Friday, June 3, 2022

Album Review: Gone Beyond by Donna De Lory

Review by Lissette Cascante
Singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Donna De Lory has established herself as a dominant, constantly evolving artist, whose extensive and varied musical portfolio includes such genres as pop, world, electronica, spiritual/devotional, and yoga/relaxation music. Growing up in a musical family, De Lory is a veteran of the music industry, having crisscrossed the globe many times between 1987 and 2006 as a touring back-up vocalist and dancer for Madonna. Her voice has been featured on countless recordings of renowned and award-winning artists.

It was her inner voice, however, that lead Donna to embrace a more spiritual side of music and to release numerous albums in the genre throughout the 2000s to critical acclaim. Being a follower and practitioner of Hindu traditions and drawing from the infinite supply of the divine for inspiration, Donna creates harmonic prayers, mantras and chants that resonate with hearts and souls around the world, promoting wellness, healing, mindfulness, peace, and tranquility. To quote the artist “Now, more than ever, I feel like we have to go within and find heaven inside ourselves, so that we have the peace and strength to stay positive, despite everything that’s going on in the world, and make a difference.“ Her most recent album, Gone Beyond, is her 17th solo recording. All songs on the album were written and produced by Donna De Lory and were inspired during pandemic isolation.

The first track, “So Hum/Breathing In” serves as a gentle guide into stress-relieving breathwork, ushering the listener to a place of calmness and focus. The phrase So Hum is a Hindu mantra which in Sanskrit literally means “I am that” implying our interconnectedness with all that is, or the Universe. Perfect for centering oneself; whether on a quick break in the middle of a busy day, or in a meditation or yoga practice. This sweet melody is comprised of repetitive mantras wrapped in Donna’s soothing layered vocal harmonies, accompanied by piano, Pedal Steel and electric guitars, and singing bowls.

“Ma Song” was inspired by Jennifer Berezen’s popular mantra/chant "Returning". An emotive call to our “mother”, the source of our being. This track features Donna De Lory’s vocals and harmonium, beautifully accompanied by Piano, Guitar, Strings, Tabla, Bass and Cello. “Forgiveness Prayer” is probably my favorite track on the album. A sense of being lifted up and floating to a higher place where walls of pride, bitterness and strife crumble and give way to refreshing waters of love, forgiveness and healing. The vocals are transporting and beyond sublime in this piece. The cello adds a melancholy tone and the electric guitar an ethereal, vibrational experience.

The continuous flow of each track on Gone Beyond makes this album a perfect companion for a meditation and/or yoga practice, regardless of your spiritual persuasion. “I wanted to make a record that would be good for so many different experiences,” says Donna. “Yoga class, standing on top of a mountain, sacred ceremonies, healing....” It’s an expansive listening experience which conveys a quiet, holistic wisdom uncommon in today’s chaotic culture. Calmness and centeredness are the intrinsic elements in each track which I found to elevate beyond the physical sphere, helping to bring the mind, body, and spirit into true alignment.

“Om Gate Gate Paragate” with apropos meaning of “Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond” is a powerful message and teaching in Hindu tradition. A sense of liberation and self-empowerment permeates this entrancing track. While “Mary Meditation” takes the listener into a sanctuary of sound, with high and deep vocals floating on a backdrop of shamanic-like drumming. Another favorite track of mine is “Where I Find You”. I love the piano in this track.

“Asatoma Sadgamaya” is based on a mantra to the Universe for enlightenment and freedom from fear. This mantra song is beautifully adorned in rich vocal harmonies, strings, bass, guitar, and drum. The final track “Unbreakable” really brings out the sublime beauty of Donna’s voice and her talent for creating gorgeous heavenly melodies and poignant lyrics. Indeed, Donna’s striking vocals, the music she intones, and her artistic creativity really shine throughout this album. We end our session with a fuller sense of being present, and better clarity of mind and purpose, but mostly grateful to be able to enjoy this otherworldly sensory experience.  

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Gone Beyond is also available at Amazon, iTunes, and more. 

Album Review: Oracle of Delphi by Rusty Crutcher

Review by Candice Michelle

Composer and Multi-instrumentalist Rusty Crutcher has been producing and releasing music on his own artist-owned label, Emerald Green Sound Productions, since 1987. Having released seven albums in his historical/mythical-themed Sacred Sites Series, Oracle of Delphi is the latest installment inspired by Crutcher’s exciting travels to sacred sites throughout the world.

