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Sisu by Jennifer DeFrayne
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 6/7/2017
A performance that is absorbing, formidable and sp
Jennifer describes Sisu as a personal journey, one that has seen a continuance of her determination to overcome great obstacles in her path, her bravery, spirit, her Sisu.
From her proud Finnish heritage she has created an album of outstanding natural beauty and built in a real sense of fortitude and resilience, so let’s go on that journey with her right now and explore this new wonderland of empowering musical inspirations.
This sojourn with the artist begins with a piece called Fire Island, a composition that is perfect for drawing us the opening doorway to this incredible album, a track that has everything, build, a smooth yet empowering tempo and an undeniable melody. Apart from the artists mesmerizing performance on the keys, take a listen to the percussion by Jeff Haynes, a totally sublime performance can be found here.
The track Be Who You Are, not only highlights the skills of DeFrayne on Piano, but also shows how wonderfully she has progressed since her last album. This one is both subtle and inspiring, utilising the skills of the multi-talented Jill Haley on English Horn and the very gentle but classy violin of Sara Milonovich.
I do enjoy a good title track and even more so when it proudly sits as the longest piece off the album. A memorable moment of magic can be found right here on Sisu. A thoughtful refrain and a wonderfully fluent performance by DeFrayne, is only added to by a stunning performance once more by Milonovich, partnered by EWI master Premik Russell Tubbs, and some very subtle bass from Michael Manring. Sisu is a composition you never want to end, but thankfully, this seven minute plus creation, will pacify her fans and us very eager listeners with consummate ease.
As we arrive at the track Beyond, we find something rather haunting, deeply moving and memorable, the energy here seems to float with a sense of ambience that is hard to find these days, the Flugel Horn of Jeff Oster adds to that ambience as does the very subtle guitar of Jeff Pearce. Beyond is one of my personal favourites off the release, it has a real sense of grit and determination built within that is so alluring.
Gathering is almost an anthem of types; it has a slow build, but progresses in a passionate but soothing embrace of musical confidence, a call of arms to a collective strength perhaps. Musically this is so charming and contains a really thoughtful approach by DeFrayne on piano; also very noteworthy was the performance by Manring on both Bass and Ebow.
We now find ourselves at the half way juncture of the release Sisu by Jennifer DeFrayne and are now gifted yet another one of my personal favourites the mystical, but focused and centred composition, Palo Santo. This is one of those songs that will sit on repeat for days; it has that addictive and balanced energy about it. I listen to this as I sit on my veranda, sheltered from the midday sun, at peace and at oneness with the odour of a lavender incense stick burning to my left and this harmonic music, blissfully drifting through my mind, and it fits so very well indeed.
So on we go, and our musical pathway now takes us deep within the realms of this latest release, where we come across an interesting and confident arrangement called Roots. The tempo and energy of this piece is really charming, almost like honouring all that has gone before you and respecting your roots. The balance of this composition is perfect and DeFrayne’s sparkling performance here is outstanding in this utterly impressive song.
There is something very special about this next piece; Stepping Stones is a careful, but resilient track, which offers a sense of onward movement within the music that is simply unstoppable and undeniable. This is DeFrayne at her best as she plays light and dark, hard and soft, in a performance that is totally brilliant.
The tones of this quite breath-taking album seem to have got deeper and more pronounced as we move onward and into the project, on the album that is Sisu. On Equanimity we find that and ever more so, as we can feel a sense of strength perhaps to regain composure on this piece; the performance here is determined and the strings of Milonovich so mournful, but harmonic.
Internal Light is almost the mirror image of the last offering, within this beautiful composition one can feel that empowering light that resides deep within us all beginning to shine. This is without doubt one of the warmest and all-embracing tracks off the album.
We are nearing the end of our musical journey and have now arrived at the door marked, penultimate track, and it’s called Renew. This journey has been inspiring and wondrous and Renew is an extension of that theme, it is a duet with English horn performer Jill Haley and this combination brings us a very special treat as we listen to its rejuvenating energies. A really magnificent performance can be found here by the artist and Haley’s horn as always is assured and beautifully eloquent.
Once more we have arrived at the very last port of our musical journey with Jennifer DeFrayne, but before we depart this dimension of melodious perfection, the artist has one more enjoyable moment for us and it is called Perseverance. This is a composition that does what it says on the can, and what a perfect way to leave a stunning album, she leaves her listeners inspired, empowered, rejuvenated and ready to reach out for that repeat button one more time.
