (Improv in B-Flat Major), or the sullen tones of a rainy Monday on Improv in B-Flat Minor, a piece that hovers and offers little light, but through its dark clouds that emotional mood can be touched beautifully.

The penultimate track on this quite amazing album is Improv in F Major (Sunday Evening); the ends to weekends were always bittersweet for me throughout my life, but this song reminds me of that, and the now happy place I am now living within, with gratitude for each of those days I live and breathe, whilst we can conclude this epic journey with the last gift from the album called Improv in F Minor, Neumark’s crafted skill set ends our experience perfectly with a closing piece that is both emotive and inspiring.

24 Improvs by Tim Neumark is the musician laying his art on the line, and bearing his musical soul to all who are open minded and willing enough to listen. It is an enjoyable voyage through the improvisational processes of the mind and genius of pianist Tim Neumark, and in my view the artist has achieved a great goal here, by making a solo piano album, one so vast, that is totally assessable to all who have the intelligence and wisdom enough to dive on in deep and listen too, and if you do so and I am sure you will, there is something residing within the this release that will be the perfect fit for your musical desires, for 24 Improvs by Tim Neumark is a solo piano album of great class, skill, mood and openness and thoroughly recommended by this music writer.

Cover photo licensed by akg-images. The original photo is the property of the National Museum - Czech Museum of Music and can be seen on display at the Antonin Dvorak Museum in Prague.


Gratitude By Mad Dog Blues

 


Gratitude

By

Mad Dog Blues

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

We’re back on the Blues trail with Mad Dog Blues on this new release Gratitude, a 13 track album of some of the best new, vibrant and innovative music from that genre that you may have heard for quite some time, the collective charm of this album is that the whole project is thoroughly addictive and completely enjoyable with each and every track played.

The most original break up song starts our journey through the tones of Well Babe. A perfect start can be found here, that bluesy rhythm is enhanced by some of the most crafted harmonica playing I have heard for quite a while, kudos Mad Dog Friedman.

The single Gratitude is included, now I adore this tracks smoothness and fresh energies, while we can drift into reveries like Peace In Our World, something that most of us want right now. The empowering and raspy vocals of Freyja Wild can be found here; on a track that Mad Dog plays Indigenous flutes on, and is one of the most passionate offerings from the album.

Deeper into the weave of the release we come across an almost funky little number in Love Ladder, this combines the talents of Mark Kaczorowski and Friedman on acoustic guitar and Harmonica respectively, the resulting efforts in my view, make this song one of the most inventive and exciting compositions I have heard in this genre for some time.

The penultimate offering is one of the longest pieces off the release and called Pinned Down by the Rain, and contains a wonderful creation that combines the skill sets of Sean Bennight on guitar/vocals, a bliss filled Mandolin courtesy of Jeff Becker and the harmonic talents of Freyja Wild, in a song that reminded me so much of America’s, A Horse with No Name at times. This in my view was the most complex creation on the album, and one brought to its conclusion with a sublime collective willingness by the band. Peace Chant ends our journey with Mad Dog Blues and is a wonderfully innovative climax to a brilliant album.

Gratitude by Mad Dog Blues is without doubt the best album so far for the band and there illustrious leader Mad Dog Friedman. Here lays an album of pure character, an album of artistic class, and a release that anyone who loves contemporary Blues music must surely mark part of their collection at all costs, it is that good.


Monday, June 20, 2022

Evolution By Hanslik & Moniz Experiment

 


Evolution

By

Hanslik & Moniz Experiment

By

Steve Sheppard

 

It has been a fascinating journey for me over the last few years watching the growth of these two musicians, Alan Hanslik and Steve Moniz team up once again to take us all on a journey through what could be described as experimental electronic music, but now after the release of this latest offering entitled Evolution, perhaps their style can now be seen as some of the most artistic creations of the decade with ease, and the manifestation of a whole new palate of tone and timbre lays before us, inviting us within its halls of plenty.

