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Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/31/2016
An album that oozes quality
It’s back to his roots for Aussie musician Jim Ottaway as he ends a successful 2016 with a power play of an album that has us deep within his EM weave, creating a pulsating end to a fantastic year for him.
Starting with the electronically sublime Sequence of Life, Ottaway brings a David Wright style to your eager musical ears dear reader. This throbbing rhythmic opus is the perfect opener for the album.
Flowing with grace and speed we move calmly to the title track, Timeless e- Motion, the moment to be proud is upon the artist, and he should be, this is one of the finest slices of EM have heard for many a year. A speculative start builds and progresses with all the experience of a master musician, which of course Ottaway is. To get that rank, you not only have to feel your music, you have to BE your music, something Ottaway does with ease. This is eight plus minutes of electronic bliss, is smooth, paced and classy.
The sultry and swirling Skies Rain Down is superb, from the very beginning the mood is set, and one can feel those strong sullen storm clouds hovering with intent above our heads, waiting to open up. The anticipation built into this composition by Ottaway’s synths is off the scale, one can literally taste the tension.
I have stood on Reality’s Edge and survived, while that’s a story for another day, this music would have been the perfect soundtrack for my Twilight Zone moment! Ottaway has really created something mysterious, yet incredibly powerful here; this razors edge of a piece is ready to explode, but cleverly contains itself, whilst picking up energy and momentum along the way.
I adored landing in sequence heaven, on this our fifth track entitled Blurred Vision. Perhaps Jim has invented his own brand of EM here, can we say Aussie School? The tempo is balanced to perfection, and the lightness on the keys creates a multi-layered effect for us the listener, there are some delightful patterns to enjoy here.
Game Over, I love saying that in triumph, and here is the musical backdrop for my power play. This is a real trance filled moment of electronica that is deep, heavy and perhaps could even be used in a future Fast and Furious movie; this is a composition that has great movement and intent and delivered perfectly by the artist.
As we skip into the second half of the album Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway, we come across a piece called Behind Closed Eyes. A fascinating title and an even more fascinating construction, we have an ambient back drop with some very tight sequences within, and a paced keyboard that manifests a third dimension of musical reality, this is truly artistic and very well performed.
The speed I am writing at is even amazing me, the addictive pace and tempo of the music is so compelling, I even have to stop myself, and remember to breathe. So I am somewhat relieved to have a moment to gather myself again on the piece Desperate Measures, even so you can still feel the energy in the background, building like the engine of a train, the fine paced percussion delivers an almost chill out moment of bliss.
The title sometimes says it all; on Towards the Unknown you have that very scenario. A soft and careful synth leads us by the hand into a world of vast areas of space as of yet uncharted musically. If you’re a musician and want to use drum pads in your music, but need to make sure you get the balance right, then you need to go no further than listening to this track, the added female vocalisations were a touch of class to include too.
Always time for something a little different and on Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained, we have just that. For some reason whilst listening to this I found myself wandering mentally around the Tate Modern in London, it is music that allows you to add your own interpretation to the tones given, and perhaps for me, this is a little slice of surrealism that fitted the bill nicely and as Jim says, Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained!
We move deeper into the labyrinths of the album now with Evolutionary Phase. The pulsating beat leads us into a piece that seems to create itself as it goes. I found this track compelling to listen to, as I was eager with every note played to see where the artist would take me next, a completely intriguing composition indeed.
Our last official arrangement is called Cosmic Shift and here Ottaway gives us a glimpse through the curtains at his musical galaxy, through a composition that has a real essence of Kevin Kendle and Jonn Serrie about it. The beautiful floaty style here is the perfect way to leave the listener. Although that’s not strictly true, as he also gifts us a radio edit of the title track Timeless e-Motion to take with us as well, a musical present that we will be more than eager to have.
Timeless e-Motion I think is Ottaway’s best so far, there is a power and intent here that is completely undeniable, the performance is confident and the production sublime, all in all I think when 2016 is done and dusted, Ottaway will look back on a fantastic year musically for him, and at its apex will sit this album, which is one of the best synth based EM albums I have heard for a long, long while. If you’re a fan of electronic styled music, this is a must have release, don’t even hesitate, just get it now!
