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When the Sea Lets Go by Vin Downes
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/16/2017
Vin Downes - When the Sea Lets Go
Guitarist Vin Downes’ latest release, titled When the Sea Lets Go, was recorded at Imaginary Road Studios in beautiful Vermont. Produced by guitarist and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, along with multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Tom Eaton, the album is comprised of ten lovely acoustic compositions recorded on steel-string guitar, which overall convey the signature essence of classic Windham Hill recordings by the likes of Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges and Alex de Grassi.

“Entwined and Lost” is a gentle opener that paints a scenic landscape of solitude, as it likewise conveys a comfortingly warm and down-to-earth feel. Vin’s guitar-playing style is at once detailed and intricate, yet perfectly understated and overall low-key, as he imparts a smoothly flowing and velvety touch throughout the compositions. The third track, “Morning Red”, is a comparatively brighter and quicker-paced tune that gently uplifts the spirits, as it brings to mind that of peering out on a terrace while an early sunshine pours through the colorful leaves of towering trees. On the fourth track, “Dust and Drag”, Michael Manring’s bass guitar enters at about the halfway mark, as it seemingly forms a dancing pair with Vin’s guitar for a few moments before exiting the stage. The fifth track, “Everything Ahead”, is one of the most upbeat compositions on the album, imparting subtle overtones of Americana. It’s easy to imagine driving into the sunset while listening to this seemingly carefree yet contemplative piece, letting go of all stresses and worries. The title-piece and seventh track, “When the Sea Lets Go”, is one of the most melodically beautiful and emotive compositions on the album, in which an atmosphere of evening is conveyed, perhaps while standing alone by the seashore. A hint of sunlight peers through on the lovely eighth track, “Streets of Sunday”, in which a delicate piano melody courtesy of Tom Eaton enters towards the end of the piece in just the perfect timing, as it gently drifts and twirls around the centerpiece. A few of the album’s song titles especially leave one with the intriguing impression of wondering what their story might be, as they seem to have captured a brief but lingering moment in time. Among these are the fifth and ninth tracks, respectively titled “Just Before You Leave” and “The Right Words are Simple”, as well as the lulling final piece, “All You Left Behind”.

A most comforting album of solitude and reflection, When the Sea Lets Go is one of the loveliest acoustic guitar recordings that I’ve heard recently, as well as a particularly suitable companion for reading, writing, reflection and remembrance. Vin Downes possesses a supremely beautiful guitar-playing style that boasts constant fluidity and subtle intricacy, as he creates a warmly intimate, personal and enveloping soundscape throughout. A fantastic album that is rather simple without a grand display of bells and whistles, Vin has decidedly taken a less-is-more approach here, which in this case works to absolute perfection! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
A Hero's Journey by Karen Olson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/12/2017
A thoroughly recommended album
We had an evening of thunderous storms last night, as winter finally lost its grasp on our landscape of beauty, so it is with a blissful heart, that I find I have a calming and quite peaceful album to review this morning, from the amazing Karen Olson, featuring the skills of Crispin Barrymore on piano.
We start our musical sojourn with the delightful opener called Horizons Calling, what a smooth and dreamlike beginning we have; the initial first few bars had that same floaty essence to it as one of Deuter’s Reiki compositions. This is one of those blissful tranquil songs I could listen to forever; it is a creation that always manifests peace as it drifts into the mind’s eye.
With such tenderness we slide into the loving arms of the next piece called Life’s Persuasions, this album has such an organic feel to it, as we listen, it’s as if time itself is being created. The use of a rhythmic percussive beat on this track was extremely effective.
The chilled nature of this release is sublime and as we find ourselves deep within its weave we come across a lush offering called Promising Hope. This is one very emotive composition that I personally felt moved by, the classical references mix perfectly with the new age nuances. The deeper I fall into this release, the more I find myself wrapped in its warm cloak of musical love.
Still Crying is up next, here we have a really descriptive arrangement with a smart chill-out beat that brings a classy awareness to the composition, this combined with Olson’s artistry on Viola, and the clever synth and keyboard work, creates for us a really fresh and exciting offering to enjoy.
As we near the half way point of the release we come across a charming track called Dream Quest. This has a real lightness and freshness to it that manifests a feeling of a journey about to be travelled. Olson’s magical Viola is pivotal to the tracks ultra-ambience and the extremely delicate percussion and keyboards only go to add a further layer of mystery and imagination to this most delightful of pieces.
Over the border and into the second half of the album we go and we arrive at a very tense and emotive short form piece called Facing Fear. Within the music one can really feel the apprehension that has been superbly built into the arrangement, with such skill and style.
On Going Beyond we have a track that has a real expansive feel to it, and Crispin Barrymore’s performance on piano is the perfect artistic tool for creating this musical borderland. I also hope dear reader and listener, you will enjoy the sense of energy that hovers here, there is a wonderful energetic feeling of anticipation manifested within this piece.
On Life Force, we see that lightness of touch, the rhythmic percussion is also like our own heartbeat, emphasising the title header of the composition even more thoroughly. Olson’s performance here drifts with a real crafting sense of professionalism throughout this brilliant arrangement.
The true mastery of Karen Olson can be found right here, on this very track entitled Inner Wanderings. This for me is a composition that is almost timeless, and defiantly meditative in quality and texture. Olson’s magnificent performance here is truly something to behold and within this arrangement one can really feel a vast realm of inner peace ready for us to explore.
The penultimate offing is truly angelic in its structure, and of course it would be with the title Heaven’s Gate, but the strings here create a dream like state in an almost out of body experience through its tones. The composition is thankfully well over seven minutes, so we can musically traverse the cosmos and wander in a calm way through the multi inner-dimensional layers of this grand opus. I also found this track very emotional in its content, one that touches us with the magical hand of reflection.
For our last piece we are going long form, as Epilogue is well over eleven minutes long. The organ, mixed with Olson’s Viola creates a true symphony of the soul. This is a track dear reader that will require you to just close your eyes and totally immerse yourself in, there is literally so much to enjoy here. Contemporary instrumental music has never sounded so good and through this last track one can feel a circle being completed through its genius. Here on Epilogue we have a track that is emotive yes, but also inspiring in its construction.
A Hero’s Journey by Karen Olson and Crispin Barrymore is a well-crafted release, manifested into our realm by two musicians who have worked hard, listened well, and used there abundant talent to bring us, the ever eager listener, one album that is jam packed from start to finish with compositions of pure quality, that allow us to reflect, to be moved, to float upon and bathe within a veritable musical waterfall, of blissful meditative ambience. This is one release you really can’t miss adding to you ever expanding collection, a thoroughly recommended album.
Rating: Excellent
Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/12/2017
Jim Ottaway - Timeless e-Motion
Jim Ottaway is an Australia-based electronic music composer with an impressive catalog of recordings that range from ambient-space to chill-out electronica. While his latest album, Timeless e-Motion, combines stylistic characteristics of both, it’s also a bit different from anything Jim has previously recorded. Namely, he employs greater elements of classic electronic space music in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre, all while infusing his compositions with a wholly up-to-date and modern feel via his vast arsenal of electronic music equipment and gear. Comprised of thirteen tracks spanning sixty-five minuets, the album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jim between the years of 2013 and 2016.

