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Eternal by Kevin Wood
- posted by Michael Foster (Ambient Visions) on 8/18/2018
Exquisite Album
With so many submissions always calling for my attention here at Ambient Visions I’m never sure what to expect when I put a CD in the player or cue up some songs in my media player but I must admit that the music on Kevin Wood’s latest album called Eternal was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes it is an occupational hazard that I inadvertently look at a title and an artist and think that I know what I will find when I listen to their latest album but sometimes that is just not the case.

Eternal is a contemplative album from beginning to end and is oriented around offering a peaceful place for the listener to open up to their own inner spiritual journey and to examine it in an environment that is both comforting and safe. Spirituality is a very personal journey that no one can show you the way you need to go but music such as what you will find on Eternal offers you a framework from which to venture into those unexplored waters with a sense that you have company that understands you as you walk on.

Eternal is a mixture of sacred and tribal chants, light beats and a touch of classical instrumentation at times and it all works together to create music that reaches into your spirit and gives you permission to “feel” what is oftentimes kept hidden in a world that tends to be a bit too cold to understand the tenderness that exists within each of us at a spiritual level.

Kevin has managed to weave this exquisite album together as each song tells an individual spiritual story while at the same time being a part of the whole. Eternal is not just Kevin working alone to communicate these truths to the listener instead it is a group effort as he has gathered together 10 guest artists who each contribute their considerable talents to making this album even more insightful than it already was as they offer their interpretations of Kevin’s compositions. With the likes of cellist Jami Sieber and South Africa’s Fancois le Roux and Paul Avgerinos it would have been difficult for this project not to have been successful in reaching its goal of opening the listener’s spirit to consider things that sometimes gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century

The music of Eternal offers a calming way to end your day or even to start it for that matter. The chants were skillfully woven into the fabric of this album along with the instrumentation to create a sound palette that will brightly shine into the hearts of those who are prepared to see that which lies within. The cello stands out in several spots during the course of this album and it is always a welcome instrument whenever I hear it interacting with the soundscape in such a wonderful way.

Kevin has achieved an intimacy with Eternal that listeners will appreciate as they look within but he has also allowed the music to be more than that. With the many voices that he has mixed into this project and the instrumentation he has given it a spaciousness that speaks not just to a certain spectrum of listener but will appeal to a broader range of people as they see within the music aspects that might not have been there if Kevin had gone a different direction with his compositions or if he had done it all himself.

