Contemporary Instrumental Review: Doug Hammer-Swim to America, Vol. 2 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)

Release Date: September 22, 2023

Label: Independent


Swim to America, Vol. 2 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) is Doug Hammer's second installment of a three-part series from the original music of Stephan Eicher. I found the first volume enjoyable and anticipate feeling the same regarding this release. Vol. 3 is expected to be released next year.


"Confettis" starts the proceedings in a very bright and upbeat manner. The arrangement is fast-moving and simply a delight for the senses, setting up the listener for a complete journey through the piano's keys.


"Pas d'ami (comme toi)" begins in a more subdued way, then proceeds to pick up the pace. Doug's brilliance on the keys shines bright as he picks up the melody and delivers the bass with one hand and the lead with the other. Doug's talented fingers bring both parts of the song to your ears. I like the skill and variety of his compositions. 


"Combien de temps" is another excellent example of how solo piano can hold your attention by sounding utterly different than the previous track. There are never any similarities that I can hear. There are a few parts where Doug shows his talents with that rapid rolling of the keys, which sounds fantastic.


What continually gets my attention consistently is the flow and clarity of every track. Also, the artwork on the cover cleverly shows the artist getting caught in the rising surf. This is the metaphor related to the title. And interestingly, I find myself swimming in the music; my entire person is surrounded and consumed by the rhythm and beauty. 


As things move further into the tracks, like on "Wider Da," I heard the sentiment and sadness in the music. I can listen to a story being played inside my mind and how it's affecting my feelings. It is simpler than previous tracks, however, very purposeful, thus the space in the music to reflect. As I have often said, I found the beauty in the sadness.


"Rien n'est si bon" is a gorgeous composition based on classical (as all this music is) with a convergence of contemporary with the pace of a slow walk in the park while you breathe in the cool air as the sun sets beyond in the mountains. It is dramatic yet picturesque.


All those tracks offer a mental escape from reality and continue to the end. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to let the music remove you from your current state or mindset, if you will. The music you will hear is unique because it is simply piano and with no need for lyrics. The passion with which they are presented and played will have you going back for another listen to revisit all the emotions and mostly good feelings you can experience. 


Thirteen tracks, all stand-alone stories, are played perfectly. After covering Doug Hammer's music for so many years now, it is no surprise how much I appreciate this wonderful music and must come to expect a certain level of excellence. For my ears, this is what I needed to hear.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

September 8, 2023


01. Confettis 3:45

02. Pas d’ami (comme toi) 3:06

03. Combien de temps 3:24

04. Rivière 3:40

05. Wider Da 3:08

06. Rien n'est si bon 3:40

07. Clear My Throat 4:25

08. Je n’attendrai pas 2:16

09. Monsieur - Je ne sais pas trop 3:07

10. Rêverie 4:23

11. Où Sont Les Clés ? 4:04

12. Du 2:34

13. Wie Einem Der Gewissheit Hat 2:21

Featured Track Review Marya Stark - Weightless

The artwork of the track represented here tells a story. Marya Stark’s music promises to give you a feeling that you are “Weightless.”  It could be the weight of the day or something you have been carrying. Whatever the case may be, this music will lift it all away.

The tasteful and relaxing music with the sublime vocals of Mayra leads you down the path she beckons to take you.    

How can one resist this beautiful enchantress and her elegant vocals? The music set to her voice is perfect for her delivery.

While listening to “Weightless,” you will seek out her beautiful vocals again to regain all the good vibes she transmits.

The unique instrumentation and vocals are the right combination to make this track memorable.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

September 5, 2023


More About Marya:

Marya Stark is a vocalist, composer, performer, and multi-instrumentalist.

She is a discoverer of archetypes, storyteller, bard, and muse.

As a multi-media enchantress, she creates the way she breathes; without choice or hesitation. She is a carrier of myth, mystery, and medicine songs with which she embarks to create a ceremony of the human experience, taking her audience on lucid journey's through the caverns of the soul …READ MORE…

Featured Artist Track: Monster Taxi-Reflect

 Genre: Chill-Ambient

Release Date: August 4, 2023

Label: Independent


Some artists enjoy creating alter egos or clandestine bands to pursue something different. Jason Klein is one of those people, but I don’t think he will be undercover for too long with his latest track, “Reflect” as Monster Taxi. You may think with a name like that, it would be something that rocks, right? Well, think again and have a listen.


