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High Tech. High Touch by Wendy Loomis
- posted by Kathy Parsons on 8/11/2018
High Tech, High Touch is a 2-EP collection of original compositions by Bay Area composer/pianist/ producer/ educator, Wendy Loomis. The High Touch disc is eight original piano solos and High Tech is eight works for synthesizers (and a few guest artists). Reading Wendy Loomis' bio and the information on her website is amazing. There isn't much in the music field that she hasn't done, and her current activities include this album, teaching in her home studio in San Francisco, composing for and playing with spoken word jazz band COPUS, composing for film, and the list goes on. She was the composer/pianist for the piano/flute duo, Phoenix Rising, and has won the ASCAP award for composition four times. HighTech, High Touch is Wendy Loomis' seventeenth album and is very likely to be one of my Favorites of 2018.

The two 32-minute discs are very different from each other, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed they were by the same artist, but the quality of the music, the recording and production are all top notch and provide a superlative showcase for Wendy Loomis' versatility as a composer and musician.

The High Tech disc begins with "Omar Sosa," an ambient/electronic tribute to the brilliant Cuban musician that it's named for. The infectious beat will have you tapping your toes in no time! "Cassiopeia" was co-created with Jerry Gerber (soft synth) and Michele Walther (violin) and is high energy as well as high tech! The soulful violin is a fascinating contrast to the driving beat of the synths, and yet they work together perfectly. "Birthday Beat" is rather dark and mysterious, but the percussion keeps it lively and moving forward - another very interesting set of contrasting sounds! "Synchronicity" includes Monica Williams on pan flute in addition to the more playful synths and percussion - a favorite. "Apogee" is more fluid and ethereal, but the dark, steady drum and hand claps keep it grounded - I really like this one, too! Gerber and Walther return in "Pleiades" as co-composers and instrumentalists. High energy, exotic and very rhythmic, this one just about dances right out of the CD player! Love it!

Okay, now that I've gushed about the electronic disc, let me tell you about the High Touch solo piano disc that I REALLY like! I love all eight of these piano solos and really hope Loomis will offer the sheet music sometime. "Cumulus Cloud" is very free and impressionistic, floating on air and moving gracefully when and where it wishes - very soothing and transporting. "Julio" is dark and passionate with a Latin rhythm and a haunting melody. And then there is "You're Too Sensitive"! I cannot get enough of this wonderful minor key waltz! In addition to the powerful main theme, there are a few lighter themes that seem to tell a story. I can't seem to listen to this one without hitting the replay button at least once! "Nagano Reflection" is elegant with a gentle Asian feel - beautiful! The dramatic "Safe Travel" expresses a sense of urgency as well as movement. "One Snowy Night" reminds me a bit of Erik Satie in places - simple and uncluttered, but very evocative. Another favorite! The album comes to a close with "Eternity," a slowly-flowing "song without words" that comes from the heart.

High Tech, High Touch will not be easy to categorize come awards season, but it should be in line for a whole bunch of awards! It is available from, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