As the album title suggests, Oracle of Delphi takes the listener’s mind on a journey to a glorious mystical place in Greece’s ancient past – Delphi, a sacred precinct that served as the seat of the oracle, Pythia, who was consulted by people throughout the Mediterranean and beyond.

Comprised of ten compositions spanning just under an hour, the album seemingly guides us through shadowy portals and watery corridors that are perfectly illustrated by minimalist neoclassical and symphonic ambient vistas.

We sail away to an enchanted land with the dreamily foreboding opening piece, “Miriam’s Wish”, which is characterized by an understated orchestration of synths, strings, chimes and woodwinds.

The third track, “Aegean Reflections”, is one of my favorites, pleasantly recalling the album Journey to Atlantis by Llewellyn and Kevin Kendle. Here an ethereal coalescence of flowing strings, siren-like vocals and pulsating rhythmic undercurrent paint tranquil mental images of a mythical undersea kingdom.

The fifth track, “Apollo Awakens”, is another highlight that perhaps suggests a misty sea voyage amid towering mounting cliffs with its haunting duduk, eerie timbres and glistening bell tones conveying exploration and mystery.

The seventh track, “Pythia’s Trance”, is especially noteworthy for its earthy touch and hypnotic mood on which delicate panpipe and melodic percussion evoke veiled forest imagery.

If you enjoy fantasy film scores and video game soundtracks – and Greek mythology in particular – Oracle of Delphi provides a great musical companion for nighttime listening by candlelight or while reading an exciting novel.

~Candice Michelle for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Oracle of Delphi is also available at Amazon, iTunes, and more.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Album Review: Reflection by Lynn Tredeau

Review by Marilyn Torres

The opening track for Lynn Tredeau’s latest solo piano album, Reflection, titled “Tide Pools”, swells with emotion as its repetitive cadence softly rises and levels off into the finale.

The second track, “Someday, Somehow”, along with other pieces like “The Passing of Time” and “The Road to There”, bring a clean and wishful air similar to the effect after a rain shower.

Tracks like “What the Rain Said” and “Washed Away” convey the overall perception of having traveled from the mountain top through woodland and into a waterway, while other pieces such as “Meandering” and “Nomad” are infused with the Erik Satie style as “droplets” of keys trickle down to cover musical ground.

Halfway through listening to the evocative “Dreaming Tree”, I realized it reminded me of the Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s score for the film Unfaithful, with its melancholy and otherworldly quality. 

“Aspens of Targhee Mountain” pays homage to the album’s main title by offering the listener a slow and reflective melody that is both calm and full of possibility, while “Deep in the Forest” gives the sense of making one’s way through dense foliage at first slowly, but then picking up pace with determination and a steady stride.

The closing track, “Celebration”, paints a picture of happiness and movement with the piano keeping a steady, almost ballerina-step in major keys.

With this project, Tredeau has indeed captured the essence of reflection; reflecting on one's life, reflecting on a journey, or reflecting on what is yet to be discovered. As a prolific artist, she shows us how, in stillness and deep thought there is also forward movement and energy.     

~Marilyn Torres for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Reflection is also available at Amazon, Bandcamp, and more. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Album Review: Positano Songs by Will Ackerman

Review by Lissette Cascante

The strings on Will’s guitar vibrate with joy, warmth, and simplicity in his latest CD of all original acoustic compositions Positano Songs, a musical memoir of his years visiting Positano, a charming, iconic village on the famous Amalfi Coast of Italy. Having been to Italy and its Mediterranean coasts several times myself, I can relate to the magical feeling one is easily wrapped in. I recommend reading through the inside liner notes so you can enjoy Will’s musings of his favorite getaway to truly appreciate this album. If you’ve never been to Positano, this album will take you there. If you have been, this album will take you there again, but maybe in a more reflective and engaged way…

After a long period of not writing, Will Ackerman, award-winning guitarist, producer, and founder of Windham Hill Records, went on a quest to find new musical inspiration: “I hadn’t written any new music in quite some time…, recounts Ackerman, “it occurred to me that if there were any place in this world where I could probably find inspiration and write again, it would be in Positano, Italy.” And so it was that in 2015, after immersing himself in the sights and sounds of that enchanting region and its people; conjuring up its dearest memories, Will brought back a lovely bouquet of songs infused with the fragrances of his beloved Positano. As Will puts it “Piece after heartfelt piece simply materialized.”

There are no fancy orchestrations, no loud crescendos, or exorbitant vocals to impress. Simple, heartfelt compositions expertly performed, and organic instrumentation sweep the listener away to a place of beauty, genuineness, and quiet reflection on the things that really matter.

