August 5, 2020

New Age/Ambient Review: Cheryl B. Engelhardt-Luminary

Release Date: February 7, 2020

Label: Independent

Website


The eye-catching cover of Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s album Luminary gives a potential audience an idea of what they may be in for. It is placid, beautiful, and very inviting. What I was to learn rather quickly is that the tracks that encompass this collection are reflective of that spiritual image on the cover artwork.

The two primary instruments used on this ambient new age journey are the piano and Cheryl’s vocals. The music is quite different, in a way that I am not used to hearing in the genre. It is all in a good way though.

The tracks have a fade out and fade in aspect to them and they are interspersed at times with Cheryl’s angelic vocalizations. Most of her vocals are not actual words but an exercise of sounds that are pleasing and as alluring as the music behind them. I hear a classical influence which is what is common throughout presentations in the genre, particularly with instrumentals. While you do get some stretched out instrumentals like “Earthshine,” which are soothing and meditative, they last over six minutes. There is not one track under six minutes on the recording. It all works very well for this type of music due to the changing tides of the movements, sounds, colors, and overall atmospheres that are created.

The time is well spent for those who enjoy this type of music for general relaxation or deep meditation. If you are looking for deep meditation you can start right at the beginning and listen all the way through for one fantastic session of beauty, peace, and realignment of your soul (or chakras dependent on your philosophy and beliefs). I think the soul and chakras are interchangeable, if you take all the chakras you have in one human being with all the elements that make up that individual, they are the very soul within.

Luminary is referred to as “gentle exciting” on the artist Bandcamp page. While I did not relate to the album that way, I did find great value in the essence of the complete presentation of voice, sounds, and music. There are a lot of different things going on and some effects that give it that mystical and spiritual feel through each track. “Mortal Tides” (I added it to my New Age Music Reviews Spotify Playlist) has some interesting effects on Cheryl’s voice and breathing. This can be considered as a release within the song. Breathing certain ways can give the body a chance to completely relax then other things can happen like opening the mind and spirit to the offerings your hearing. I believe that is the true intent of this music.

Luminary
is one of the more unique recordings I have heard this year from the new age genre. I do not like to use that word very often, unique. It says that music is a standalone accomplishment without trying to emulate or take something that works from another artist. I would have to say in all honesty that this is very original work, unlike anything I have heard before. Everyone has their influences and favorite artists but you may be hard-pressed to understand what this lady’s influences are.

The phase music approach is very different, the way it moves in an out of the song and the way Cheryl uses it with the instrumentation, voice, and breath. I can promise you this, you will not hear anything else like Luminary.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

August 3, 2020

Track List:
01. Sister of Eos 06:14
02. Deliquesce 06:04
03. Earthshine 06:05
04. M. aurora 06:17
05. Mortal Tides 06:10
06. Galileo's Rings 06:11
07. Moon Harvest 06:17
08. Ataraxy 06:13
09. Glisten Up 06:14
10. Bioluminescence 06:08


July 31, 2020

Contemporary Instrumental - New Age Review: Kirsten Agresta Copely-Around The Sun

Release Date: January 31, 2020

Label: Valcope Recording Co. 

Website

I have always thought that the harp made music with the divine spirit of heaven behind it. I also believe it is one of the most difficult instruments to master never mind putting out an amazing nine-track studio album of your compositions.

Kirsten Agresta Copely has done just that this year with Around The Sun. She partnered with her husband Marc to arrive with a stunning recording of some of the most gorgeous and engaging harp music one could ever imagine.

The music market is a difficult one to break and to be playing one of the instruments that most people would not think of right away does not position you most advantageously. The shining light at the end of the ever-risky waters of the music industry has found another champion to celebrate and she happens to fit nicely into the category of the contemporary instrumental new age with a classical foundation. This is in effect, covers not just the genre itself but music as a whole. That is a statement that says it all for what Kirsten has accomplished with Around The Sun.

Kirsten takes the listener Around The Sun to experience nature and its seasons most beautifully and profoundly. Her harp echoes the brilliance of her skilled fingers. One track after another you can slide into that comfortable couch in your mind’s eye and get lost in this slice of heaven.

I was struck by the elegance of all the tracks, however it was “The Silver Swan” that created a vision of beauty that was appreciated by this listener instantly. I also added it to my NAMR Spotify Playlist without hesitation because I knew this was the one track that was special for me. Of course, that is my individual choice and that is the freedom every listener has that can never be compromised. Thank god there still are some things left untouched and sacred in this world!

