Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Stratospheres By Eric Heitmann and Patrick Zelinski




Eric Heitmann and Patrick Zelinski

Written by

Steve Sheppard


The latest album by former football star Eric Heitmann is now out, and it contains some of the most delectable piano and multi-instrumentation ever, his partner is musical genius Patrick Zelinski, a true supremo of a guitarist of all styles and flavours, and this mammoth journey of instrumental craft is entitled Stratospheres, which is our voyage of delight today.

The opening track is a very descriptive composition called Highland, the gentle strings and guitars pave the way for a magical moment at just over two minutes, as Zelinski’s classic rock guitar breaks into a Celtic styled opus, in what has to be said a breathtakingly clever start and almost Floyd like in intent.

The 7 is a mysterious and deeply woven track that hovers in the mists of musical time, the keys of Heitmann manifest a textured pastiche of tone and timbre to the composition, that in turn become its base and musical foundation, whilst the airy guitar from Zelinski floats in and around this most intriguing arrangement with a delicate joy.

We move to an enticing piece entitled Tavern Tale, once more that Celtic feel is there as the two musicians seem to drift into a past filled with broad oak trees and green valleys; this reminded me of the instrumental works of artists like Blackmore’s Night, but with the added uplifting percussive energies of others like pianist Matias Bacoñsky, regardless this is a truly addictive composition.

Wonder is our next port of call; this floating harmonic resonance of a track is beautifully composed and manifested into our realities with great care and tender creative skill, the soft compositional structures and melodic instrumental tapestry’s, build a piece that is both a pleasure to swim within and to drift off into a reverie with.

We edge ever closer to the mid-way segment with one of the most inventive tracks I think I have heard for quite some time entitled Among the Willows, the power and intensity here and the added whistling segments reminded me in parts of the heady days and Sergio Leone and Eastwood with a Fistful of Dollars, the pace of this creation was amazing and one that could easily be released as a single with some great success I would say.

Time for a truism, as it is always darkest just before the dawn, here on that very piece called Dark Before Dawn, we are gifted a heartfelt and deeply moving opus by the duo, one that does indeed highlight that 30 minutes or so we see each day before the beauty of another morning arrives, the symphonic gestures here were utterly emotionally sublime, a track of great texture and harmonic bliss.

Skies of Elysium is our next doorway of musical mastery. Homer once said of Elysium as a place where “No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men” a pure paradise indeed, and this track is a testament to that aforementioned statement from the writer, tranquillity in all its aspects is created in this heavenly like composition by both artists.

We float into the open arms of this next piece entitled Trail of Redemption ft Ryan Dimmock on violin, and what a wonderful creation my ears have witnessed, an amalgamation of fluent strings, powerful piano and Gilmour like guitar from the amazing Patrick Zelinski, its music like this that constantly gives one hope that instrumental music is safe and well in the hearts of those who truly care.

I always get excited when I get to the title track, and as you can imagine I am now bathing in the masterpiece called Stratosphere. The title track is the perfect canvas for any artists to make a statement of fact and intent, and boy have they done so on this crafted manifestation. The slow and lovingly played piano of Heitmann is simple delicious, while the deft and intelligent build and progression we now move within is nothing less that spectacularly beautiful.

We now edge ever deeper into the darker waters of this great album with an acoustic beginning to a track entitled First Light. The construction of a song depicting this time of day has to take its time, and our artists do this perfectly, with a sense of artistic perceptive skill, and with the knowledgeable nuances contained within in, all of which brought back memories of a little remembered Roger Waters album called The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Graviton Fields, is up next and for those who are unsure of what this is you need to watch Star Trek. Once more, one has to say through some incredibly stylish keyboard, synth and instrumental magic; the artists have brought to life the region of space surrounding a body in which another body experiences a force of gravitational attraction. Adding the guitar into the mix adds a movement, percussion and crescendo manifest a sense of speed and intensity as never seen before on one of the most ingenious tracks off the album.

I have heard a Heitmann capture my musical heart before on piano, and here he is, doing it again on the penultimate track off the album called Moonlit Echoes. Through this beautiful performance one could with ease imagine sitting on the roof of your home in the middle of a summer’s night and just watching the stars above, something I have done many times in my life, and I think this somewhat emotive track could have easily been the soundtrack for that event.

Our concluding musical narrative is Banners of the Lost ft Amy Wallace. This final parting gift from the artists is film score standard and has to be one of the most powerfully moving songs I have heard to end an album this year, Amy Wallace’s vocalisations and the symbiotic partnership with the orchestration were simply the best way ever to leave this quite stunning new album.

There can be no doubt that on Stratospheres by Eric Heitmann and Patrick Zelinski I may have just heard my album of the year, this in my view is a master work of stunning brilliance, it is an album that will rivet you to the spot, it’s a release that will demand to be listened to, and if in the 80’s you were a fan of David Lanz and Paul Speer, then you are going to fall head over heels in musical love with Stratospheres by Eric Heitmann and Patrick Zelinski.

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