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Awakened by Marshall Barnhouse
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/9/2017
Marshall Barnhouse - Awakened
Marshall Barnhouse is a pianist, composer and teacher who began his musical pursuits at the age of eight. By ten years of age he was already serving as a church pianist and has since performed at many venues covering all different genres of music. Comprised of fourteen solo piano compositions spanning sixty-two minutes in length, Awakened is Marshall’s sophomore album, which seemingly showcases a humble passion that is so eloquently expressed through his instrument.

The title piece, “Awakened”, opens in the higher registers with a brightly crystal-clear sound. A gently uplifting and rejuvenating piece, its sparkling quality can be likened to awakening in the morning to the sun’s rays softly pouring in through a window. One particular quality I immediately noticed about this composition, as well as throughout much of the album, is that the music generally treads along a somewhat unpredictable path, often boasting many subtle twists and turns within the same composition. “Invocation” follows next, likewise opening in the higher registers before gently moving into the lower registers. Marshall initially lends a soft, velvety touch to the keys, before extending a bit more force and dynamism at about the hallway mark. Conveying a somewhat hymnal feel within a more contemporary framework, “Searching for Home” ensues with a hint of nostalgia and tender touch of reverence, which brings to mind that of an old chapel in the countryside. Many of the compositions have an inspirational underpinning, which is further conveyed by some of the song titles. Among them is “The Promise”, the fifth track on the album, as well as one of my favorites. Hovering around the middle and lower registers throughout, Marshall delivers a perfectly understated melody that moves along in a seemingly mindful, unhurried manner. Other compositions that feel distinctly inspired by Marshall’s extensive background of performing in the church include “Light of the World” and “The Breath of Prayer”. Perhaps the most beautifully moving piece of all is the more classically-nuanced, aptly-titled thirteenth track, “Under the Stars”. Beginning in a delicately twirling, ballet-like fashion that floats among the higher registers, the composition bears a whimsical quality with a perfect touch of mystery throughout. Concluding the album is “All Is Well”, a slower-paced number that begins more brightly and airily, increasingly tending towards bolder strokes as it moves along its course.

Upon listening to this album in full and taking notes throughout, I then decided to read the liner notes to hopefully glean more details about the recording. The opening paragraph inside begins with “When I was five years old I felt a strong attraction to the piano after hearing good gospel pianists at the little country church my family attended.” Certainly, the timeless essence of, and connection to, that childhood experience has stayed with Marshall throughout his life and continues to imbue the compositions he creates today. Soulfully inspired and warmly heartfelt, these lovely arrangements are sure to soothe the listener with their gentle comfort and joy! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Very Good +
The Recognition by Art Patience
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/2/2017
Art Patience - The Recognition
Having life-long experience playing the harmonica, Arizona-based musician Art Patience originally hails from a background in blues music. His debut album released on Heart Dance Records, titled The Recognition, not only offers something quite different from anything he’s recorded before, it’s also one of the most uniquely enchanting recordings I’ve heard in recent memory. Comprised of nine beautifully spellbinding compositions, Art imparts a soulful sultriness via his harmonica-playing among dreamily ambient soundscapes, which have been crafted by producer John Herrera, who also arranged, mixed and mastered the album. Art likewise plays acoustic guitar on several pieces, while guitarist Darin Mahoney also lends his talents on two compositions, including the fourth track, “Flight of the Butterfly”, and the seventh track, “Safe Journeys”. Upon first glance, the harmonica might seem like a rather unusual instrument to combine with ambient music, but this rare musical synthesis clearly works to perfection here.

“Compassion” opens the album with subtle acoustic guitar, as Art’s haunting and reverberating harmonica glides upon an enveloping soundscape of synthesizers that highlight many spacious notes and expansive chords. Seemingly lonesome sounding, I have always found the harmonica to be an instrument of solitude, and that essence certainly comes through on every one of these lovely compositions. The next track, “The Wishing Well”, is one of my favorite pieces on the album, initially beginning with the tranquil sound of the ocean’s tides rolling in and out with lone harmonica in the distance. A droning and resonating atmosphere enters the space, and I’m reminded of being on a beach as a darkening sky encroaches. A billowing, muffled rhythm soon follows at a gently parching pace, seemingly transforming the scenery into an overcast afternoon, in what feels like a confluence of nature’s power and serenity. Likewise, several other compositions feature audio-visually stirring environmental and nature sounds, including that of thunderstorms, running water and birds in the wild, as well as many ethereal textures and chimes sprinkled throughout the musical landscapes. These elements are especially exemplified on the aptly titled sixth track, “Spirit of the Woods”, which is comprised exclusively of lush environmental sounds and improvised harmonica intonations. Seemingly evocative of nature’s purest elements, it’s easy to imagine a man alone with nature in search of peace and solitude. Perfectly concluding the album is the gorgeous title track, “The Recognition”, a characteristically more spacey and nocturnal-sounding ambient piece that additionally features deeply hued and reverberating piano notes, as Art’s harmonica seemingly echoes throughout a vast terrain beneath a star-studded sky.

The Recognition is easily one of the most uniquely intriguing albums I’ve heard recently, boasting beautifully surreal soundscapes full of warmth, depth and mystery. Like an aesthetically alluring contrast of sorts, its compelling fusion of harmonica – an instrument that brings to mind the more arid regions of the mid and southwestern United States – in tandem with the dreamily liquid ambience throughout, felt perpetually evocative of a tranquil oasis in the dry desert. An outstanding work in its entirety, The Recognition will surely appeal to a wide range of listeners, although particularly those with a taste for gently understated though melodic ambient music! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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
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