Thursday, July 28, 2022

Album Review: Sapphire Oak by Sharon Fendrich

Review by Marilyn Torres


In her newest CD, Sapphire Oak, Sharon Fendrich utilizes her love of the natural world and her gift of composition, and invites us to explore the diverse nature and function of the oak and its landscape. 

In the first minute and a half of Sea of Oaks, we hear the cascading piano followed by the Irish whistle and then the fiddle and again the piano, giving the piece a circular motion as a soothing choir emerges and we again make our way to the individual instruments one by one as the circle closes in a dance like the falling leaves of an oak tree.

Leaves of Glory and The Grove at Dodona both begin with a similar morning dawn feel which rises into a full orchestral stretch before coming to rest on solid ground. Runic Roots and Call of the Ruins incorporate windswept sound, however while the former felt playful, with its picking of the string instruments like tiptoeing through a valley, Fendrich’s vocals in the latter, Call of the Ruins, lend it a celestial and emotional grasp.  

Fendrich’s creative composition produces another lively dance between the harp, the flute and the fiddle in The Oaken Door, while in Dryad’s Rejoice the harp sets the stage for the contemplative piano and Irish whistle.

The somewhat ominous opening in Of Badges and Crowns frames the piece as a call for reverence and honor. In contrast, Under Her Canopy gives the listener a fairy garden aura as Fendrich and her daughter Talia Valdes join in harmonious vocals taking us deep into the forest. 

To further showcase the artistic and intellectual virtuosity of Sharon Fendrich, the title piece, Sapphire Oak, features Fendrich singing her lyrics in the language of Ta’ek which Fendrich herself developed! 

In the final piece, Carry the Oak, the Irish whistle, the fiddle, and the piano collaborate once more to direct the flow of the piece as it gently carries the listener towards the powerful yet tender finale.

With grace and intelligence, Sharon Fendrich has produced a work encompassing the qualities of the beloved oak tree; strong, warm, expansive and serene.   

~Marilyn Torres for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Sapphire Oak is also available at AmazonApple Music and more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Album Review: Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II by David Arkenstone

Review by Candice Michelle


I have long been fascinated by the life of J.R.R. Tolkien and his best-selling classic epic fantasy novel series The Lord of the Rings. If there is one composer who can most perfectly pay musical homage to the enduring legacy of Tolkien’s greatest works, it’s the creatively prolific David Arkenstone. A musical novelist in his own right, as well as multi-Grammy Award nominated recording artist and Billboard New Age chart-topper whose career spans more than three decades, Arkenstone is certainly no stranger to the fantasy genre. Having mastered a diversity of musical styles – including Ambient/Chill, Celtic, World and Classical Crossover/Pop – Arkenstone frequently draws creative inspiration from ancient folklore, mythology and natural places of wonder across the globe.

The second companion to Arkenstone’s 2001 album Music Inspired by Middle Earth, Tolkien’s epic story is sonically re-imagined once again on Arkenstone’s Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II – a 14-track album spanning approximately 63 minutes – whereby the listener is invited along for another enthrallingly magical adventure.

Atmospheric symphony and haunting choral figures open “The Shadow of the Past” wherein the veil between our world and the enchanting one depicted in the novels is once again lifted for a time. “The Green Dragon” follows with a festive arrangement of Celtic rhythms and violin (courtesy of Luanne Homzy) as one might imagine themselves joining the lovely hobbits for some dancing, drinking and playfulness among the green hills and pastures. Subsequently, Jillian Aversa provides ethereal wordless vocals on the mesmerizing “Daughter of the River”, a delicate and flowing piece that feels like sailing down a sparkling river in a paradisiacal elven forest.

Other outstanding pieces like “Servant of The Secret Fire” and “Minas Morgul” make use of darkly dramatic orchestration, shadowy gothic choirs and thunderously cinematic drumming, recalling the darker neoclassical mood of Arkenstone’s 2016 album Beneath a Darkening Sky.

Two other notable favorites include the back-to-back compositions “Caras Galadhon” and “Fangorn Forest”. On the watery and crystal-like “Caras Galadhon”, gently whirling minor-key orchestration conveys a bewitching suspense that feels reminiscent of "Lothlórien" or “The Palantír” from the first Music Inspired by Middle Earth album. In gentle contrast, “Fangorn Forest” recalls some of Arkenstone’s more world-tinged albums (plus the classical symphonic touch) with its native flute, rhythmic shakers and clicking percussion.

For those who enjoyed the accompanying film scores by Howard Shore to Peter Jackson’s cinematographically gorgeous and otherworldly movie adaption of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, David Arkenstone’s Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II is an absolute must-have for any L.O.T.R. novel, movie, music or memorabilia fan. Variably moving along its course from dramatic to dreamy, and suspenseful to serene, Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II is another poetically magnificent musical journey that could be described as ‘atmospheric classical fantasy music’ – and sure to be a top contender in the genre for this year’s best album.  