“Sequence of Life” opens with a dynamic and rhythmic arrangement of sequencers and pulsing effects. A fantastic introduction, it conveys a feeling of moving through space and time. Following next is the hauntingly beautiful “Timeless e-Motion”, which gently paces along on a dreamily floating, liquid-like current. Easily my favorite piece on the album, hazy tones, scattering chimes and vocal-like washes are carried along by a hypnotic bassline and rhythmic pulse, which gradually evolves into a subtle chill beat. Digital bleeps and signals echo throughout, as if emanating from somewhere deep in the galaxy. At just over eight minutes in length, this piece could easily drift on forever, perhaps while one endlessly tries to solve the infinite mysteries of our vast and largely unknowable universe. Varying between the more dynamic, travelling pace of the first track and the floating ambience of the title track, the compositions always seem to move in a linear, forward motion. Each employs a varied degree of digital sequencing, synthesized vocals, spacey signals and pulsating electronic rhythms. The seventh track, “Behind Close Eyes”, is another especially notable and mesmerizing piece, which effectively brings to mind that of being in virtual reality or dreamlike simulation. Despite these distinctive sci-fi motifs, the compositions herein convey human warmth and a conscious presence throughout, as if musically illustrating a narrative of the cosmos and how it relates to life here on earth. Another favorite is the twelfth track, “Cosmic Shift”, a classic ambient-space number characterized by ethereal chords, sparkling chimes and a wondrous sense of mystery, as one can easily imagine numerous constellations of twinkling stars against a stark midnight sky. Aptly concluding the album is “Timeless e-Motion (radio edit)”, which clocks in at just over five minutes, lending itself as a sort of reprise of the title track to wrap-up this fantastical cosmic journey.

Jim Ottaway’s previous album, Southern Cross, was one of my favorite recordings of 2016 and this one is surely destined to become another. In fact, Timeless e-Motion may very well be the best output from this amazingly talented artist thus far, unquestionably solidifying Jim’s place as a distinctive and innovative electronic music composer. Fusing ambient, modern electronica and classic space music, I can detect several decades of musical influences here, as Jim masterfully carves out his own sound and style that he has both developed and gradually improved on over the years. Lending itself to an emotive sci-fi quality, the music of Timeless e-Motion conveys a mesmerizing notion of having entered some futuristic parallel dream-world that’s dominated by themes of hyperspace, wormholes and time-travel. Likewise permeated by an ever-present and intangible mystery throughout, this album is both an interstellar and inner voyage that’s absolutely not to be missed! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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