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Reviews 01-15-2005 

 

Atlantis Lost

by Eric McCarl

Eric McCarl's website

“Atlantis Lost” is the second release in the “Trilogy of Light” series, and is made up of music pianist Eric McCarl composed twenty years ago. He had left a lucrative job in the computer industry to devote all of his energy and time to composing this music. In the liner notes, McCarl writes, “Atlantis Lost represents a great leap of faith, and maybe more so, my personal conversations with God at a time when everyone around me told me that my beliefs were unjustified.” Overall, the music has a sense of very deep inner exploration and reflection. While much of it is rather dark and pensive, there is always a sense of hope. McCarl’s style is difficult to categorize - a good thing, I think, in this cookie-cutter world. There are jazz and classical influences as well as new age, but it’s not really any of the above. As a youth, McCarl studied many different musical instruments as well as the piano, and that experience shows in his musicianship. All fifteen tracks are solo piano, and the piano sound itself is gorgeous. This music begs to be listened to carefully and thoughtfully, and weaves a story that deserves to be heard. It isn’t dinner party background music. Structured enough to feel composed, and yet improvisational enough to feel free and spontaneous, McCarl does an exceptionally good job of making both approaches work together.

The first three tracks are on the upbeat side. “The Runner” is full of energy, and makes it easy to visualize someone running on a beautiful island. “City of Light” is almost carefree - warm and contented. The title track is more tragic. Very open and improvisational, it conveys a deep sense of loss and questioning. An affecting piece, this seems to be McCarl at his most soul-bearing. “Victoria” is a quiet beauty - melancholy and searching. “Silhouette in Red” is a favorite. Built on a very spare melody line that wanders throughout the piece, there are some jazz and even some blues touches. “No More Tears” is reflective and bittersweet. The darkly mysterious “Symphonique” and “Tell Me Why” are also favorites.

Eric McCarl’s is a unique and promising voice in the world of solo piano. With his message of peace and hope while at the same time “waging war against ignorance and injustice,” may his voice be heard and understood. Sound clips from “Atlantis Lost” can be heard at www.ericmccarl.com. It can be purchased there or from amazon.com or cdbaby.com. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications

 

Fluidities

by Jonathan Hughes

Jonathan Hughes' website

With the release of "Fluidities", Jonathan Hughes has created a fascinating experiment in ambience. Featuring two CDs of eleven tracks each, all of the tracks six minutes in length and written in similar keys, the discs of "Fluidities" are meant to be listened to simultaneously in any combination. Tracks are supposed to blend and entwine with eachother in order to create new pieces through synthesis.

While most double disc collections would feature a couple of hours of music, "Fluidities" offers a potential of over twelve hours given that there are 121 possible combinations of tracks. And I think when you start considering the possibilities here it becomes clear that we're talking about the ambient ideal, music that can be listened to with whatever level of involvement the listener is willing to give it. You have to be pretty committed to fully explore this disc. But if you don't have that opportunity, it's okay, the music exists by itself just as well, just as easily.

Outside of it's conceptual framework, "Fluidities" is a brilliant collection of pieces, some of the work by Hughes himself, some tracks collaborations between Hughes and other artists, and still more pieces by a variety of talents in the ambient genre. Saul Stokes, Michael Bentley, Dean Santomieri, Interstitial, dreamSTATE and more all contribute to the disc, all adding something new and unique to the mix.

I could go into detail about all the tracks, even comment on the aspects of various combinations, but to be honest any comments I make would only scratch the surface. Better to listen for yourself and experience it on your own. You have my word that there's some beautiful work here, ranging from flowing ambient elegance, to mirror worlds of dark matter and abstract patterns. A little something for everyone. And whether you can find just an hour or a full twelve hour chunk of time, you're sure to discover something beautiful and inspired.

Reviewed by Rik Maclean of Ping Things.

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.

 

Finding Solace

by Philip Wesley

Philip Wesley's website

“Finding Solace” is Philip Wesley’s debut recording, and consists of twelve original and very personal piano solos. Most of the tracks have a lovely, soothing flow to them, and there is a gentle simplicity to Wesley’s approach that is elegant and heartfelt. I don’t usually compare one artist to another, but some of the pieces are heavily influenced by David Lanz - especially “Lamentations of the Heart,” “Still Waters Run Deep,” and “Tabatha’s Song” -and are actually some of my favorite tracks. I mention this only because I think fans of Lanz’s earlier solo piano music will probably really enjoy this album.

The CD opens with “At This Moment,” which is based on an improvisation done on Wesley’s wedding day on the church piano to settle pre-wedding nerves. Thoughtful and optimistic, he doesn’t sound too nervous after all! “Celestial Reverie” is much more expansive and open - as the title suggests, a little bit sparkly and a lot dreamy. “Journey Home” was the first piano piece Wesley ever composed. Inspired by a college music writing assignment, the piece is peaceful, but also has a sense of moving forward. “Lamentations of the Heart” is much sadder, but is very beautiful and deeply emotional - I love this track! “Ocean of Color” refers to the autumn colors St. Louis, and is a bit more abstract and improvisational. “Tabatha’s Song” is about first love, and has a sweet poignance and innocence. “The Awakening” comes from deep introspection and the internal journey of reevaluating one’s life. Wesley shares the experience with grace and openness.

