Friday, October 26, 2018

Aural Awakenings: Episode 19 (An All Hallows Eve Special)

00:18 / Blackmore’s Night / Ghost of John / To the Moon and Back
03:52 / Joseph Akins / Ghost of Mill Wee Hollow / Into the Flow
08:50 / Omar Akram / Gypsy Spirit / Secret Journey
13:17 / Enaid / Merlin’s Secret / Avalon: A Celtic Legend
17:26 / Erik Scott / Ghosts of Storyville / A Trick of the Wind
22:59 / Aine Minogue / Ghostly Love / Eve
27:07 / Fiona Joy / Story of Ghosts / Story of Ghosts
30:29 / Jesse Cook / Witching Hour / The Blue Guitar Sessions
33:29 / Timothy Wenzel / Incantations / What We Hold Dear
38:00 / Nouveau Papillon / Enchantment Blooms / Enchantment Blooms
44:30 / Robin Spielberg / Spellbound / On the Edge of a Dream
48:58 / Kevin Kendle / The Magician / Music for Tarot
54:09 / Laura Powers / Samhain Madrigal / Legends of the Goddess

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Album Review: Leaning Toward Home by Holland Phillips

Composer and keyboardist Holland Phillips has released a total of seven albums over the past several years with his latest output, Leaning Toward Home, continuing along the synthesizer-based contemporary instrumental style of his previous releases. Comprised of eleven easy-going and optimistic compositions upon which the sun never sets, the album’s arrangements mostly move along at a mid-tempo pace, as Phillips serves-up convivial keyboard melodies amid gentle programmed beats and quasi-orchestration.

Two of the most enjoyable pieces to my ears are paired together – with “A Sip of Potion” being the first of these at the album’s halfway mark. Accentuating this sunny arrangement with glistening bell-like timbres, Phillips seemingly imbues it with the semblance of a vintage fantasy film. He likewise continues in this mode on my favorite piece, “Moving Forward”, wherein Phillips further delights us with a comparatively more reflective keyboard melody.

Perhaps taking a few queues from the successful works of Mannheim Steamroller, Phillips’s music is overall characterized by a distinctly 80s-era vibe that hasn’t changed much since he debuted on the music scene with his first album. Lightly treading along a comfortable course, Phillips may not be breaking new ground as a composer, but he does create harmoniously sentimental music intended to lift the spirits – and that, he certainly succeeds at! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, Google Play, CD Baby and iTunes.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Album Review: Lonely Satellite by Lena Natalia

Lena Natalia is a Chicago-based pianist and composer who initially captured my attention a couple of years ago with her second album entitled Rendezvous in Paris (and follow-up to her debut release, Sundays in Paris). What especially drew me to Lena’s music was her unique brand of ambient-piano and classical minimalism that intriguingly sets her apart from a plethora of comparatively more “contemporary” and “new age” defined piano albums that I’ve heard over the past few years. Comprised of 15 compositions spanning 42 minutes – with all but one piece clocking in at under 4 minutes – Lena’s latest album entitled Lonely Satellite further expounds on the subtle direction of last year’s release, Almost Home, with its uniquely processed effects applied to her piano. Utterly transforming Lena's otherwise solo instrumental pieces into duskily atmospheric, multi-tonal soundscapes, I find her compositions deeply affecting and often wistful with an air of reminiscent longing.

From the opening piece, “Ballerina at Night”, we’re met with an instantly memorable melody and Lena’s now-familiar style of interlocking piano figures. One of my favorites, “Munich Train 7H04”, is a shining example of Lena’s ability to imbue her compositions with a sense of haunting nostalgia. Here, as with other pieces, she achieves that by applying an echoing, reverberating effect and underlying rhythmic pulse. On “Lonely Satellite”, mellifluously cascading piano notes seemingly fall all around like raindrops onto an encircling puddle of water – making this an exemplary classical ambient piece of supreme beauty and coy elegance.

Overall keeping in line with a more minimalistic approach, Lena’s music isn’t noted by particularly overt crescendos or musical peaks throughout. Rather, her generally understated yet undeniably intricate compositions tend to beguilingly shimmer like filtered light beneath a watery surface. A musical genius in the realm of modern piano music, I expect Lena Natalia’s star will continue to rise ever-further in its sky! ~Candice Michelle

This album is available at Bandcamp, Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Album Review: A World Away by 2002

2002 began as the husband/wife duo of Randy and Pamela Copus who released their widely successful debut album Wings in 1992. Initially making their mark on the scene with a traditionally ‘new age’ style in the vein of Herb Ernst or Liquid Mind, the band gradually evolved over the years to adopt more symphonic and neoclassical signatures, such as on their notable 2000 release River of Stars, which employed classical strings and wordless ethereal vocal layers reminiscent of Enya. Evolving ever still, 2002 started incorporating gentle progressive rock elements (as heard on their 2012 album Believe) with Randy’s lyrical-vocal style impressively recalling that of Jon Anderson’s. By the time their 2014 album Trail of Dreams rolled around, Randy and Pamela’s daughter Sarah Copus had joined the line-up as lead vocalist, officially becoming the band’s third member. Comprised of ten alluring compositions, 2002’s latest album entitled A World Away is themed around a cosmic love story of kindred spirits traveling together among different worlds and time periods, becoming lost along the way until eventually reuniting, as if the music were playing out like the soundtrack to a fantasy romance novel. Together the trio not only provide vocals, but play a variety of Celtic, classical and acoustic instruments plus keyboards/synthesizers.