The title track Evolution starts our voyage and it is from this base of brilliance we can see just how far this magical pairing have come, the depth to this opening structure is simply amazing, the synths bring a whole world of fluency and calm within an almost oceanic like musical structure, whilst Moniz on guitars brings a level of art into the equation, one that leaves us on the edge of tomorrow, filled full of a great expectancy to come.

As an ambient electronic musician, it’s albums like Evolution that give me so much inspiration and ideas on where to go next, on DNA some very interesting developments can be found, some that had me thinking deeply about the potential growth of this amazing piece I was literally transfixed with. DNA is as powerful as I have heard from the duo, yet there is a dream like plateau of tranquillity that hovers within the back drop of the composition, one that gives the overall piece such crafted balance.

As we reach Tune In, we find a careful progression of sound, and indeed the composition pushed forward redolent of the subject matter of the title. I will say that Hanslik & Moniz Experiment have created something quite clever here, my keen ear observed elements of progressive Jazz and even rock at times, all wrapped up in a bed of electronic wizardry and moulded with an experimental willingness, that whilst exploring realms as of the yet unknown, still kept an overall cogency and consistency.

However one of my favourite’s offerings from the album would be the quite addictive composition Here to There.  At times this wonderfully created sculpture of art reminded me a little of Forrest Smithson in its ambience, and one must applaud both musicians here for allowing their musical muses freedom to roam, whilst allowing the natural state of bliss to continue, in what is one of the most melodic and natural pieces off the album.

Steve Moniz and his guitar create a beginning that is literally tantalising on this next song called Easy Wind, a repeating motif allows Hanslik to bathe the entire composition with a layer of synths and keyboards that allows the piece to coalesce with the tones created, this is once more a masterful arrangement, one that through its structure seemed to re-create itself endlessly.

Our penultimate offering started in an almost Vangelis style and then hovered and floated through a dimension of sight and sound that even the Twilight Zone would have been proud of. Out Worlder is one of those tracks that you will be revisiting many times over; it is also an incredibly addictive composition too, this is such a creative piece that it would make a superb soundtrack to listen to whilst you visit to a modern art gallery near you, it really is music to get lost within.

Our last portrait of musical genius is entitled Escape, the effects and performance on guitars by Moniz here are truly sublime, and adding the synths and keyboards of Hanslik they go on to manifest a track that almost dances with itself. There is also a crafted sense of anticipation and intensity here that is unstoppable as well.

Evolution by Hanslik & Moniz Experiment is with ease the duos best work so far, here is a work that should finally establish them both as outstanding artists within their own field. The combination of guitar and electronics on this release almost gels to a point that they literally become the palate, the paint and the canvas. Hanslik & Moniz Experiment should be proud of their creation, that they have manifested an album that is totally accessible to all with an open mind willing enough to dive deep into this lagoon of artistic brilliance.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Speak Peace By Rick Sparks

 


Speak Peace

By

Rick Sparks

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Rick Sparks is a unique musician of great quality, with just the first few bars of any song; you are immediately transported to a dimension of blissful calm, sublime serenity and pure peace, and here we are so grateful to have before us, another heavenly realm of musical majesty called Speak Peace.

Speak Peace is also our first footfall within the wondrous heart felt passion of this beautiful album, if we as humans could have this level of love within our hearts, we would have no room for fear or hatred. Sparks is a master at creating soft sensitive pads of uplifting music and on this grand starting point, the ethereal quality and the sweeping strings make this one of the best openers I have heard for utterly ages.

Speak Peace is an album of 11 incredibly beautiful songs; Sparks even has time to squeeze in a total classic of a cover, by bringing us one of the most tranquil versions of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon ever. He also gives a tip of the hat to his Scottish heritage on Lass of Inverness, and a reflective moment of solo piano is also brought to our attention on the track 1912 Waltz, a piece that Sparks says he would have loved to have written for his grandmothers wedding.

