Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Album Review: Potential by Raphael Groten
Raphael Groten is a Vermont-based, accomplished guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, sound engineer, composer, and recording artist whose intuition led him to discover his purpose of being. A firm believer in the healing power of music, Raphael was compelled to create healing music years ago following an impactful life experience related to his young son. He also composes music for children and families.
Raphael has received critical acclaim for his acoustic recordings produced by Will Ackerman, founder of the Windham Hill Record label, and Imaginary Road Studios. Ackerman remarks that “Raphael paints pictures of peace and contemplation and creates musical worlds that one longs to visit.”
In Potential, Raphael’s first self-produced album, his musical styles encompass a variety of genres and persuasions, exploring the roots of the Americas, and the sounds of the African continent. Raphael calls it “world medicine groove.”
Keeping the listener engaged as an active participant in this rêverie are Raphael’s guitar, and a delightful assortment of instruments from around the world such as Ukulele, Bamboo Flute, Kalimba, Hand Pan, percussion, and gong, sprinkled with Raphael’s unique vocals and chants. Nature sounds woven throughout the album affirm his love of the natural world and his appreciation for the many creatures with whom we share this planet, which in their own way offer us healing and guidance.
The still sound of the Gong opens the album as a bamboo flute joins in followed by an ambient guitar gently nudging us to cross an imaginary threshold and “Wander” into worlds of fantastic sounds and rhythms. With deep drumming vibes, flute, handpan and a myriad of other percussion instruments, the title track “Potential” which follows, quickly thrusts us into a sort of tribal trance making it easy to imagine ourselves the guest to a festive celebration somewhere in the African expanse.
The third track features Raphael singing a chant-like prayer to the “Great Spirit” in a deep raspy voice; you’ll feel the emotion engulf your soul in this firepower of spiritual intensity.
“Within” will whisk you away with its sounds of ocean waves, bells, bamboo flute and deep vibrations to an imaginary faraway island where you can connect in solitude with your whole being and find that calm space within.
A wonderful meshing of flute, ukulele and kalimba carry the main melody in “Care” while in “Melt” we’re entranced once again by Raphael’s voice in indigenous chant. “River’s Edge” features flowing water sounds, guitar, bells, percussion, flute and soft rhythms. Rainforest bird sounds in “Pause” tug at our wandering spirit as a variety of instruments join in to create a hypnotic state of oneirism. Kalimba and percussion perk us up in “Percolate” as Raphael’s voice highlights in tribal chants. “Call” features handpan, jungle bird sounds, vibrating instruments, drenched in soft deep tones.
“Aft” is my favorite in the album and features Raphael’s fantastically brilliant guitar licks in a backdrop of gong and other world instruments. “Bear Cave” is a nice musical groove and sound environment exploration. “Release” features guitar, flute, rattle, deep breath vocals and lyrics which invite the listener to release all fear and breathe in freedom without trepidation. And lastly, in “Twin Eagle” the powerful flute seems to call in repetitive melody to our winged friends on high; tell us stories of ages past, that we may be truly liberated from nature’s regrets, learn the lessons, and live in a more conscious, purposeful, and peaceful way.
All of the music was composed, performed, produced and engineered by Raphael Groten in his Vermont studio. Potential is a unique sensory and spiritual excursion which takes the listener on a melodic imaginary adventure to remote places, wildlife, music, rhythms, cultures, and traditions, relaxing the mind and nourishing the soul.
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