Around The Sun and all moving music like it, always seems to arrive for me at the right moment in time, on the right day, and when I am at the best point of acceptance of allowing it in. This is like a switch that says “Heal Me.” The powers of music go beyond what we understand on this plane of existence and people like Kirsten Agresta Copely carry the messages from another level, a place where spirits thrive, and you can grow and expand your mind, body, and spirit. These talented artists hold the keys to unlock the gates to a better place. After hearing this music, you feel like you already walked in through that gate, and took your seat in the front row to enjoy the music and positive vibes.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
July 29, 2020

Track List:
1. Daybreak
2. Wind Made Moan
3. Persephone Rising
4. Surya
5. The Silver Swan
6. Water Lilies
7. Fall Leaves, Fall
8. Riflessioni (Reflections)
9. Winter’s Bone


July 15, 2020

New Age/Contemporary Instrumental/Jazz Review: Kaveh Karandish-Spirit of Hope

Release Date: July 17, 2020

Label: Sonic Dreams

Website

Imagine being a busy doctor and a recording artist at the same time? I cannot fathom the enormity of a life like that. Kaveh Karandish is one of those people. He is one of few that double in both professions. His upcoming release is a musical encapsulation of the Spirit of Hope. His first love, music, comes shining through on this ten-track instrumental voyage.

The opener is the moving title track. It set the table for me so I added it to my NAMR Spotify Playlist. It captures your attention and imagination rather quickly. Right at the outset, I felt a calmness and satisfaction listening to Kaveh’s smooth and rhythmic command of the piano.

The next track “Shades of Light” offers some diversity to the listener with a change in direction. What you get is some very nice sax added to the piano playing and the quiet storm of smooth jazz to sweep you away. The combination of new age and jazz is a splendid mixture that would please any discerning listener.

“Sunset Sparrows” is yet another change of course in the music with some influences from Kaveh’s country Iran. What you will hear is the kaval, which is a chromatic end-blown flute traditionally played throughout the Balkans and Anatolia. You will immediately notice it as a flute but with a distinctly different sound.

As the music progresses it keeps changing my idea of what to classify it as. I think it is probably best to call it instrumental, contemporary, new age, jazz, and world. Or any combination thereof. For my ears and senses, this is a complete experience of diverse musicianship that I respect and appreciate. There is a high level of complexity with various sounds, effects, and instruments. “Infinite Horizon” is an excellent example of that. The different textures, colors, and moods intersect and explode into a celebration of varied beauty and sound. I was very impressed with what I heard.

The soprano saxophone of Farzin Farhadi adds another element of sophistication and richness to the exquisite piano playing of Kaveh. As the new age contemporary sounds morph into an infectious jazz direction, you become even more engrossed in the music and anticipate more of the same as the next track begins.

Spirit of Hope is everything it intends to be and much more. Whether you are being mesmerized by the culture of another country or the purity of the ivory keys with pristine new age there is a lot to like. There is the dreamy and mysterious with the combination of world instruments like on “Sacrifice of Soyembika.” There is consistency and always something to grab your attention and pull you into all the stories without words.

Spirit of Hope is more than I could have ever expected from a piano-based project. The core instrument is the keys and everything else that becomes a factor to create the mood of each track is marvelous creativity and imagination on display. I loved it all from start to finish.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Monday, July 13, 2020

Track List:
01. Spirit of Hope
02. Shades of Light
03. Sunset Sparrows
04. Infinite Horizon
05. Silent Whispers
06. Sacrifice of Soyembika
07. Eastern Echoes
08. Awakenings
09. Visions of Grace
10. Gratitude


July 10, 2020

Jon Anderson Interview With The Final On Vinyl Podcast


Listen To My Interview With Jon Anderson As We Discuss His Incredible Solo Album 1000 Hands-Chapter One. It was quite an honor for me to interview the legendary vocalist/musician Jon Anderson of Yes fame and incredible solo work. Thank you kind sir for all of your time!

July 9, 2020

New Age-Classical Review: Ronald Van Deurzen-Imaginations

Release Date: April 17, 2012
Label: Independent
Website

Before I sat down to take in Ronald Van Deurzen’s recording from 2012 Imaginations I had to take a look at the album’s one sheet. Also, the reason I am covering it now is that it was just released on Bandcamp.

This is what was said about the album: The songs have been composed throughout the years of Ron's journey exploring the nature of Sweden. A country of vast forests, ice, snow, and ethereal sunrises. An environment that inspires thought, reflection, and creativity. Imaginations tries to simplify and communicate the beauty that can be experienced in this far northern area of the world. It speaks to the listener in images of the imagination.

I think it helps the listening experience to glean some information like that. It most certainly works for me prolifically at times. Ronald is from the Netherlands and he is a pianist, composer, and teacher. For the listener, this is a lesson for an all-encompassing musical experience. This is realized after knowing how this music was created of course. Although each listener is an individual with their perceptions of colors, light, and sounds, the basic premise holds for us all. Music is the universal language that speaks to everyone. Ronald especially does that through his music while creating an ongoing script or movie in the mind’s eye.

The one track that reached me instantly was “Moon Flower,” in fact I felt it should be placed on my NAMR Spotify Playlist. Every track is excellent but there are always one or two you happen to connect with better than all the others and this was the one for me. Ronald’s classically influenced new age journeys are created and enjoyed in different platforms such as music soundtracks, movies, and most of all for the pleasure of you, the listener, who stands to gain the most benefit from listening and letting this music whisk you away to another frame of mind or space that allows for healing and simply quality listening enjoyment.

