Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Album Review: Isalc"Li: A Love Odyssey by Anaya Music

Anaya is a Brazilian-born composer and vocalist with a lifelong devotion to ballet dancing. Having been immersed in a rich culture of music and the arts since childhood, she started out playing piano and guitar at a young age, eventually going on to study the music of various classical composers. To date, Anaya has released a handful of what could be described as true-to-form “neoclassical new age” music albums, including her latest offering, Isalc"Li: A Love Odyssey, which is comprised of eight serene and delicate compositions with emphasis on gentle keyboards and symphonic string arrangements.

The radiant “Luminous” opens the album with gossamer strings and celestial timbres, a signature staple of her sound, as one can almost see the sunlight breaking through the clouds while ascending towards the sky. Eventually arriving at what is easily the highlight of the album, “Dharma (with vocals)” is an especially touching composition that feels like a reunification of sorts. Here, Anaya lends gentle wordless intonations in unison with the lead melody, as the listener is seemingly carried away by angels to a heavenly abode. Closing out the album is the mistily lulling “Breath” with its shimmery, threadlike synth-tones haloing a cello and oboe melody.

Quoted as saying “our best instrument is the universal harmony of being”, Anaya seeks to promote harmony, unity and balance through her music and her tender melodies certainly convey that message. Transmitted straight from the heart, Isalc"Li: A Love Odyssey will resonate with many listeners who are seeking a heavenly slice of peace and comfort through the healing waves of sound! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon and other retail and streaming platforms.

Artist Spotlight: An Interview with Andy Iorio

We’re delighted to present an audio interview with Andy Iorio. He’s a New York based pianist who composes neoclassical music that it is often beautifully cinematic. His latest studio album is called Awakening which has earned him increasing popularly since its release. So please join us where we’ll learn about Andy Iorio, as well as the inspiration behind Awakening.

Music from the albums Awakening and II are featured in this interview.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Album Review: The Light Within by Juliet Lyons

Juliet Lyons is an accomplished singer, songwriter and composer for film and television, who's lent her vocals to various trailers as well as trance-dance and relaxation music. On her latest album, The Light Within (subtitled Songs for Yoga, Healing & Inner Peace) she serves up a soothingly soulful blend of ethereal vocals and lush instrumentation bathed in an Eastern mystique, for an overall vibe that could be described as a Buddha Bar meets healing spa soundscape.

Comprised of ten compositions all written and produced by Juliet Lyons (with “Eternal Now” co-written by Doug Lyons) The Light Within also enlists the talents of several notable guest musicians, including Ricky Kej, Vanil Vegas, Ron Korb and others. Both contemporary and world concepts beautifully collide on these pristine arrangements, which variably feature everything from keyboards and guitars to Native flute, cello, santoor, tabla drums, sacred chants, English-sung melodies and harmonious vocal layers.

While I expected this album to be a pleasant listen, I was in fact quite surprised by how wonderful it truly turned out to be, with its flawless interweaving of warmly engaging melodies, subtle ambient textures and acoustic world elements. And although calming in essence, the music also seemingly embodies a playful oceanic spirit that's evocative of basking in the sun, the sand and the sea.

One of my favorite pieces is “Flow”, on which Juliet Lyons’ wordless vocals softly soar among a silky sound palette of gentle sitar and chilled groove that brings-to-mind a room filled with incense smoke. Also noteworthy is the sensual “Calm”, an ultra-downtempo piece with a dimly-lit atmosphere that employs English lyrics and electric guitar. Additionally, the title piece “The Light Within” is a gorgeous instrumental that delightfully recalls some of Amethystium’s music.

Juliet Lyons’ breathy and sensuous singing style can be somewhat likened to Donna De Lory's, albeit airier, while the mood and instrumentation of several arrangements bears some reminiscence to Paul Avgerinos’ equally outstanding Bhakti album. Additionally, fans of Deva Premal and White Sun might want to check out this album as well.

Though subtitled Songs for Yoga, Healing & Inner Peace, I’ve found myself playing this in the car a lot lately, so perhaps one could tag “and reducing stress while driving” onto that description as well.