Speak Peace is a remarkable album; each track has its own special narrative, like Prayer for Ukraine, the main single from the album and a heartfelt plea for peace, respect and reconciliation, an amazing composition indeed, but one amazingly hard to keep a dry eye with.

This albums radiant beacon of hope and peace can be found constantly within the weave of this entire creation, and even as we draw nearer to the final and concluding song, we are given one last opportunity to hold embrace and share the love and respect with others, on the last offering Auld Lang Syne

There indeed is far too much fear and hatred in the world currently, sadly these two components lead to hostility and worse, but beacons of hope like Speak Peace by Rick Sparks offer a way out of the darkness and into the light. Sparks has created here an album that literally exudes peace and tranquillity, through the sublime and exquisite arrangements and compositional structures upon the release, I would recommend this album to anyone seeking solitude away from the madness, and make Speak Peace by Rick Sparks your musical sanctuary of choice.


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Sapphire Oak By Sharon Fendrich

 


Sapphire Oak

By

Sharon Fendrich

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The art in a good musical narrative is being able to take your listener right into your imagination, introduce them to your muse and allow them to roam around your created inner dimension of artistic endeavours, uncluttered by predictabilities and over familiarities, allowing them to simply manifest their own inner magic with your musical manifestations.

The aforementioned statement is exactly what Sharon Fendrich has done with Sapphire Oak, and this new release of colour, imagination and mystery is a wonderful step upwards on the ladder of success for the artist. We can now take our first small step with her as we listen to the opening offering entitled Sea of Oaks, there is an angelic but natural texture to this piece that I adored, somewhat cinematic at times, and also deeply ancient in its tone and timbre, imagine a sea of oaks, stretching for miles upon miles, all dancing to natures tune and being at one within the moment, a beautifully portrayed opus and a slice of neo classical genius to start our journey with.

There is a sense of a timeless proportion within this next piece, the string sections of Leaves of Glory will bring a tear to the eye and an extra breath to the emotional light body. A delightful multi-instrumental moment can be shared here, one that literally floats all around you in a canopy of musical shadows and shapes, a prideful sense of glory can also be found deeper in the weave of this remarkable song, one in which Fendrich performs so admirably on piano.

The Grove at Dodona is our new location, where once oaks reigned supreme and Dodona was once described by no less of a luminary than Homer, as the Oracle of Zeus himself. The orchestration here draws a warming narrative of nature’s rich tapestry, while the atmospheric vocalisations and symphonic gestures are simply breath taking in all proportions.

One of the deepest pools of brilliance on this album came to me when I reached the edge of a track entitled Runic Roots. Here lays an aged piece of deep power and great beauty, its waltz like structures are cleverly compelling, in a way that I haven’t heard since Alan Parsons’s portrayal of Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.

The next offering is our mid-way point of pleasure and contains something so very rare, the track is entitled Call of the Ruins, here the seeker of wondrous music will find that rare gem in between an arrangement that is so very moving and blissfully graceful, one that has the ethereal hallmarks of a composition that has literally been created by the gods themselves.

The mists of time hover in our location as we fall slowly onto the footpath marked The Oaken Door. The gentleness of this performance was sublime, the fluidity of it even more so, and the string sections added a wonderful Celtic lilt to the composition. I had just been researching the fairy realm shortly before writing this review too, a delicious and delicate composition can indeed be found here, in this grove of mystical musical magic.

Dryad's Rejoice was one of my personal favourite offerings; it has an ebullient flavour all of its own that radiated a sparkling vibration throughout the entire composition. The Dryad is a tree nymph, one who lives in trees and takes the form of a beautiful woman, all of that and more is expressed with great clarity and texture in this crafted composition, the whistle manifested a Celtic mood at times that reminded me of the amazing Nigel Shaw or the charismatic Chris Conway at times, whilst the passion filled performance on piano by Fendrich strikes a home run with this sensational cinematic offering.

