Friday, September 18, 2020

Aural Awakenings: Episode 40

Another refreshing blend of contemporary instrumental & neoclassical new-age music!

Seay / The Golden Spiral / In the Garden
Darlene Koldenhoven / Prism of Time / Chromatones
Lisa Lynne & Aryeh Frankfurter / Passage to Mörko / Harmony House
Cantus / Brorson: Mu Vaibmu / Northern Lights
Kitaro / Flying Celestial Nymphs / Best of Silk Road
Pam Asberry / Cry from Lamanai / Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs
Terry Lee Nichols / Cosmic Dark Ages / The Pale Blue Dot
Kerani / When the Night Comes / Sands of Time
Sherry Finzer & Chris Jacome / Reflections / Soul Español
White Sun / Eka Mai / White Sun III
Michelle Qureshi / Half this Sky / Within
Aidia / Go with Me / Spirit Wind
Llewellyn / Rainbow Light / Healing Reiki Music

Friday, September 11, 2020

Aural Awakenings: Episode 39

Another refreshing blend of contemporary instrumental & neoclassical new-age music!

2002 / Castle of Dromore / Celtic Fairy Dream
David J. Peña / Renaissance / Thinking of You
Scott Reich / Sweetness / Interbeing: Elements of Connection
Matthew Mayer / Philosophy of End / 16670
Sherry Finzer & Chris Jacome / Sea of Tranquility / Soul Español
Peter Sterling / The Light Within / Sanctuary of Light
Shoshana Michel / Dancing in the Shadows / Impressions
Kevin Keller / The Forgotten Places / The Front Porch of Heaven
Richard Souther / For the Love of His Buddy / Waiting in the Wings
Healing Sound Project / Grounding I / 1:1
James Michael Stevens / Tuscany Fields / Italian Preludes, Nos. 1-8
Kirsten Agresta Copely / Wind Made Moan / Around the Sun
Paul Avgerinos / Healing Presence / Healing

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Album Review: Directions by Kenneth Hooper

Kenneth Hooper is a Texas-born composer and assorted flute player who initially started out playing bass guitar. In 1994, after moving to Redwood, California, he picked up his first flute at a penny whistle workshop, which eventually accompanied him everywhere while on a subsequent trip to the Amazon jungle. Upon returning to the states, he was gifted a Native American flute that he also learned to play. This led to the formation of a musical duo with his friend Garth D. Brooks under the name Elysium Calling, with whom he released two albums. Another creative path would open up for Kenneth when he entered a healing arts certificate program in San Francisco called Sound, Voice and Music, which led to the subsequent release of his debut solo double-album titled Directions.

Characterized by spaciously woven organic soundscapes ranging from gently uplifting to deeply lulling, the album features Anasazi and Chinese Xiao flutes as lead instruments throughout. Likewise, both Udu and Rav drums add an entrancing quality to several pieces, while melodic acoustic guitar gives a notable Americana flavor to three of the nine tracks total. Disc one is more rhythmic while disc two is more meditative, with the second half of the album especially emphasizing the incorporation of many nature sounds along the way, including whale-song, ocean waves, singing crickets, a flowing stream and windy effects.

One of my favorite pieces, “Directions”, beautifully opens disc one with a super-slow shamanic drum pulse, as flutes, shakers and thunderstorm effects soon enter the picture and gradually pick up pace throughout. Native female vocal chants further enhance the Southwest American atmosphere of the composition and collectively calls imagery to mind of a darkening sky over vast canyon terrain.

Another equally gorgeous piece, “Graceful Expanse” from disc two, conveys a nocturnal Pacific feel with its delicately sensuous flute notes played on the Chinese Xiao in tandem with a tranquilizing Rav drum melody. Likewise, gossamer synth-pads sustained throughout add to the composition’s enthralling ambient haze, which effectively paints enchanting visuals of a misty forest softly illuminated by starlight.

