November 25, 2020

Classical/Contemporary Instrumental Review: Robin Spielberg-RE-INVENTIONS

Release Date: November 20, 2020

Label:  playMountain Music

Website

Robin Spielberg is a piano player extraordinaire. What you are about to listen to if you stream or purchase her CD or the LP/CD set are RE-INVENTIONS. It takes talent and a lot of courage to take world-renowned and treasured classical pieces by the masters and rework them into your vision. After hearing this album, I think you will agree that Robin should put the crown on her head because she proves why she is piano music royalty.

It must have been amazing to live during the time of the great composers and to know them even more so. We know them through their music and that certainly has provided hundreds of years of entertainment for millions of people around the world.

So, with all of that in mind, where does one come up with the courage to step out and take a chance with these sacred compositions? I have no idea but I do know that Robin is a superb pianist and confident of her abilities and it shows on RE-INVENTIONS. You will recognize many of these songs even though they have been reworked so the foundation stays intact out of her respect for the composers and their music.

Solo piano I believe is a challenge within itself but to take this beautiful music and to reimagine it first then through the sheet music, and play all fifteen tracks her way is an enormous achievement any way you look at it. I was informed by Robin while preparing this review that “Les Patineurs Valse Op. 183 (The Skater's Waltz Reinvented)” had 25,000 streams in four days! If that is any indication of the direction this recording is going that is a beautiful thing for the artist and music in general. I just hope people support the release by actually purchasing it rather than just streaming and moving on to the next thing.

“Piano Sonata No.16 in C major, K.545 (Reinvented)” is a wonderful opening track as it sets the listener at ease and the atmosphere created is sheer audio beauty. As the music moves so do your imaginations and feelings. This is powerful and majestic music and unforgettable. Speaking of powerful, “Canon and Gigue in D major, P.37 (Reinvented)” is an exercise in total command of the ivory keys. It is very strong and it will impress any listener that can appreciate classical, contemporary, or instrumental piano music of any kind. I added it to my New Age Music Reviews Spotify Playlist.


“Melody in F major, Op.3 No.2 (Reinvented)” finds a great partner in the violin to accompany this lovely track. It is so elegant and similar to a lullaby, immediately tugging on your heartstrings. If that was the original intention or Robin’s, it worked well for these ears. Then again if it was not, well, that is my interpretation.

RE-INVENTIONS is reminding me that I collected a box set of classical music many years ago, taking in each selection month by month. My appreciation and love for a variety of music begin with classical because that is where it all began and why we have so many different genres of music today. The mother of all music has many children and grandchildren.

Robin Spielberg has poured her heart and soul into this music, which becomes apparent quite readily. Track after track you have the opportunity to revisit classic compositions and the old blended with the new reborn into several variations. The color, ambiance, and heavenly beauty of this music is brilliantly performed. I can guarantee if you appreciate piano solo music, you will fall in love with RE-INVENTIONS. I know it did not take me long!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
November 24, 2020

Track List:
01. Piano Sonata No.16 in C major, K.545 (Reinvented)-3:23
02. Liebestraum (Reinvented)- 2:51
03. Canon and Gigue in D major, P.37 (Reinvented)- 4:26
04. Melody in F major, Op.3 No.2 (Reinvented) - 3:14
05. Kinderszenen Op.15 (Scenes from Childhood Reinvented) - 4:18
06. Les Patineurs Valse Op. 183 (The Skater's Waltz Reinvented) - 4:23
07. Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846 - 3:00
08. An der Schönen Blauen Donau, Op.314 (The Blue Danube Waltz Reinvented) - 4:46
09. Piano Sonata No.14, Op.27 No.2 (Moonlight Sonata): First Movement - 7:27
10. Berceuse de Jocelyn (Angels Guard Thee Reinvented) - 5:44
11. The Merry Widow Waltz (Reinvented) - 2:57
12. Wiegenlied Op. 49 No. 4 (The Brahms Lullaby Reinvented) - 2:43
13. Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66 (Reinvented) - 2:24
14. Piano Sonata No.8, Op.13 (Sonata Pathétique Reinvented): 2nd Movement - 4:01
15. Ständchen, D.889 (Serenade Reinvented) - 4:32



November 23, 2020

Instrumental Contemporary- New Age Review: Michael Borowski-Peace Valley

Release Date: November 6, 2020

Label: Independent

Website

I have realized over the years that new age music is a lot more than music. It is a belief, a practice, a learning experience, philosophy, spirituality, nature, and our inherent connection to it. If I hear any or all of that in music, I can consider it to be new age or a sub-genre of it.


