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Part of a Kindly Plan by Nathan Speir
- posted by Gena on 4/26/2017

This Nathan Speir album (Part of a Kindly Plan) is his ninth full-length recording and it is exciting, genre-pushing, ambient-chamber-music (combining ambient, new age and avant-garde with a touch of modern classical).

The album mostly contains acoustic instruments -- acoustic piano, steel and nylon-string acoustic guitars, wooden flute, cello, harmonica, rain-stick and singing bowls -- but a couple of tunes also include a little synthesizer (primarily replicating a string-section). In addition, Speir says, “Silence has a big place in my music and I pay a lot of attention to the spaces between the notes.”

This is gentle, soft, generally fairly slow, meditative music that allows your mind and spirit to drift and float and explore special spaces. The album begins with the vibrant-ambient sound of “Hued Embowment” and ends with the nearly-nine-minute meditational “Breathing On This Shore.” In between are instrumental pieces such as the rapid and melodic “Passing Charcoal Clouds” and the slow, peaceful “Serenity In This House.” The music is improvisational, experimental and refreshing in its uniqueness. This recording is a perfect opportunity to let your ears take you on an adventurous journey along an unmarked trail.
Rating: Excellent
Songs Of Potential Embrace by David Franklin
- posted by Lillian on 4/26/2017

Multi-instrumentalist David Franklin hears music and rhythm patterns everywhere in his day-to-day life whether it is machines, telephones, a vacuum, vibrating objects, a door closing or a baby crying; he uses these “found sounds” as inspiration or even directly in his compositions. In addition, whether playing piano, guitar, synth or percussion, Franklin usually is not content to simply pick up an instument and make traditional notes and melodies, but instead enjoys manipulating the music by trying unusual tunings, using reverb or distortion, recording the sounds backwards, or playing the instrument in an unorthodox style. All of this and more comes into play on Franklin’s ninth recording, Songs of Potential Embrace, an eclectic collection of 16 pieces that could be categorized as new age avant-garde.

Influenced by avant-garde pioneers such as John Cage and Steve Reich as well as guitar-explorer Michael Hedges, Franklin features a wide array of music on this album including solo piano, two-piano duets, solo synth, piano and synth, piano and guitar, occasional wordless vocalizing in the background, Tibetan singing bowls, plucked violin, backwards udu, various drone sounds and unusual rhythms (such as ball-bearings inside a drum).

It all adds up to an exciting, eclectic musical experience. Journey into a new, experimental world of music that will challenge your senses. Leave any preconceived ideas at the door.
Rating: Excellent
Shanti Samsara by Ricky Kej
- posted by Candice Michelle on 4/19/2017
Ricky Kej - Shanti Samsara
Ricky Kej is an Indo-American musician, composer and environmental conservationist who has contributed to numerous outstanding projects over the years, including his own Grammy Award winning album, Winds of Samsara, which was released in 2014 with South African flautist and composer, Wouter Kellerman. On his latest musical ambition, Shanti Samsara (subtitled World Music for Environmental Consciousness), Ricky is joined by an international team of recording artists who variably contribute an array of world instruments and vocals on this definitively glorious global musical project. Just a handful of contributing credits includes familiar names such as Alexis D’Souza, Darlene Koldenhoven, Patti Austin, Ron Korb, Seay, Tina Guo, Vanil Veigas, Vito David Gregoli and Wouter Kellerman, among many other talents. Released as both single and double disc editions, the single disc version includes fourteen compositions presented in a colorful gatefold package, whereas the double disc version comes packaged in a stunningly beautiful 150 gloss-page book. Making for a wonderful centerpiece, the book provides detailed insight into the album’s creation, which includes chaptered short stories highlighting the inspiration for each composition. Photographs of the numerous recording artists involved in the project are also included, as well as visually stunning images of landscapes and scene sites from around the globe.

The track, “New Beginnings”, opens the single disc version of the album, while it’s the second track of disc two on the 2-CD version. Rocky Dawuni leads the piece with English-sung lyrics, while Varijashree Venugopal provides supporting Indian vocals, immediately conveying a sense of having stepped back in time, perhaps even walking right onto the set of an old Bollywood film. Wouter Kellerman plays his signature flute, as the collective array of keyboards, strings, percussion and authentic Sanskrit choir create a grand, encompassing soundscape. One of many highlights on the album includes “Samsara”, which was the first song Ricky composed for this project once the concept of Shanti Samsara had crystallized. Guided by an assortment of flutes, drums and percussive instruments, the stellar vocal performances of Philip Lawrence, Patti Austin and Alexis D’Souza are given additionally soul-stirring support by South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir and Ladysmith Black Mambazo group. A beguiling synthesis of African and Indian musical elements that are further graced by exquisite English-sung female vocals throughout, the piece seemingly recalls that of a barren desert slowly unveiling a beautiful oasis of vivid green and blue. Named after India’s own majestic river, “Ganga” is an equally opulent number, which opens with an exotic atmosphere of flute, sitar and synth that seemingly alludes to a mystical journey inwards. Like a lotus flower gradually unfolding, the piece soon blossoms into a vibrant display of grand orchestration and accompanying chorus, as Shankar Venkatraman provides lead vocals in Indian Konnakol (Scat). Seasoned with a more distinctive East Asian flavor, “Vishwa” is easily one of the most spellbinding moments on the album, in which Ani Choying Drolma provides lead vocals over a mesmerizing arrangement of strings and synthesizers. Painting vivid imagery of a desert nightscape, sparkling textures seemingly mimic twinkling stars, as one might easily envision a traveling caravan coming to rest for the night and being gently soothed by the lulling serenade. On “Kudrat”, Seay ethereally sings in Latin, the intonations of her vocals imbuing the piece with a hauntingly reverent aura. A captivating confluence of two ancient sacred languages, it’s easily the album’s most mysterious piece, as Sanskrit choirs caressingly brush upon its lush arrangement and warmly seductive rhythm. “The Monks of Sherab Ling” guides the listener to Tibet with the ritual chanting of monks. Here Butto plays flute in an improvised fashion among various temple instruments in what feels like a real-time Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial experience. “Compassion” is another pinnacle moment on the album, which opens with spoken word by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, as Mitsuki Dazai plays Koto and Butto lends Bansuri. Exuding a hypnotic, summery vibe and smooth bass-laden groove, it’s easily the most chill-out style track of the lot, recalling something one might hear on the Buddha Bar compilation series.

A ravishing album for a wonderful cause, Shanti Samsara perfectly epitomizes authentic world fusion music, as heartfelt words and thoughts are expressed in many beautiful languages in tandem with the pan-cultural musical textures brilliantly woven into the fold. Unfurling throughout like a cinematically epic journey, the album’s colorfully coruscating layers of depth, richness and soulfulness are unquestionably inherent to this musical master-talent who seemingly turns everything he touches into gold! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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