As we move onward through our musical woodland we come across a track that has a deep and mysterious persona and entitled Of Badges and Crowns. The solid and empowering performance here by the artist to the backdrop of an almost regal and proud nature, gifts us something of a steadfast and courageous arrangement, one that moves across the battlefields of time with flags waving on high.

The deeper waters of the album have been reached and as we move our oar to the side of our musical boat, we arrive at a delicate and quite breathtakingly beautiful song entitled Under Her Canopy. I must admit I had to listen to this offering several times, and each time I did I found even more to like, the ancestral vocals had me drifting over green hills and valleys, the orchestration brought its own soothing tapestry of tone to the proceedings, and the mood filled piano performance, so craft-fully played by the artist, that her very performance on this piece alone lifted my spirits.

So, we are here, the penultimate offering off the album and of course this is the title track Sapphire Oak. This was a moment of utter beauty, the combination of Fendrich on piano and the careful percussive beat created for me a heartbeat of the earth moment, and then the build, progression and crescendo, manifested what has to be a stand and applaud moment that will never be forgotten, on one of the finest examples of a title track I have heard so far this year.

The last composition carried a lot of responsibility with it, how can one draw to close an album of this class, an album that has such exquisiteness and splendour, a release carved from the very oak itself perhaps. This was done with such skill and expertise, and all of its glory and power emanated from a simply moving and emotive composition to draw our journey to a conclusion called, Carry the Oak.

One has to also add at this final summing up, what a delight it was to listen to the vocals on this album, the tone pitch and inflections were simply idyllic, and right on the money, and what’s more Under Her Canopy was delivered by both Fendrich and her daughter Talia, and sung in Irish, which is also outstanding, all other vocals and for the first time, were sung by the artist Sharon Fendrich herself, in what was a delightfully moving and exciting moment, and an extremely unusual one, but I feel this move is a truly clever one, as it now sets aside Sharon Fendrich as unique, not only an accomplished pianist, but an artist of multi-talents, and a wonderfully articulated vocalist too.

It may have been 3 years since her debut album Red Sky Prairie made her name known to us all in the music business, but Sharon Fendrich has moved on upwards and brought into being without doubt her best work so far, and in the guise of a potential award winning album called Sapphire Oak. Fendrich has surrounded herself with a fine array of class musicians, and thrown herself into the subject matter with an absolute passion, and the result, one of the albums of the year so far with consummate ease.


Kindred Spirit By Helen Keeling-Marston

 


Kindred Spirit

By

Helen Keeling-Marston

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Helen Keeling- Marston has released a new solo piano single that is as radiant as the day is new, this multi-faceted moment of musical craft is utterly beautiful, and flows with an unadulterated energy of positivity, this new bright work is entitled Kindred Spirit and it’s colourful textures will long remain in my heart.

The artist has been in fine form recently releasing many singles and a new EP, and here on this brand new offering we can all enjoy the picturesque magic that appears before our very eyes in a glowing reverie of hope and optimism, a splendid performance by Helen Keeling-Marston indeed.


Sacred Land By Chakuna Machi Asa

 


Sacred Land

By

Chakuna Machi Asa

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

This has to be one of the most powerful, moving and deep releases that the world has seen from Chakuna Machi Asa, the opening energies of this new single entitled Scared Land, contain wondrous natural sounds that enhance the flavours, a flowing yet vast synth back drop of sound and native chants, in a new release that is one of the most artistic I believe of the year thus far.

The intensity of this quite breath taking composition is simply undeniable, totally respectful and extremely spiritually inspiring. Chakuna has brought her A-game and manifested a new single that will absolutely resonate with fans of the genre and the wider music business in general; a huge hit must be on the cards for this slice of superior instrumental music.

Chakuna has partnered with One Tree Planted and 50% of the proceeds of downloads go to planting new trees, so why not help support this good cause by getting your copy now.