Along that train of thought, Michael Borowski has dedicated a lot of his time to fighting Alzheimer’s Disease which took his mother’s life. He has a page on his website dedicated to that cause and where anyone can contribute to supporting it. His nature and good heart drive his purpose.

Michael is a trained and educated musician with a deep appreciation of classical composers. From that foundation comes a wellspring of thought, energy, and purpose on his solo piano album Peace Valley.

There are twelve tracks on the recording with Michael and his piano. This is a solitary form of art expressed through one man and his chosen instrument. I think that raises the bar to create an entire album with just one instrument and capture the attention and imagination of an audience, existing and potential. The level of difficulty must be high. From my point of view, I am concerned that it will become more difficult to find something dissimilar and inspirational with this kind of music but somehow it just keeps happening in a very positive way and I always have a fresh perspective. That says a lot considering how much of this music I hear every year.

Michael is a gifted musician with a vision within his mind and heart that he delivers to you the listener. I previously mentioned nature as one of the profound forces in our lives. “First Snow” is one of my favorite tracks and I added it to my New Age Music Reviews Spotify Playlist. The track is beautiful and it captures how a snowfall can start slow then get more intense. This is interpreted beautifully through Michaels’ vision and his fingers to the ivory keys.

“Arches” was a good example of how Michael uses the classical leanings as a springboard into his contemporary new-age style and approach. The solitude of what he is doing becomes nonexistent. He has a lot going on through those keys. He sounds like two people playing, one hand is creating the rhythm and the other adding the movement and changes in the piece. I thought it was brilliant. You find a lot of that kind of musical virtuosity going on and that is exactly why he does not require an accompaniment or enhancements.

You can find your own Peace Valley wherever you may be with this music. Michael’s valley is a very personal gift to us all if we chose to listen. You could be living in a valley, which I do, surrounded by the majesty of the mountains, or create one in your mind's eye while listening. This is an aural easy chair that soothes the soul. I greatly appreciated and needed to hear this music.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
November 21, 2020
 

Track List:
01. Firefly
02. Finding Joy
03. First Snow
04. My Father, My Friend
05. Arches     
06. Dear Son,
07. Cynthia Ann
08. Peace Valley
09. K
10. 7AM Start     
11. The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter
12. Morning Cycle


November 14, 2020

Space-Ambient-Electronica Review: Hemispherica Portalis (Portal Of 1000 Years)-Desensitized

Release Date: September 25, 2020

Label: Spotted Peccary

Website

Hemispherica Portalis (Portal Of 1000 Years) debut collaboration album is Desensitized from the collective imagination and talent of Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis. The duo also partnered in producing their music. The superlative mastering was provided by Howard Givens.

I must be a natural space cadet because I love this kind of music! I think the door tends to open a little quicker if you have an affinity for instrumental based music. And I most certainly do.

This collaborative effort merges the artistry of two very talented individuals into one functioning musical unit. They create a multitude of layers of sound and magnificent colors and textures for the mind to assimilate. It is very relaxing and can be meditative and contemplative all at once. That may sound complex but it is not, these kinds of reactions to music without words can be quite normal. I do speak for myself, however. We are all different but yet all the same with similar needs so music is easy to relate to wherever you are on the planet presently.

The titles look to be in a language similar to Greek primarily, then translated in parenthesis in the track list. Perhaps this gives thought to inspiration from Greek Mythology. I may be off on that assessment but just the same it is food for thought and gives the music an imaginary storyline that can be created by each listener. One look at the beautiful science-fiction artwork of the cover gives credence to a possible story and engages the senses and imagination. If you have a pulse this is going to happen if you become aware of all the aspects of what is being offered here. The CD comes in a nice cardboard three-panel case with more otherworldly artwork and more pieces of literature dedicated to each track and art in a booklet to make things even more interesting and thought-provoking.

I must say I have been very intrigued by the Spotted Peccary label and their continually impressive releases this year. I am glad I have had the opportunity to find another subgenre of new age music that gives me the same feelings and calmness. I am easily all wrapped up in the music very quickly because it immediately gives me an invitation and I accept it wholeheartedly. This is a spiritual experience for me as I am sure it is for many others that are listeners or will become listeners soon. If not, give it a try, it may have the same effect. If that is not what you seek and you wish to have a pleasant listening experience while relaxing, this music will provide that for you.

