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Reflections On Still Water by Acoustic Ocean
- posted by Raj Manoharan on 8/8/2010
Acoustic Ocean Provides Vibrant Reflections on Sti
On their second CD as Acoustic Ocean, the former folk duo of Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan provide lyrical, instrumental musings that sound like what the title of their new album suggests – “reflections on still water.” Acoustic Ocean is an apt name for the duo as well, as their music feels like an ocean of acoustic beauty that washes over you.

Morgan’s Celtic harp and Phelan’s acoustic guitar come together to create some of the most beautiful, exquisite music ever recorded. The harp and acoustic guitar are embellished by Morgan and Phelan’s harmonious vocal accents, as well as fretless bass, keyboards, electric guitar, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, pennywhistle, and Uillean pipes played by Phelan. The duo are also joined on various tracks by Kay Aldrich on cello and Anne Berliner on flute.

The compositions are very melodic, owing to Morgan and Phelan’s twenty years of experience as recording and touring folk singer-songwriters. The songs also have a very dreamy, fairytale-like feel to them, perhaps inspired by the composer-performers’ Hawaiian environs. While listening to the music, I couldn’t help thinking of elves and dwarves and Hobbits and the like. The music has that transcendent and transformative power to transport you to Middle Earth and other mystical dimensions that conjure the beauty and majesty of the air, land, and sea.

As someone who is not a harp aficionado or enthusiast, I was impressed with Morgan’s harp playing. Hers is not the typical plucking of rapturous, angelic harp chords typically associated with the instrument. Rather, she plays with such note-specific lead virtuosity that I could not think of any musical genre which the harp could not be applied to. Morgan’s unique harp style is well complemented by the fluidity of Phelan’s fine, solid six-string dexterity. In fact, Morgan’s harp and Phelan’s guitar blend together so seamlessly on several tracks that it almost became impossible for me to discern one from the other, until I realized that this is not the point of the music. This is evidence of the duo’s strong and inseparable musical bond. They truly are a tight unit with genuine musical chemistry.

Reflections on Still Water by Acoustic Ocean is one of the best New Age CDs available and one of the best albums regardless of genre. This is highly recommended not just for fans of New Age and harp and guitar, but also for anyone who likes brilliant, beautiful music.
Island Of A Thousand Dreams by Chris Geith
- posted by Dianna Isam on 7/31/2010
Radio Host
I have a show called WINGS on WFCF in NE Florida. If you send me a copy of your cd, I will preview it for play on my show. I have been on the air for 7 years and heading into my 8th. I report monthly to the Zone music chart.
If you want to send a cd, send it to Dianna Isam, WINGS 620 Queen Rd. St. Agustine, FL 32086
Ground Swell by David Mauk
- posted by Raj Manoharan on 7/15/2010
Ground Swell by David Mauk
David Mauk Creates a Ground Swell of Sonic Brilliance
Ground Swell, David Mauk

The second album from Las Vegas-based musician David Mauk is quite simply one of the best albums I have ever heard. Every piece of music on this collection of ambient electronica is stunning, exotic, exquisite, and stirring. This is one of those CDs that are perfect from beginning to end. In fact, I was hard pressed to discern any real favorites (although I do have a few). But even if I want to hear certain tracks, I just let the CD play continuously. It’s just that good. If you listen to this in the car, you won’t want your commute to end before the album does.

The music has a cinematic feel to it, which is not surprising considering both that Mauk composes the music for National Geographic’s international museum tours and that each of the fourteen tracks on the CD is inspired by the work of twentieth-century American artist Edward Hopper. The latter is underscored by the accompanying DVD, which features five music videos that comprise public domain film footage from Hopper’s era. However, you don’t need to see the videos to appreciate the visual sweep of the music, which at times recalls the film music of composers James Horner and Michael Kamen, among others. In fact, the CD stands on its own as a soundtrack to a movie that exists in the listener’s imagination. The whole time I was listening to this album, I kept thinking, “This guy should be scoring major Hollywood movies.”

When I say Mauk’s music sounds like a movie score, I don’t necessarily mean a purely orchestral score in the traditional sense. Yes, there are elements of traditional orchestral sounds in his music, but there are also elements of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and Jan Hammer, all of whom are well known for their film and television soundtracks as well. Mauk also compares favorably to fellow independent musicians Michael Stribling and David Wahler. I would even go so far as to say I hear a hint of jazz giants Miles Davis and Herb Alpert in one of the tracks.

While the CD is brimming with the ethereal and otherworldly synthesizer textures that are characteristic of New Age, what makes the music here really memorable is Mauk’s keen sense of melody, especially when he plays piano tones. Mauk is a tight, concise composer whose mastery of hooks is impeccable. He also has an ear for dynamic percussive grooves.

When the first waves of sound reached my ears, I was instantly “swell-bound.” With Ground Swell, Mauk casts a spell that lasts long after the final note fades away. This is truly must-hear listening.
--Raj Manoharan

Rating: Excellent
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