From the opening piece “Dream of Life” the listener is seemingly swept up on a magical night-flight guided by the song’s choral-pop vocal arrangement, which is feathered among a richly cinematic soundscape likewise mirrored on other compositions such as “Butterfly”, “Stars and Moon” and “Strings of Your Heart”. One of my favorite pieces is “Finding You”, which unfolds like a Celtic lullaby with its tender harp and gentle guitar. Randy’s progressive rock influences are especially noted on “To Live Again”, which he beautifully sings to a gentle arrangement of piano and symphony. “Memory of Tomorrow” is perhaps the ultimate highlight for me; the most haunting piece on the album due to its mysterious, minor key affections along the way, it enchantingly lulls the listener into a dreamlike haze.

Collectively, the lyrical vocal portions on this album are somewhat reminiscent of the male/female ‘new age’ music duo Llewellyn of whom I’m also a longtime fan. Additionally, the gorgeous CD booklet includes the songs’ inspiringly romantic and celestially poetic lyrics accompanied by stunning fantasy-nature artwork. Overall sweet and sparkling yet rich in depth, A World Away is, unsurprisingly, another top-notch album from 2002 that will likely appeal to fans of Enya, Llewellyn and Jon Anderson, as well as lovers of Celtic, ethereal and fantasy music! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Album Review: White Sun III by White Sun

White Sun is a California-based musical trio comprised of television and film composer Adam Berry, Gurujas Khalsa and Harijiiwan Khalsa. The band’s previous album entitled White Sun II was one of my favorite vocal/world releases of 2016 with its exquisite musical blend of east-meets-west that showcased Gurujas’ stunning ethereal vocal arrangements. Since their self-titled debut release in 2015, White Sun has organically evolved their sound with each successive album – and their newest installment entitled White Sun III is already proving to be my favorite release from this band thus far. A double-album comprised of twenty-three prepossessing compositions, White Sun returns with their signature ensemble of Gurujas on vocals, Harijiwan on gong and multi-instrumentalist Adam Berry on bass, guitar and synthesizer. Other musicians joining the trio on various tracks provide additional instruments such as fiddle, guitar, kora, tablas and other world-percussive elements. Following along a musical path carved out by Deva Premal in the late 1990’s (and shortly thereafter Rasa in the early 2000’s) White Sun likewise creates enchanting melodies from heartfelt mantras which are accompanied by gentle atmospheric arrangements – all while pushing new boundaries and establishing a clear musical identity of their own. Though often lending an orchestrally cinematic touch to the compositions, White Sun never once ventures off into overelaborate spectacles of musical excesses. Rather, their sound always retains a simplistic beauty about it that allows for plenty of breathing room – and as such – effectively transfers a relaxing and rejuvenating effect upon the listener.

One of my favorite pieces herein is “Wah Yantee One”, which imparts a velvety atmosphere around Gurujas’ layered and reverberating voice. In fact, on several pieces the infusion of delicate classical strings and ethereally echoing vocal layers somewhat resembles an Enya-esque soundscape – albeit laced with Indian rather than Celtic overtones. Another pristine highlight is “Mere Lal Jio”, which atmospherically recalls Sheila Chandra or Lisa Gerrard with its haunting vocal intonations and shadowy minimal soundscape. In a complimentary contrast, “Ram Ram” gets a nice groove going with its emphasis on Indian tablas, swirly guitar accents and catchy vocal melody.

Ethereal yet earthy and always heavenly blissful, White Sun III is an impressively beautiful, nurturing and comforting album which is certain to further grow the devoted listener following that White Sun has already garnered in just a couple of years! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon and iTunes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Top 25 Albums for September 2018

Presented in alphabetical order by artist name.

Artist Name Album Title Record Label
Aidia A Beautiful Fall Kevin Keller Productions
Áine Minogue Eve Áine Minogue
Aureliaslight Seasons Aureliaslight
Barbara Graff Beginnings Barbara Graff
Carl Weingarten  This Is Where I Found You Multiphase
Cecilie Fearless Utmark
Cory Lavine Out of the Blue Cory Lavine
Deborah Martin  Selections Spotted Peccary
Don Latarski River Heart Dance
Eamonn Karran  I'll Be With You Real Music
Eric Tingstad Electric Spirit Cheshire
Erik Scott  A Trick of the Wind Erik Scott
Gareth Laffely & Lance Bendiksen ft. Wes Voices of the Guardians Roaring Brook
Gary Schmidt Even for a Moment Heart Dance
Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning Eirlandia  Arkmusic
Ken Verheecke Between Earth & Sky Heart Dance
Kevin Wood Eternal Real Music
Loreena McKennitt Lost Souls Quinlan Road
Komie Afterglow Komie
Michelle Qureshi Short Stories Music as Metaphor
Monica Williams Journey of Tears Heart Dance
Peter Calandra Carpe Noctem PCM
Rachel LaFond Encounters of the Beautiful Kind Rachel LaFond
Ron Korb World Café Humbledragon Entertainment
Sherry Finzer & Mark Holland Somewhere New Heart Dance