Reflection By Lynn Tredeau

 


Reflection

By

Lynn Tredeau

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There is a point within one’s life where you become more reflective, more aware of the passing of time, ones age and that desire to look back at your journey taken thus far, becomes far more important to the musical muse; this new release by Lynn Tredeau has all of the aforementioned qualities above, and much more, on her latest album Reflection.

The simple art of gratitude is felt within the hallowed halls of this fine release, but also one of a pocket full of memories too, the opening piece really encapsulated this moment wonderfully on Tide Pools. A tidal pool is a microcosm of life unto itself, its residents blissfully unware of the vast realities of life outside of their world, in a pattern so grand and complex, a wonderfully artistic way to start the album.

Someday, Somehow gives us the ever eager listener, a wonderful moment to look back and smile upon, Tredeau’s performance here is classic new age piano, but her very heart and soul, pours it’s classy energies all over the keys of light. Here lays a piece that always keeps moving forward, on a cloud of never ending hope.

The rain is a memory palace of days gone by and memories shared, and on What the Rain Said we have just that, simply moment to just sit by the window and watch the tears of heaven drift across the plains of musical reality; this in my view is one of the more ambient offerings that the artist has created, which in turn gives it a real warm by an open fire feeling too.

On Dreaming Tree we have a horse of a different colour, one that seems to float like a mist across an early morning summer pond. Tredeau has brought into play a crafted and extremely clever sense of mystery and anticipation into the proceedings, and in doing so, has manifested a track that is both enticing and very compelling to listen to.

Meandering for me gave off all those energies of a timeless day in early summer, walking through a golden field of corn towards a babbling stream, and tossing pebbles into its shiny waters. The carefree and happy refrains on this piece were wonderfully received, and for me showed the artistic beauty of Lynn Tredeau as a composer.

Personally I love a trip up into the mountains, the sights, aromas and simple unadulterated silence is utterly blissful, and on Aspens of Targhee Mountain we have all that and perhaps a little more. The artist’s gentle but growing performance on piano creates a vast yet lush mood, as through her recital one can feel and sense this bliss filled moment of peace along with the artist herself.

So, we take out first steps into the latter half of the album with the track Deep in the Forest, the feelings of exploration of unknown places is strong within this offering and extremely attractive as well. Here the artist stops to give pause, perhaps to check her map, and then to move ever onwards into a world of mystery and imagination; without doubt one of the most colourful pieces of the album.

The Passing of Time is something we can never effect, however remaining in the moment defeats it, and the main reason for that statement is that on this song, Tredeau seems to have created one of the most meditative pieces that I can ever remember from her, this is a deeply beautiful opus, but one that allows the listener to experience an almost tick between the tock of the relentless clock, again the artists sublime creativity and intelligence comes into play here.

Time to roam free and wander wide with Nomad, there is a moodiness within this composition that brings about a sense of freedom, but perhaps from one who desires not to stay in one place for too long, and through this quite magnificent offering we are given a feeling of mystery and apprehension that just adds to the overall artistic brilliance of the arrangement.

The deeper waters of the release have been reached, and upon our arrival we can find a fluent offering entitled The Road to There.  I replayed this one a few times, and I am sure that lyrics could even be written for it, it’s that good. Tredeau’s touch on the piano is very poignant within this track and also quite moving at times as well.

The penultimate offering of the album is a truly sad creation and called Washed Away. There is a sense of reflection here that is akin to deep mournful awareness, much like all of your efforts thus far, have now come to nothing and have been washed away, however Lynn Tredeau is one of a very few artists around today, that can bring so much feeling and intent into what is a very moving musical moment indeed.

We draw to the conclusion of the album with a piece entitled Celebration, almost the complete opposite of the last arrangement. The joy contained within this song is almost like seeing the sun for the first time in weeks, and quite cleverly the final and finishing composition from the album.