“Momentum Figures” is the longest track clocking in at 7:22 and it is an eclectic composition with varying paces and emotions weaved through it like a musical patchwork quilt. I can see why it took up that much time and the various layers of music and instruments that come into play make it a real treat for senses. It is serene, exciting, and joyous. All of that is pieced together in segments for you to feel and absorb. For my ears, it was a delightful trip from one end of the musical spectrum to another. It is the most complex work on the recording.

“Midsommar Känsla" is Swedish for "midsummer feeling." It is a gorgeous melody and as picturesque as one could imagine. This was another track that moved me and touched my inner spirituality. That is the spirituality that we keep captive at times buried deep down so nobody can break the barrier and come in. With all your defenses down and no triggers of negativity, you have nothing to lose and everything to completely enjoy and feel without someone talking to you, arguing a point, or just making you feel uncomfortable. This is the reality of our days and life on this planet at times and we must find healthy outlets that demonstrate something that turns that switch on to bring about our true selves and a one-way line to our higher self or higher power.

That is what this kind of music helps me to accomplish while I am writing about it, I cannot explain it fully but the music inspires me and brings out these thoughts and images that I feel compelled to put in words. This is much like the process of making the actual music and it is my role to provide an interpretation of the sounds I am hearing. It is my honor to do so, every single time I do this.

Imaginations is the most appropriate title for this recording and if you have not had the pleasure of hearing it now is the time to go sample it at Bandcamp or listen right here and now as I have provided the media player as well. Don’t miss out on a chance to hear some classic new age piano-based instrumentals from a clever creator.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
July 7, 2020


Track List:
01. Little Falling Flake (4:45)
02. Early Years    (5:21)
03. Moon Flower (3:43)
04. The Beaches of Heaven (7:44)
05. First Lights (4:40)
06. Midsommar Känsla (3:41)
07. Come Back Because I Love You (3:19)
08. Winterdrops (3:30)
09. Autumn Park (3:08)
10. Momentum Figures (7:22)
11. Stuck In A Dream (5:06)


Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


June 11, 2020

Instrumental Acoustic Guitar: Chris Haugen-First Light

Release Date: June 5, 2020
Label: Real Music
Website


Chris Haugen is no stranger to success. He has released four albums before the latest release First Light. The list of collaborations and performances on his website is very impressive and reading that you come to realize you are listening to one of the finest six-string benders that are actively recording music. 


Chris’s label Real Music says "Haugen's creativity abounds through a variety of guitars, Weissenborn, lap steel, and banjo combining to conjure flavors of India while Haugen’s countless hours with the ocean gently reveal some of surfing's allure."

That is one synopsis of a multitude you will likely hear and of course, I have my own to share. First and foremost, my love for instrumental music found great satisfaction listening to First Light. What happens a lot of time for me is the thought “This would sound so amazing on vinyl.” That is a format I grew up on and have been addicted to ever since, except for getting lost for several years with CDs. I had to add that because Chris’s music is so clean, pure, and it resonates with a deep and soulful sound and approach. His playing is superb.

The title track kicks things off and gets you in the groove. He is acoustically driven with a blend of roots, blues, folk, and everything else you could imagine an acoustic guitar can do. The slide playing is excellent as well, which gives it that bluesy feel and a sense of depth. I thought because it made such a big impression on me and drew me in, I had to add it to my NAMR Spotify Playlist.

“Distant Shores” was one of my favorites. The effects and layers of Haugen’s six-string are mesmerizing. Reading the one sheet provided with the music mentions how Chris does a deep dive into his 30 years of yoga and surfing and interprets all of that experience through his music. As you read that you can imagine him on the beach strumming away as the sun starts to pop out over the water’s horizon. Very much like his joyously beautiful album cover. That image tells the story, this is a man living his life and following his path. The beauty of that being so right is that he is generous enough to share his abundant talents with those of us in need of his healing and relaxing sounds. Count me amongst the needy!

There is something special about music like this. It comes from a place in the heart, its spiritual, and the person playing it has a god-given talent. I look at all musicians that way. The best part is having the time and place to take in all the sounds and become completely encapsulated in the music. It feels natural to me as I am that kind of listener. The music either finds me or I find it, it is kismet.

The final track is titled perfectly, “Path of Light.” After starting with “First Light” you end the album but he gives you a path to follow. It is the way it was meant to be. Although this is instrumental guitar music it most certainly finds its way into a new age sub-genre, which it belongs because of the meaning of the tracks and what the music accomplishes for the listener. 

First Light
will be enjoyed by a large cross section of listeners that date back to early Windham Hill label and artists like Alex De Grassi etc. I remember it all so well, so for my ears the recollection is fond and the present that much better thanks to Chris Haugen.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
June 9, 2020


Track List:
 

1. First Light 04:30
2. Waves 03:03
3. Peaceful Dream 03:30
4. Beyond 05:11
5. Fjord 03:35
6. Wanderlust 10:13
7. Path of Light 04:18