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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
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Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
  Origin by Elise Lebec, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 9/21/2017
  What We Hold Dear by Timothy Wenzel, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 7/7/2017
  Rear View by Perpetual Motion, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 7/6/2017
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Beyond the Waves
By Ann Licater
Label: Cul de Sac Mystic Productions
Released 4/8/2016
Beyond the Waves tracks
1. Rhythm of the Stars  
2. Halcyon Morning  
3. Blossoms Falling  
4. Beyond the Waves  
5. Island Garden  
6. Sailing on Moonlight  
7. Sunrise Blessing  
8. Dreaming in Time  
9. Song of the Willows  
10. Echoes in the Mist  
11. Shimmering Waters  
12. Ocean Lullaby  
Ann Licater - Beyond the Waves
Ann Licater’s latest album, Beyond the Waves, does a great job at showcasing this talented flutist’s special abilities as both a composer and a performer. Licater’s music on this album manages the difficult task of being relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time. I may not be able to easily articulate what I mean, and likely will be even less successful at describing how she does it, but that’s why I am paid the big bucks of an independent music reviewer, right?

Since eight of the twelve tracks feature Licater playing either a Native American flute or one which is referred to in the liner notes as “Native American-style,” the album tends to sound more like a Native flute fusion recording than a new age one (only meant as a descriptor, not a evaluative statement). Native flute fusion, as a subgenre, is becoming more populated all the time and many of the artists in that field are some of the best instrumentalists out there (Mark Holland, Douglas Blue Feather, Scott August, and many more). With this album, Licater should be put into that conversation, i.e. the best players in that subgenre. Besides Native, she also plays other flutes on Beyond the Waves, including alto, bamboo, silver, and Anasazi. Without dismissing the excellent tonal qualities of the myriad non-Native flutes (whether featured on this album or not), there is a discernibly haunting quality to the Native flute that is absolutely (from my perspective at least) unique in the musical world. Someone must have great breath control and be able to play with a lot of nuance to master that aspect of the instrument and Licater excels at that.

Joining the flutist on the recording are a group of talented musicians in their own right: Arielle and Arnáe Batson (vocals) Dan Ferguson (acoustic bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, steel tongue drum), David DiLullo (djembe, Peruvian cajon), DJ Bander and Ivar Lunde (synth programming), Peter Phippen (acoustic bass, vintage electric bass, conga, shakuhachi), and Scarlet Rivera (violin). Most of those just named appear on only a few tracks (or even one) but Phippen’s and Ferguson’s musical fingerprints are all over many of the tracks. Those two and Lunde serve as co-producers with Licater herself.

It’s apparent that Licater and company set out to make an album of relaxing music, but as mentioned earlier, there is a refreshing quality to many of the songs as well. Not exhilarating or joyous, per se, but more like a cool breeze on a warm day or dipping tired feet into a gently running brook. Some tracks, such as the title song, feature subtle jazz influences, even with Native flute in the lead. The lower-pitched alto flute on “Island Garden” is accented by slow tempo hand percussion evoking the titular reference of sunlight filtered through palm trees with tropical birds heard in the distance. Obviously, the bamboo flute on “Sunrise Blessing” imparts a distinct Asian flavor to the tune (emphasized by having this be a solo flute song and, if my reading of the liner notes is accurate, this is the only cut on which Licater is unaccompanied). “Echoes in the Mist,” on which Licater shares the flute spotlight with Phippen’s shakuhachi, brings that particular image to mind with its friendly yet mysterious melody and the two flutists playing off each other beautifully.

I don’t think I did a particularly great job at describing why this album is much more than mere relaxation music (although it excels at that, so for goodness sake, play it to de-stress or as massage backdrop). It’s not that the music is lively or cheery, but there is some undefinable aspect to Beyond the Waves that, even while slowing the listener down, also cleanses her/him of emotional baggage the same way a nice hot shower washes away the grime of a good day’s labor. Perhaps the album’s subtitle (“a soulful flute journey”) is the best way to pinpoint the album’s pleasures. Every journey has multiple pleasures, some different than others, and this musical journey is no different. So, join Ann Licater and friends and allow them to lead you where they will. You will certainly emerge better off for it.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/23/2017
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