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Precious Memory by Alan Hanslik
- posted by BT Fasmer on 5/8/2020
Precious Memory Review
Oscar Wilde once said that the “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” Most of this “diary” is filled with insignificant information, trivial notes from everyday life. Some memories though, are special. They represent defining moments in our lives. Alan Hanslik’s album “Precious Memory” deals with such important recollections. It is a wise and thought-provoking release that resonates on many levels, from times of “Abundance” to voyages “Back and Beyond” – to quote two of the song titles. It is not an album that will leave you untouched.

Alan Hanslik is an American composer, musician and producer. He began playing music growing up in Brooklyn, Ohio. Playing in local bands and eventually touring with Jon Washington of the British group, the Fortunes. Drawn to the electronic world of synthesizes, Alan wrote and produced his first electronic, techno and EDM singles and albums. Alan has also composed soundtracks for features films and movies.

Abundance
The first piece is called “Abundance.” It truly is an “everything and more" kind of song; The warm sound of the hang drum is both welcoming and reassuring at the same time. If we think of the song as a memory, it tells of a period in one’s life when there’s an abundance of all that is good. The world feels new, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It is refreshingly youthful. Each time you hit the replay button, you know that this song will great you like a cherished childhood memory. In short; A fabulous album opener!

To me, the title track is a small masterpiece! The sound of the classical guitar is wrapped in a rich reverb, creating a larger-than-life soundscape. Precious memories are just like this, shimmering, almost tangible, yet so fragile. The melody flows like a river. It is beautiful, but there’s an undercurrent here too that could swallow you whole. That’s the sting of precious memories, because they are, well, memories. They are about places you used to know, people long gone, a distant time. The piece makes me think of Michael Hedges' music, it is that good.

Chambers
Now the album shifts gear. “Chambers” takes us to a far-away place, sealed off with heavy doors. An angelic choir greets us. Deep down somewhere are also much darker voices, as if the Earth itself is talking. It is a place where your innermost feelings and thoughts are hidden, in an out-of-reach vault. Both gold and toxic goods are to be found here, and only you have the key to these chambers.

I very much enjoy how each song has a distinct atmosphere. Hanslik is right about how precious memories are just as much about emotions and perceptions, as they are detailed recollections of how things really happened. If you, for instance, think about when you graduated or had your first child, these memories are mostly about the feelings that washed over you as things unfolded – not the physical events themselves. At first, “Precious Memory” may seem a bit vague, but suddenly you realize that each piece is like a portal to some of your most cherished memories. That’s when you see the album’s true value.

Back and Beyond
Where there’s yin, there’s also yang. “Back and Beyond” takes us on a voyage to the underworld. It is a dark and foreboding place. The different layers of textures are nicely designed, and the strings sound wonderful. There’s also a heartbeat-like rhythm, highlighting the scary atmosphere. Not all precious memories are positive from start to end, which the song is a symbol of. A small spoiler; I'm happy to report that it ends on a high note.

“Rin Song" is a lovely meditative piece. The darkness of the previous song is forgotten. Now we have a warm and bright sphere of our own – far away from the troubles of everyday life. It is ideal for thinking and deep focus.

Soft Wind
When listening to “Soft Wind", you can almost feel a gentle breath on your hair. and face. It is a very physical song. If you are not relaxed at this point, the luxurious pads and ambient melody in “Soft Wind" will do the trick. It is my favorite song on “Precious Memory.”

The album closer is the guitar piece “Wading.” It has an intricate atmosphere with a subtle hint of melancholy. Sometimes in life, we feel as if we are wading in deep, dark water, it is so hard to move on. The song expresses this feeling brilliantly. Usually (and thankfully), it doesn’t last long – and we move on to something better, as illustrated by the somewhat abrupt ending. Even times of extreme hardship – for instance when you have small children keeping you up night after night – can in retrospect become fond memories.