As you can see by the track list some are quite long. It's like watching a song within a song develop. The best example is “Ecumenicus Orato (The Umbilical Center),” which clocks in a few seconds short of thirteen minutes. Progressive rock is known for that but I do know after years of listening and getting more of this particular style of music, that it is common. The artists take a foundation and continually build upon it with keyboards, synths, and other sounds generated via electronic means, equipment, and software. There are a lot of interesting things tucked away in this music and some sounds of nature as well (and its inhabitants).

Desensitized blends the new with the old brilliantly using flute, Taos drums, and percussion and then implementing advanced software like the Spectrasonics Omnisphere. Now is it time for you to take a ride in the spaceship Hemispherica Portalis? Get your tickets and climb aboard!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
November 11, 2020


Track List:
1. Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years) 06:58
2. Concunus Dracus (Dragon of the Heavens) 09:30
3. Formulata Oblivonos (A Complicated Tale) 09:14
4. Ecumenicus Orato (The Umbilical Center) 12:54
5. Saltis Nominus (Floating Seabeds) 11:38
6. Terminus Equitos (Redemption Seeker) 06:09   
7. Amphibinatum (Myths and Legends) 09:05



November 10, 2020

Contemporary Instrumental - Jazz-New Age Review: Todd Mosby-Aerial Views

Release Date: November 4, 2020

Label: Mosby Music

Website

Aerial Views is the third in a series of concept albums from Todd Mosby. Todd’s father was a pilot and this music is a look back to when he served as dad’s co-pilot as a child. This music is about our natural elements and the most important one, air.

Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton produced Aerial Views. They are the dynamic duo based in Will’s Vermont Imaginary Road Studios. The all-star cast that assembles to record amazing albums has been going strong for many years now. This is yet one more recording to add to their incredible legacy of new age-based recordings.

This is contemporary instrumental jazz with new age as a stepping stone or motivation if you will. It is an amazing combination that never fails to impress. There are twelve instrumental gems for a listener to allow their body and soul to melt right into. It is seamless as one track syncs right into the next. It is comparative to the flow of air and how a plane adjusts to the different types of atmospheres that can be experienced as it goes higher and higher. I think that could be the concept of this music. It is the way I am experiencing it.

“Earth and Sky” is one of my favorites and how the title becomes a reality. Imagine leaving mother earth on a fantastic voyage into the blues skies, what a great experience to have growing up. I can see Todd and his dad lifting off now. The variances in the music from the solid ground to the unknown of the sky are exciting and literally elevating and spiritual. I found this track to be one of the best examples of how new age and jazz can create the perfect marriage of sound. That flexibility allows the composer and performer on guitar, Todd Mosby, to envision each track that is filled with all the emotion and experience of his youth. I added the track to my New Age Music Reviews Spotify Playlist to make sure I have a reminder of the beauty that was captured in the track, and actually, the entire recording holds the same for each listener.

Todd Mosby’s acoustic and electric guitar playing is exquisite throughout. Most notable as well is the bass players, Tony Levin and Michael Mannring. I do not think you could have asked for any better than those two players. I thought Manring’s distinctive sound on “Into Starlight” is a tribute to his legacy and he accentuates any track he contributes to as does Tony. Jerry Marrota and Jeff Haynes were also two important contributors. It is all about the partnership of musicians, becoming one with the music, and being able to convey that oneness to a listening audience.

I had interviewed Todd several months back (which I have included with this review) and we did not have a chance to talk about this part of his childhood. Now I feel that I have had the opportunity to know him better. I can see how inspirational this must have been for him. Being able to view his world from the sky certainly must have changed what he felt about the earth and the importance of being able to enjoy the miracle of flight.

Todd Mosby’s Aerial Views is presented in the most organic and heartfelt way possible. The music was the vehicle of complete expression from the artist via the concept of seeing everything above the earth instead of the line of sight on the ground. If you think about the track titles then listen, hopefully, it will allow you the look through the music to see what the artist is conveying. Have a nice flight and a smooth touchdown once Aerial Views is done playing!


