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Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers by Robert Thies
- posted by Robin James on 2/21/2020
Blue Landscapes III Serene Sublime Earth and Sky
A review of Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers by Robert Thies (piano) and Damjan Krajacic (flutes)

Delicate, like two wise birds heard singing on a breeze -- piano and flute, bringing unhurried and relaxed, melodic instrumental wonderment. Consistently contemplative serene movements, weaving a diaphanous kaleidoscopic silk tapestry. Nothing is even remotely fast or moderately hasty, the entire album (74:55) is a perfect daydream with clouds and in my mind’s eye some mystical starfish are slow-stepping in the sky. Thies and Krajacic create soundscapes that leave enough space in the music for the listener to fill with their own thoughts. It is about life. It is about freedom. It is about taking the time to truly enjoy the fine art of listening.

All the sounds one hears on this album were acoustically created on flute and piano, and sometimes using extended techniques not commonly associated with the instruments, creating a well grounded acoustic music that reflects the natural vibrations of this planet and humanity. What I hear is a collection of honest, spontaneous musical conversations that capture a moment in time. The challenge and beauty of improvisation is to attentively listen and react to what you are hearing, discovering a story in the process. It stops becoming intellectual and becomes more emotional and spiritual. Perhaps that is really what this is about.

Thies and Krajacic, inspired by friendship, are each celebrated exquisite virtuosos, adding occasional unusual percussive instrumental textures, such as recording the sound of tapping rhythmically on the flute valves or thumping the piano while holding down the foot pedal, or applying putty to the strings, all to pull a lot more from those two instruments than what comes from a traditional color palette. And that is the true inspiration, just let it be what it is at that moment.

This is truly music from a quieter place, it is just really very, very sparse. You will hear peaceful intricate layers with no technical studio fireworks. Listen to delicate moments of fresh improvisations, each track feels new and one-of-a-kind, the performances are perfect magic, with haunting melodies, all gorgeous, no darkness or thunder, no hurry, no worry.

Some insights of les musiciens from the album notes:

“The music of Blue Landscapes is inspired and grounded by our love for Earth’s beauty and all of her natural wonders. Whether it be the motion of the seas, the majesty of the mountains, the rhythmic flow of the rivers and streams, the migrations of her creatures, or the mysteries of the forests, all feed the imagination.

“May we cherish and protect our planet for all the generations that follow.

“And as always, it is our hope that this music will take you to a quiet and reflective space.”

~ Robert & Damjan

Deeper Into the Frontier

The album begins with and maintains a consistently delicate slow levitating feeling created by the piano accompanied by flute, “Drifting” (3:37) explores sounds and colors, you feel like you might be blissfully sitting next to a stream for hours, just listening and watching the flowing water. Exploring moments of spirituality in music and in nature, “Forest Path” (6:56) presents detailed percussive flute fingering providing the path and tempo of the journey, melodic flute soaring and decorated with tiny piano embellishments. Nature has always been an inspiration for fine art and for sacred healing experiences. “The Abandoned Monastery” (5:42) with peaceful flute layers slow and stately, a single flute’s voice takes the focus over the slow layers exploring the potential with what the flute could do, the piano joins in, understated and keeping the slow stately pace, exploring the old monastery’s ruined stones overgrown with brush and raked by the wind, here is where the altar once was, there is where the monks once worshiped, they are now long gone...

Piano sketches, telling a story in music, perhaps about a quiet afternoon, slowly the flute joins in, matching the melody side by side, turning and gliding in perfect synchronicity, there is a sweet tiny chime hidden in the framework. “Le Musicien” (3:34) has a sound that is organic, pure, and ethereal. Next, you can see the lighthouse in the distance, and now you are on top of the lighthouse and looking into the horizon, feeling the magical slow pace, describing the sea on a still day, surveying infinity: “The Lighthouse” (3:46) stirring the heart and awakening the mind, it’s magical.

Flowing piano with a shadowy flute chiffon, evoking raw, human emotion, memories long faded and treasured, “Goodbye” (6:42) light and dark speaking to the experience of life, that’s really what the music is about. Improvisation is, like life, magical and unpredictable. “Frontiers” (6:09), geometric patterns of piano thistledown with a breezy flute sweeping overhead, some percussive tapping on the instrument to create more depth in places, very delicate. As the song progresses, the sparse fingering of the piano becomes more bold on top of the constantly repeating geometric patterns, calming and transforming. The uncertainty that comes with improvisation allows us, listeners and musicians, all to reach deep and let go, unifying us musically and spiritually and with everything around us at the same time.

For the next track the piano is disguised as a harpsichord, slow and diaphanous, the flute is dry and whispery, joined by another layer of piano, all understated and delicately stunning, gorgeous, a love for other kinds of music coming from a different place, “Tranquility” (4:24). With an elegant symphonic sound from just one pianist and one flutist, waking with no memories, just the fascinating new day ahead, thinking: “Take My Hand” (3:49). Absolutely authentic, heartfelt, thoughtful and comforting. Fine silken piano fields under a sky that has no horizon, it just goes forever, the flute brings punctuation and textures, punching a playful breeze, percussive touches to complete the portrait of “Infinity” (6:41). Thoughtful, moving, healing. Graceful -- a rich palette of colors, sounds and percussive effects not commonly associated with the flute.