Rating: Excellent
Mystic by Al Conti
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/31/2016
Cont Istrumental music doesn’t come any better
I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to be able to write this review for Al Conti, his last release, The Blue Rose turned my life around and forever I will be truly grateful, now to have his latest album at my door, called Mystic, is a delight, as I know what will follow, will be sublime moments of musical bliss.
We’re not disappointed dear reader, the opening piece; the proud title track Mystic is amazing, and starts with the chiming of a bell and some wonderful Gregorian styled vocalisations. This for me is always a winner, the mood and scene is immediately set. Ricky Kej’s influence on this album can be heard from the off and when you also include the stunningly beautiful vocals of Charlie Brooks, you have simply the perfect opening piece to start an album with; this also happens to be the longest composition at well over eight minutes as well.
We follow that up with Trance; there is a real East meets Mediterranean feel to this arrangement. I adored the multi instrumental nature of this piece and it reminds me slightly of some of the folk music we have here in the mountain villages in Cyprus at times. We can sample Ricky Kej on Harmonium, Vanil Veigas on santoor (a form of Dulcimer) and Manoj George, violin. There efforts really create for us a wonderfully ethnic composition full of colour and life
Prayer is an interesting composition that is filled with different meanings and pathways to understand and travel. For me prayer is a joining of my letting go, and becoming at one with all that there is, a symbiosis of spirt perhaps. Al Conti’s creation does just that, the smooth flow, the gentle percussion and wonderful Violin by Manoj George combined with the ever narrating piano, all gift us a piece filled with the one thing were all after, balance.
This incredibly spiritual album continues with its lush flow into the many realms of beauty and calmness, and tracks like Visions continue that stimulating river of inner peace. The Butto flute can be heard drifting like smoke through this track, and amidst the percussive brilliance; the song weaves a pattern of musical genius with tenderness at the helm, and a rhythmic pulse at its very core.
Along the dusty desert path we go on our Pilgrimage. We all must make our own journeys in my life, and we could do so with ease using this composition as the soundtrack of the tour itself. The arrangement has great movement and flow, the powerful tempo assists that motion, combined with some absolutely outstanding guitar by Jeff Pearce.
A moment of reflection is called for now on the piece Contemplation. The bass and guitars here are stunningly sublime, but once more Conti has it about right in its structure and composition. The lightness of this song is utterly charming and one could easily sit looking down upon a vast valley in total contemplation of things past, present and future. This was one of my favourite tracks off the album, and also features Pamela Copus from 2002 on Harp.
We now move into the last third of the release Mystic by Al Conti. A light but up-tempo percussive beat manifests the piece Ritual for us, and we may well use this track to begin our winter solstice here in a few days’ time, it has that perfect pattern of ritualistic drumming to raise the energies, a really lively and vibrant arrangement indeed.
Our penultimate offering is called Devotion, once more Conti manifests something very simple, but effective. There is again a sense of movement here, as if we are entering into a journey of a vast commitment. The combinations of Darbuka and Tabla here were undeniably addictive to listen to as well.
So, dear reader, we are at the final piece of album, Mystic by Al Conti and this gift is entitled Anima Aeterna. This is one very clever way to leave the release. We complete the circle as Charlie Brooks joins us on vocals once more, but the melody here is amazing and deeply emotive and the added symphonic arrangement, really made this composition the perfect piece to leave, what has been a truly wonderful musical journey.
Mystic by Al Conti is a class album that oozes quality out of every pore of its being. In my view the artist never fails to be the true creator of superior instrumental music and to surround yourself with truly masterful artistes and contributors on this release, must make this album destined for a future award, contemporary instrumental music simply doesn’t come any better than this.