When I loaded the MP3 in iTunes, it came up as trip-hop. As we all know, that program can be way off at times. In this case, some of those elements are on the track and, more importantly, the essential rhythm and movement that drives everything along nicely.


“Reflect” has an exciting melody with a terrific bass line. The keyboards/electronics are as ambient and chill as it gets. The sounds did make my ears very happy, and there was a good feeling inside, like when your heart and soul smile. I listened a few times and wondered why it had to end. Is this a precursor to more of the same at some point? I sure hope so because this is fantastic music with a nice groove.


The track already has over 7k monthly listeners on Spotify, with an upward trajectory that must be very pleasing to Mr. Klein.

You can read more about Monster Taxi here 

and learn where this man is coming from and where he is going. From what I can see, it looks like the right direction!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

August 30, 2023

New Age/Contemporary Instrumental Review: Richard Theisen-Estonia

Release Date: September 1, 2023

Label: Independent


When I saw Richard Theisen's name, it looked familiar. I covered his Mayan Stars album in 2014. My memory for music is exceptional; everything else seems mediocre at best. The reason is that music makes me happy and satisfied; it is my savior.

Music aimed at healing the mind, body, and spirit is essential to us all, whether that realization has arrived for you is apparent or is still waiting to come, which brings me to Estonia.  


On the cusp of fall comes Estonia, a gorgeous instrumental production guaranteed to soothe your soul and invite you to a different plane of consciousness. I speak from my experience and hope it does that for every listener.


Once again, I am ready to listen to contemporary instrumental-based keyboard music with a strong foundation in the new-age genre. That formula is a consistent approach I have witnessed for many years. As the new age genre has expanded, it has opened many doors to artists like Richard, who would be classified differently.


The girl on the cover is Freya, the subject of the opening track "Freyas Tears." Don't be surprised if this music sounds like it could be a soundtrack to a movie. That is one thing Richard has done expertly over the years and winning a Grammy for contributing to the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. 


So, it all depends on what kind of listening experience you are looking for. It serves the purpose of intent, getting me to slow down, smell the roses, and recognize the beauty around me. We tend to get self-absorbed in the day's thoughts and lose our spiritual connection. I also realize the value of quality music for different uses, such as soundtracks. That fact does not diminish its importance for my benefit; however, it is vital to recognize the duality some music can provide.


The tracks come in layers of exquisitely used keyboards and sound effects generated by today's highly advanced technologies. Richard uses all those tools to have a significant impact on every track. I saw a distinct change in style and sound on "Lavinia." The track features upbeat music with some Latin-flavored guitar and castanets (sound generated as such, perhaps). These sounds are so authentic these days that it is hard to tell if someone is playing them or if they are generated from a computer or keyboard. It is amazing. If I had the fine-tuned ear of an advanced musician, I might know the difference. So far in this life, I listen and comment on what I hear. I must also mention that the closing track, "Twilight," is exceptional, a slice of heaven, as one would say. The acoustic guitar sets the pace as the other elements melt into the mix. The track is warm and inviting, as the entire album is. 


The cover art of Estonia reminded me of the graphic novels my son read as a teenager. And smartly, the pleasing to-the-eye color of purple with the white font immediately brings attention to the artwork, which is the first step in getting someone to pay attention initially. Everything looks to be in place for Estonia to succeed, and I see no reason the new-age community and listening base would not enjoy this release. It is quality in production and musicianship.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

August 13, 2023


1. Freyas Tears

2. Brezien Dream

3. Estonia

4. Goldenwulf

5. Lavinia

6. Rivermyst

7. Nordic Whispers

8. Twilight

Meditation/Ambient Review: Michael Whalen-Walk in Beauty Like The Night

Release Date: July 21, 2023

Label: Independent


Michael Whalen is one of the busiest people in the music industry. I am just finishing covering one release, and another one is ready. He has been on a creative run since his career began. The man does not have an “off” switch.

Luckily for all music lovers, we regularly receive this musical renaissance man’s work. I have always enjoyed his musical eclecticism and look forward to what he will do next.


