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Looking for Utopia by Bluesilhouettes
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/21/2018
Blissfully fresh
Perhaps we are all looking for that little place of sanctuary that gives us that peace and tranquillity we all need, perhaps that we are all Looking for Utopia. This is the colourful and fascinating title of the album we are about to journey through.
BlueSilhouettes (David R Peoples), a new name to me, has produced one of the most interesting and in-depth offerings I have heard for quite some time, let’s voyage now and start at the very first footfalls with the arrangement entitled Valley of Hidden Treasures. The cello and flute combination here is sublime at creating a really clever start to the album, and with Peoples on piano we can be assured of a safe hand on this tiller; timely crescendos and percussion just add to the energy of the piece.
I have listened to many albums over the years but I would have to say that this maybe one of the most unique and fascinating of those to date, the next track is one that would nestle much closer to my musical heart than I would realise is Peach Blossom Spring. Here we have a really smooth offering, one with a hint of a Jazzy ethic, but with a world global feel, mixed with a little new age for good measure. This track emphasises for me just what a unique talent Peoples actually is, a supremely fantastic track indeed.
By the time we arrive at the track Moondreams on Crystal Roses we feel the talent on flute that is Carina Bruwer, partnering here, the crafted genius of electric piano of Peoples, we are gifted a wonderfully fluent and melodic offering that I really adored, with a little pertinent percussion I am sold in the crystal crispness of this compositions originality; perhaps we have invented a genre here called New Age Jazz? In a way I don’t care, as the music speaks for itself with a clarity of artistic endeavour like never before.
One must really listen to the build and progression in this next composition called Dance of the Flickering Fire. A quite superb minor opening on piano, one that lays the foundation for a progressive arrangement that is utterly transfixing, the percussive beat kicks in with a harmonic convergence of a backdrop of keyboards that is almost film score standard, this in my opinion is one of the most intelligent and well thought out compositions I have heard in this genre for quite some time.
That time is now here, the all-important canvas we call the title track, that means that we have arrived at the portrait called Looking for Utopia. I was eager to hear the artist on a piano moment and his expressive genius here really showed such colour and class. There is a reflective nature about this arrangement that I simply adore, I could have been looking out over a vast landscape, allowing my mind to tumbleweed along the empty streets below, this has to be one of the finest new age piano based compositions I have heard since Beyond The Garden by Geigertek back in 2011, utterly fantastic at every corner, and a guaranteed song for years to come for me.
We have now reached the half way juncture, so that means it is time for the track City of Golden Lights. We’re joined again by the magical slide flute of Carina Bruwer, hitting the emotional notes with Peoples on the keys. There is a delightful energetic essence about this one that is truly appreciated, but one that also floats between the so called genres of our industry with an all knowing smile on its face. Listen to the flowing brilliance of the artist on piano here, we can feel the city lights as the engines all hum around us in a backdrop of sonic cleverness.
The gentle refrains of Crystal Skies was a delight so well received, the cello of Natasha Jaffe, one of my favourite instruments to listen to these days, was sumptuous, full flowing and graceful, add that to the driving narrative created by the percussion you have a really light hearted and generous offering.
So we now drift into the deeper waters of the album and as we do so we come across a charming offering called Solitariety. I found the ambience within this piece truly blissful, I adore the ambient energy the piano can gift us and I was all too pleased to be a part of this moment, one that reminded me of the works of Michael Harrison. Solo piano when played like this is a step into the realm of true masterful genius, I could listen to this piece for hours and may well do so over this up and coming holiday period.
Glass Flower City another original title takes us on a voyage of plenty, that Peoples piano power creates a symbiotic partnership with the Cello of Natasha Jaffe, who clearly must have been in Vaughn Williams mode at the time, a sublime moment of emotive strings indeed. This beautiful creation of uniqueness then almost transposed itself into the world of David Arkenstone with a few crescendos and a vibrant and exciting percussion; inventive, intelligent and breath-takingly memorable at every corner.
Now for something amazing, it is called Glass Butterflies, take ambient, minimalistic, new age, classical, contemporary instrumental and you may get somewhere near to its signature. You can then throw in a reminiscent George Harrison vibe and a little global rhythm and you have one of the most original pieces you are ever likely to hear, stunning, literally stunning.