~Candice Michelle for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II is also available at AmazonApple Music and more.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Album Review: Into the Unknown by Joseph L Young

Review by Lissette Cascante


Composer and multi-instrumentalist, Joseph L Young has enjoyed a proliferous career as a musician unafraid to go beyond boundaries of genre, style, or sound. Joseph is an established chart-topping, award-winning musician whose music has enjoyed broad radio and internet airplay, spanning such genres as New Age, Ambient, Relaxation/Meditation, Native Fusion, Jazz Fusion, and Contemporary Instrumental. But not to be limited, he has also played with a variety of bands ranging from rock, blues, folk, jazz and even Celtic.

In his sixth full-length album, Into the Unknown, Young delves deeper into musical expanses, with compositions that explore the mystical dimensions of time, space, psyche, and spirit, normally related to the unexplained, mysterious, or concealed. The album features three songs previously released as singles: “Secrets of Stone” released in 2021, “Remembrance of Time” in 2020 featuring pianist Lynn Tredeau, and a remix of his 2019 single “Between Worlds.”

The album also showcases more of his talent as a composer and arranger as well as his mastery of the flute. “Every note I play comes from my heart and is how I share my love of music with others, it's how I express my passion for the flute”, explains Joseph. He interlaces ancient sounds with modern synth arrangements which prevail in world fusion authenticity.

Joseph holds a second degree black-belt in Chinese Shao-Lin Kung Fu and Tai Chi which evidently contribute to his unique approach to music. “I want my music to take listeners on a journey of discovery”, he expounds, “to help them work through their emotions, releasing the negative, as they grow and change, and serving as a catalyst to help with their transformation."

The title track “Into the Unknown” is my favorite piece as it abounds with mystique and features a myriad of exotic instruments, voices, and rhythms bathed in a Middle Eastern style melody. In tracks like “Remembrance of Time”, “Enchanted”, “Secrets of Stone”, “Eclipsed”, and “Windswayed”, the alluring flute and creative musical arrangements transport the listener to ancient times, distant lands, sacred ceremonies, and mysterious places.

On other tracks like “Beyond the Horizon”, “Between Worlds”, “Transcendence”, “The Forgotten”, and “Ancestral Crossings”, Joseph seems to venture into other spheres such as space exploration, and perhaps even the afterlife. Into the Unknown is a treasure chest of musical jewels you’ll delight in listening time and time again. The unknown calls us to live consciously. Joseph composes music that speaks to the human soul, and which infuses the silence with the sounds of life.  

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Into the Unknown is also available at BandcampAmazon, and Apple Music.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Auralscapes: Episode 003



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

TIME / ARTIST / TRACK TITLE / ALBUM-EP-SINGLE
0:00:00 / Nicholas Gunn / Entering (Twin Falls) [Acoustic] / Entering (Twin Falls)
0:04:07 / Brooks & Day / Rising Sun / Awakening
0:07:44 / Joseph L. Young / Enchanted / Into the Unknown
0:12:12 / Elizabeth Naccarato / Wild Horses / A Southwest Story
0:15:06 / Lis Addison / Sister Wind / Elements
0:19:50 / Kerani / The Blue Wonder / The Water of Life
0:24:32 / Tron Syverson / Blossom of the Heart / A New Spring
0:31:48 / Lynn Tredeau / Deep in the Forest / Reflection
0:36:13 / James Asher & Arthur Hall / The Visionary / Energised by Stars
0:40:03 / Genevieve Walker / Constellations / Home Songs
0:45:39 / David Arkenstone / Caras Galadhon / Music Inspired by Middle Earth Vol. II
0:50:00 / Richard Souther / Far Away the Other Shore / Arc of Visibility
0:56:53 / Will Ackerman / Nighttime in the Chapel / Positano Songs
1:00:03 / Paris Combo / Axe Imaginaire / Quesaco?
1:03:20 / Juan Sanchez / Ataraxia / Touch and Sound
1:07:30 / David Franklin & Michael Manring / Ghost Tree / Passings
1:11:10 / Larkenlyre / The Sea We Cross / Quiet Like Snow
1:12:55 / Frolin / After the Battle / After the Battle
1:16:59 / Trine Opsahl / Moonscapes I / The Moon Stays Bright
1:26:14 / Sharon Fendrich / Sapphire Oak / Sapphire Oak
1:30:05 / David Nevue / Stargazing / Wanderings: The Best of David Nevue 2011-2020
1:33:22 / Rick Sparks / Harvest Moon / Speak Peace
1:38:24 / Donna De Lory / Forgiveness Prayer / Gone Beyond
1:46:29 / Cloud Runner / Touching the Face of God / Cloud Watch With Me
1:50:46 / Sherry Finzer & VeeRonna Ragone / Stepping Stones / Mystic Breezes

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Album Review: Soul Story by Peter Kater

Review by Lissette Cascante


Grammy award-winning pianist, composer, author and ever-evolving musician Peter Kater is like a wellspring of flowing water that never runs dry. With over 60 critically acclaimed recordings and compositions to his credit, spanning varied genres from solo piano, new age, and contemporary jazz ensemble to music for full orchestra, film, television and even broadway plays, Peter’s heart remains humble and attentively connected to nature and humanity in all its complex forms.

