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Soundscapes by Deborah Offenhauser
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/13/2018
Go on a wide-eyed journey of wonderment and bliss
A new day begins and with new music to enjoy, the album in question today is Soundscapes by Deborah Offenhauser, and it is indeed a very pleasant musical journey we are about to take.
Offenhauser has a long legacy of musical history, and her prowess has been seen on many TV shows and stages around the world; here on Soundscapes, she brings to our musical table one of the most inspiring works in the contemporary instrumental field we will have seen, or heard, in a very long time.
This voyage of ultra-tone and style starts with Decidedly Joyful, a composition that has a perfect vibrant start to the album and a colourful arrangement that just continues to build throughout, a little drama, a fine sax, and an all empowering piano, this is simply perfection.
The artist then follows that up with Free Radical, a mournful repose can be found here, a reflective energy abounds, and Offenhauser’s piano is delightful in all that it creates, at the half way juncture a synth cuts in, and the tempo is empowered to an extent that one could feel that something is literally being born here, this flow calms down to a lush and natural sense of ambience, a very clever track indeed.
I adore the sounds of nature on the piece Nothing Can Touch You Now. The mood created is serene and calm, the keyboards and flute manifest a musical sanctuary of the soul, there is a gentle build, which ushers in the piano of Offenhauser, who then manifests a musical narrative that would sit well within any film score.
At the start of many of the pieces so far, we have been welcomed in by a sound of nature, in this case what seems to be a bonfire with a horse running past, and then the smooth keyboards create a feeling of early morning, with suspense hanging in the background of an exciting new day. At just short of seven minutes Irrational Exuberance is the longest offering on the album and is easily the most intriguing, the strings here give us an essence of constant forward movement, and as always Offenhauser’s piano is chief narrator of this quite amazing composition.
The sounds of a hot night greet our ears with the creatures of the forest beginning their serenade at sunset. A very eastern feel can be felt on Tanz, one that is not too dissimilar from some of the more folk styled music we get here in the Cypriot mountain villages. The energy of the dance is within this piece and the deep and powerful percussion partners the piano of Offenhauser brilliantly, while the actuality of the location is more than likely North African in origin.
One of the most fascinating pieces is Spacial Palace; we start with a combination of natural sounds and the energy of humanity’s unceasing bustle. The keyboards then create a sense of time passing and a movement away from the world as we know it, a new journey of an outer worldly essence begins, and this is all captured beautifully within a bubble of wonderment and excitement.
The most artistic title is upon us know, Through A Glass Darkly is up next. The grounding energies of nature surround us, and then the track takes on an almost Temple in the Forest feel by David Neagle in its early stages. The arrangement then increases in both tempo and intent and ends up leaving us with what could be described as one of the most picturesque and anthem like compositions on the entire album.
On Rosemont Theme, we have another intriguing narrative, one that has an element of suspense and mystery within its construction, but a slow change appears to move us away from the essence of apprehension, to a happier and calming arrangement. The strings here almost create a sense of romance for us to enjoy, as the piece resolves its earlier tension.
The guitar on Air is simply delightful and adds a light and peaceful segway to, and into, the overall narrative of the piece, the piano and guitar here seem to literally dance with each other on this really cheer filled opus of happiness, spinning each other around and around, with smiles of the faces of all in attendance.
That period after sunset, but before the shroud of the night is now upon us and aptly called The Gloaming. You will find yourself listening to this piece intently, so you will not miss a single nuance. Offenhauser has created a real twilight of a piece that perfectly reflects that sense of impending darkness of night, with a little hint of mystery stirred into the musical pot for good measure, listen to the strings in this offering, they are the creators of this fascinating mood filled narrative.
Morning has broken and the waves calmly roll up to the sands of time and as such a new opportunity is now upon us, so let us bathe in that moment with the composition It Is Written. This is a beautiful arrangement; the multi instrumental nature of this composition is sublime in creating a feeling that anything is possible for us, the co-creators of the planet.
This has been a truly captivating voyage of sight and sound, now on this, the penultimate offering, we come across a composition called Tanninim, and we can dive into the deepest oceans to enjoy its energies, mingling as we do with the other sea creatures. The ambience manifested here is clever and also fashions a reality of a vast underwater realm, with great skill and intelligence.
We now finally dock our musical boat at the port of one of the most atmospheric albums I have heard for some time, and the artist will gift us one last composition to take with us on our way. That arrangement is entitled The Wonderful Unfoldment Of Blue. This is the ideal track to leave us with; a calming and tranquil narrative can be found here, the limitless essence of this opus is so appealing, and one can also hear a sense of appreciation and gratitude here too.
Soundscapes is well named, it also has to be one of the most unique releases I have heard this year, the performances, the production, the quality and styles are all simply perfection in every aspect of musical awareness. Deborah Offenhauser has built an album here that will take each and every listener on a musical voyage of wide eyed wonderment and bliss, all done so with the consummate ease of a true professional.
Rating: Excellent
Unfolding by Rick Batyr
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/12/2018
A fascinating album
Musically life has been unfolding for Rick Batyr for some years now, he has progressed and expanded his musical repartee tenfold, and now with Unfolding the album, Batyr has taken a massive leap up the stairways of musical prowess leaping steps in a single bound.
Unfolding is by far his best work to date and tracks like the inspiring and technically perfect slice of electronic music on Synchronise featuring Tikki Masala is but one example of his progression.
With the deepness of AumOmOhm and its sublime resonance, the mesmeric Enter the Portal, featuring Cumie Dunio which is a mixture of trance and rock we haven’t seen since Brian Abbotts, Skelton Lords track.
Batyr has given his all on this release and it shows, the classy and Pink Floydesque It Has Always Been Here is a stand out piece and smoothly floats around the musical psyche.
With an effortless ease, Batyr drives a percussive sense of movement through pieces like Call of the Wolf, and then allows us to sink into a world of ambience with compositions like [uh-mal-guh-meyt]. Divasonic features on the piece Transfiguration, and then the sound of the wind as it blows around on Winds Of Change and finally You Are Eternal Light all go to making this an excellent album that was designed to be listened to as a continual piece of music.
Rick Batyr has produced probably the most fascinating album of his career, one that will resonate at the highest level with his fans, and lovers of quality electronic and vibrational styled music; if this is you, then this has to be a must buy release, quality albums like this don’t come around that often.
Rating: Excellent
Seamless by Christine Brown
- posted by Christine Brown on 3/8/2018
Pianist/composer/arranger Christine Brown has often included wonderful medleys on her albums, most notably on A Classic Christmas (2012) where she ingeniously combined holiday favorites with classical music with jaw-dropping ease. Medleys of songs aren’t anything new, but Christine Brown has taken a very unconventional assortment of favorite classical pieces and pop/rock songs and “seamlessly” woven them into something new and surprising. Led Zeppelin and Beethoven? Chopin, The Eagles, and The Mamas and the Papas? Adele and Bach? These unlikely combinations become beautiful, soulful piano solos that will be a treat to any music lover’s ears. Brown’s previous release, Souvenirs (2014), was awarded Album of the Year by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio and I would expect Seamless to receive similar accolades. It is certain to be on my list of Favorites for 2016! Seamless is Brown’s eleventh album and easily proves once again why she is one of my favorite artists.

