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Under a Second Moon by Holland Phillips
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/14/2017
Deeply emotive
There are few who create music that have that quite outstanding ability to literally transform the images in your mind, and transport you back to days of a halcyon proportion, few that can create musical images that allow you to relive those heart felt moments, when everything seemed perfect, one such person, one such artist, who can do that, is Holland Phillips.
Holland has now revealed a new album; it’s called Under a Second Moon, it is another opportunity for us all to take a trip down memory lane, and enjoy some deeply emotive moments long since gone. We start this sojourn with the opening offering entitled Out of the Frying Pan. This mournful repose has that, oh so delightful, Holland Phillips minor chord usage. The emotive quality of this piece says it all, and to my ears it is almost a composition of surrender, as within our life’s path, we jump from the fire and into the frying pan!
The following arrangement is one that I have just featured in a show, you will always find plenty of tracks on a Phillips album that will not just call to you, they will scream out at you, and this is one of them. Taking the Road Not Taken is a suggestive composition of brilliance; it has a real energy of expectancy built into the keyboard performance. Again the memorable tones could take us back to the 90’s, but this is one fine example of a memory built piece that has so much to offer, and is so very enjoyable.
A Moment in Time, this is one of those pieces that will make you sigh, reflect, smile, and move on. Wonderfully composed and beautifully written, this is a track that has a lighter heart and is an anthem for living in the moment, which Holland Phillips has captured that perfectly.
Upon our musical table now lay’s a composition called Possibly Maybe. Phillips has once more manifested something truly beautiful here, but also added in through his performance on keyboards, an element of hope and happiness from the borderlands of expectation.
As we drift on the wings of musical clouds, we come across a piece that is so deeply emotional at its core, and then as a sax is added to create even more depth and passion, we find ourselves staring at the canvas that is the title track, Under a Second Moon. This is a treat of sensual pleasures, that has a night filled quality of a moment in the arms of someone you really love feel about it, pure class oozes from this offering and it a prime example of the genius of composition building that is, Holland Phillips.
A slow and mood filled piano takes us by the hand and leads us well over and into the second half of the release. Love Comes Gently is our partner for the next few minutes; this musical companion is soft, calming and tender to our needs. Listen carefully to the tempo and progression of this track, its smooth and magically created, to leave you feeling so very warm and nurtured inside.
We are wading in deep waters now, as we reach the piece Long Way Home, the tempo picks up, but it’s a track of endurance and determination created to give you that extra energy to build on the desire to actually get home. This is a cleverly paced piece by Phillips that also contains some quite powerful and redolent percussion, as well as an inspiring performance on keyboards that drives us on homewards.
Ever stood and watched a distant storm build on the horizon and just allowed your senses to feel the approach of that on-coming rage and the darkening sky. What is so gentle can be so absorbing, and this quite picturesque offering called Deepening Skies has that very essence of energy about it. This is deeply moody and insightful; there is an element of tension in the composition that builds to a crescendo, and just hovers in its introspective Elton John Funeral for a Friend discipline.
By the time you have arrived at this piece, your moods will have been nearly satiated, your musical desires fulfilled somewhat, but there is still room to thrill you some more, and we can add to this state of musical bliss by laying before you a track called Looking Back. Like Save the Dance, this has that in-built sense of time and memory, a few minutes to literally look over your shoulder at what has got you to this point in your life, a moment of contemplative and wistful reverie.
I have listened to this piece a few times now and with each spin my heart is drawn closer to its energies. It Comes to This, is perhaps the anthem for that moment when all the choices have all run out. Phillips performance here on keyboards draws a narrative of acceptance and cleverly so, the build and empowering efforts of the music, leave us only one choice, and that is always onwards or surrender.
So we reach the final path home and before Holland Phillips leaves this realm of his creation, he would like to gift us a piece of music to take along on our way, and it’s the quite charming Fairytale Nights. The soft and soothing fluency of this track is the perfect way to leave the album, and leaves us the listener once more completely fulfilled in all ways.
Under a Second Moon is another stunning album, that provokes thought, creates musical memory, allows us to recreate moments of time, so deep and emotive, yes, there are few who can do this, and Holland Phillips is such a musician, who with every arrangement, every composition, manifests songs for you that literally come from his very own heart and into yours. Under a Second Moon is a classic piece of contemporary instrumental music that will raise the bar for all to come.