Walk in Beauty Like The Night is as advertised. It is romantic meditation for ambient piano from start to finish. It always feels like it is what I need to hear when I start listening. 


The track titles are enough to hook you and pull you into an immersive state of mind or meditation. And that is the point of this recording. I can only speak for myself, but this is the kind of music that relaxes me. I am sometimes stressed and don’t even know it, which has become the normal state of consciousness. I find this very concerning. Most of the time, my only outlet is an invitation to an alternative form of being that Michael can offer us all if you want to try it. I highly recommend that you do.


“The Most Humid Sexy Summer” does not sound like it could be the type of music I just described. It intimates some things but is a bit different musically than its predecessors. The beginning sounds like it will be a step away from the core concept, but it changes rather quickly as the ambiance of the keyboards fills your room. The backing layer is very ambient as Michael’s skill on the keys takes over and continues to coax you into that relaxing meditative state you so desperately need.


When creating a recording of ten tracks with the promise of romanticism and meditation, you must be consistent with your approach, style, mastering, and sound. Michael addresses all those key components. Whatever drives him to create this music, I will probably never understand. And I do not need to; I have to listen and absorb what the artist conveys in the package, the cover art, the track titles, and the music presented to follow it. That is what anyone must do.


“Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me...” is also slightly different in sound and presentation and matches the title’s purposefulness. It reminded me of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream. Whom I frequently reference while listening to this type of music. After all, they were pioneers of ambient sounds using variations of keyboards. And I am sure a massive influence on so many endeavors in the new age and subgenres. That puts things into a clearer picture and perspective for new listeners, I would like to believe. If, for some reason, you may have doubts listen closely to “We Are All Made of Stars” or “Such Sweet Sorrow,” you may also realize how that all connects.  


“What We Love Deeply” started playing, and I felt touched emotionally. Then my four-legged friend entered the room to validate the song and my love for man’s best friend. The timing was perfect. And sometimes, it is when it comes to different expressions of art forms such as music.

Stardust, we are ladies and gentlemen. Realizing that makes us a little more insignificant in a vast universe we may never know. Then again, everyone is part of that vastness, and music can make us feel whole again and find that connection to the divine within. Thanks again, Michael, for another beautiful album to enjoy.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

June 20, 2023


01. Walk In Beauty, Like The Night

02. Anywhere Anytime Anything For You

03. Eternity Floats In Your Eyes

04. Always For The First Time

05. The Most Humid Sexy Summer

06. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me...

07. We Are All Made of Stars

08. What We Love Deeply

09.Such Sweet Sorrow

10. Our Home By The Sea

New Age World Meditation Review: Samir Bodhi- Memories of Empathy

Release Date: July 14, 2023

Label: Independent


Samir Bodhi has become prominent in the new age genre with his music and particular recording brand. It is a splendid fusion of new age, Indian, classical, and modern, all rolled into one prolific package.

Memories of Empathy is ready to capture current fans and gain some new ones along the way.

I had the pleasure of covering his debut EP in 2021 titled Stairway To Nirvana. As I recall, it was an impressive piece of work. So, setting the bar high for the artist and his work is not unusual, particularly when you start with such a good impression.

When you look at the compelling artwork for the album, it fits the title. To have empathy, or to be an empath, is a beautiful gift to give another human being or any living thing. Self-absorption with cell phones and social media can be the degradation of humankind if we do not utilize them properly. And many people do not, unfortunately.

“Have and Have Nots” start the recording. It points to that very thing, the difference between the haves and the have-nots is widening in our societies. While very unfortunate, the music and imagery this music creates will make people rethink who they are and how they conduct themselves. The vocalizations are in a different language than English. However, it does not matter as the warmth and feeling come across with passion and purpose. Bodhi’s wife, Madhumita Chatterjee, provides the vocals along with Supriyo Dutta.

“Compassion-Karuna” has a very old-school guitar sound (Co-Produced by David Vito Gregoli), the kind you would hear traveling down the waterways in Italy during a movie. The atmosphere is very soothing and romantic, if you will. It is undoubtedly a big step away from the first track. This is what makes Samir’s music so captivating. He likes to mix things up and keep it interesting. Keeping your musical ears on their toes.

