Reviews 02-03-2007


Music Reviews 



A Cup Of Moonlight
by David Lanz


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”A Cup of Moonlight” is a newly remastered and revised version of David Lanz’s independent 2003 solo piano release by the same name. The stunning cover artwork by David Louis Quinn is only the beginning. Two additional songs that were recorded in 2006, a warmer piano sound, and some interesting edits to the existing songs make this truly a “new and improved” CD. All of the previous pieces have been shortened by as little as a few seconds to the 6 1/2 minute reduction of Lanz’s meditation piece, “Heaven and Earth,” which was seventeen minutes long on the first album. David Lanz and flautist Gary Stroutsos, his collaborator on the 2005 Narada release, “Spirit Romance,” have joined forces and created the new SoundTraveler label; this is one of their first releases.

“Lover’s Tarot,” one of my favorite tracks, is classic Lanz - a strong, flowing, bittersweet melody combines with a catchy rhythm and is played with deep emotion. “The Butterfly” is also easy to identify as a Lanz composition. The other four original composed (as opposed to improvised) pieces are a bit more abstract and, well, artistic, for lack of a better word. Those who felt that Lanz was becoming too commercial on his Decca releases will love this music. Playing from the heart is what Lanz does best, and that’s what this album is about. The title track is stunningly beautiful - very spare, but passionate, with lots of open space. All of these pieces are gentle and introspective, yet deeply emotional - some of Lanz’ best work, I think.

“Ambient Plains” is one of the two new tracks. The openness and spareness of the piece give a very peaceful feeling and suggest vast open spaces. The piece also serves as a tribute to two influences on Lanz’s music, George Winston and Floyd Cramer - beautiful and very evocative. “Along the Garden Wall” is the other new piece. Extraordinary in its quiet simplicity and introspection, it was inspired by the overwhelming emotions Lanz experienced while visiting the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. “Taps” is woven into the fabric of the piece, honoring those who lost their lives as well as the loved ones left behind. It is fitting that the CD concludes with “Heaven and Earth,” a piece built on a seven-note sequence that Lanz calls the “angel scale.” Sequences and variations on the theme evolve over the course of the piece, creating a musical meditation for stress relief and healing.

Even if you have a copy of the earlier “Cup of Moonlight,” I highly recommend this newer version. With his new label, David Lanz has full control of his music and is free to explore in new directions - a very good thing for his artistry and for us, his fans!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Along the Curve

by Dave Sterling

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“Along the Curve” is pianist/composer Dave Sterling’s second release of energetic piano pieces, all of which are orchestrated to some degree. Sterling’s classical training is very apparent, but there are jazz, rock, and even country influences that make his music timeless and keep it fresh. Most of the orchestration is accomplished with keyboards, but several tracks feature “live” musicians such as Glenn Lambert on horns, Nancy Messuri on violin, Andrea Robbins on oboe, and Riley Wilson on guitar. Spiritually uplifting and optimistic, this is great music for when you need to recharge your energy level.

The CD opens with “Dancing on the Rock,” a piece inspired by Rene Magritte’s painting, “La Chateau des Pyrenees,” which depicts a castle built on a big rock that is floating above the ocean. One of the higher-energy pieces, the rhythm is infectious and the melody is joyful. “Stephanie’s Lullaby” is a lovely piece composed for Sterling’s niece. Nancy Messuri’s violin and an accompanying flute add a Celtic/folk song flavor that is charming. “Men of Honor” is very militaristic, honoring “men and women of the United States military, past, present, and future.” This is a big, celebratory piece that would work in well in a film or documentary. “The Offering” is a lighthearted little melody that reminds me a bit of Vangelis’ “Hymne.” I really like this one a lot! “When Lisa Smiles” is quite simply a love song. The dreamy introduction floats on air, bringing in the piano to play a solo version of the theme, and then adding more instruments as the piece develops. It’s a gentle, heartfelt piece. “Everyday Angels” is another favorite. Warm, bright, and passionate, it’s a thank you to those who quietly go about trying to make the world a better place. “Calvin’s Dance” is a jazzy confection inspired by the artist’s dog. Full of playful fun, this piece would brighten anyone’s day. The title track opens mysteriously and intensely. It refers to a quote about living life along the curve of a question mark, and the only way to know how the story unfolds is to move in one direction or another. This piece is a little darker than the others. Various themes depict the ups and downs of life, sometimes peaceful, sometimes harried - very intriguing! “A Bottle of Beer, A Picture of You” is a song that would adapt well to lyrics that are very funny, ending the CD with a wink and a smile.

