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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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Elements [Live and Uncut]
By Matthew Schoening
Label: Self Released
Released 6/15/2010
Elements [Live and Uncut] tracks
1. Water
2. Air
3. Fire
4. Earth
5. Spirit
Electricity and a Cello Does Mix
Matthew Schoening believes that we are all part of the system. The natural system of elements that make up everything. His latest album, Elements features all the natural building blocks of life and beyond. There are five tracks in the suite called Water, Air, Fire, Earth and Spirit. Moreover, to make his point he has recorded the tracks live, continuously and superlatively. His instrument is the electric cello and it sings like a multi-voiced chartreuse and in multi-dimensions. It reminded me of some of Michael Hedges harp-guitar work with that solid echoing feel of electronics balanced with equally strong melodies. The software I have automatically categorizes an album's genre when it catalogs the music. On Elements it suggested it was "Other". Sometimes a computer gets it right.

The first movement is called Water. Of course, no one can deny that water is the source of all life in one way or another. Mathew's song flows gently, but encounters some obstructions along the way. The sound reflects life is that water always appears to find a way around the obstructions or perhaps, it wears them down. Quiet strength seems to be the method in this tune. After the first track we realize that, with a bit of applause from an audience, this is a live album. But after that it is completely forgotten and the music is continuous.

The tone of Air picked up the pace appreciatively. It sounded like an aerial pas de deux between two ethereal, ornate birds that were performing to insure the future. Their stage was an azure background that went on forever, just like their hopes. The tune segued seamlessly into Fire. The heat and ardor took hold and the element became a guide and a friend. The beat increased to a heart-pounding tempo. Like the birds, we are lifted into the atmosphere by the power of the flames. Our fervor increases and it is at that time that we have a decision. Are we warmth or destruction? We choose the warmth, the heat of passion and the preservation of life.

The track Earth takes on a Middle Eastern theme as Matthew "saws" his cello, coaxing out a sense of mystery and energy. The tune was complex and I had to remind myself that there was only one musician playing, but the magic was undeniable. This song too, had the feeling of a passage through not only faraway lands, but also the dimension of time.

The sitar-like sound from Earth finally moves into the last cut called Spirit. The music goes on diverse tangents reminding us that the concept of soul has many meanings. and truly, the knowledge of inner self is a prototypical element in anyone's life. Yeah, Schoening captures that in the music.

The listener will be mystified as I was as to how Matthew makes all the music come out of only one instrument. There will be no question however, as to how pleasing his music is on many different levels. This live recording has a great presence and I highly recommend it. I am now going in search of Schoening previous three releases. I know I am in for an aural treat.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 6/3/2011
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