Nature is a muse for many composers, it’s no different with this music. The piano creates a cascading liquid flowing feeling, the flute provides the breeze and all you can do is float along, on a perfect afternoon. “The Distant Waterfall” (3:42), shape shifting, playing the flute and creating a deep connection to our natural world, allowing for more soul searching. Melodic tides bring the sand endless treasures, fine details sent by ocean currents, a night of warm breezes and “Waves on a Moonlit Sea” (4:28) gently clearing the heart very deeply, inspired by our beautiful natural world.

In this collection of sonic jewels there is more than one miniature journey, this next track is a mystical cavalcade, a caravan of free spirited wanderers. Here you can find solemn nomads who pass through “The Valley of Echoes” (4:35) reaching forefronts of beauty and visions of nature, reinforcing a feeling of connection to our planet. Gossamer thin and timeless, “Forgotten Memories” (6:28), the piano draws pictures of incredibly beautiful visual landscapes, an extremely beautiful sonically elegant little pattern that in your mind is going to play on and on, long after the recording has stopped. Floating and “Letting Go” (4:38) is an improvisational musical dialogue, the musicians are so tuned in to each other, providing a very deep listening experience, kind of like life, with situations where you have no idea of what’s going to happen next.
Rating: Excellent
Around the Sun by Kirsten Agresta Copely
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/18/2020
A work of ambient harp genius!
Many will know of my love and adoration for all things ambient musically, well I have now found another album that I can add to my collection of transcendent and peaceful landscapes, Around The Sun by Kirsten Agresta Copely, will musically take us on a yearlong journey through this her latest album.
Around the sun is ambience personified, it is a work of harp magic that you will never have heard the like of before, and it will create for you a beautiful 40 minutes of tranquillity that starts with the emotional and breath-taking opus of Daybreak, I say emotional, because I spent many moments waking at first light and watching the day unfurl. This piece is bathed in a real Harold Budd ambient energy, and in some small way reminds me of Arc of Doves, his wondrous work with Brian Eno.
The soft backdrop behind this amazing work is utterly beautiful; its softness allows Agresta Copely to manifest tracks like Wind Made Moan. The ethereal quality of this album is immense and will transport you to a world untouched by the human hand, one with ease could stand on a hillside and listen very carefully to the wind breathing its breath across the face of the silver cascade of moonlight.
Persephone Rising is a track that continues our ambient theme, but also one that contains a delicious melody and charming musical narrative that is one you really will not want to miss out on. Persephone in Greek mythology is the wife of Hades, and as a Cypriot resident I could write for quite some time about this goddess, however I can combine the gracefulness of this music with a local tale, it is said that if in the week leading up to Christmas you are by the ocean, and witness two Kingfishers flying past you on the same day, you have seen Persephone the goddess of nature and growth, and the following year will be rich in luck and good fortune, so as you can imagine, I shall be taking this music with me to the coast at the end of the year!
We now move to this next arrangement and careful sit on the bankside to listen to Surya. Surya is the Hindu god of the sun and now perhaps you can see this carefully trodden path we are following around the sun. The performance here by Agresta Copely is vast and has a warmth all of its own. The slow and gentle movement at times reminds me of the energies that artists like Deuter use to produce in such abundance.
We now take a tentative step over the half way marker of the album, and as we do so we come across a really charming musical narrative entitled The Silver Swan. I found this track particularly moving, as years ago, I used to live near a set of mill ponds that bordered the ocean and you could regularly watch the swans graceful movement in the sun dappled waters, now that description is so redolent of the music I’m hearing on this very offering.
The height of summer can sometimes reveal more beauty in nature than one could ever imagine, pristine mirrored pools and lakes, with their glistening surfaces can also be found dappled by a multi-coloured array of water Lilies. Agresta Copely literally nails it with her track Water Lilies, and produces something so deeply moving and beautiful, that it will transport you to a musical paradise in nature that is so utterly transcendent.
Time to move to a part of our journey that is filled full of colourful Riflessioni (Reflections). There is a certain depth and texture about this composition that is so compelling, a slower more poignant work of art can be found here, and one that illustrated perfectly a moment in time, perhaps watching with a sigh, the autumnal reflections one can gaze upon on in the softness of an October sunset, a simply idyllic track indeed.
The penultimate offering of the album is the quite outstanding Fall Leaves Fall, which also featured earlier on in life as a single; it has such a sumptuous lightness about its construction that one could easily say that this is the ultimate theme for autumn, with each pluck of the harp, we can watch another leaf fall from this veritable tree of time.
It is always incredibly hard to say a track is favoured over another, and there are so many outstanding offerings off this release, but if you ever wanted to hear what Kirsten Agresta Copley is about, you need to look no further than this piece entitled Winter’s Bone. I stand by this and state, I truly believe this is one of the finest examples of acoustic ambient music I have heard thus far this century. This mood filled opus is absolutely redolent of the subject matter, and the perfect offering to end this quite superb album with.