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews
November 7, 2020
 

Track List:
01. Gliding
02. Across America
03. Aether
04. Earth & Sky
05. Into Starlight
06. Sylphs
07. Between the Clouds
08. Blue Horizons
09. To the Sky
10. Aerial Views
11. Solo Flight

 




November 6, 2020

Instrumental New Age Review: Laurence Furr-Deep Peace

Release Date: October 9, 2020

Label: Real Music

Website

It is the night after the Presidential election and I need a cup of soothing musical tea to calm the storm brewing in my heart and soul. There is so much going on right now, so much unrest and uncertainty about so many things all at once. Today was the day it hit me like a tidal wave. Before that, I was dealing with it just fine, kind of like wading on the shoreline watching the coming storm. It still is not over but music is the ultimate elixir for me to leave that space of thought.

I found the perfect Deep Peace with Laurence Furr. His recent release of new age instrumental excellence has fifteen tracks and over an hour of music to absorb. You can take it all in through what I call the triangle of life - mind, body, and spirit. Like an essential healing oil, this music can melt away the day's stress. It is up to you whether or not you decide to go back to get it. Laurence Furr’s Celtic Harp is so influential he has the title of Therapeutic Musician.

And indeed, he is with Deep Peace. That term is so prolific and it remains quite elusive in today's world. There is a way out of that corner though and Laurence is offering that through the music on this recording. Dr. Furr is Cantor (Director of Music) at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. So that gives you an indication of where he is coming from and how deeply rooted his commitment is to people in his community. If you explore his website you will see a picture of him in a hospital surrounded by smiling nurses. He contributes his soothing harp music at the hospital. It is like bringing in a friendly dog for the patients to pet, it is disarming, brings the blood pressure down and all you can focus on is that one experience. Come to think of it, that is what music always does for me that is why I find it so easy to disconnect and let go of the day because of the meditative focus that music like this provides.

There is no doubt that this music is a part of heaven, its beauty will be obvious to any listener regardless of what they are seeking to find within it. I like to talk about music as a tool and the different aspects of what it can be used for. Focusing on the instrumentation is very important however in the end it is what the music does for you when you listen to it and how it makes you feel once it stops playing.

I always like to pick one track to add to my New Age Music Reviews Spotify Playlist and this time I found it difficult to make that decision because each track is excellent. I decided to choose “Healing Light.” First for the track name and what it can mean. This can be the light of a new day, the blazing sun on a beautiful summer day, the smile from a stranger walking by you on the street, or the way to your higher power or chosen path of religion or studies. The term light has many meanings and implications and I think Laurence personifies that in his music. The harp as a stand-alone instrument is most impressive if played properly. He not only plays it properly; it becomes an extension of his physical body and personality. This is a gorgeous track worthy of going on any new age music playlist.

Laurence also plays keyboards and the Native American Flute which makes few appearances on this album, notably on “Brown of the Soil.” The title of the track is a nice tribute to our Native American brother and sisters and a nod to the importance and reverence they have always had for mother earth. Lord knows if we had followed their ways all along, we would not be seeing environmental disasters on the scale we are seeing currently.

Deep Peace brings about a lot of thoughts and at the same time a lovely feeling of bliss and becoming one with the music. I took it all in and looked at the titles and their meanings from my viewpoint. It all made perfect sense and was a great listen where I found healing sounds that I greatly appreciated at the right time. I hope all of you listeners out there will find the same. We all need it so give it a listen and feel better and more hopeful than you were yesterday
.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

November 4, 2020

Track List:
01. Quiet Earth
02. Red Wind of the East
03. Silver of the Dew
04. Grey Wind of the West
05. Gold of the Sun
06. Green of the Grass
07. Running Wave
08. Flowing Air
09. Sleeping Stones
10. Quiet Rain
11. Healing Light
12. Brown of the Soil
13. Shining Stars    
14. White of the Moon   
15. Gentle Night


November 2, 2020

Contemporary Instrumental-Ambient Review: Jon Durant-Soul Of A River

Release Date: October 9, 2020

Label: Real  Music

Website

Jon Durant has an immersive catalog of recorded music dating back to 1994. I had the pleasure of covering two releases prior to the latest effort Soul Of A River. In 2018 my introduction  was  Parting Is and in 2019 Alternate Landscapes.  So, with each passing year I get another slice or aural ear candy from Jon to absorb.

Jon explained the recording like this: “With Soul of a River I wanted to capture the feeling of peace and stillness that I experience living right on the Willamette River. There’s a meditative quality to the experience of watching the river flow past that I hope is reflected in this music—both through the sounds and the melodies.”