Seamless begins with the very familiar opening notes of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” but quickly becomes Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” merging to become “Beethoven’s Stairway.” How is that even possible? And yet it’s an elegant pairing that is graceful as well as soul-stirring. “The Police Trilogy” is a medley of three of Brown’s favorite compositions by Sting (for the youngsters out there, The Police was Sting’s rock group before going solo): “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “Fields of Gold” and “Every Breath You Take” - awesome! “Hello Someone” is a medley of Adele’s “Hello” and “Someone Like You” with the addition of JS Bach’s Prelude to the Cello Suite #1. Intrigued yet? If not, check out “Moonlight Hallelujah,” a mix of Beethoven’s sonata and Leonard Cohen’s classic song. Poignant and achingly beautiful, I can’t wait for the sheet music for this one - my favorite on the album. “Happy Together” combines The Turtles’ classic song with Enrique Granados’ “Valses Poeticos #3” to make a darkly haunting bit of musical magic. “Love, Elvis” pairs two of Elvis Presley’s most enduring love songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Love Me Tender” into one romantic piano solo. Another wonderful surprise is the combo of “California Dreamin’,” “Hotel California” and Chopin’s C Minor Prelude (Op 28 #20). These very different pieces combine together effortlessly and effectively in Christine Brown’s amazing hands and imagination. I love this entire album, but this is my other favorite medley. “Rainbow Smile” combines the nostalgic songs “Smile” and “Over the Rainbow,” to create and warm and wistful closing to one of the best albums of the year.

I’m here in my office with my two cats giving Christine Brown a standing ovation! Seamless is incredible from the first note to the last. These medleys are all heartfelt and meaningful as well as gorgeous and I give this album my highest recommendation. It is available from, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

2016 / Key Image Music
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
November 2, 2016
Rating: Excellent
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