Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spotlight: Lead Me Home by Darlene Koldenhoven

Darlene Koldenhoven is a Grammy award-winning vocalist with an impressive resume that includes her role as the soprano soloist in the Yanni Live at the Acropolis performance, as well as having appeared in the movie Sister Act portraying a choir nun. Her ninth album, Color Me Home, is an exquisite eleven-track excursion which Darlene produced, engineered and composed the lyrics and music for, as well as sings, plays piano, synthesizer, native drums and shakers on. Beautifully and thoughtfully packaged, the CD includes a coloring book depicting images of nature, perfectly illustrating a spectacular collage of diverse arrangements and instruments. In what could perhaps be best described as a fusion of classical crossover, contemporary instrumental and new age vocal music with an often-touch of subtle world elements, the album’s track lineup alternates between sung lyrical compositions and instrumental pieces that feature wordless vocal intonations. Joining Darlene on this musical adventure is a team of talented artists, of which includes Tom Scott, Brent Fischer, Ricky Kej, Wouter Kellerman, Charlie Bisharat, David Arkenstone, Rocky Dawuni, Gayle Levant, Jeff Oster, Al Jewer, John Sarantos, Mike Miller, Lyn Bertles, Nick Vincent, Courtney Jacob, and Vanil Veigas.

“First Light” opens the album with the rolling, soothing sounds of ocean waves coupled with singing birds, before soon introducing a lovely ensemble comprised of piano, keyboard, oboe, flute, piccolo and violin. Further enhanced by its radiant wordless vocals, the composition seemingly paints an image of golden sunrays pouring through the trees of a lush forest, in what feels like a magical storybook having come to life. “The Pleasure of the Mourning Dove” follows next, a piece that aptly begins with the cooing of a dove. Here Darlene offers up a lyrical melody, her soprano voice perfectly complementing the song’s elegant arrangement of piano, violin and viola. “Kalahari Calls” is easily one of my favorite compositions herein; its African safari flavor and leisurely chill vibe conveying a sunny, tropical terrain filled with luxuriant jungles and rainforests. A mesmerizing ensemble of flute, piano and tribal percussion is further accentuated by airy wordless vocals that seem to whirl about its beautifully exotic landscape. The sound of wading through water introduces “Song of the Swans”, another lyrical song that possesses a somewhat mythical feel. Darlene’s soaring soprano vocals in tandem with the classical touches of clarinet and harp seem almost cinematic, as if a narrative has unfolded about a fairytale princess or sleeping beauty who has found herself in an enchanted land. Characterized by native flute and drumming, “Indian Summer” is another one of my favorite pieces on the album. Here I’m reminded of a glorious sunset softly illuminating a vast canyon. This image is further crystalized by sparking piano and swirling chimes, along with both siren and tribal-esque voices that seem to soar above the terrain. Equally captivating is “Ode to Our Orb”, another piece accentuated by Darlene’s soaring wordless vocals, as well as features the additionally amazing talents of David Arkenstone on guitar, along with Ricky Kej and Vanil Viegas on keyboards and rhythm. The composition’s earthily sensual and shimmering soundscape combines elements of ambient, world and contemporary instrumental music, and feels as blissfully rejuvenating as that of standing beneath a waterfall in a paradise lagoon.

Imbued with a brilliant radiance and richness throughout, listening to Color Me Home is akin to observing light hitting a giant crystal prism that emanates all colors of the rainbow. Immaculately produced, the album’s sound quality is superb and the guest performances outstanding, overall culminating in a soulfully rewarding experience that’s filled with joy, serenity and global adventure! ~Candice Michelle

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

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 02/23/17.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Spotlight: Shapeshifter by Cole & Coffman

Shapeshifter is the collaborative release by Scott Cole and Matthew Coffman, who create an intriguing blend of music that ranges from experimental ambient to acoustic, avant-garde and instrumental world fusion. Comprised of thirteen compositions, the album features an eclectic variety of instruments played by the duo, which include mountain dulcimers, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, synthesizer, keyboard, sitar, flute, reed instruments, didgeridoo, ukulele, cajon, melodica, guitarron, resonator, udu, and other percussion.

“Arc” opens the album with oscillating pulses, immediately reminding me of Steve Reich’s seminal Music for 18 Musicians recording. Sitar, percussion and bass guitar soon join the ensemble to form a minimally melodic and experimental world fusion soundscape that’s not too unlike the ‘fourth world’ music of Jon Hassell. “Strength Will Come” ensues with nocturnal calls and droning, earthy sounds. One of the most intriguing pieces on the album, it progresses into a rhythmic pattern of spinning strings and atmospheric textures, seemingly flowing organically along an improvisational and unpredictable path. Following next is “Emerging”, a more discernably melodic piece that begins with the peaceful sound of ocean waves and gentle acoustic guitar, which are soon accompanied by reed instruments and percussion. The duo also lends an interesting twist to the popularly rendered song, “Scarborough Fair”, which opens with dreamy synthesizers and prominent bass guitar. Flute and reed instruments provide the lead melody among oscillating effects and a pulsating rhythm, curiously bringing to mind that of sailing away at sea while simply allowing the currents to guide their own course. Supported by guitar, synthesizer and subtle percussion, “Calm H2O” is another highlight characterized by lovely liquid bell tones, which not only perfectly conveys the water element, but also reminds me a bit of Balinese music. Closing out the album is “View of the Valley”, an upbeat tune with a rumbling-type rhythm that features didgeridoo and electric guitar. A likewise particularly intriguing piece, it seemingly blends indigenous Australian and Irish music with hints of psychedelic rock.

Fusing contemporary and world instrumental music throughout, Shapeshifter possesses a certain bohemian essence; one that seems to paint visual collages of nature and its cycles, the ebb and flow of the tides, and blossoming and dying of flowers. Characteristically minimal and seemingly improvisational in its approach, Shapeshifter is a genre-defying album that is worth checking out, especially, for fans of Steve Reich, Jon Hassell and Al Gromer Khan! ~Candice Michelle

This album can be purchased at Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 02/04/17.