All in all Kevin’s Eternal offers a diversity of views in terms of spirituality but all brought together in an organic way that binds them together as a unified whole. The music is polished and thoughtful in its presentation and will offer the listener a wonderful hour spent contemplating the path they are on and allowing them to see it from a variety of angles. With chants from traditions as varied as African, Native American, Celtic, Indian and Gregorian you can see how it will appeal to a wide cross section of listeners. I’m thinking that this is an album you might want to add to your collection. Recommended by Ambient Visions.
Beginnings by Barbara Graff
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/14/2018
A unique album of quality
I have had many fascinating and unique albums land on my desk this year, it seems that artists are seeking to find uniqueness about their style and songs like never before, and I for one support that. I must say that Barbara Graff has brought something to my musical table that is incredibly unique, fun and listenable and I believe you will enjoy this as well.
It’s time to be open and prepare for something more, let’s start with what is a classic 21st century pop song, one that contains superb vocals from singer Diane Chittester and is multi-instrumental in its overall nature, this would make an absolutely fantastic single, it is of course it is the proud opener, the title track Beginnings.
This is Graff’s fourth album and this release has just about something for everyone, like the moving new age styled composition Inspiration, one of my personal favourites. The symphonic grandeur of Bring Me a Rainbow is a simple delight to bathe in as well, and the guitar joins the mix on the piece Blue Sky.
There is a real Midwestern slide guitar feel to the track By My Side that is quite charming and captivating, while a lively percussive beat raises the energies on the most powerful arrangement on the album entitled On My Own, a track that could with ease be used in a TV show.
This is one of those albums that you just can’t stop listening to, there is a huge desire to know what comes next and in what style, even the solo piano lovers are catered for with the track Magic Within and the moving and deeply emotive Dancing Shadows, another personal favourite of mine.
Two more renditions of the opening song end the album, with piano and pop versions of the title track Beginnings on offer to bring the release to a lively conclusion.
Beginnings by Barbara Graff is on the card for the most unique album of 2018 with ease, but apart from that, this is an album that really has to be listened to in depth with an open heart and mind, because what is contained within will entertain, enlighten, soothe, all in a thoughtful and positive energy, and will be guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face and a warm sense happiness in your heart.
Rating: Excellent
Clear Light by Stephanie Sante
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/14/2018
A truly gripping release with a refreshing energy
A new experience for me as I get to delve into the electronic world of Stephanie Sante and within this review we can traverse the musical oceans together on her latest offering Clear Light.
By some strange coincidence I had just been listening to a pre-release copy of the latest David Wright album and there is something of him within this album too, but for now, let push our ship away from its tether and voyage through Clear Light.
The opener is the glorious sound track; Clear Light as a composition is a real scene setter, one can literally feel the energy build and manifest a level of excitement for this up and coming sojourn, this arrangement is simply the perfect musical beginning and the powerful posture of this piece is undeniably brilliant and almost John Carpenter in mood at times, and that can never be a bad thing.
We move to the smooth and calming waters of Deep Impression, but we seem to have an around view of our landscape, perhaps as above so below. The synths here are sublime and the production quality of the entire project really adds a pleasurable layer of expansiveness to the whole experience. We could almost be travelling under the ocean to this one and watching various structures and fissures pass us by as we do so.
The drops and almost bubble like effects on the next piece are fascinating and within the opus that is Salacia’s Dream it feels like we have drifted off course and into an alternate reality, perhaps in a time long ago. While Salacia is a Roman deity of sorts, living in Cyprus, I am very aware of all the mysterious imaginings and mystical deities from the Greek ages of yester year, so I can gaze over our sea right now and imagine through this really grand symphonic arrangement, the goddess Salacia imposing her will on the realms of the underwater world below the lapis coloured waters above. Musically this is an almost cinematic delight; the performance on keyboards and synths here by Sante is utterly fantastic, this is electronic music at its very, very best.
As we move deeper into this oceanic tale of wonderment we come across a piece called Jade Resonance. There is a distinctive movement within this track that is transfixing and one can almost feel musically, the pull of the waves as they lap up to the shore line. We also can bathe in another sublime performance by the artist who paints something special with this one; we can also sense the energy of life within this composition, which may portray a delicate balance of nature within the overall construction of the musical narrative. The artist’s artistic approach on this arrangement is simply mesmeric to listen to.
There seems to be a fascinating counter play of musical genius on this next offering called Melt Like Snow. The rhythmic water droplets can be heard throughout this composition, leading one to perhaps visualise the polar caps supplying water to the grand vistas of our planets oceans, the gentle and almost hesitant approach also brings in the reverse effect of the melting of the ice caps creating a musical dichotomy of sorts. A very clever composition indeed and once again superbly performed by the artist.
On The Color of Coral, Sante manifests something incredibly beautiful, almost wave like in musical motion. There is a delicacy here that must not be ignored, we have coral here and it is so lush and colourful and to watch the small squid playing within the reefs is a sight to see. The peace filled style of this track is sublimely serene, but perhaps also this is a reminder for us to take care of this most precious of marine life.
We now move into the very depths of this ocean of tone and timbre and as we arrive at the portal entitled Fractured Echoes. I can gaze at the shoreline here and see many fractures, from the many earthquakes we have had since time began for this land and sea. There is a sense of past and present in this crafted arrangement, almost like through the music, we can view the history of the world’s oceans as a portent of the future. The smoothe synths here are simply amazing and the elevation of energy when needed is also a delight to sonically bathe within.
As we touch the hem of the longest track off the album at just shy of eight minutes, we land at the sand bar of a wonderful arrangement called Moonlit Starfish. This is a composition that also touches the hem of greats like Wright and Vangelis, with ease. The added percussion here is perfection and there is a real energy of happiness, perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a multi-coloured Starfish meeting on the floors of a midnight ocean somewhere, this is also one of my favourite compositions from the album too.
I am a fan of the oceans of the planet and the Mariana Trench is a legend on its own right, here new sea life is still being found to this day. On the track Mariana the repetitive progression and then the slow movement into the dark realms of this area is superbly musically narrated by Sante; one can feel truly as if they are there, as if going down as far as you can in a submersible. The synths and keyboard performance here is as legendary as the trench itself, this is a very intelligent and powerful way to leave the album indeed.
Clear Light has to be one of the best electronic musical albums I have heard this year, it has a refreshing energy about it and a narrative that needs to be constantly highlighted if we are to keep our oceans clean and well. Stephanie Sante has produced a truly gripping release, one that is extremely well produced and will hold you until the very last note of the album.
Rating: Excellent
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