A highly praiseworthy album overall that touches on ambient, acoustic and ethnic fusion musical styles, Directions is the perfect listening experience for anyone drawn to the essences of the earth via beautifully harmonious sounds! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other music retailers. For more information, please visit the artist's website.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Aural Awakenings: Episode 38

Another refreshing blend of contemporary instrumental & neoclassical new-age music!

Kerani / Shores of Gold / Sands of Time
Kevin Braheny Fortune / The End of Suffering / Dreamwalker Meditation Music Vol. 2
The Haiku Project / I Receive / Gratitude
Dean Evenson, Scott Huckabay & Phil Heaven / Talking to Sky / Healing Resonance
Chris Field / Metamorphosis / Beneath the Sun
Sherry Finzer & Joseph Akins / Angel Moon / [Single]
Terry Lee Nichols (feat. Rebekah Eden) / East of Eden / The Pale Blue Dot
Michelle Qureshi / Shores of Atlantis / Within
Antoine Malette-Chénier & François Couture / L'Équinoxe De Printempes / La Suite Du Printempes
Dyan Garris / Timeless Traveler / [Single]
Liquid Mind / The Wisdom of Kindness / Liquid Mind XIII: Mindfulness

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Album Review: Liquid Mind XIII: Mindfulness by Liquid Mind

Liquid Mind
is the successful longtime recording project of veteran musician Chuck Wild, whose music career of more than 40 years boasts some noteworthy accolades and highlights. Prominent among these includes his keyboardist days with the 80s-rock band Missing Persons (alongside bassist and latter-day ambient musician Patrick O’Hearn) as well as studio work with Michael Jackson in the 90s. However, the introspective musical sphere that Wild occupies as Liquid Mind, which saw its inception with the album Animus Minimus in 1994, is a notable contrast to the more bustling pop-rock world that he formerly immersed himself in. Having released sixteen Liquid Mind albums to date, Wild’s peaceful music has garnered a well-earned listener following with his works being especially popular in the spa, massage and wellness industries.

Titled Liquid Mind XIII: Mindfulness, Wild’s latest album is named for what could be deemed the most popular new age trend to arise over the last few years. However, for the dedicated mindfulness enthusiasts out there, as well as those less familiar with what the practice entails, it’s worth noting that Liquid Mind has long been a leading mindful music trendsetter by crafting harmonious sounds which are intended to promote many of the same purported benefits that mindfulness exercises strive to achieve.

Spanning just over an hour, the album features a total of six soothingly serene soundscapes comprised of slowly-shifting and oscillating major-key chord progressions, which mostly occupy the mid-to-high range. Continually unfolding throughout in a gradually ascending motion, silken chords with softened edges smoothly transition from one to the next. Given that the compositional structure is all ‘release’ and no ‘tension’, there aren't any elements of surprise along the way, which allows for the listener to simply achieve an uninterruptedly passive state of mind. Overall, it’s a listening experience which could be figuratively compared to that of floating like a cloud in the lotus position without pause, nor a tangible destination in mind.

Without getting too bogged down in genre categorization, I’ve always perceived this kind of music to be an emblematic representation of the new age genre, which I intuitively distinguish from the often overlapping yet nonetheless distinct ambient genre. Specifically, Mindfulness is positivity-minded, pure relaxation music that feels like receiving a mental massage or aromatherapy for the ears. And though as a listener I do tend to gravitate towards moodier atmospheres that convey some suspense and tensity, likewise, as someone coming from the perspective of having worked in the spa industry, I’ve found this type of music to be perfectly suited to that environment with its oft-reported therapeutic effect on both clients and holistic practitioners! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other musical retail & streaming platforms. For more information, please visit the artist's website.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Album Review: Celtic Fairy Dream by 2002

Originally comprised of husband and wife duo Randy and Pamela Copus, multiple award-winning and Billboard charting phenomenon 2002 debuted on the music scene nearly three decades ago with their album Wings (1992). Progressively evolving over the years to incorporate more lyrical and tangible melodies into their definable 'neoclassical new age' sound, more structured songs would eventually become a mainstay when the couple’s then-adolescent daughter Sarah Copus was officially recruited as 2002's third member and lead singer in 2014 for their landmark album Trail of Dreams.