Will plays three guitars in the album, his Froggy Bottom K Model six string, the Martin parlor guitar gifted to him by the late great Michael Hedges years ago, and a jumbo Steve Klein guitar for lead parts. Adding their talents are friends and accomplished musicians such as Tom Eaton (piano and bass), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Noah Wilding (vocals), and Jeff Oster (Flugelhorn). All songs are composed by Will Ackerman.

The album begins with "Nighttime in the Chapel", as Will’s solitary 6-string guitar gently invites the listener to sit alongside him, alone at midnight, in the chapel of the little village of Nocelle, where he and his wife Susan were married years before and watch the shadows dance happily on the wall.

Wafts of gratitude and joy engage our senses in “Our Wedding Song” as friends join in the celebration. With Charlie Bisharat contributing violin, Noah Wilding vocals, and Tom Eaton bass, a beautiful milestone moment is etched in memory and music.

Like awakening from a dream not being quite sure of reality from the surreal “Did I Dream This” enhanced by Eugene Friesen’s cello, Noah’s ethereal vocals, and Tom Eaton on piano and bass, recreates the lovely haunting, misty sensation of the moonlit night in Positano which Will describes through his slow reflective guitar; his memory of an elusive melody in the distance lingers on.

“The End of the Day”, a walk home alone after a nice evening dinner in this remote place, the glowing spirit of friendship lighting the way at night is artfully expressed through guitar chords, violin, and soft voices. “For Carmine” is a sweet melody dedicated to a longtime dear friend of Will’s and resident of Positano. With Will on parlor & 6 string guitars, Eugene Friesen on cello, and Tom Eaton on bass.

My favorite track is “This Is Where It Begins”. I really like the musical instrumentation combination, the way each come in at just the right time, the gliding violin, piano keys chiming in crystalline form, and as Will describes, that feeling of “coming home”. Envision mild weather, breezy, sunny days, delicious Mediterranean dinners, conversation, and laughter with cherished friends, sparkling moonlit nights.

The timeless, relaxed atmosphere of the region, reminiscent of "la dolce vita" continues in tracks like The Tyrrhenian Sea with pensive, quiet, repetitive guitar strokes reflecting on the ocean waves; and Passing Baldo's Tower inviting us to take in the beauty, while “For Giovanni” is dedicated to his dear friend and owner of the upstairs apartment where Will stayed at through the years every visit.

The album starts solo and ends solo because, after all, it’s Will’s journey. “I Had to Go There” is about the power of “point of contact” experience, reliving the memories i.e., one last time to the Chapel, last dinner at the place of his wedding dinner years ago (Dona Rosa in Montepertuso), smiles, and warm welcomes. We are grateful that Will found the inspiration he went searching for; and could return home ready to put all those warm feelings, emotions, and memories in his diary of musical interpretation to share with us in such a beautiful, simple, and expressive way. If I could describe Will Ackerman’s latest album Positano Songs in one word, it would be “simplicity.”

“…I’ve learned to shut out rational thought and simply feel…. “— Will Ackerman

Positano Songs is produced by Tom Eaton and Will Ackerman. Mixed and mastered by Tom Eaton. Recorded at Imaginary Road Studios, Windham County, Vermont. 

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Positano Songs is also available at Amazon, iTunes, and more. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Album Review: The Moon's Within Reach by Karavan Sarai

Review by Abdul Yamani

Karavan Sarai creates world fusion music that traverse landscapes spanning from the Middle East to South Asia. Their debut album Woven Landscapes (2015) along with the band’s follow-up releases Painted Sands (2018) and Torn In Love (2020) all peaked at high positions on world music charts and achieved much critical acclaim. 

On their latest release, The Moon’s Within Reach, Karavan Sarai takes us on a mesmerizing journey inspired by Silk Road pathways and desert sands. Here you’ll discover the spirit of Egyptian, Arabian, Turkish and Indian music fused with the lush electronic creations of two-time Grammy-nominated producer and programmer Carmen Rizzo.

Instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer Narayan Sijan describes images of “Sufis playing music, whirling from the deserts of India to the Nile River and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt” and “fire in the sand dunes under a starry night” among his personal encounters and experiences which inspire his musical art-form, and are captured in the album’s two meditatively flowing compositions.

On the extended hypnotic piece, “Longing in the Stars" featuring Tabeah, the Turkish saz is brought into dialogue with the Egyptian oud which are encompassed by ambient textures sustained throughout. Transcendent male and female vocal melodies eventually join along, creating a colorful cultural tapestry that speaks to the depths of the soul as a sonic perfume fills the air with a mystical scent.

