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Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/12/2017
Jim Ottaway - Timeless e-Motion
Jim Ottaway is an Australia-based electronic music composer with an impressive catalog of recordings that range from ambient-space to chill-out electronica. While his latest album, Timeless e-Motion, combines stylistic characteristics of both, it’s also a bit different from anything Jim has previously recorded. Namely, he employs greater elements of classic electronic space music in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre, all while infusing his compositions with a wholly up-to-date and modern feel via his vast arsenal of electronic music equipment and gear. Comprised of thirteen tracks spanning sixty-five minuets, the album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jim between the years of 2013 and 2016.

“Sequence of Life” opens with a dynamic and rhythmic arrangement of sequencers and pulsing effects. A fantastic introduction, it conveys a feeling of moving through space and time. Following next is the hauntingly beautiful “Timeless e-Motion”, which gently paces along on a dreamily floating, liquid-like current. Easily my favorite piece on the album, hazy tones, scattering chimes and vocal-like washes are carried along by a hypnotic bassline and rhythmic pulse, which gradually evolves into a subtle chill beat. Digital bleeps and signals echo throughout, as if emanating from somewhere deep in the galaxy. At just over eight minutes in length, this piece could easily drift on forever, perhaps while one endlessly tries to solve the infinite mysteries of our vast and largely unknowable universe. Varying between the more dynamic, travelling pace of the first track and the floating ambience of the title track, the compositions always seem to move in a linear, forward motion. Each employs a varied degree of digital sequencing, synthesized vocals, spacey signals and pulsating electronic rhythms. The seventh track, “Behind Close Eyes”, is another especially notable and mesmerizing piece, which effectively brings to mind that of being in virtual reality or dreamlike simulation. Despite these distinctive sci-fi motifs, the compositions herein convey human warmth and a conscious presence throughout, as if musically illustrating a narrative of the cosmos and how it relates to life here on earth. Another favorite is the twelfth track, “Cosmic Shift”, a classic ambient-space number characterized by ethereal chords, sparkling chimes and a wondrous sense of mystery, as one can easily imagine numerous constellations of twinkling stars against a stark midnight sky. Aptly concluding the album is “Timeless e-Motion (radio edit)”, which clocks in at just over five minutes, lending itself as a sort of reprise of the title track to wrap-up this fantastical cosmic journey.

Jim Ottaway’s previous album, Southern Cross, was one of my favorite recordings of 2016 and this one is surely destined to become another. In fact, Timeless e-Motion may very well be the best output from this amazingly talented artist thus far, unquestionably solidifying Jim’s place as a distinctive and innovative electronic music composer. Fusing ambient, modern electronica and classic space music, I can detect several decades of musical influences here, as Jim masterfully carves out his own sound and style that he has both developed and gradually improved on over the years. Lending itself to an emotive sci-fi quality, the music of Timeless e-Motion conveys a mesmerizing notion of having entered some futuristic parallel dream-world that’s dominated by themes of hyperspace, wormholes and time-travel. Likewise permeated by an ever-present and intangible mystery throughout, this album is both an interstellar and inner voyage that’s absolutely not to be missed! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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
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