Jon’s unique fretless cloud guitar sounds could pass for other ambient textures and sounds. In actuality that is what he is creating with an exceptional degree of excellence. There is a lot to take in within each track and not one is under six minutes and the longest “Current,” clocks in at nearly eleven minutes.
 
The cloud reference is quite fitting actually because the music does give one the feeling of floating above our earthly confines. I do understand where he is coming from with the relation to a flowing river. Life does have a flow to it and it signifies our activities within each of our lives. Some rivers are slow moving because there is not enough water pushing through and others flow with tremendous purpose non-stop. We can look at our lives that way, everyone flows differently with an entirely dissimilar objective in mind. Music also has a definitive flow to it, with varying degrees of force and purpose. It brings one to the conclusion that life itself is all connected  -  humans, the animal kingdom, and nature as a living entity unto itself. As the animals have instinctual behavior we humans run more on emotion and act on that. Thus the immediate reaction to the sounds around us, which is more cerebral than instinctual, and in particular strongly to the music we listen.

In the case of Soul Of A River, which is an interpretation of nature in more broader sense, this music conceptualizes that thought pattern and brings it to life. This is relaxing, contemplative, and very meditative music. This brings me to the conclusion that yes, it is instrumental but there is a lot to more to it than that. The foundation of this album draws from an ambient space experimental approach to a broadened appreciation of the tenets of new age.


The congealing into one musical unit in every track is most significant and on the longest and most poignant piece “Currents.” It is filled with many layers and all the spaces are filled in with sounds that take you away to the stars beyond our earthly existence. If that is the primary purpose of this music, and I am not the one to say it is, for me it most certainly had the effect.

While the Soul Of A River is spiritual and one of our many earthly delights, a touch of heaven and the stars beyond is what this music can project very strongly at times. Again, it all ties into life itself and how important music can be interconnected to everything for our enjoyment and times for healing. And finally, what it means for each individuals interpretation.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
October 31, 2020

Track List:
1. Tributaries 05:58
2. Current 10:37
3. Estuary 09:11   
4. Glistening 06:16
5. Watercourse 08:27
6. Flow 06:08


October 29, 2020

Ambient Electronic World Review: Christel Veraart - Pleiades

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Label: Independent

Website

Christel Veraart's music is described as ambient, meditative, avant-garde classical. When I looked into her bio on her website, I saw that quote. Now it was time to see if her latest release, and her tenth proper recording, Pleiades, would live up to that description.

 

Not knowing what to expect that observation of her sound gave me a good head start. Listening right from the beginning I heard a beautiful, impassioned, and talented vocalist. With the title being the Pleiades, you would think all the track titles were referenced to other entities outside of our world. That would be true in regards to space and otherworldly gods from Greek Mythology. I am not well educated in that realm so I had to do my research to see what the tracks meant beyond what I had already gleaned from the information I was provided.

 

The Pleiades is the title and it is the celestial musings of the seven sisters. The whisperings of the sisters into the spheres are the ancient legends she vocalizes. Is this mythology or did seven otherworldly beings emerge from the stars to visit us one day? Mythology, legend, grand stories? It all comes to mind all at once while listening and wondering how it all came to be in the first place.

 

This being my first exposure to this artist, and even though I do not understand the language she was singing, I found it all to be very expressive with a hint of mystery about the mythological foundation from which this wellspring of music and vocalizations found inspiration.

 

This music provides a nice background for Christel’s smooth and inviting vocal style. Christel is a world traveler and has gained a lot of exposure and ideas for her music from a multitude of residencies. She is also a talented multi-linguist. This is her second release that has gone into the realm of ambient space music rather compositional. I would call it ambient electronic world music. I think that is a fair assessment but it is my perception and I leave it up to each listener to decide. Also, many listeners do not need to know what genre it is to listen and enjoy the music. That is our option as listeners, however, in my case, I must take a deeper dive.

 

A few of these tracks are exceptionally long, “Celaeno” clocks in at 12:11 and the closer “Electra” comes in at 10:44. That is a very progressive attitude to adopt considering many listeners are not understanding what you are singing about. Regardless of the length, this woman breaks all barriers and creates something so unique and refreshing that you just have to keep listening. That is the goal of any recording artists so mission accomplished Christel Veraart.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

October 12, 2020

Track List:
1. Taygete
2. Maia
3. Asterope
4. Merope
5. Celaeno
6. Alcyone
7. Electra