October 19, 2018

Instrumental Ambient/Electronica Review: Wendy Loomis-High Tech High Touch

Release Date: June 14, 2018
Label: Independent

Wendy Loomis is a San Francisco-based composer who has won the ASCAP award for composition 4 times, released 16 CDs, and has performed with various ensembles nationally and internationally. That is one impressive resume. Would her latest release High Tech High Touch continue to build on that consistency or keep setting the bar higher for this talented lady?

High Tech High Touch served as my introduction to Wendy. It would prove to be a fascinating disparity of instrumental music. Going from the High Tech (CD 1) to High Touch (CD 2) was like listening to two different artists; this is the entire point of naming each CD something entirely different so indeed it comes as advertised.

High Tech is spacey ambient electronic music, done very well. Wendy explores the varying degrees of tone, layers, and volume that a synth can create. The technology at the disposal of artists today is phenomenal, but believe me, it takes intelligence and pure talent to create something that makes sense to an audience. When you hear music like this you desire something with substance and meaning and Wendy is able to get just that to a prospective listener. 

Music such as this is easily applicable to movie soundtracks or commercials, but again, it has to be good! Wendy’s talent is apparent right from the start as the curtain opens with “Omar Sosa” (a Cuban -born composer, bandleader, and jazz pianist).  Based on that first track I found it interesting that it was on the tech CD, not the touch CD. So, with that thought in mind, this is where an artist uses their improvisational techniques and musical talent to create something new and fresh and still be able to acknowledge the artist they are honoring. A tricky thing to pull off at times, but again, Wendy comes through with flying colors, or should I say “with colors flying.”

Keep in mind this is two EP configured discs, 8 tracks each, so what you get is like sitting and listening to one 60+ minute CD.  Because the music is so dissimilar it has to stand on its own as one single entity of work that showcases the artists' affinity for offering a listener polar opposite of musical styles within the realm of keyboards.

High Touch is all acoustic piano instrumentals that are rooted in classical and new age. This is music I am accustomed to hearing quite often so it has to be done very well. Again, Wendy proves that she was not taking any chances by putting out something so different in style and sound. The piano playing is elegant, tasteful and very soothing. The 8 tracks are sheer beauty flowing seamlessly, as it should be with this type of music.

High Tech High Touch hits the mark for a wide range of listeners and it is all done very well by Wendy Loomis. So, to answer my own question, yes, she sets the bar very high for herself and any other artist to attain simply on variety alone, for one musical package. Wendy gets an A+ for talent and overall musical satisfaction from this listener’s chair.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 19, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
Disc 1: 
01. Omar Sosa
02. Cassiopeia
03. Birthday Beat
04. Synchronicity
05. Rings
06. Apogee
07. Pleiades
08. Sarah's Blessing


Disc 2:
 

01. Cumulus Cloud
02. Julio
03. Romantic Hearts
04. You're Too Sensitive
05. Nagano Reflection
06. Safe Travel
07. One Snowy Night
08. Eternity
 

October 17, 2018

Acoustic Instrumental Review: David Lindsay-Last Passing of Summer


Release Date: October 10, 2018
Label: Fallingfoot Records

It has been two years since the music of David Lindsay came back into my world. My first taste was Nightbound. With the Last Passing of Summer David went into Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios to create some more magic. The consequences of going into that studio are nothing short of magnificent for any artist. On hand were several talented artists besides Ackerman and multi-instrumentalist and co-producer/engineer Tom Eaton.

The woodwinds of Jill Halley, cello of Eugene Friesen, the violin of Charlie Bisharat, the percussion of Jeff Haynes, vocals of Noah Wilding, and the electric guitar, cymbals, keyboards, piano of Tom Eaton are major contributors to the overall sound and textures of the music. All of the musicianship is outstanding on this recording, so expect a quality listen.

Once again as it was two years ago, simplicity is the concept here. David’s guitar is gentle yet inspiring. The music will resonate with you if you afford it a bit of introspection into the cover art and the track titles. Nature is an ever-changing occurrence and with that thought, the guitar playing can ebb and flow in the same way. If you listen to Last Passing of Summer you find that to be very true.

“Through The Fields” is one of the more rhythmic tracks and it serves as the quintessential acoustic guitar track. David’s guitar continually builds in the track and gets stronger with each change of pace. I found that my senses were aroused by this music. Most of the tracks are very relaxing and hold their own however this is the one track that really stood out for me.

“Sorrows of the Moon” was special because Will Ackerman played lead guitar. It reminded of the Windham Hill days and the music that influenced my tastes in music so much. “Chandos Lake” was another track with an upbeat feel to it and well played. 

So, what you get is the simplicity and beauty of the acoustic guitar that is accentuated with numerous other instruments that create a blanket of sound that the main instrument float over nicely. And yes, that explanation is as nice as it all sounds folks.