“Finding Solace” is an excellent debut, and I look forward to hearing future projects! The stories behind the music are found at www.philipwesley.com. Music samples can be heard at cdstreet.com and cdbaby.com, and purchases can be made at either of those sites as well as amazon.com. I have enjoyed this CD a lot!

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications

 

Land of the Blind

by The Circular Ruins

The Circular Ruins's website

The music of The Circular Ruins has always struck me as lush, as very full. An intricately detailed canvas of sound art that captures a sense of both time and place. With the release of "Land of the Blind", The Circular Ruins have collected eight stunning pieces that continue to engage and delight in the same manner.

The disc opens with "A Storm of Secondary Things". Delicate sweeping pads loop and swirl, while complex percussive patterns play underneath. Shimmering melodies unfold as the piece progresses. A beautiful introduction to the disc.

"Holiday in Reality" is built around fluttering patterns of sound, a series of squelchy electronic patterns rising and falling throughout. A sense of movement, of journey permeates throughout the track, a lovely feeling of travel. Wonderful. "Thought is False Happiness" builds upon a laticework of pads and waves, intricate folds weaving and gaining in complexity as time passes. A stunning piece. Track four, "Anamnesis", is a much more subtle piece, a minimal sense of movement that uses silences to accent the tones throughout. Patches of dialogue pass through like fragments from half forgotten dreams. A fantastic track that I find myself drawn to again and again.

"The Abyss of Proof" is an ominous track, a dark foreboding introduction leading into a tense claustrophobic environment. Be careful when you stare into the abyss, it has a way of staring back at you... "Interior Distance" features a repeated arpegio overtop an organic backdrop of landscape sounds. Delicate and simple, yet somehow vaguely threatening. A slow and steady journey through the familiar territory of reason to the darker lands of delirium.

"Standing in Violent Golds" is a more dense piece, dark matter and alien elements clashing, conflicted. There are small pieces of beauty that stand in contrast to the controlled chaos at play here, but they serve only as small reminders of order, in effect bringing the confusion more into focus. Disc closer "A Distant Assembly" is an epic track that utilizes oblique motion to anchor simple melody lines, slow waves of sound rising and falling like tides. Tones gain in strength, finding order and reason, gradually melting into other forms, taking on other shapes and meaning.

A hundred vistas pass by during the course of it's length, each another glimpse of alien worlds, different spaces, a thousand more just beyond reach. And then it is done, an afterimage reflected in our mind's eye the only reminder of what we've seen. Without doubt, "Land of the Blind" lives up to and surpasses all of my expectations with regards to The Circular Ruins. A truly wonderful disc featuring a truly wonderful collection of music, I recommend it wholeheartedly to fans of the ambient genre in all of it's forms, as well as to all those who enjoy the discovery of inner journeys.

Reviewed by Rik Maclean of Ping Things.

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.

 

Dreamlife

by Sylken

Sylken's website

"Dreamlife" is the fourth release by Sylken, a stunning collection of emotional spaces and beautiful new vistas. Featuring the talents of Sylken founder Eric Hopper and frequent collaborator Steven Sauve, along with guest appearances by Cheryl o, Gregory Kyryluk and Wally Jericho, "Dreamlife" is a perfect travelogue for those lands we visit between waking moments.

"Night Wings", a collaboration with Gregory Kyryluk of Alpha Wave Movement, begins the disc with notes and melody drifting out of the ether, taking flight, rising above the land and soaring over beautiful new vistas. Simplicity is slowly replaced by a greater complexity as tones shift and metamorphosise. An inspired opening. "First Light Falling" has an almost orchestral feeling to it, an organic element that brings to mind a forest setting, a lush wooded area slowly being revealed to the listener. Sounds grow and swell, melodies flow like water. Beautiful

Track three "The Ocean of Dreams" features processed trumpet from Wally Jericho, and is easily my favorite piece on the album. Wally's trumpet work is always a magical thing and this track is no exception. Matched with glistening traces and sparse piano work "The Ocean of Dreams" is a stunning example of the best that the ambient genre has to offer. An absolute gem. "In Astral Flight" is full of stars, a journey through the heavens on gossamer wings. And as with all things beautiful it's all too short, a memory before you've had the chance to really appreciate it's wonder. I like this one alot...

"The In Between" is a marvel of backwards development, moving at odds with the progression of time. Metallic tones skirt about the track, bells twinkle intermitantly, nations fall and rise in the course of it's length and when it's over we're left alone once more. Cheryl o adds cello to "Sings the Heart", a piece that masterfully blends the sound of the organic and the electronic. Mournful cello leads into percolating synth lines and a looping progression that beguiles the listener. Wonderful. "Adrift in a Sea of Light" is an oblique marvel, a piece that parfectly captures the sense of the tides, the drift of the sea. A marvelous example of aural landscaping, locational sonics.

The disc closes with "Vistas", a suggestion that the beauty of dreams can sometimes be found in day to day life just as easily as within our sleep. A crystalline beauty of a song and a fitting way to end the disc. With the release of "Dreamlife" Sylken has once again proven their mastery of the ambient and space music disciplines. A truly wonderful release by some truly wonderful talents, it's a disc that is destined for classic status in the genre.

Reviewed by Rik Maclean of Ping Things.

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.

 

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