~Abdul Yamani for Auralscapes

For more information please visit Karavan Sarai's website. The Moon's Within Reach is also available at Bandcamp, iTunes and more.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Auralscapes: Episode 002

A refreshing 2-hour episode of contemporary instrumental, contemporary world & contemporary classical music from across the globe.

0:00:00 / Kelly Andrew / Onagar / Revelation
0:04:22 / Kerani / The Water of Life / The Water of Life
0:09:16 / David De Michele / Hope After the Storm / Beyond
0:14:55 / Omar Akram / Open Skies / Echoes of Love
0:19:41 / Opium Moon / Opium Moon: Day / Night + Day
0:27:49 / Clarico / The Wound Between Us / The Wound Between Us
0:30:26 / Secret Garden / Escape / White Stones
0:33:54 / David Arkenstone & Diane Arkenstone / The Crystal Shores / Avalon: Between Earth and Sky
0:37:42 / Yungchen Lhamo / Loving Kindness / Awakening
0:40:57 / James Asher & Arthur Hall / From the Ground Up / Energised by Stars
0:44:37 / Wouter Kellerman & David Arkenstone / Across Land and Sea / Pangaea
0:48:48 / Angèle Dubeau / Flight / Elle
0:53:10 / Peter Calandra / Caritas / Caritas
0:58:43 / Karavan Sarai / Become My Moon (part 1) / The Moon’s Within Reach
1:03:45 / Kirsten Agresta Copely / Devotion / Devotion
1:06:09 / Juan Sanchez / A Nocturne / Touch and Sound
1:11:07 / Mamak Khadem / Remembrance / Remembrance
1:16:05 / AO Music / Into the Trees / Kutumba
1:19:50 / Will Ackerman / This is Where it Begins / Positano Songs
1:24:26 / Donna DeLory / Asatoma Sadgamaya / Gone Beyond
1:31:07 / Richard Souther / No Matter What the Storm May Be / Arc of Visibility
1:37:42 / Frolin / Dusk / Eventide
1:40:17 / Lis Addison / Mother Waters / Elements
1:47:02 / Kerry Barnes / Floral Notes / Just Piano 2
1:49:52 / Sushma Soma / Nature / Nature

Friday, March 18, 2022

Album Review: Music for Hard Times by The Living Earth Show and Danny Clay

Review by Candice Michelle

Presented as a two-volume set, Music for Hard Times is the sonic creation of The Living Earth Show and Danny Clay who conceived this album with the global hardships of the past couple of years as its inspiration. Recorded in isolation, and compiled and edited by Clay, volume one was created in April 2020 at the home of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson of The Living Earth Show. Contributions to the album include young musicians from the San Francisco Girls Chorus led by Valerie Sainte-Agathe, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music led by Edwin Outwater. Further complimenting the audio experience is a limited-edition book created by Nick Ross and Brandie Grogan, as well as a full-length film produced by artist Jon Fischer.

Comprised of 15 compositions spanning approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, each track is titled after the album and named in parts, opening with “Music for Hard Times, Pt. 1”. In what could be described as minimalist classical, avant-garde and experimentally environmental, Music for Hard Times employs various field recordings, conservatory instruments and textural vocalizations – effectively resulting in consciously understated ensemble arrangements.

Conveying an air of contemplative abstraction, sparsely executed and improvised melodies take freeform shape from an intriguing sound palette – such as the crystalline bells, slushing ice effects and suspended brass tones on the piece “Music for Hard Times, Pt. 4” – or the singing bowls, chirping birds and natural white noise on “Music for Hard Times, Pt. 5”.

Other notable pieces include “Music for Hard Times, Pt. 8” – the album’s lengthiest piece at nearly 13 minutes – which is sustained throughout by a droning undercurrent upon which sparse textural instrumentation gradually builds into a delicate confluence that washes over the aural senses. On “Music for Hard Times: Vol. 2, Pt. 2”, classical strings and vocalized improvisations expressed in delicate melancholic croons recall the Icelandic band Sigur Rós.

Culminating in an epilogue titled “Music for Hard Times: Epilogue”, a ray of sunshine seemingly pours through on the 15th and final track, bringing with it a soft glimmer of solace, hope and comfort.

~Candice Michelle for Auralscapes

For more information please visit the artist’s website. Music for Hard Times is also available at Bandcamp, Amazon and more.