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Kathy Parsons
Rating: Excellent
Carpe Noctem by Peter Calandra
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/9/2018
One to file under amazing music
There is always a moment within a year that I relish, one of those moments is upon us right now, a Peter Calandra release, this time on the back of his album Piano improvisations he offers something very different indeed, as he gives us his latest work of genius entitled Carpe Noctem, which translates to seize the night!
One of the main reasons I adore a new Calandra release is that it allows me, the ever eager listener of incredible music, to voyage on another journey with one of the world’s best composers of contemporary instrumental and classical music around today.
Our musical travels starts with the gentle and reverential offering called Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The vocals here are layered so beautifully to give that charming and all-encompassing ethereal effect that creates many memory filled moments of magic for us to wonder among, and is of course the perfect starting opus.
The artists fluency is simply beyond anything you may have listened to before and on Carpe Noctem (Seize the Night), the title track, that will become very evident indeed, the choir of angelic voices sing out from high and manifest a night time dimension where the rules of day and light do not apply, here anything is possible. This is such a wonderfully charismatic composition, and one that is bathed in so much emotion as well. This truly moved me, as I hope it does you as well.
From the depths of night, one of the most magical times of day is nearly upon us, this arrangement is Aurora Scanderé (Dawn Rising), a moment of dawn, that clear and crisp air filled blissful segment of time, when all manifestations can slowly become realities, when dreams can become the pathways of the truth ahead. The artist brings to the musical table a superb composition that builds progressively in film score style, and increases its tempo to a moment of sublime crescendo.
Crucifixus (Crucifixion) has to be one of the most emotive offerings on this release and regardless of any religious connotations, Calandra has created something so very real, so very emotional; one can feel the moment through the music with ease. The brass sections are incredibly poignant and layered so delicately with the choir, that they bring a level of musical genius that would be hard to rival if you lived for eons.
We now move toward the middle of the release and come across one of the more ambient offerings on the album and called Ars Vitae (Art Is Life). I have a specific love for modern art, and used to enjoy walking through the hallowed halls of the Tate Modern in London, I could do that with this track on repeat with ease. Calandra is inspired here, mixing choral works with synths and keyboards, in a neo classical style that treads dimensions of musical intellect as of thus so far untouched. Yes, this was my personal favourite from the release.
Illuminare (Illumination) is that musical marker that sees us drift over the half way line, this gentle reverie is a veritable bed of tranquillity, one could watch the day unfurl and then shiver with artistic joy as the first rays of sunlight drift on a hill of wild flowers, with the cadence of the day ahead. The orchestral movements and the hovering string sections are simply sublime and will raise the hairs on the back of your neck with a joyful abundance of glee and happiness, now this is what I would call a breath-taking arrangement.
Let’s now drift down the valleys of the second half of the album with the piece Invictus Bellator (Unconquered Warrior). One can but admire the elevated level of intensity on this offering, but it is so well arranged that it does not overwhelm the piece. The gentle progression is also deliberate, but perfect and manifests a steady energy of movement with purpose within the track; it is as if the unconquered warrior himself is nearing our location and as the pale rider breaches the horizon, the composition increases in a marvellous moment of tempo, power and determination all rolled into one quite stunning arrangement.
One thing we all like is a Mane Pacificae (Peaceful Morning). Well the good news is that Peter Calandra has now created the soundtrack for that most important of time segments of the day. For me, a lover of classical music, this once again moves me; the string sections and brass combine to bring something so very special and musically delicate too, almost like watching a flower open for the first time.
We have just had a blood moon and fortunately here on our island the pollution that light creates is not that bad, on Luna Benedictus (Moon Prayer), the shortest piece off the release, we have a wonderful ambient offering that depicts for me, the moments I spend in partnership and meditation with the silver energy of the moon perfectly, short form maybe, but the piano and orchestration manifest a real treat of a piece.
We have slowly steered our musical boat to the penultimate bay of the album and here on Sacrum Spera (Sacred Trust), Calandra’s skills as an all-round musical genius are truly evident. This composition is filled with a sacred energy indeed, but the musical tides of the arrangement, create for us a place of depth and tone to enjoy. The orchestration and choir keep that ebb and flow of harmonious brilliance in a perfect melodious cohesion; this is truly a special piece indeed.