As another season is ushered in, David Lindsay gives us the colors and sounds to match the season on the Last Passing of Summer.  Acoustic instrumental music does not get any better and this album is highly recommended.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 17, 2018
 
Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
01. For Joni
02. Blue Skies
03. To The Sun
04. Look To The Sky
05. Through The Fields
06. Reverie
07. Last Passing of Summer
08. Sorrows of the Moon
09. Chandos Lake
10. Still Point
11. Night Vision
12. The Wind Shapes the Pines

October 14, 2018

Instrumental New Age /Ambient/Jazz Review: Jeff Oster-Reach

Release Date: October 5, 2018
Label: Retso Records
Three years ago, I covered Jeff Oster’s Next album. If you do a search on my New Age Music Reviews site it will show several other artist reviews as well. The reason is that Jeff is in demand to play on other people’s albums. There is a very good reason for this. He is one of the few Flugelhorn and Trumpet players in the genre that plays a chill ambient type of music that new age recording artists and listeners alike want to hear. He also is able to interject jazz and funk elements into his recordings. Besides that, it is a great partnership. Jeff is masterful with his instruments and with the new album out now titled Reach, he is in great form and so are the folks that accompanied him on the album.

Reach has nine tracks in total and it is a great mixture of sound and textures that will do many things to you while listening including relaxing, feeling energized and wanting to move, becoming contemplative, just about everything one person can think of or do during the listen of one album really. It invites you in at the outset and you never want to leave that “musical comfy chair.”

I love new age music when it combines jazz and world rudiments. “Le Caveau” is a great example of those sounds and atmospheres getting in sync. The music and sound clarity are amazing. The following track “Five Great Mountains” is just hypnotic. Jeff’s horn is superlative and the bass is incredible, in fact, I thought it might be Tony Levin, who seems to show up on everyone’s albums. It is, in fact, Benjamin J. Shepherd, who plays a huge role in the track, and the entire sound of the album actually. His rhythm and musical leadership in the track are exemplary. That kind of preciseness allows the star of the show to shine even brighter, so hats off to Benjamin for doing such a great job with his instrument. Everyone involved in this project is outstanding so I felt the need to list the credits below.

Some of the other instruments on this recording, besides the horns of course, that give it an overall world-jazz flavor, are the Erhu and Indian Flutes. Then there are very calming spiritual tracks like “The Lotus Within.” In my estimation, the reference would be the Lotus flower, a symbolically important aquatic Asian plant also known as the Indian or sacred lotus.  The emphasis is on sacred for this magnificent composition. 

To keep things fresh and on your “listening toes,” Jeff follows those two critical tracks with an upbeat jazz and funk-filled number titled “Troppo Y Boffo.” The Latin percussion and bass pulsate and drive the number while Jeff just glides through with his horn putting the veritable icing on the cake. It is Latin bliss, wonderful and colorful as it gets. This track could find a home on any good (worthy) jazz album.

Jeff Oster puts it all together on Reach. Every track is solid and consistent throughout. The combination of instruments, musical style and artistry of every contributing musician make this album one of the best in the genre this year. This comes as no surprise to me as everything I have ever heard from Jeff has been superlative from his own recordings to being a guest on other recordings. He is in a groove that keeps him at the forefront of the music industry and I can see that influence growing more all the time. In conclusion, I think that he will Reach a much larger audience with each successive release


Artists:
Jeff Oster – Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Ruslan Sirota – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Robyn Ghosh – Guitar
Benjamin J. Shepherd – Bass
Tamir Barzilay – Drums
Pete Korpela – Percussion
Jenni Asher – Erhu (Track 4)
Ravichandra Kulur – Indian Flutes (Track 9)
Drew Allsbrook – Vocals (Track 4)

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 14, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 
1. Onward
2. Far Rockaway
3. Le Caveau
4. Five Great Mountains
5. The Lotus Within
6. Troppo Y Boffo
7. How Familiar
8. Velvet and Smoke
9. The Pink City

 

October 11, 2018

New Age Contemporary Instrumental Review: Acoustic Ocean-Blue Moon Rising

Release Date: September 9, 2018
Label: Natural Health Source Publishing, Natural Health Source, Inc

Acoustic Ocean is the collaboration of two veteran musicians and recording artists, Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan. The music of Acoustic Ocean reflects the musical and healing arts backgrounds of the artists as well as the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, which helped to inspire the music. After a successful touring career that spanned 20-years, Morgan and Phelan relocated to Hawaii to pursue careers in the healing arts. (Past Tense Excerpt from Artist Website). 

Blue Moon Rising is the most recent release and the first since the passing of Peggy. The album is dedicated to the memory of Peggy Morgan, Bette’s music partner of 40 years, and to Nancy Phelan, her mother.

Bette is joined on Blue Moon Rising by Kay Aldrich, on cello. Additional instruments, played by Bette, augment all the arrangements. The music is very earthy and pure. The acoustic instruments are wonderful and used with just the right instances within each track. The use of the ocean hitting the shore adds to the natural sounds that are presented.