Jennifer DeFrayne has manifested into the world the perfect album for these times of self-doubt and fear, a release that is inspirational in its intent and preservers in its beliefs of rising above all that is negative, and never giving up. Sisu should be a musical example to us all. It’s an album that contains some of the best musicians of their time and genre and a performance on piano by DeFrayne that is absorbing, formidable and spirited.
Rating: Excellent
Deep by Adam Werner
- posted by Candice Michelle on 6/6/2017
Adam Werner - Deep (Music to Heal the Soul)
Deep (subtitled Music to Heal the Soul) is the latest album by guitarist and composer, Adam Werner, whose signature fingerstyle guitar technique has often been compared to that of the late pioneering guitarist Michael Hedges. Comprised of twelve peacefully reflective and melodic compositions spanning forty-four minutes, the album includes alternating arrangements of both solo acoustic and ensemble pieces with subtle vocals in parts, which variably feature guest performances by Samite, Kris Tischbein, Ken Verheecke, Adam Howe, Michael Manring, Kentaro Otsuka, Jim “Kimo” West and Sydney Easton.

Lending his mesmerizingly soothing vocals to the unforgettable first track, “Sage & Sand (for Tristan)”, is Ugandan singer and former Windham Hill Records artist, Samite, whose own music I’ve long been a fan of. A spellbinding fusion of contemporary acoustic and world music, atmospheric textures envelope gentle acoustic guitar, as Adam additionally lends bass and percussion while Samite plays a captivating flute melody throughout. Moving in like a gentle breeze upon a tranquil landscape is “Thank You”, in which Adam creates stretches of atmospheric tones with eBow guitar along with a rhythmic pacing on acoustic guitar, as Kris Tischbein further underscores the piece with bass guitar. “Footprints in the Fog” is another gem of a composition that exudes a misty atmosphere. Here, Adam plays guitar, bass and percussion accompanied by Ken Verheecke on nylon guitar and Adam Howe on banjo. A lushly beautiful ensemble, each distinguishable instrument becomes part of a most intriguing interplay, which is perfectly carried to conclusion by the distant sound of a cold wind gust. The one-minute “Island Swing” is the sunniest piece on the album, perfectly capturing the Hawaiian spirit with its serenely uplifting ukulele solo. The title track, “Deep”, is among the album’s handful of solo acoustic guitar pieces and arguably the most mesmerizing of its kind. Simple yet profound in its contemplative essence, warm, languid tones seemingly paint a picture of a solitary beach and sunset. Equally enthralling is “Psyche vs. Soul”, a subtly stormy piece characterized by sparse, echoing chords that additionally features Kentaro Otsuka on bass as well as Adam Howe on drums and 12-string guitar. “Early Mourning Passage” just as beautifully wraps-up the album as it unfolded. Here, Sydney Easton lends wordless ethereal vocals as repeating guitar notes drift upon a soundscape of eBow guitar, bass and percussion, ultimately fading out with Sydney’s lone vocal intonations.

Sublimely tranquil with an often-melancholic undercurrent that seems fitting for a rainy afternoon, Deep is memorably melodic yet relaxing enough to serve as accompanying music for spa and massage therapies. Echoing the spirit of many classic Windham Hill and Narada Records releases, Adam flawlessly interweaves elements of new age, ambient and world music into contemporary acoustic arrangements, ultimately culminating in what is easily one of this year’s best guitar albums! ~Candice Michelle (Journeyscapesradio.com)
Rating: Excellent
Stardust by Kerani
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 6/2/2017
Empowering, thought provoking music
I have long yearned for a new Kerani album and when I heard whispers that a new release was on its way that thrilled me. Kerani has that energy built into her work that some of us could call the wow factor. She had that with ease on Arctic Sunrise, but it’s even more pronounced on this amazing new album, called Stardust.
An album about space is usually going to be a winner, but when you included over 60 musicians in on the project with a symphonic orchestra into the mix too, that wow factor is going to be off the scale, for example let’s leave the space dock with the opener Stardust. If you ever want to start an album with something spectacular, this is how to do it. In Vangelis style Kerani manifests a piece that has a perfect build, progression and sense of awe and grandeur all in the weave, we can feel a part of it all through this totally stunning opening, we are each note played, we are the melody and the rhythm, we are all Stardust.
A glorious ambient and spacious beginning greets our ever eager ears with the next piece called Cosmic Sunrise. By some chance I was up very early today and wanted to walk the dog along the beach at sunrise, this piece of music would have been perfect for that pleasurable perambulation. This is such a beautiful composition, with many little intricacies, the deft string section, the purposeful percussion and the narration from Kerani’s keyboard that moves us forward and onward. This is a wonderful depiction of something utterly spectacular and Kerani’s arrangement is the perfect musical soundtrack for that event.