Finally we dock at the last port of the release and are given one last moment of symphonic bliss to enjoy before we must depart this musical dimension, this gift is entitled Spiritus Mundi (World Spirit). Calandra, like the master he is, has left the most uplifting track till last. Energy of oneness can be found here, a realisation of unity as well. Perhaps through Calandra’s last track, he may well find he has created an anthem for the world, and through this musical reverie, we may all get to smell the white rose of peace at last.
Carpe Noctem by Peter Calandra is another in a line of quite breath-taking albums by the musician and composer, and I can see no reason why the album shouldn’t been seen on the shelves of the world’s public, under the files marked “Amazing Music”. One will find pristine productions, perfect arrangements and more. Calandra is one of those artists that continuously produces extremely high quality albums and Carpe Noctem can now be added to that list. This is absolutely recommended without a shadow of doubt.
Rating: Excellent
Evensong: Canticles for the Earth by Meg Bowles
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/31/2018
A remarkable album
Five years ago I walked upon a Shimmering Earth created by the artist and my life changed, the beauty of that Meg Bowles album filled my soul with much hope, something that I needed at the time, the gentle waves of luscious synths eased my psyche and here, five years later, she is back with an album so tranquil and calming to behold called Evensong: Canticles For The Earth.
We begin our journey of galactic proportions with the opening piece Hymnus. This mixture of textures and progression, then a smooth but vast realm of electronic genius is on offer for us all on this opening composition. One could easily become part of the music here and simply float into a dimension of sound with this quite stunning start.
Bowles follows that powerful beginning with an equally amazing composition called Migration at Dusk. You will note the complete change in energy here as Bowles uses her keyboards and synths to create a vast horizon of musical brilliance, then brings in a sense of sequenced movement, that seems to take us by the hand and swirl us along with the sounds of an otherworldly dimension, in a similar style to fellow electronic composer Jonn Serrie.
The Ridgewalker is a fascinating composition, the slow and deliberate artistic endeavour to create a visual that is almost film score in intention is achieved here with ease. I could for example imagine the story I am reading (The Dark Tower, Stephen King) and follow the path of the man in black as he is spotted crossing the great desert and for a moment appears as a shadow figure on the ridge of the far western mountain range. This opus would be perfect for that specific soundtrack. The floating synths create a level of mysticism here that is the chief narrator of this most sublime of ethereal pieces, one that I think I will be revisiting many times over.
The shortest track off the album is up next at just shy of six minutes and entitled Chalice of Shadows. For some reason I felt quite emotional whilst listening to this; there is a deepness that takes you inward, but also a vastness that can not only be felt, but seen too. The energy of this track is incredibly moving, it is as if we are standing literally on the edge of infinity and gazing out across the divide of time and space. This piece is filled with an unfound mystery, a tapestry of electronic music that seems to float back and forth like some huge galactic wave, and where we may float to, is another entirely unknown dimension; the performance here is simply stunning.
We now drift into the heavenly arms of the next piece Berceuse For A Star Child. This delicate, but soothing lullaby takes us in its embrace and calms the soul; the steady progression on keyboards and synths is simply blissful. In a way, this is our anthem, are we not all part of everything and thus all part of this wonderful universal experience called, life?
The penultimate offering is called Evensong and being the title track, we now have ten magical minutes to walk musically along with the artist. This is an incredibly poignant offering and the narrative of tone and timbre allow is to also be grateful for being able to experience the one thing we all share, life. The deepness of the synths here is a constant reminder of however this life has gone for us; we must share and remind ourselves of the need to be grateful for it. For me the intensity of performance here states that, and what a better time to give thanks and gratitude but at the end of another day.
We can now safely float into the last composition of the album and this final moment of electronic bliss is called Time And Light. This is also the longest track off the album at exactly fifteen minutes. This long form opus of power and grace is the perfect way to end the album. We can also revel in the drifting and swirling nature of the piece, as we go back and forth from major to minor in arrangement, in a similar style to the UK’s leading synth performer Kevin Kendle. Time itself here seem to be forming, capitulating to universal oneness and then dissipating into a realm of no time at all, perhaps just one of pure light, this is one quite breath taking offering.
Evensong: Canticles For The Earth by Meg Bowles has to be one of the stand out electronic albums of the year so far, and manifests vast reaching and almost eternal levels of ambience whilst doing so. This is a remarkable album, one that I absolutely enjoyed. Her style and professionalism and artistic intelligence has thus brought into this world a release, that will truly make us gaze once again upwards to the stars with the same wide eyed wonder of a child, a thoroughly recommended album indeed.
Rating: Excellent
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