I rate Reflection by Lynn Tredeau as the best work of the artist thus far; it is a heartfelt release of 12 beautifully reflective compositions, each and every one of them birthed from a sequence of moments we call life. There can be no doubt that she is constantly moving up the ladder of success with each album release, and Reflection by Lynn Tredeau could very well in years ahead, been seen as perhaps the album that elevated her status to the next level entirely.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

After the Rain by Diane Wheeler Dunn

 


After the Rain

By

Diane Wheeler Dunn

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

After her recent success at the One World Music Radio awards, dual winner Diane Wheeler Dunn is back with a brand new single, and a more descriptive musical narrative using flute and keyboards you will not find.

After the Rain is the new release, and a timely one as the artist looks like cementing her standing in the flute genre and communities. The hovering intensity that flows from the keyboards sets a scene so palpable, whilst the artists flute creates a story line that is all too compelling.

One can indeed be in the moment here with the artist as we watch the last few raindrops fall, and the sun fights for domination on perhaps an early summers day, this indeed is a fine performance and presentation from Diane Wheeler Dunn, and perhaps even another chart hit as well.


Far Beyond Your Dreams by Lisa Cullum

 


Far Beyond Your Dreams

By

Lisa Cullum

Written By

Steve Sheppard

 

The combination of pianist Lisa Cullum and vocalist Bria Sadé  match up here on this brand new reease entitled Far Beyond Your Dreams, the melodic structure here is very delicate and almost lullaby in its overall construction, but from its quite exquisite weave comes one of the most pretty pieces you’re likely to hear this year.

What the world needs now is a gentle disposition, an ear that listens and a hand that gives, and from this pristine new offering and from this extremely talented duet we have just that, creatively symphonic and wonderfully soothing, here is an arrangement that will make its way into your heart with such great ease.


Petrichor by Andrea Sertori

 


Petrichor

By

Andrea Sertori

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Now this is something we know a lot about here in Cyprus, as we get long periods of hot warm weather and after those months are up, and the first rain arrives, the scent from the desperate soil beneath our feet almost sighs with a palpable cry, and what a pleasurable moment it is indeed, this is Petrichor and this beautiful new single by Andrea Sertori sums it up perfectly.

The performance on Piano is actually quite emotive in parts and draws a narrative of relief too. Sertori in my view has probably created one of the best arrangements of his career with Petrichor, he has opened himself up to the moment, and seized the opportunity, and has thus manifested a creative composition that we can all enjoy.


Lunar by Benjamin Cook

 


Lunar

By

Benjamin Cook

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The beauty of this new single by Benjamin Cook entitled Lunar can only be equalled by the subject matter, the sight of our glorious moon in full bloom is a wonderful view indeed, and this brand new offering from the composer is a fine, gentle and to be honest, quite emotional tribute to its majesty.

The classical symphonic energies of this composition are so filled with respect and awe, that listening to its makes you want to open the curtains tonight and place this on live play, and enjoy thoroughly the splendid 3 minutes and 29 seconds of its musical magnificence. Wonderfully created, blissfully arranged, and a single well worth adding to your musical collection of night time music with ease.


Guiding Light By Ian Cameron Smith

 


Guiding Light

By

Ian Cameron Smith

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Ian Cameron Smith has been in a rich vein of form lately and with this brand single popping, we have another idyllic moment to spend in the company of the artist, and it’s such a beautiful moment to have as well.

Guiding Light is a dreamy slice of a guitar based instrumental music that simply lights up your day with a burst of much needed musical sunshine. The performance is bright and soothing, and the creation itself quite crafted, with both electric and acoustic guitar moments, along with keyboards and some wonderfully pertinent chimes, all of which go to make up a sublime single release which is absolutely worth making a part of your collections post haste.


Pilgrimage By Meg Bowles


Pilgrimage

By

Meg Bowles

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

I have been a fan of the work of Meg Bowles ever since the release of what I rated as one of the best electronic albums for decades in The Shimmering Land, and now some 9 years later, much water has drifted under our bridges of musical endeavours, and it could well be that this latest collection called Pilgrimage could well surpass even that phenomenal landmark.