A top-notch production sure to have much cross-genre appeal, The Light Within illuminates the listening space and seemingly infuses it with a sense of solace. Though I have much reluctance towards the “new age” label, nevertheless, since that’s the category under which music like this gets filed, with that in mind The Light Within is arguably one of the year’s finest albums in that realm, and sits among my current favorite vocal-centric albums! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available on Amazon and other retail and streaming platforms.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Album Review: Awakening by Andy Iorio

Awakening is the third studio album by New York based neoclassical pianist and composer Andy Iorio. Featuring ten one-word titled compositions, Awakening features elegantly cinematic piano and string arrangements along with some solo piano pieces. Sometimes sweepingly powerful and at other times solemnly reflective, the album exudes both passion and purpose, as it relates a personal story of love, loss, release and redemption.

Conceived as a thematic narrative from beginning to end, the album opens with “Ascend”, a somewhat forlorn piece that features a swell of strings as it proceeds in a gradual upwards climb. “Reflection” follows next, which is one of three solo piano pieces along with “Faded” and “Reverie”. Gracefully flowing at a moderate pace, these tender solo instrumentals offer more reticently peaceful moments.

The orchestrated pieces tend to possess rising-and-falling motifs, which include highlights such as the title piece, “Awakening”, as well as “Adrift” and “Arise”. These wonderful pieces showcase blossoming arrangements that consists of commanding piano leads accentuated by strings.

Paired towards the end of the album are two compositions of rather contrasting moods. The first of these is “Release”, which exudes an air of hopeful optimism without seeming overly buoyant. “Bittersweet” ensues with sustained strings and a cycling piano figure, potentially making this the album’s most enchantingly wistful moment. Aptly conveying images of cloudy skies, it seemingly eludes to that of reminiscing upon the past, perhaps in the form of sifting through old photos and recalling long-tucked away memories.

Seemingly looking towards the sunrise while embracing a new perspective is the final piece, “Solace”, which concludes with a gently galloping piano melody in tandem with delicate strings.

Thematic and narrative though not overly bombastic, Awakening is easily Andy Iorio’s best work to date. It will particularly appeal to those who enjoy expressive instrumental music that draws from both classical and contemporary modes! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, Bandcamp, and other retail and streaming platforms.

An Interview with Michael Kent Smith at the Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, AZ

Here’s an interview with multi-style guitarist Michael Kent Smith, which was conducted earlier this year at the Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. In this segment, we highlight his most recent album After the Harvest, which weaves contemporary acoustic melodies with global instrumental and classical motifs!

Music from the album After the Harvest can be heard throughout this interview.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cupid Blindfolded by Michael Whalen

Highly-acclaimed and prolific composer Michael Whalen returns this time with an intimate solo piano offering. Recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, Cupid Blindfolded is a ten-piece album that consists of contemporary melodies imbued with a classical elegance. Gracefully unfolding like a collection of romantic and serenading hymns, Cupid Blindfolded speaks softly to matters of the heart with its boldly intricate yet tenderly executed arrangements. Aptly-placed at the album's midway point is a pinnacle moment called “The Muse”, which beautifully conveys a mysterious intrigue that seems particularly evocative of the enticing cover artwork! ~Candice Michelle

(Available at Amazon and other online retail and streaming platforms.)

As We Imagine by Lisa Pressman

Lisa Pressman’s fifth studio album titled As We Imagine was written and co-produced by herself and Tim Ponzek. Performed on a 7' Bösendorfer Concert Grand Piano, the album is comprised of ten gently melodic and comfortingly serene arrangements that are beautifully immersed in Pressman’s celestial vocal washes and Ponzek’s enveloping synth orchestrations. Softly shaped by suspended gossamer chords that subtly shift in color and tone throughout, As We Imagine fits the classic “new age” music mold while also sounding refreshingly up-to-date. A perfect accompaniment for massage, acupuncture and other healing arts, this album is certain to lift your spirits while simultaneously calming the senses! ~Candice Michelle

(Available at Bandcamp and other online retail and streaming services).