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Terra Incognito: The Space Between by Richard Dillon
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/4/2018
A veritable rainbow of musical genius
There is a pleasing movement within the New Age music genre to once more reconnection with mother Earth. Richard Dillon adds to that movement by creating a masterpiece called Terra Incognito and this 24 piece collection of tracks, are as differing in arrangement and composition, as the planet is diverse.
For me the highlight of this offering would be the voyage of musical bliss entitled Green Flash Redux, the use of ocean sounds here were perfectly placed and Dillon’s piano created a truly ambient seascape to float upon, this was also the longest piece off the release at well over seven minutes long.
While Whalesong Redux was a very clever way to begin our journey, the ingenious construction of various short form compositions throughout were as equally as clever and gave us the listener a really varied vista of musical interpretation and colour to enjoy on tracks like The Space Between, Dust Devil, the lively Ice Dancer Redux and the cheerful refrains of Color Me.
Lead Me Kindly was one of my favourite pieces and beautifully sung with such a gentle intent, and after being lulled into a peaceful refrain, we can then drift on the mysterious energies on Voyager, even by now you will see what an amazingly diverse and refreshing release this is.
Thankfully Into the Mines from Irish Mist is also included, one of my all-time favourite tracks from the artist, and as ever the excited seekers of interesting musical opportunities, you will indeed find so much within this release to both entertain you, and allow you to take a blissful journey through this vast but harmonious creation of songs. Terra Incognito by Richard Dillon is a veritable rainbow of musical genius for all to enjoy.
Rating: Excellent
FLOW by FLOW
- posted by Samantha Garcia, BEING on 4/3/2018
FLOW: On Point, and On Tour!
It isn’t often that the New Age genre finds itself enjoying the emergence of a group such as FLOW, who recently announced their May 2018 Arrival Tour from New Orleans to Seattle, San Fran, and LA. The talented Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster have joined to give us an album of serene beauty. Each musician brings passion for their instruments and years of dedication to their craft into this album, manifesting a creative energy so strong that it resonates throughout every note. Nothing is wasted. Originally a project started by Lawrence Blatt, FLOW came together when he invited pianist Fiona Joy and composer Jeff Oster to collaborate with him at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. It wasn’t long, however, until Will became far more than just a producer, and an integral contributor to the project.

This writer prefers to sample an album as opposed to sharing the full-course, so I'll highlight three tracks and "highly-recommend* that you discover all the rest. "Arrival" is clearly the best place to start this 11-song eponymous project, an opener that is equal parts welcoming, celebratory and triumphant. Fiona Joy's deft piano touch teases the listener into the track and builds, as does Jeff’s moody horn; Lawrence and Will join in on guitar, with percussion adding a sense of groovy momentum to FLOW’s introductory track. The composition and sequencing of this song is perfect. Something that starts off gently swells into a full-blown showcase of the wonderful talent at hand, a promise of the musical adventures still to be heard.

In contrast to the opening track, the title song “Flow” focuses more on guitar and horns, with a more subtle piano influence. The gentle plucking of the guitar is perfectly accentuated by Fiona’s signature ethereal, wordless vocals reminiscent of Julee Cruise (Twin Peaks). The track slows for a few moments here and there to allow the guitar to shine. Ackerman’s creative direction emerges at times like these, with a “less is more” approach to guiding the record, particularly in this song. The little breaks throughout leave the listener "sonic windows" to soak in the mood that is being set.

Wrapping up the album, “For Rosita and Giovanni” is another complex and intimately-composed piece. Inspired by Will's trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, it awakens many human emotions within the listener. Feelings ranging from joy to melancholy, and reflection to gratitude can be felt within the four minutes and eighteen seconds of this song. The guitar strums gently as Fiona Joy’s piano swoops in to compliment it. Oster’s horn soars mournfully above the tender melodies, painting a poignant portrait of an unforgettable couple.

It's worth mentioning that the album also benefits from musical performances by Guest Artists like Marc Shulman, Tony Levin, Jeff Haynes, Sam Bevan, Eugene Friesen, and Tom Eaton, who also mixes, masters, and produces alongside Will. The album was released on Lawrence's LMB Music label.

One may have expected a more ethereal presentation on the cover art of these New Age stars, but Oster's doodling captures the true spirit of the collaboration: good friends simply playing together and making music...and, really, what is more "zen" than that? Overall, the project is understated, sophisticated and incredibly clean.