I did read the notes for this next piece and found that the composition is based on the Rosetta project of the European Space Agency. In our search for life we must travel long and deep. Kerani has created something very clever here; one can literally feel through the music, that a journey of that magnitude is going to be taken. There is a defined sense of movement within the arrangement that is so evident; there is also a remarkable likeness on this piece to the UK’s Medwyn Goodall, perhaps from his days on the album Comet. Rosetta is a track that demands to be listened to multiple times, as there are so many nuances contained within; you might just miss something first time around.
The next offering Perpetuum Mobile is very interesting in many ways, you will find a repeating pattern here, this motif continues onwards like a machine, almost like the tick and tock of a relentless galactic clock, but its symphonic backdrop adds a whole layer of musical magnificence into the composition, could this be an anthem for the space time continuum itself?
On Beyond we have a track that whilst it fits perfectly into the space genre and style of Vangelis, it’s also incredibly ambient, the artist has created a dimension of a vast wonderment here, imagine reaching a point in deep space and seeing the vastness of it all spread before you into infinity. The inclusion of flute on this piece took me back many years to an old Terry Oldfield album called Across the Universe. Here Kerani has allowed her skills to create something that is musically outstanding and through the tones of this track, perhaps we can even explore the myriad dimensions of inner space as well as outer?
We have now traversed over the half way marker in the album, and come across a wormhole that seems to transport us to a whole new realm called, The Next Step. You will find a much more up-tempo arrangement here, a lively percussive beat with synths and piano give this composition a real EM feel. This one has that special stardust feel, plenty of energy, the wide eyes of excitement and a luscious melody, with a driving electric guitar, all of that and much more can be found on this headline composition.
As we now drop out of warp and use manoeuvring thrusters to bring us into a more stable position. We can bathe in a track that is simply too huge to comprehend called Infinity. One can only imagine the feelings and emotions when one gazes through the window of you own little world to sample a view of Infinity, how does the mind deal with that? It’s emotive, overpowering and inspirational and all of those words and the aforementioned description explain entirely the arrangement, and feel of this most incredible opus of brilliance created by Kerani.
Our journey through the various quadrants of space has been sensational, but it’s not over yet, although we now find that our musical star ship is being pulled away from its current location and towards a vast celestial body, this new planet has a Gravity field that is compelling and extremely powerful. Kerani’s skill and compositional genius now illustrates that pull perfectly with a repeating pulse in the music. The percussion and symphonic build here is slow and so deeply powerful, while the added ethereal vocals from Davinia Van der Zee are simply divine.
You will be able to tell by the tone and tempo of this next offering that we must be nearing the end of our current trek through the stars, listen first to the marvellous strings that create such an emotional repose. Then some of the finest piano from Kerani ushers forth in what has to be a cinematic moment of outstanding natural beauty on the piece Worlds Unknown, my favourite piece off the release. I found this composition to be very moving and deeply emotive. Could this be the anthem for the universe? It gives us a feeling of utter love for all that we are part of and if we could all come together and realise this beauty, then perhaps we could all be a lot happier and more at peace. If there is any justice in the world of music, this has to end up on a space movie somewhere; it’s one of the best songs and melodies I have heard since the great Vangelis and the Albedo 0.369 album.
I must state honestly right here and now, that after listening to Worlds Unknown, I had to stop for a few minutes to compose myself, have a hug and wipe the tears from my eyes, that has to have been one of the most beautiful pieces I have listened to for years, thank you Kerani, you made this writer cry.
Stars (Remix) is our last space port, so as we engage docking thrusters and prepare to end our journey, we can enjoy this last gift from the musician. Whilst the nature of this piece it up beat, it has a certain purpose to it, perhaps one that states, “lets respect our world, let’s stop this childish bickering and realise that we are all one and move onwards together, in love peace and harmony”. This is a fine way to leave the album and with a little Jean Michel Jarre flare thrown in for good measure too.
Stardust has to be the finest release that Kerani has ever produced, its empowering, thought provoking, emotive and simply beautiful at every twist and turn of the album. This is going to appeal to such a wide range of listeners and fans, its symphonic, contains a confident and stylish performance on keyboards, synths and piano, it includes such a vast array of musicianship and support and a top notch quality of production. I have to say this, Stardust is the best album I have heard this year in this genre by a mile and I don’t only recommend you buy this album, I urge you to do so at all costs, it is excellent.
Rating: Excellent
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