Our penultimate piece is called Hidden City at Crying Rock. Peoples touch on piano is potent and his floating narrative on keyboards simply outstanding. I have heard mention of the word experimental before and it usually sends a chill through me, but Peoples has it down to a tee, this is some of the most formidable music of its style I have heard thus far, listen to the almost spatial element at the midway juncture, inventive beyond belief, sheer genius in motion.
Living in Cyprus the concept of Elysian or the Elysian fields is well known to us, we even have an Elysian Hotel, not that I think that it is representative of the afterlife, but it is good. Here the artist gifts us one last piece to take with us on our journey home, it is called Take Me to Elysian Fields, this has a bright and sun kissed refrain and is simply the perfect way to leave the album.
For me, this sojourn in the lands of Looking for Utopia was just what I needed, an album brimmed full of totally original material, containing the talents of two fine musicians on flute and cello and resulting in one, if not the most unique and exciting release I have heard for absolutely years. In my view Looking for Utopia is the much needed album that is going to shake up this genre and expand it into dimensions as of yet unknown. BlueSilhouettes aka David R Peoples, has manifested something truly remarkable and blissfully fresh and done it with such a pristine quality of sound and production, this is one album you really must get at all costs.
Rating: Excellent
Rhythmic Movement by Tania Stavreva
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/21/2018
Demands to be listened to
Tania Stavreva literally bares her musical soul on this her new album entitled Rhythmic Movement, within this 14 part album you will hear passion power and intensity like never before.
The opener, which is also the title track, Rhythmic Movement is described by the artist as the modern adaptation of the Tempest (Caliban’s theme); the tempo here is faster and adds an extra element of power into its overall construction.
Swiftly we now move to a couple of pieces originally composed by Pancho Haralanov Vladigerov, the first being the effervescent Ratchenitza, which is a Bulgarian folk dance and the second a sublime performance of Mouvement Rythmique performed by Stavreva; a wonderfully romantic lilt can be found here that reflects the influence of the French Impressionist age, both technically crafted performances by the artist.
We now find ourselves with three pieces of fascinating piano to listen to Danza Del Viejo Boyero, Danza De La Moza Donosa and Danza Del Gaucho Matrero. These compositions were the brainchild of classical composer Alberto Evaristo Ginastera, who was considered to be one of the most important classical composers of his day, who also used folk melodies to compose from. Here Stavreva is at her fluent best, the focus and intention of her performance on these three pieces is quite breath-taking, on the middle piece, utterly beautiful, and the latter intense powerful and energetic.
We now approach the half way mark of the album, and as we do so we come across the piece Ruvido Ed Ostinato. Here is a composition that really flies, the sheer intense nature of this arrangement is vast and all consuming, it’s fast pace is played in an almost breathless style, and one that will no doubt captivate the fan base of the artist, Tania’s interpretation of this piece is solo piano at its classical best.
There is something of a sea change at this juncture as Stavreva embraces a little Jazzy ethic on the next two compositions, Jazz Concert Etude Prelude and Jazz Concert Etude Toccatina. These would be my favourite pairing from the album and for some reason reminded me of the late but great Keith Emerson in style and performance. The original work came from Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin, whose style was to fuse influences in his compositions, using jazz idioms in formal classical structures. Here Stavreva embraces this moment with a flourishing narrative and performance, one that literally sparkles with an unbridled excitement.
There is always a moment so splendid and exciting, this is the room to which we have walked willingly into now, and above the frame is the title, The Dark Side Of The Sun. Here Stavreva improvises to bring us a short form composition that is dark, moody, and almost sinister and I love it, one that has an eerie emptiness towards the end, allowing the listener to make up their own narrative perhaps.
One of the longest offerings on the release is the artistically clever White Lies for Lomax. This composition was composed by Mason Bates and is a tribute to blues legend Alan Lomax, a man who has inspired such luminaries as the Stones and Muddy Waters in his time. Here Stavreva really manifests something absolutely original in performance, a fusion of improvisation perhaps, but bathed in respect and originality, toward the end you can hear in the background Lomax performing Dollar Maime, while the artist joins in and plays along, this for me is a first, and uniqueness is always good.