Excitement about the group and its music has broken thru to mainstream audiences through Guitar Magazine, Billboard, Acoustic Guitar, The Huffington Post, Echoes, and local media. Catch them on their May tour if you can, or at the Zone Music Awards on May 12th in New Orleans, where they are nominated for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
Rating: Excellent
Moonlight In Empty Rooms by Heidi Anne Breyer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/2/2018
Heidi's best work thus far!
It was great catching up with Heidi again, I hadn’t realised until our conversation on Skype, that it had been some three years since I had written about her last album, and a staggering six years since we had last chatted live, time steals away the hours and leaves dust behind it seems!
Now the dust is swept away and a lush new recording is upon us and called Moonlight In Empty Rooms, apart from being a splendid title, it conjures up lots of artistic thoughts, and it is this sojourn we now take with the artist as we walk through this veritable art gallery of tone with her.
As the softness of the day unfurled its angelic wings, I begin by gazing at the portrait of the first offering entitled Unfinished Conversation. As humans we have many of these, those moments when we never really say what we want, or think, and then that moment is like a child’s summer, long gone. This has been beautifully portrayed by Breyer and her compatriot on this release, the quite breath taking Charlie Bisharat on violin.
Our next offering happens to be one of my favourites, not that I will ever probably see this again, but Autumn Snowfall does conjure up old memories of when the mistress of winter, flirts with the old grand master of autumn, this momentary symbiosis is rare, but very pleasantly manifested by Breyer and Bisharat, a slow tempo, a moving opus of age and time, combining to give us a vista of colour and mood that is almost pristine in its overall construction.
Following on the theme of autumn, the lively and extremely attractive opus Autumn In Bruges is up next, this is a delightful piece, it has its own radiant energy and Breyer’s performance on it is sublimely brilliant. The violin of Bisharat is so in tune with Breyer’s performance, that one can see an autumnal dance forming within the falling leaves of a fading season.
On Christian’s Workshop, we have a melodic build, but one that has a real element of memory and time passed. There is a real dust in the attic feel to this one, Breyer goes solo here and creates such wonderful imagery whilst doing so and the slight pause adds a sublime delicacy to the performance that makes it so very reflective and addictive.
We now move through the sun dappled rooms of our musical art gallery and come across the master piece of them all, the title track, and of course entitled Moonlight In Empty Rooms. I have to state that this is one of the best compositions I think I have ever heard from Heidi Breyer. This has everything, a certain mournful refrain, a powerful intention of tone and an intensity of emotions that will have every hair standing up on the back of your neck. Two words can sum this offering up, utterly awesome, and one can see why, through this pictorial arrangement, that this album is a musical study of the work of Alexander Volkov.
We have arrived at Eastertide and it’s always a moment to be grateful, as winters clutch has weakened and gone, leaving the one word through the eons that always resounds around this time, hope. There is a real lightness to this composition, one that crafts sunbeams of light to cascade through the windows of our gallery; the smooth vibrations created by Bisharat are equally delightful to float upon.
Sadly we don’t get many of these here in Cyprus, a Rainy Day, but if we did, it would be a total pleasure to listen to this while the sky cries as a soundtrack for this moment of beauty. Rainy Day has an almost sullen opening refrain, but that’s the way the creation is brought to life, each note and key touched manifests an opportunity to be at one within this moment in time. This piece has a certain historical energy about it as well, one could, through the performance, easily watch, the watchers watching the rain, as the century’s rolled by, a timeless offering indeed.
The very start of this next piece The Sound and The Fury drew a wonderful narrative for me again; perhaps a further autumn feeling as the strength of Breyer’s piano was enough to shake the leaves from the tress themselves, while Bisharat’s violin cried the tears of the years. There is also a defined cinematic quality about this composition too and its narration is indeed deeply moving as through its intensity, one can almost feel the energy of creative release here. A piece with floating desire and passion, and that’s never a bad thing.
Winter Rose has a beautifully crisp essence about its construction that is so very charming. The progression of the piece is also very artistically manifested, as such one seems to be waiting for the next segment to follow, there is a slight elevation in power, but one that is redolent to the subject matter, and allowing the mind its liberty, the image of a snow covered rose is not that hard to bring into reality.
Another inventive title, that’s always good to see, as it captures the imagination before a note is played, this can be laid at the feet of the piece, Half Hour Before Spring. Listen to the tentative start and then as the piece continues, it’s like watching a musical bud open and eventually flower, this is without doubt one of the most beautiful pieces from the release.
Faith, the penultimate piece will be familiar with many people I have no doubt, but this hymn has been arranged quite cleverly by the artist and brings with it, not only a charming moment of musical bliss, but a totally fresh arrangement of something old into something new, the Old 100th lives on and is the longest piece off the album at just over eight minutes.
The last picture is now upon us, and this parting gift from the artist is called End of Summer. Time for a moment of reflection, one that is quite emotional at times or perhaps is it that one is sad to be leaving this musical art gallery of sorts, but at least through the magic of the technology, we can always listen over again, many times.
Moonlight In Empty Rooms has to be Heidi Breyer’s best work so far, it has a perfection of composition and arrangement that is professionally sublime, the narration and flow of the music will carry the listener on a musical journey of supreme artistic endeavour. This is piano and violin at its very best and played from the heart, to the heart, in a way that only really good music can.
Rating: Excellent
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