The acoustic guitar is the primary instrument. It is played flawlessly and with the addition of the cello, you get a new age world classical sound that will please anyone’s musical palette. If you are into relaxing meditative music you will love Blue Moon Rising. The layers of guitar work are exquisite.

One look at the cover of this recording sets you at ease and gives you the thought of inner light, spirituality and the connection we have with mother earth. The ocean is the most prolific thing to human life because that is where all of life came from. And purposely the name Acoustic Ocean falls in line with that thought process not mention that is exactly what you will hear on Blue Moon Rising. There is an ocean of acoustic sounds all melded together to create a musical nirvana for the soul. The eleven tracks offered the listener, flow together seamlessly and hit you gently like an ocean wave on a warm summer day.

What is there not to like about any of this? I appreciate what has been presented here and the meaning of the music along with the heartfelt dedication from the artist. It all goes hand in hand.

Here is a passage from the artist website that ends this review in a thoughtful and spiritual way:

The moon is associated with women’s mysteries, intuition, and the divine aspects of the sacred feminine. Some modern magical traditions associate the Blue Moon with the growth of knowledge and wisdom within the phases of a woman’s life.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 11, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
01. A Hui Hou (Until We Meet Again)
02. Blue Moon Rising
03. Recalling Beauty
04. Deep Grace / Scarborough Fair
05. Spirit Awakening
06. Lotus Petals Falling on the Pacific
07. Love Is a Force Field
08. The Silent Storm
09. Sweet Mana from Heaven
10. Shadow Dancers
11. All Things Made New

October 8, 2018

Track Review Feature: Khyaam Haque-The Raging Sea

Release Date: September 21, 2018
Label: Independent



Khyaam Haque is a pianist and composer based out of Chicago, Illinois and primarily composes classical, new age, and electronic music. His inspiration transpired from the cinematic moments of his own life experiences. (the excerpt is taken from the artist website)

Minutiae of an Iridescent Mind is the latest release from Khyaam Haque. The focal point is the first single from the album titled “The Raging Sea.”

Knowing very little about some of the artists I cover makes it an intriguing experience. What I found listening to “The Raging Sea” was that once again, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to discover yet another compelling artist.

I certainly was left wanting for more after I heard “The Raging Sea.” The track is very atmospheric and it builds as it goes along, kind of like a wave that turns into an entire sea raging crashing against the shoreline. Khyaam’s piano is beautiful and when he adds a layer of synthesizer it gives another feel and tempo. That additional layer, for my ears anyway, made it more exciting and eventful.

Once you hear “The Raging Sea” I have no doubt you will want to hear the entire album Minutiae of an Iridescent Mind.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 8, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

October 5, 2018

New Age Instrumental-World Review: Peter Sterling- Magic Kingdom

Release Date: October 1, 2018
Label: Harp Magic Music

It has been two years since I covered Peter Sterling’s superb Sacred Visions. I am more than ready to go on another magical musical journey, on to the Magic Kingdom. Or as I like to refer to it as “Peter Magic.”

Magic Kingdom is the following musicians:  Peter playing keyboards, harp, recorder, Freenote chime, Peruvian wooden flute, and percussion. Richard Hardy is on Irish Pennywhistle and Soprano Sax and Anthony Mazzella on Guitar. The album was recorded in Sedona from 2017-2018.

I have concluded after several years of listening to various incarnations and fusions of new age music that the combination of world and new age is the most interesting and colorful listen I could hope for. It is always different and just about any instrument can serve as the lead if the mix is right. Peter’s main instrument is the heavenly harp. It is so precise and delicate, and it easily mixes with the other music and sounds provided on Magic Kingdom

Peter defines the term indie musician and the do it yourself attitude that is so strong amongst the folks that make up that culture and work ethic. It takes tremendous dedication, commitment and talent to produce a recording such as Magic Kingdom.

The blend of instruments is simply sublime and the few tracks where you hear some vocals it is impressive as well. The vocals are an instrument as far as I am concerned and it is quite evident when listening to the tracks that provide that. The closer and title track “Magic Kingdom” and “Tomorrow’s Child” are two fine examples of world-instrumental new age with just enough vocal styles to make it a meditative piece that you want to hear more than once. “Over the Bridge” features a sweet child’s voice, contributing to the purity and innocence of this listening experience.

“Everlasting Love” starts off with Peter’s harp inviting the rest of the instruments into the mix then a jazzy tone comes alive with some soprano sax. I love that combination absolutely, it always works for me. I do love jazz so that makes the transition that much more delightful for my ears. 

So, in the end, what I got to enjoy was another musical stew brought to a simmer by many talented artists. Make sure you listen to Magic Kingdom and let it bring you joy and good vibrations, it is there waiting for you now.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 5, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews