Thursday, September 8, 2016

Album Review: Circles of 8 by Holland Phillips

Holland Phillips is a keyboardist and composer whose fifth album, Circles of 8 is inspired by the resonances from the circles of life and vibrational building blocks of creation. Comprised of eleven compositions spanning fifty-one minutes, Holland demonstrates mostly dynamic and melodically straightforward motifs on this recording, which have been rendered on both new and vintage keyboards and synthesizers. He likewise plays acoustic and electric guitar on a couple of tracks while incorporating additional sounds of strings, woodwinds, harpsichord, percussion and bass, which are provided on various compositions throughout.

“Starting Over” is a spirited composition that opens with melodic piano and keyboards. Characteristic of both new age synthesizer and contemporary instrumental music, it sets the mood for the rest of the album, which mostly exudes a dynamic serenity. “Night Tracks” follows next and is easily my favorite piece on the album. Beginning with tapping percussion, it soon leads into a fantasy-like arrangement of synthesized chords, strings and reed instruments that underscore a lead piano melody. A subtle drumbeat guides “The Journey”, a similarly whimsical piece that is likewise accompanied by a melodic arrangement of sparkling synthetic textures. “Marking Time” is another engaging example that follows in a similar vein, where a synthetic fog permeates a repeating harpsichord melody along with dynamic vintage keyboard motifs. Additionally, Holland’s longtime friend Paul Christensen lends saxophone on two of the album’s jazzier numbers, including “Stephanie’s Song” and “Classic by Design”, both of which are sentimentally buoyant and bright.

Notably characteristic of both new age synthesizer and electronic-based contemporary instrumental music, the album’s specific kinds of melodic arrangements, as well as its utilization of both older and vintage-style electronic instruments, imbue the music with a distinctive 80’s-era panache. The compositions are in constant motion with hardly a moment free of overt melodic movement, while additionally touching upon elements of neoclassical and symphonic-style orchestration in a decidedly simplistic and uncomplicated fashion. Those who are particularly fond of such motifs will likely find Circles of 8 to be an overall gently uplifting and peacefully pleasant listening experience. ~Candice Michelle

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

Review originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 09/08/16.