“Heaven So High” is a gorgeous instrumental. The acoustic guitar is sublime; additional instruments like the flute and some soft percussion give the listener a ready-made easy chair to sink into and forget their troubles for a while. That is the purpose of this type of music.

My favorite track is “Affinity” (Co-Produced by Sanjoy Das). I had to listen to it several times. The invitation to beauty starts from the very beginning and holds throughout the entire 6:30 minutes. Madhumita provides the heavenly wordless vocals on the track, and the mix is divinity in motion. Everything about the track breathes spirituality and the innate goodness we all have inside us to share.

“Indifference” features Madhumita once again accompanying Samir’s instrumentation. It has a definitive Middle Eastern flavor that weaves an impactful thread through the song. Her voice is so smooth and precise, and although I don’t understand the words, I can still feel the impact of them and know in my heart there is a meaning and message.

The recording closes with theWorld of Empathy,” the longest track on the album, at 6:48. Some excellent saxophone and gentle piano are in the mix. It has a definite jazz flavor to it. All the elements of Samir’s music exist in this track, thus the advanced length. All the complexities of his music need room to stretch out and capture the listener’s attention from start to finish, and it does.

Memories of Empathy will be revered and recognized globally; I have no doubt. It is a triumph of music and social justice that needs to be heard.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-TFOV Founder

June 2, 2023


1. Have and Have Nots 5:53

2. Heaven So High 4:28

3. Affinity 6:30

4. Compassion-Karuna 5:38

5. Indifference 4:43

6. World of Empathy 6:48

Classical-New Age-Instrumental Review: David Darling And Hans Christian-Ocean Dreaming Ocean

Release Date: April 7, 2023

Label: Curve Blue Records


When musicians pass, they leave behind more than family, band members, and friends. What's left for us still living is a musical history, a catalog of releases, and sometimes unfinished pieces.

There was unfinished business in the case of David Darling, who passed in 2021. David revolutionized the way a cello sounded. And nobody knew that better than Hans Christian, a fellow cello player. David's longtime producer, Mickey Houlihan, called Hans to invite him to finish what was left behind. He accepted without hesitation, knowing this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thus, Ocean Dreaming Ocean was born.


The nine tracks on this recording are mesmerizing. They all caught my attention as separate works of art. Their excellence and beauty were striking. It was eye-opening for my first time hearing something like this, with a cello as the main lead instrument. Under normal circumstances, I would have doubts going into a listen like this; however, the story and music are compelling. And I was pleasantly surprised.


"Seven Veils" was my favorite track, with many good moments. It was so unlike anything I had listened to before and hypnotized me. Hans Christian does a superb job of completing compositions and creating something full of color and texture, like a masterful painting on a partially blank canvas. He was honored and inspired by David's work and did his best to pay tribute to the man and his legacy. 


I had a headache when I started listening to this; the music melted it away. Music is the great healer. If you let it work, magical things can happen. Sound therapy is what I describe it as. That is a different subject all its own now, in any case. This music is classical as the foundation with leanings towards new age because of its reflective properties that could easily coax you into meditation. It pulls you in and holds you. That is the power of good music.


The closing track and title track, "Ocean Dreaming Ocean," is the longest at 7:22. It features the sounds of whales communicating. I was always amazed at their sounds, considering how large of a creature they are. The combination of the cello and the sounds of nature at work are a good match. The music moves and is graceful, like those mammals dancing in the water. It is a fitting way to end this recording and give the perspective listener something to think about. And I mean about the oceans and how we have polluted the habitat of so many living things.


Each piece may give you different feelings and thoughts, and this is the focus of any music. It would be best if you went to the website provided to read the short write-up about this project. It will put a different spin on the piece before listening. It worked that way for me.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

May 22, 2023


1. Epitaph 6:08

2. Minor Blue Chorale 04:30

3. Miracle 06:37

4. Unforseen Rain Ambient 02:36

5. Seven Veils 05:05

6. Unforseen Rain 06:32

7. David Darling & Hans Christian feat. Ron Miles 

8. Below the Horizon 4:39

9. Ocean Dreaming Ocean 7:22