Peter Kater’s latest album, Soul Story, is a beautiful compilation of solo piano songs and segments he composed in personalized musical sessions which he calls "Piano Readings". For several years now, Peter has been offering improvised pieces of music on a one-on-one basis in person or in digitally remote settings. Essentially, Peter listens intently to the individual’s heart as they share their "soul stories"; allowing for spontaneous inspiration Peter intuitively creates, tailors and weaves melodies into the participant‘s own unique life-journey.

As an added bonus, Peter professionally records each musical "reading" and gives it to the individual so they can listen to it over and over again and be uplifted by the positive energy, reassurance, and clarity channeled through each piano keystroke. Countless testimonies speak for the success of this unique musical experience. He expounds more about that on his website at peterkater.com.

Though I’ve no way of knowing exactly what experience inspired the first track "Starry Night", it reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the same name. There is something about gazing into the vastness of the universe on a clear, starry night that causes one to ponder on the beauty and mysteries of the human experience. Peter conveys this feeling so expertly through this quiet and gentle melody.

Interestingly, as I started to listen to "Touch of Rain", the second track, we got a much needed downpour where I live. A coincidence I’m sure but I’d like to think the song had something to do with it too! Music, like prayer, can breach the boundaries of time and distance.

The creative improvisations on the album vary in tempo and depth and range in intensity from cheerful, to melancholy, from vulnerable like in "Find Me" to determined and sure in "The Path is Clear"; from introspective to expressive, and it is evident that Peter allows the piano to follow the promptings of his heart in each song.

"Full Circle“ is a truly exquisite piece and my favorite track on the album. The piano keys in gentle circular motion, form a lovely reflective melody conveying a feeling of completeness which the song title seems to imply. Rounding out a truly therapeutic, peaceful listening session is another lovely tune titled simply "United", reminding us that we are all somehow interconnected in our life experiences, and we all have our "soul stories".  

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

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

Album Review: A Southwest Story by Elizabeth Naccarato

Review by Lissette Cascante


I enjoy discovering new-to-me artists, music and places. Elizabeth Naccarato is a seasoned and accomplished pianist who has been perfecting her craft since she began piano lessons at the age of six. An example of a truly dedicated, focused and gifted musician, Elizabeth has numerous successful recordings and award nominations to her credit, garnering international critical acclaim. She has been active in theater, voice, acting, producing, composing, directing, and as a piano instructor.

Elizabeth Naccarato’s latest CD, A Southwest Story is her seventh album, released in July 2022. It was inspired by her love of the landscape and history of southern Colorado where she resides with her husband, the legendary New Age pianist and composer Michael Gettel (whose music I have also loved and enjoyed for many years.)

If you like listening to music that transports you to different places; immersing yourself in the culture and history, you will enjoy A Southwest Story as Elizabeth’s piano compositions take you on a guided tour of this culturally diverse and rich region of the Southwest United States of America. The album also features a variety of instruments such as Native Flute, English Horn, Bass, Violin, Accordion, Mandolin, and Guitar.

The first track on the album is titled “San Luis”, a gentle melody for piano against a backdrop of exquisite Spanish guitar and nostalgic mandolin accompaniment, honoring the oldest continuously inhabited town in Colorado established in 1851. The town has retained much of its religious, cultural, and artistic traditions from long-ago Spanish settlers. The beauty of the mountains and the fertile valley reminded them of Spain and beckoned them to stay.

The San Luis Valley is home to some of the country’s remaining wild horses. The strength and grace of these majestic creatures is fancifully portrayed in “Wild Horses“ the second track, a delightful allegro embellished with skillful piano fingering and featuring vibrant percussion which add a dramatic flair.

“Sacred Land“ is a lovely ensemble for piano, violin and featuring Nancy Rumbel on Native Flute; quietly recalling the spiritual depth and ancient history of the Native American people and their reverence for the land.

More creative, delightful tunes follow such as “Mi Hito, No!“ (although I respectfully suggest a correction on the spelling of the second word to “Hijito“), and others highlighting the region’s unique blend of cultures, music and peoples through the ages.

From whimsical tunes to waltzes to classical covers of Spanish composers to reverent pieces honoring religious traditions of old, and slow dreamy solo piano sequences reflecting on the region’s beauty and the natural elements, A Southwest Story offers a relaxing and uplifting “auralscape“ to a fascinating place.  

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. A Southwest Story is also available at Amazon, iTunes, and more. 

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.