On the next track Dilmano, Dilbero (Original Vocal Theme) we hear the artist sing the theme as we are about to enter the long form opus entitled Dilmano, Dilbero (Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Song). It is now we pay reference to the Alexander Vladigerov, son of the aforementioned Pancho Haralanov Vladigerov, who originally wrote this vast work as 9 variations, here the artist connects the dots and plays them all as one piece, this is a true musical narrative to enjoy, it’s like opening your favourite nine chapters of a book and having the soundtrack to go with them. Her performance is flourishing and extremely colourful and at times completely mesmeric, one could easily get lost within this composition.
Will Calhoun now partners Stavreva on drums for an exciting climax entitled Ritmico Y Distorsionado, or rhythmic and distorted, as it has been, this has to be classed as one of the most inventive offerings on the album and simply the perfect way to leave the album, one that sums up the project and concludes the release with a light-hearted fun style.
Rhythmic Movement by Tania Stavreva is a step into the world of classical fusion, it is an album that creates an intense vibe that demands to be listened to, and has a narrative that is utterly addictive, one of the finest performances on piano you’re likely to hear
Rating: Excellent
Riding the Thermals by Nicholas Gunn
- posted by Candice Michelle on 12/18/2018
Balearic ambient perfection!
Nicholas Gunn is an English musician and composer who has been releasing music for over two decades – having sold millions of albums over the course of his career and landing in the Billboard top ten charts. Initially coming to prominence in the early-to-mid 90’s, his Southwestern-flavored brand of global fusion music made lasting impressions on the genre with notable albums such as The Sacred Fire and The Music of the Grand Canyon – both of which were released on the Real Music label. Gunn later founded Gemini Sun Records, which released both his own works and those by other highly acclaimed artists such as David Arkenstone and Johannes Linstead (the latter with whom Gunn recorded a Latin-inspired album entitled Encanto). Naturally evolving over the years, Gunn’s music eventually steered in a more electronica direction, which ultimately led to his signing with a leading electronic/dance label called Armada Music under his trance music moniker Limelght.

On his latest album entitled Riding the Thermals, Gunn not only thoroughly masters – but propels to new heights – a popular style of ‘chill-out’ music that originated on the Spanish island of Ibiza and given international visibility on long-running compilation series such as Café del Mar. With song titles such as “Saint Lucia” (named for an island in the Caribbean), “Ibiza Sunset” and “Finding You”, the album conveys an overall notion of visiting idyllic destinations often wrapped in a sense of mysterious rendezvous. Comprised of ten richly emotional soundscapes, Riding the Thermals boasts an artistic maturity that is refreshingly youthful in spirit.

Bubbling melodic textures coalesce with sounds of seagulls and crashing waves on the opening title piece “Riding the Thermals”, which gradually comes to a swell amid digital atmospheric layers and an encompassing bassline in the satisfyingly familiar style of ‘euphoric trance’. Further topped-off by smoothly chilled electric guitar, an essential characteristic throughout the album, the mesmerizingly panoramic piece elicits an overall sense of leisure yet purpose, combined with an anticipation of the experience which lies ahead. Alina Renae lends her caressingly soulful vocals to four compositions, with a wistful and hopeful sense of romantic longing often permeating her lyrical melodies. Tracks three and four are perhaps the album’s most pinnacle moment and seemingly come as a pair, one instrumental and the other vocal, with the first of these titled “Be Tulum”. An affectingly spellbinding composition with notable Spanish influences, hauntingly emotive piano notes interplay with achingly desirous electric guitar figures amid a moistened atmosphere of dreamy synth-pads. Equally stunning, “I’ll Be Gone” further expounds on this mood by bringing Alina’s lyrical vocals and additional rhythmic elements into the fold, as her voice perfectly climbs to poignantly expressive heights without becoming overwrought.

An emotively sensual listening experience, Riding the Thermals simply stuns with its gorgeously lush atmospheres conveying images of Ibizan sunsets, Mediterranean shores and starry nights on the pier. Embodying Balearic ambient perfection, Nicholas Gunn’s latest work is easily one of the best albums to emerge from this wing of the genre in ages!
Rating: Excellent
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