A thematic sequel to Celtic Fairy Lullaby (2016) and follow-up to A World Away (2018), the band’s latest release, Celtic Fairy Dream, serendipitously parallels the maturing artistry of Sarah Copus, with her angelic lullabies once again shining in the incandescent glow of celestially sailing soundscapes. Comprised of cinematic orchestral and synthesizer arrangements, listeners are treated to the lulling sounds of harp, flute, guitar and additional multi-layered vocals throughout. Included are several renditions of traditional Irish and Welsh songs in signature 2002 fashion, as the musical sojourner is spirited away to another time and place where ancient lore and mythic beauty comes to life.

Of particular noteworthiness is “The Green Fields of Autumn (Coinleach Glas an Fhomhair)”, a traditional Irish song popularized by the legendary Irish band Clannad. Although both renditions are equally exquisite, 2002 contrasts Clannad’s mainly acoustic and earthier version with one that's more ethereal and shimmering.

My absolute favorite piece on the album is “David of the White Rock (Dafydd y Garreg Wen)”, a solemn 18th-century Welsh musical air and folk song. With the harp central to its poetically lyrical theme, 2002's gorgeous rendition aptly showcases the enchanting instrument, while the soundscape simultaneously exudes both a monastic and romantic atmosphere. Visions of majestic castles and mythical lands emerge from its velvety mists, as Sarah imparts a haunting melody in the beautiful Welsh language.

Another stunning offering from 2002, every composition herein magically unfolds like the turning of sparkling pages of a fairytale picture book. Sure to be embraced by many adults and children alike, Celtic Fairy Dream is another must-have album for fans of Celtic, ethereal and fantasy music in the spirit of Enya, Clannad and Loreena McKennitt! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other music retail & streaming platforms. For more information, please visit the artist's website

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Album Review: Devotion by Dulce Joya Léon

Devotion is the sophomore album by classically trained pianist and composer, Dulce Joya Léon, and follow-up to her glowing debut, Reality of Dreams. Having begun her musical studies at age six at an arts school in her native Cuba, she went on to study, perform and teach music in Colombia, Austria and Germany where she currently resides.

Comprised of ten solo piano originals spanning approximately sixty-four minutes, Devotion showcases sweepingly cinematic and emotionally rapturous compositions, which could be described as instrumental gothic poetry expressed through consciously melodramatic motifs. This is certainly no surprise considering that Dulce Joya draws inspiration from classical, theatre and progressive rock music.

Upon listening to Devotion, it’s easy to imagine the composer playing her piano in a Victorian-era mansion while surrounded by candlelight. As if being transported back in time, Dulce Joya seemingly invites us along for a dramatic romance novel experience in which she pours out her heart and soul through her fingertips.

She springs right into action with the rapidly moving and fiery opener, “Passione Nocturnale”, of which true to her signature style, builds and winds steadily up to a climatic peak, then softly descends a glittery path, repeating this theme with variation.

Additionally, her compositions are aptly-named to convey the passionate drama of her playing style. Among these include highlights like “The Sound of Your Voice”, a more ballerina-like piece that spins and twirls up and down the registers – sometimes delicately, and at other times forcefully.

Likewise, there's “Forgotten Worlds”, a boldly contrasting number that mysteriously moves among contrastive minor and major keystrokes. She also touches on the metaphysical with “From ancient Time we meet again”, which seems to relate a tale of two lovers reuniting after many eras apart. And finally, the intriguingly named “Mistery among Candles” makes for a tantalizing conclusion to a passionate love story.

A simply underrated genius with regards to both her musical narration and compositional skills, Dulce Joya Léon’s sheer dedication to her art comes through with every note. A seemingly unselfconscious composer who performs straight from the heart and expresses herself authentically, she's also one of the most impressive pianists I've discovered recently in contemporary classical music. Coupled with the fact that Dulce Joya is such a masterfully talented melody-maker and arranger, these qualities undoubtedly make for an unforgettable recording of its kind! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and other music retail & streaming services. For more information, please visit the artist's website.