In conclusion: “Precious Memory” by Alan Hanslik is a marvelous and in many ways remarkable album. It demands something from you - but when you give it a chance, it will reward you in abundance. Its magic is in the fact that it is about your most precious memories – not someone else’s. Don’t be surprised if “Precious Memory” suddenly is among the most cherished albums in your collection for this very reason. Highly recommended!
Rating: Excellent
Secret Beach, the album by Barbara Graff
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/1/2020
Reflect in the serenity of the music
Barbara Graff has returned with a brand new album, fresh from her success with her last offering Beginnings. This time we are drawn to somewhere I just adore to go, that’s of course my Secret Beach.
Graff has created a very personal album here; one that I am sure will resonate with the listeners. Her gentle and calming style on the opening piece is as delicate as the Sunrise it depicts, the subtle tones and soft tempo leads us into a world of glistening shards of sunlight on another glorious day.
Graff’s piano speaks volumes on this next piece entitled Carolina. There is a nice energy about this song that gives it a slight folk ethic to its energies and the musical narrative is indeed compelling. This is a track that grows in confidence and melodic charm as it develops, at times mysterious, but always incredibly warm.
Hope Springs is our next port of call and from its refrains comes a track so beautifully composed and arranged it would turn out to be my personal favourite from the album, the emotive qualities of this song are impressive, but even with those little reflective nuances, hope always seems to spring eternal from its construction, a completely mesmeric song this one.
Now we find ourselves walking through the sands of the title track Secret Beach, there are a few places here that we like to go to that could be named as such. This was in fact a single for Graff last year and it did pretty well; sitting here in the middle of the album it is the perfect fulcrum with which to move into the second half of the release with.
There are some compositions that just sit up and beg to be loved, and In the Moonlight is most certainly one of them. This is a wonderfully composed piece that seems to have many musical facets, at times reflective, but with a hint of romance as well. The performance is crafted and extremely listenable; one can also detect a slight element of the classical within the structures of this quite moving opus.
Now we are all up for some inspiration are we not? Graff gives us that moment right now in one of her most ingenious offerings called Inspiration, this is such an astute piece, one can never quite figure out which road it is going to take, but it doesn’t seem to matter as the composition grows and evolves all on its own.
We now finish Barbara Graff style, with a flourish as we add some further instrumentation to the keyboards used here, and finish with two versions of the same track, the latter being a bonus track with vocals and entitled Sweet Eclipse, the mood is upbeat as is the percussion, a truly clever and inventive way to finish and end the album.
Secret Beach is a wonderfully imaginative album and Barbara Graff must be pleased with her efforts, she has created several new songs, and manifested a wonderfully fluent musical narrative with which to deliver them with. Moments of reflection, emotion, calm, serenity and happiness can all be found here on an album that sparkles with vitality and positivity, an album well worth a recommendation.
Rating: Excellent
Sonoran Odyssey by Paul Speer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/1/2020
Packed to the rafters with stylish performances
It certainly has been a while since I have heard from Paul Speer, in fact I checked and I have very fond memories of Ax Inferno back in 2013, so after a very interesting seven years Speer is with us once again, and this time with a smooth and textured offering entitled Sonoran Odyssey.
The layers here are fantastic, a tranquil, but fluent beginning can be found on the opening piece entitled Sunrise. This is a glorious offering to start with, a composition full of hope and the excitement of a new day.
The album has some very interesting options and edits for you to enjoy as well, one of my personal favourites would be the storm laden and powerful Monsoon (Thunder). This mixture of EM and guitar is sublime, then to add a layered but empowered percussion was and is nothing short of genius, thus creating a truly addictive composition.
We can now also go on a journey with 5 different styled arrangements; the first passage takes on a mystical voyage and entitled Moonrise (Full Mix). This arrangement is film score standard with ease, and a track that conjures up a mixture of alien landscapes within the mind’s eye with ease.
Moonrise (Demo Feat Neptune) soon follows; the electronic nature of this piece reminds me in part of the UK’s EM rock outfit Code Indigo. The hovering intent here is both dramatic and addictive; one will literally be on the end of their seat to see what happens next; the oceanic sounds add a further dimension to the proceedings.
Monsoon (No Thunder) is now upon us. There is another level of intensity within this mix that is truly enticing and is a far rockier arrangement as well. That can be emphasised further when we listen to the following offering Moonrise (Guitar Mix), a wonderfully smooth and stylish arrangement that offers a pulsating rhythmic essence to the proceedings.
Our final mix comes curtesy of this next composition entitled Moonrise (Ambient Mix). The more space styled ethic here is evident, Speer in manifesting this particular arrangement, has created a vast musical landscape for us to all wonder within and enjoy.
One of my personal favourites came as I clicked upon track 8, Behind the Waterfall (2020). There was a true lightness of spirit in the performance within this piece of both guitar and keyboards, the compositional structure is enhanced further with a perfect percussive beat, and we’re then left listening to an arrangement that could easily be the theme music to a TV show.
The penultimate offering off the release is the absolutely stunning creation entitled Venus Rising ft. Sherry Finzer. Finzer is at the top of her musical game and her inclusion on this powerful offering is a sublime moment of clarity. The flute partners an addictive tribal beat to bring us something incredibly special and wonderfully attractive, then listen to Speers almost ZZ Top guitar break at the two and a half minute marker, marking this for me as a true stand out track off the album.
Jupiter via NASA is our last port of call and as you would imagine from the title there is a vast space styled feel to the arrangement, one where the keyboards and synths hover with a sense of anticipation. There is such a range of influences here, but a little Vangelis energy seems to be powering this latest rocket ship, but regardless, what a dramatic and utterly cinematic way to end a captivating album.
Sonoran Odyssey is an album that is packed to the rafters with stylish performances, quality productions, smooth yet powerful guitar, and sonic backdrops of textured sounds, keyboards and synths, which manifest for us something quite special to enjoy. Speer has indeed taken the whole genre to a new level entirely with this latest offering, and is one that gets a huge thumbs up from me for doing so.
Rating: Excellent
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