“Along the Curve” provides a mixed bag of musical goodies that will give just about any listener something to savor and enjoy. Give it a try!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Igneous Flame

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Pete Kelly, aka Igneous Flame, continues to create half real and half imagined atmospheres using processed guitars. Over time Pete seems to have moved from the sound sculptures on earlier works such as Tolmon to spacier ambience culminating with the spectral spacemusic we encounter on his new release Astra.

Listening to artists like Diatonis, Jeff Pearce, and Igneous Flame I still find it amazing what sounds can be formed by processed guitars. The sonic and emotional aura they create is perhaps more haunting than could be achieved with a synthesiser. One thing that has struck me listening to Astra is that it's something like ambient spacemusic as musical Science Fiction. Besides the obvious hankering for cosmic realms in the music's emotional resonance there's a kind of narrative derived from the bare bones of the track titles.

The first track “Nimbus” showcases an array of guitar driven effects. Calmly plucked strings play alongside aching lines that fade into the distance like shimmering vapour trails. Lovely textured threads glide or push and pull in a soothing manner. Fast forwarding to the end of the album and “Tonight the night is full of stars” begins unpromisingly with dissonant effects then settles into a wondrous passage of starlight drones and celestial goings on.

Pete paints a partially restrained positive view of celestial and spiritual realms. On most of the tracks the sounds are luminous and uplifting, yet there's a sense of antithesis lurking on the edges. Whether this is deliberate or not I don't know, but I can say that it imbues the atmospheres with a wholeness rarely encountered.

Though I've found all of Igneous Flame's albums to be interesting and enjoyable I'd say that Astra is his most accessible and pleasing one to date. Anybody who enjoys ambient and/or spacemusic should get hold of this engaging album.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions




by cyberCHUMP

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Another new artist to me is cyberCHUMP – the duo Mark G.E and Jim Skeel. They describe Sankhara as a collection of tone poems, and aural sculpture; and indeed it is. To achieve their sound a lot of sources are used from treated guitars and keyboards to Uilleann pipes and digeridoo, plus a voice. It's a rather abstract work and sonically clever because often the sources aren't obvious to the listener - even the voice is used very subtly.

The overall feel of the album is set in the first track “Anticipation (Something Out There)”. Humming drones create a backdrop over which resonant flutey refrains add to the pensive atmosphere. A variety of washes and almost melodic sounds fill out the soundfield.

An exemplar of the cyberCHUMP sound can be found on the longest track “Lay Your Head”. Warm tones like embers from a fire form a subtly shifting background in a way reminiscent of an Exuviae track called “Silencia”. Against this plucked guitar, gentle tinkles that echo off to the distance, and bass notes all go to create a slightly spooky yet calming mood.

Most of the time the mood just about stays on the vaguely unsettling side of things. The album rarely becomes dark per se, instead it tends to hint and look toward those aspects rather than forges ahead to explore them. What also works for me is how a mystery is hidden by the music, indeed the piece “Tremor” with its ghostly teasing melody, brief use of voice and rhythm, and spooky effects hints at all kinds of things without revealing them.

Sankhara is a pleasing and intriguing work from an artist I'll be looking out for in the future. It should have plenty of appeal to those who like amorphous ambience with little in the way rhythmic structures.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


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