Rating: Excellent
Seventh Wave by Michelle Qureshi
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/12/2017
An album of outstanding natural beauty
The award winning Michelle Qureshi is back with another stunning album after her amazing success with her last release Scattering Stars, which achieved a huge victory for the artist, by capturing the ambient album of the year award for 2016 in the One World Music Radio awards.
The expansive qualities of Qureshi’s composition can be really felt here, by listening to the opening piece entitled Shift. In my view this is some of the finest work I have ever heard from Michelle, this is true ambience and I can see this one being a real fan favourite, the gentleness of performance, especially on piano and guitar is quite moving.
Page of Cups is also a favourite of mine, perhaps some may know of the title through the Tarot, so from this creative new beginning, we can listen to this work as a simple moment of instrumental bliss. Qureshi has grown this vast and wondrous ability to manifest works of art that leave us the listener with so much room to explore, listen to the lightness of performance and the calming backdrop of sound, while the guitar very softly weaves the narrative of tone along with us.
As we arrive at track three, we come across the longest offering on the album that’s just short of eight minutes, it’s called Velvet Rains. Qureshi is an artist in the true meaning of the word, and seems to paint with musical brushes that must have been dipped in genius. Velvet Rains contains a delicacy that is so rare in music these days, and flows with the same energy as you would expect from an Al Gromer Khan album. This is a piece that truly emphasises the artist’s skill in creating ambient soundscapes; it wouldn’t have mattered to me if this piece had gone on for an hour.
Now if ever a title was prophetic this would be it, we’re crying out for this right now, it’s called Each Good Rain. The production quality of this album is amazing, and gives us a really enjoyable texture to allow us to enjoy the compositions further, this one especially so, its fluency and melody are quite harmonious and tranquil, we can almost sit by the window and be grateful for the rains that fall from the sky above.
Reason is a piece that slightly raises the tempo, mainly due to the soft but natural percussive beats contained within. However there is so much in this track, you’re really going to want to revisit Reason many times over.
As we draw nearer to the half way point of the release we come across a composition called We Were Once like This. The piano starts our sojourn here; the moody nature of this track is sublime and draws us into a piece that is so deeply emotive. As a listener, I loved the flow in this track, always controlled and always so very peaceful, the resonance of the guitar latter on is absolutely memorable.
The borderlands have been crossed as we move to, Radiant Ones, however the artist has mixed quite cleverly the dark and light, the radiance and shade, once you arrive at around the minute and a half mark, you may well recognise the land you are within. Om Namah Shivaya calls across the musical divide and the percussive cleverness of the tabla creates that lush eastern feel to the arrangement.
Of the Night is next up, and the almost ethereal quality at the beginning here is a total treat. We can feel the classical influences and can sense the electronic interplay with them as well. Michelle Qureshi keeps on pulling musical and magical rabbits out of her hat and this slice of slightly dark ambience is simply perfection. Through the music we can imagine walking the halls of house in a dimension that has yet to come into existence, moody, mystical and very powerful, all in one basket of brilliance.
We now find ourselves deep within the weave of the release and dear reader and listener the piece Never Odd or Even is upon your table, the deepness of this offering is balanced perfectly with the lightness of touch on performance and tone. We are almost being lifted out of a place of darkness and laid down gently in a realm of a quite blissful nowhere.
Stars Seen is a piece that raises the energies with a quite breath taking repeating ambient melody, that doesn’t impose a pattern in the mind, but reassures us with an uplifting Brian Eno styled performance, this so reminds me of Always Returning from the master, here Qureshi explores further, she creates a whole universal theme through this quite outstanding offering and is one of my many favourites off the album.
We continue this rise through our musical energy centres with this next charming opus called Angels. The creation of this piece is akin to floating on musical clouds and gazing down with safety, on all that is below. The performance on guitar here and the melody structure is among some of the best I have heard for decades.
Our penultimate offering is entitled, There Lightly. Ambient, but almost space styled in build, through the electronic essence of this piece we could easily imagine drifting through a region of deep space. There is a careful and soft nature here though that adds a colourful dimension to the element of this composition. The inclusion of the flute is clever and adds even more to what is already a quite beautiful opus of sound.
So we arrive at our last port of call and this final musical doorway is called Dreaming in Color. A resonating base sound is preceded by an incredibly subtle electric guitar that seems to hover in the distance like a summer haze in August. The mix of floating new age sounds and keyboards mixed with the guitar brings a very classy conclusion, to an extremely sparkling arrangement.
