Playlists for November 2017

Playlists for November 2017

Album Review of Union: Music for Lovers by Michael Stribling

Union: Music for Lovers is a collection of works dating from 2006 to 2011 by electronic keyboardist Michael Stribling. Featuring eleven compositions spanning seventy-two minutes of soothing romantic bliss, the album is intended to create an environment of sacred intimacy and closeness with that special someone. While a lot of music of varying styles often gets tagged as “new age” (such as is the case with many contemporary instrumental or solo piano recordings), I would regard Michael’s music as epitomizing the truest essence of the new age musical genre, such as it relates to a specific brand of relaxing and instrumental synthesizer-based music that rose to its highest prominence in the 80’s and 90’s. Among some notable recording artists in the field to whom I’d compare Michael’s style are Llewellyn, Merlin’s Magic, Midori and Raphael.

Album review of Serenity by Michael Kollwitz

Michael Kollwitz has been playing the Chapman Stick for over forty years, having recorded his first solo album on this widely lesser-known instrument in the early 2000’s. A guitar/piano type of hybrid named for its inventor, Emmett Chapman (of whom Michael had the serendipitous opportunity of crossing paths with in the 1970’s), the Chapman Stick resembles the head and neck of a guitar but is played more like a piano by using two-handed tapping, and it possesses the capacity of producing a diverse range of sounds. While there aren’t many stick players on the music scene, I became familiar with its innately soothing sound upon hearing Jeff Pearce’s solo Chapman Stick recording, Rainshadow Sky, several years ago – so I’m certainly delighted to have discovered another master of this instrument! Having previously lived in Sacramento, California, Michael would perform on his stick while dressed as a 19th century gold miner, and he even opened for acts such as The Beach Boys and Goo Goo dolls. After moving to Hawaii in 2007, Michael encountered Carlos Santana who praised his talents, and later Mick Fleetwood who inspired him to play traditional Hawaiian music on the instrument. His 2017 album, Serenity, is a continuation of that Hawaiian influence and offers fourteen compositions spanning just over an hour of Pacific-imbued tranquility.

Album Review of Sign of Us by Dlaivison

 

Sign of Us is the debut album from Brazilian-based electronic music composer Dlaivison Ribarmares Silva. Introduced to the world of music at a young age, Dlaivison took piano lessons as a child while acquiring a refined taste for classical, new age, progressive rock and electro-pop over the years. Inspired by a theme of “signatures” or “signs” which are said to be universally present among everything, each song title includes a glyph-like symbol next to them, while the album’s liner notes detail brief explanations for each composition and the universal concepts for their inspiration. Comprised of ten tracks spanning just under an hour, Sign of Us was recorded on an array of electronic music equipment and features guest drummer, Arthur Rezende, on one composition. Throughout the album, I’m frequently and pleasantly reminded of both Jean-Michel Jarre and the early 1990’s German “ambient-techno” artist Cosmic Baby, while additionally, the music’s often whimsically classical nuances recall a bit of Danny Elfman.



Album Review of From The Darker Seasons by Jeff Pearce

 

From the Darker Seasons continues in the signature ethereal-ambient, electric guitar style of music that Jeff Pearce triumphantly re-embraced in 2014 with his album With Evening Above, which was subsequently followed up by his 2016 album Follow the River the Home. The last album in this style that Jeff recorded before taking a hiatus for over a decade was his landmark 2002 release, Bleed, which preceded some lovely albums recorded on Chapman Stick followed by one piano album. As the album’s title and captivating artwork suggest, the eight compositions spanning nearly an hour that make up From the Darker Seasons was inspired by autumn and winter, which Jeff states are his favorite times of the year (and mine too!). As with his previous two ambient guitar recordings, as well as those of his from the 1990’s and early 2000’s (of which this album was similarly created in the image), From the Darker Seasons mostly exudes a nocturnal essence comprised of drifting ambient melodies and enveloping atmospheres, which possess melancholic underpinnings.



Album Review of Deep Space Blue by Jim Ottaway

Deep Space Blue is the latest album from Jim Ottaway, an electronic music composer based in Gold Coast, Australia. Having released several albums in the ambient, space and electronica genres, Deep Space Blue is a classic ambient-space recording much in the style of Jim’s early 2016 album, Southern Cross, with the two albums being separated by a late 2016 release of dynamic electronic music called Timeless e-Motion. By the time that album was released, I sensed that Jim was well on his way to achieving much greater recognition among the electronic-space music scene and my instincts were proven right; he has since received notable airplay in the U.S. on terrestrial radio programs such as Star’s End, Echoes and Hearts of Space. On Deep Space Blue (which is comprised of six compositions spanning an hour in total), Jim crafts and shapes his illustrious cosmic soundscapes using a plethora of top-notch electronic musical equipment to achieve a highly dimensional and realistic-seeming sonic experience.

Review of The Gatherings Concert Series presenting Jeff Pearce plus Eyes Cast Down

 

Over this past summer, I’d been highly anticipating my first attendance at The Gatherings , a long-running concert series that takes place in Philadelphia, PA. The enchanting event has regularly featured performances by some of the top-notch recording artists in the ambient, electronic and space music scene ever since it debuted in 1992. Graciously hosted at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village (a gorgeous Episcopal Cathedral) on Saturday, October 7th, I was especially looking forward to experiencing the combined visual-audio aesthetics of two of the things which I love most: cathedrals and ambient music!

 

Coinciding with the 25th year anniversary of the first Gatherings event would be a mesmerizing concert performance by ambient-guitarist Jeff Pearce , which also followed the release of his brand-new album called From the Darker Seasons . Set to take the stage at 9 p.m., another fantastic musician named Greg Moorcroft who records under the pseudonym Eyes Cast Down  (and likewise just released a new album called The White Island ) opened the evening at 8 p.m. with a spacey set of his own.

 

 

Album Review of Under A Second Moon by Holland Phillips

Under A Second Moon is the sixth album by multi-instrumentalist Holland Phillips and follow-up to his 2016 album, Circles of Eight. Comprised of eleven compositions spanning forty-six minutes, Holland’s latest album follows the new age / contemporary musical style of his previous releases, drawing heavily upon a distinguishable and well-worn 1980’s synthesized sound. In fact, notable comparisons could be drawn to some of the earliest works by both Yanni and David Arkenstone, as well as to a lesser degree that of Bill Douglas and Richard Souther. Throughout the album Holland plays piano, synthesizer and guitar while Paul Christensen lends saxophone to a couple of pieces. Additionally, subtle programmed beats underscore many of the arrangements.

Playlists for October 2017

Playlists for October 2017

Album Review of Seventh Wave by Michelle Qureshi

Seventh Wave is the latest album from guitarist and composer Michelle Qureshi and follow-up to her excellent 2016 release, Scattering Stars. Known for creating uniquely characteristic soundscapes that incorporate an eclectic blend of contemporary and global instrumentation, Michelle further perfects her sound and style on what is arguably her most accomplished work to date. Comprised of thirteen compositions which span a little over sixty-seven minutes, Seventh Wave relies on the sounds of stringed instruments (both plucked and bowed), flutes, didgeridoos, idiophones, membranophones, occasional vocals and synthesized textures. Difficult to pigeon-hole, the album’s overall style could be equally classified as ambient, minimalist or avant-garde.

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