Around The Sun by Kirsten Agresta Copely is with ease a work of ambient genius, the acoustic nature of this collection of fine compositions is further enhanced by the simply delicious performance on Harp by the artist. The production quality and delicacy of each arrangement goes to make this album one of the best I have enjoyed for many decades as a listener, and I completely endorse this album to each and every one of you, and urge you to make Around The Sun by Kirsten Agresta Copely part of your musical collection as quick as you can, your senses will love you forever.
Rating: Excellent
And Then Came Love by Stephen Peppos
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/18/2020
Music to touch your heart and soul
The multi-talented Stephen Peppos is back with a new release, this time a mostly solo piano offering is laid on our table of musical pleasures. Peppos is one of the new age genres most creative souls, and here he embraces the piano and delivers something to us that is truly artistic and inventive.
This journey of plenty starts with the smooth tones of the opening offering entitled Love You. The slow, but pertinent onward movement of the heart can be felt here in this charming opening piece, one that leads us delightfully into the next track entitled Meant To Be. There is something deeply moving about this piece that hooked me in with ease, the performance is heartfelt, but bathed in the energy of acceptance; I adored the melodic structure here, it is one that haunts the feelings and lies in the shadows of uncertainty.
A Love So True is our next port of call, from this arrangement I felt a wonderful resonance of tone and timbre emanating from it; the flow here is wonderful to experience and at times quite ambient in construction, but at all times holding true to the original new age piano styled ethics.
One of my personal favourites is up next and called Love & Affection, I felt a distinct desire to keep this specific track on repeat, it has a little sense of mystery that drew me into this most compelling of solo piano narratives, and one that perhaps flows through life’s rich pattern, illustrating the power of a love so true, that we are able to navigate through it’s sometimes choppy waters.
For A Lifetime has a sense of intrigue about its build and progression and is one of only two tracks that are not from the pure well of solo piano. The keyboards create a slight electronic backdrop, a textured offering indeed. I found this one of the most addictive offerings off the album.
We now find ourselves moving towards the fulcrum of the release and as we walk this musical pathway, we come across this fine composition entitled The Spark of Love, and what a fine slowly escalating offering it is too, with ease one of my favourites off the album, it’s ambient and fluent nature manifests for me a wonderful lightness of touch and tone.
So we now gaze down into the valley of the second half of the album, but before we take those footfalls we can listen to this next gift entitled Everlasting Love. There is a certain feeling of intensity here that I found most compelling, perfectly mixed with a true honest performance by the artist.
Soothing and gentle, those two words can easily describe this next song by Peppos, and the title granted to this musical manifestation is In Your Eyes. There is something about the melody and construction of this piece that in my view would make an excellent ballad, and as I listened I could hear the words come, in what is another extremely crafted performance by the musician.
How charming, how idyllic, and so very graceful, this is how I would describe the natural tones and energies of this next offering entitled A Playful Glance. This is one of those pieces that you simply cannot help but fall head over heels in love with, from the very first key stroke, to the last note played.
A deeply moving musical narrative can be found on this next piece entitled Since I Found You. I have now played this particular piece several times, and each time I do so I find more things to love about the offering, its mix of minor and major energies are simply sublime, it is an arrangement that just begs multiple listens.
We now arrive at the second of the two tracks that are not of the solo piano genre, here a soft back drop of sound ushers us into a composition that has a sense of grandness about its progression, it is entitled My Sweet Love. There are many facets within this piece that are so fascinating, a rich melody, a new age swirling keyboard feel, and even a little suspense, all built into what is one of the most intriguing pieces off the release with ease.
The calm and tranquil vibrations of this next track are absolutely beautiful and called When We First Met. Here is a piece steeped in memory, one carefully constructed to offer up moments of loving reflections. This piece has been so craft-fully arranged; it is a track that literally speaks to the heart with such a loving intent.
Our penultimate offering is called Forever in My Heart, this imploring composition speaks volumes about the feelings of love and the roller coaster ride of emotions along the way, the elevation of power and intensity with this arrangement is indeed deeply moving, and is once again, one of my personal favourites from the album.
This voyage of love within music is nearly done, but before the artist draws the final curtain down on his performance, we are gifted one last piece to take along with us on our musical journey of the heart; it is called And Then Came Love. A fine track to end with, but I urge a careful listen to this offering; it is a truly sensitive composition, one beautifully performed by Peppos.
And Then Came Love by Stephen Peppos is an album that will touch your soul and move your heart, these works of art created by Peppos come at a time when we all need to show each other a little more love across the world, and this timely collection of work will be a very valuable addition to those who adore all things piano, and have a desire to be moved by the honest refrains of a really good album.
Rating: Excellent
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