Rating: Excellent
The Rhythm of Life by Matt Venuti
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/31/2016
Utterly magnificent
A new name to me, but one that I think I will be forever featuring on my future shows, as the ambience that Matt Venuti brings is awe inspiring. The opening track on this chilled new release is called A Place to Breathe and Venuti whose percussive instrumentation of choice is the unique, Hang, Gubal, and Hang Gu, which features prominently through this piece, as it does through the whole of the album.
The soft nature of Venuti’s vocals and his percussive mastery and poignant lyrics, brings us our own place of peace, a place to breathe, and place to move away from the rampant cacophony of life’s incessant chatter.
As a singer songwriter myself, it was quite a pleasure to review this album and on Afraid we continue this blissful journey of sight and sound. The delicacy of tone that Ventui’s percussive instruments give is amazingly chilled, in parts Venuti’s vocals reminds me slightly of Mitten, here he includes a wonderful slide guitar and backing vocals to enhance this moment of calm. Each song is a journey to enjoy, and through the profound lyricism we can do just that, this is almost roots blues meets new age.
We have only been on this musical sojourn for two tracks and I adore it already and on the next piece entitled Door of the Heart, we have a really mindful piece that also contains some sensitive acoustic guitar, and once more some very meaningful words, time to drop the shields and sow seeds of love, so true, to the point and honest, a song that for me is similar in style and energy to James Taylor.
Now we arrive, dear reader at the title track, that moment of self-expression, that time when the entire concept of the album is worn on the sleeve of the artist. A little light funky beat and some delicious organ leads us through an almost gospel style track. However The Rhythm of Life expands on a statement that I made to a friend who had decided to go back to religion, I said, it matters not, we’re all in this together, and to hear this song, I may well send this one to him, to help him through his troubled times, it certainly says everything and of course the lyrics are totally true. A happy piece of realisation and honesty played in an upbeat tone, that will make you smile whoever, or whatever you are.
At the half way juncture we come across a sensitive piece called Rise. This ballad really hits the nail on the head; we have no limitations, open your heart and Rise! A soft and calming moment of awareness can be found in this song, that you too can stand and look at the sun on the horizon and accept your place in this world, as much as anyone else. An inspiring anthem, performed with tenderness and love.
I love the opening to The All, in fact I loved it so much I have now played the track 4 times in a row, it’s absolutely impressive, and Venuti’s percussive mastery comes into full vogue here, with a little Jazz styled ethic as well. Venuti’s song is enhanced by female backing vocals and an almost Latin beat that drives it forever onwards.
The many musical borders that the artist crosses on the album is impressive, and to do it with such style is equally so. On Loosen The Grip, we have another song of empowerment and letting go. Musically this is a track that has such smooth flow and essence about its construction, it’s simply blissful to revel in. Listen to the rhythm here as well, masterfully manifested by Venuti, and perhaps it’s the rhythm of life?
As we move deeper into the release, we have a luscious flute and spoken audio that is so very descriptive, and soon we find ourselves within nature’s sublime majesty, as we make our way across Turtle Island. This musical journey is depictured with supreme clarity and colour by the musician. Desert Dreams is a little special slice of creative genius, and Matt Venuti is without doubt our master narrator.
Our penultimate offering is a version of the Bill Withers eternal hit Lean on Me. This is one of those songs that has such a deeply powerful meaning, the harmonies here have done it complete justice, and the vocals used create a semi acapella version, the percussive deft of hand by Venuti only adds to the quality of the composition.
I hope dear reader; you have enjoyed this release by Matt Venuti, The Rhythm of Life. It has to be one if not THE most chilled and original albums I have come across this year, we can finish with a shortened version of the opener, called Breathe Reprise and reflect upon our musical journey.
When we look back, we can see the road we have travelled musically has been both inspiring and empowering; we have faced our fears and won the day. Albums like this should be in every home and in every language. The messages contained within this release should be a mantra of the future for all our families. Matt Venuti has manifested something calm, peaceful and meaningful, the production, musicianship, song writing and arrangements are utterly magnificent, and I can do no more than urge you to make this part of your musical collection as soon as you can.
Rating: Excellent
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