Seventh Wave has not just lived up to all I hoped it would do, it has gone far past that, and then some, this is without doubt one of the best ambient styled albums I have heard this year, and for a long time, and easily Michelle’s best so far. If you liked Scattering Stars, you’re going to be blown away with Seventh Wave, her ability to hold the tone and ambience of each track on the album and create some very emotive and moving musical images along the way, with some quite creative but luscious melodies, is outstanding, and as such I would be more than elated to recommend this release, this is an album of outstanding natural beauty.
Rating: Excellent
Deep Space Blue by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/12/2017
A beacon of light for when we need to escape
The tale of an astral traveller can be told here, one who floats with the winds of tone and tide, to become one with the sonic nature of sublime electronic music. That opportunity is here right now for us all, a chance to step aboard Starship Ottaway, and plunge into a space deep and blue, with the artist.
That rather elaborate opening statement signifies just how much this album means to me, Jim Ottaway is an Australian electronic musician, who over the years has taken massive strides in this industry and genre, and now must be recognised as one of its modern day leaders. He has been imperious in the world 100 charts with hits like Invisible Vortex, Timeless e Motion and Southern Cross, and here he is again with a more floaty electronic ambient collection of compositions entitled Deep Space Blue.
The opening offering is called Astral Voices; this heavenly arrangement pulls us into a mysterious dimension of sight and sound. There is a deep sense of something wondrous just out of view here, the keyboards and synths of Ottaway manifest a truly vast oasis of musical genius, and I for one would find it easy to get lost in Astral Voices.
In Search of the Lost Star is a totally different composition, the start is almost like a trumpet call to arms, perhaps a reveille of a long distant place once thought to be lost in space and time? One thing is for sure, the music of Jim Ottaway allows the imagination to flow beautifully with his subtle use of keyboards. This is indeed a piece that conveys a slow scan of the immediate systems for a sign of a point of light that seems to have passed away in the midst’s of an interplanetary event. There is a real element of mournfulness about this piece, perhaps even a drone of sadness too, the construction of this arrangement is stunning.
At the midway segment of our flight through music, we come across a composition called 39.5 Light- Years (Trappist 1). There is a certain element of Jonn Serrie here, the slow build up and creation, the master brush strokes of a genius at work, this is one arrangement that you will have to listen carefully, and dedicate a moment not to be disturbed. This long form track has a floaty essence about its overall construction, but also contains lighter elements of classic EM as well, and the swirling nature of this track at almost the half way point, reminds me of Kevin Kendle’s Light from Orion album, and quite simply is one of those pieces that you will find impossible to pull away from it is so addictive.
As we now traverse into the latter half of the release we arrive at the next doorway, once opened it will reveal an opus of well over seven minutes called Stars of Ice. The style and use of synths here has produced a wonderful coldness about the piece that literally forms crystalline shards of music within our minds as it plays. Ottaway’s performance here is quite frankly, amazing, he seems to have created space, perhaps room for us all, to explore this region of space, but holding back on the keyboards, as if allowing our minds to take the track in the direction we wish it to go, and all the while his hands are firmly on the musical tiller.
As we reach the penultimate track, we find to our pleasure the title header Deep Space Blue. As such you have well over eleven minutes to strap yourself in and enjoy the ride, this is truly something special. Ottaway has quite breathtakingly manifested a moment of take off into the blue horizon of the night sky, and the tension and build is simply fantastic. His performance as composer and keyboardist here will live forever, this is simply outstanding and the hallmark of a musician who has really found his musical soul, the repeating base motif, the swirling keyboards, all create a truly magical track of great musical significance.
Our last space dock is a deep and resonating Interplanetary Panspermia and at well over 16 minutes, it’s easily the longest arrangement of the album. The movement and energy of the last track seems to have left the void and we are now in a part of space that is uncharted. The sounds employed here by the artist is akin to a ship scanning for life on the many worlds surveyed, but as of yet finding nothing but lifeless hulks of molten rock. Now it’s useful living where I do, because most earth languages are based on Greek, and Panspermia comes from the Greek (Pan, meaning all and Sperma meaning Seed), I for one completely believe in life on other worlds and in other regions of space, it’s only logical, after all we are here. Jim Ottaway has thus produced a superb long form opus of grandeur that should be the back drop for any movie that features the search for alien life within it.
Deep Space Blue has taken Ottaway back to a deeper side of his musical personality and as such he has created something profound and arcane for us all to dive deep into. Jim Ottaway is a musician of great class and distinction and this album will only emphasise just how far he has come in the industry, and Deep Space Blue is like that beacon of light we can go to, when we need to escape from the mundane realities of life.
Rating: Excellent
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