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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
Peaceful Being by Richard Noll
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/13/2018
One of the most unique albums this year
For me, the Flute has to be the most spiritual of all instruments, I’m fortunate that my wife plays flute and it is a beautiful think to watch her play on the shores of our sea line at sunset. She had told me I was in for a treat with this album and she was right, Richard Noll has indeed created something truly beautiful and it is this album that we now musically voyage through, and although not flute, you will see exactly what I mean as we travel together.
The starting pathway is a track called “Calling The Rain”, something we need here in Cyprus. The layered keyboards in the background are a perfect bed for Noll to excel on wooden recorder, and excel he most certainly does. As we listen intently, perhaps we can even see the clouds gather on the horizon, as if being called by the magic of the instrument, which is being played in the style of a Native American flute; this is so very graceful indeed.
I adore “Grace”, the keyboards actually remind me of a track of mine, so gentle, so delicate and pristine, yet the calming waves of music seem to wash over us with such a charming musical narrative of tranquillity. I thank Richard for this piece, as it has further inspired me to carry on and reconnect with my musical muse.
“Peaceful Being” flows with such an energy of abundance it is unbelievable, in the style of the wood flute, Noll manifests something mystical yes, but something empowering too, with a back drop of the keyboards. Whilst listening to this piece I could imagine myself up in our mountain range, being part of all that is creation, all that is nature; the wordless vocals here are also a delightful addition to the overall composition.
We reach the half way marker and we’re greeted by a charming opus entitled “Early Spring”, probably one of my favourite times of year. The recorder of Noll brings a lush sense of colour and warmth in music to the table here, the dualistic nature of two recorders, Alto and Tenor is simply a stroke of genius, then add in the wordless vocals of Shaina Noll and you have a superb feel good composition to bring a smile to the face and an extra beat to the heart.
The other side of the musical mirror is found here, from the sun kissed reveries of the previous song, we now move into the inky darkness of “Nightfall”. The strings here give a mournful essence to the track that brings forth the truly mystical sense of the night and superbly played by Gwen Franz on Viola, while Noll is simply sublime on his recorder, and as such, this is one of my favourite pieces from the release.
We now edge ever deeper into the album, and as we do so we come across a composition called “Open Heart”. This has to be the most fascinating offering from the release, it offers the listener an interesting counter play between melody and harmony, alto Sax and tenor, so let us also add the Viola once more as well; this is extremely inventive and quite unique, but the outcome is a masterful arrangement that is almost hypnotic in composition.
We have arrived at a very important part of the album, the penultimate track, but that’s not the reason of importance, this is the longest offering at well over 12 minutes and called “Inner Journey”, this respectful and empowering piece allows us the chance to journey slowly and surely into the musical narrative. The piano repeats its ever onward mantra and a gentle drum beats in the background, in a similar style to the journeying I used to partake in our shamanic circles. This is indeed a very special arrangement; the build and progression here are highlighted further by the male and female wordless vocals.
Richard Noll’s inventiveness and performances on this release have been fascinating and extremely enjoyable thus far, but sadly we have arrived at the last portal of our musical journey and we are gifted an offering that for me feels very spiritual. “Invocation” brings us a mystical moment with the Tenor Recorder; this solo is the mark of perfection that we must leave this realm of the artist with, reverential, respectful and deeply open and the best way to close the book on the album that is “Peaceful Being”.
“Peaceful Being” by Richard Noll is one of the most unique albums I have listened to this year without doubt, its multi instrumental nature, its very energy and its empowering musical constructions are sheer bliss. Once you open the door to this album you will never want to leave.
Noll’s willingness to manifest an album of this quality is amazing; Richard Noll is a man who is truly connected to the source and draws its energy and inspiration from it and it shows, and while listening to this marvellous album, perhaps we will reconnect as well with all that really matters;. a truly superb release and thoroughly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
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