Our sojourn within this quite beautiful dimension of sight and sound starts with a sublime beginning piece called Ancient Paths. The synth work and floating energies here are beyond creative, and in parts remind me of another amazing electronic musician in Thom Brennan and his Mountains album. I would rate the performance here as one of the most artistic starts to an album of this genre I have heard for years.

Description, narration and textures are all part of the electronic music artist’s palette, here our artist uses those with sublime skill and manifests one of the most atmospheric pieces off the album in Cave of Secrets. You are literally there, in the cave, with the water dropping, and the musty damp smell of your surroundings, the gentle procession of notes and chords manifest a mysterious and mystical inner landscape of electronic dreams, in a piece that is completely addictive and almost hypnotic.

Meg Bowles has perfected her genius to be able to literally paint with tone and timbre, and on Cloudburst Over a Parched Land you have a perfect example of that skill set exploding into life, a piece that contains a rich palette of sonic energies, a creation that gifts us such a vast expanse to wander within musically, and a composition that gently flows, drifts and hovers. This fine manifestation of electronic mastery reminds me of early Tomita, as within I felt certain classical motifs pop up to say hello, perhaps even Ravel and his Pavane for a Dead Princess? One could find many memories within the hallowed halls of this most remarkable creation; however one thing is for certain, Bowles has brought into reality, a wonderfully emotive dream filled opus into this world of ours, and we can be truly grateful for that.

I was eager to listen to this track, as its long form structure is something I am trying to create myself within my own music. I’m glad I took multiple listens to Mountains Reaching for Stars, because here Bowles shows the pace, patience and creative ability needed to make something well over 12 minutes long, and hold the listeners attention with such ease to its majestic sweeping soundscapes. This could with ease fit into a movie; its vast landscape of brilliance also has a meditative quality to its proceedings as well, and for me is one of the finest examples of electronic ambient long form music around today.

Our penultimate offering is called Luminous Garden of Repose, this is another wonderful example of how to birth top class ambient music, allowing the composition space to hover, allowing those textures to manifest tones within themselves, and all the while holding a delicate form of calmness and tranquillity, one created by the mind and imagination of the artist, and placed softly into the hands of the open minded listener.

The concluding composition is entitled Source of Enduring Light, and is without doubt one of the smoothest and serene endings I have heard to an album of this genre for quite some time. Bowles also brings an essence of reflection into the composition as well, one that adds an almost luminous radiance into the construction of the piece and allows us, the ever eager listener, to drift within the realms of this last final creation, like we have done over the years with artists like Serrie and Kendle.

Pilgrimage by Meg Bowles is without a shadow of a doubt the best work ever created by the artist, here is an album you could listen to all day and forget time completely. Pilgrimage by Meg Bowles I would dare to say, has raised the bar tenfold in the electronic ambient genres, and is an album that any good self-respecting fan, or any purveyor of top class ambient electronic music should have in their collection at all costs, this album isn’t just good, it is outstanding.


 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Hope & Peace By Shere Fraser & Vincent Boot

 


Hope & Peace

By

Shere Fraser & Vincent Boot

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There is always a time for peace, and that time is now, this quite beautiful new single by Shere Fraser & Vincent Boot encapsulates that desire with great ease, and the mellow tones that flow from both the flute and piano gift us a reverie that Hope & Peace may actually one day become a reality, not just a wistful dream.

This symbiotic presentation is filled with such a tender mood and essence; one can only take pleasure at the duel performances by both Boot and Fraser. The gentle and fluent progression of this creative composition is a delight to listen to, and a sanctuary of calm to escape too when needed.

A portion of the royalties for this single are also being donated to support a Canadian charity who are doing humanitarian work in the Ukraine, they are called HERO Society, so why not check them out too: https://www.herosociety.ca/