Music Reviews 


Reviews 08-20-2005 

Forever Young

by George Skaroulis

Visit George Skaroulis's website

“Forever Young” went through an interesting evolution from its original concept as a lullaby  CD to a children’s album to a recording for families to enjoy together to the final product, a gorgeous collection of original pieces, traditional children’s songs, and a couple of cover tunes, lovingly arranged and soothingly played to calm and uplift a spirit of any age. George Skaroulis has been one of my favorite artists since I discovered his music a few years ago. His sensitive piano touch and gentle spirit come through his music so beautifully that it is no wonder that his music is used extensively by massage therapists and in spas. Seeking to reach a new audience with his arrangements of children’s songs, this is very definitely not exclusively a children’s album. Skaroulis’ arrangements of songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Row Row Row Your Boat” are so elegant that I did an aural double-take the first couple of times I heard them. About half of the twenty tracks are original compositions, and two are remakes from Skaroulis’ previous release, “Generations” (2000). The album has a sweet, seamless quality that creates a cozy, peaceful mood, kind of like a favorite “blankie.” The album also contains three beautiful vocal selections. Vocals on a mostly instrumental album can be annoying and out of place, but these songs fit perfectly and really need to be there.

“Forever Young” opens with the Cyndi Lauper hit “True Colors.” The first part of the song is an instrumental prelude that sets the tone of the album: flowing, peaceful, and full of love. The second part features vocals by Kevin Lawson, who has one of those rough-around-the-edges voices that conveys so much emotion - it made me cry! “Song For Lylah” was composed for the little girl in the cover photos, and is a sweet piano solo. The second vocal is “Pure Imagination” from “Willie Wonka,” and features the voice of Felicia Sorensen, who creates a feeling of magic and mystery. “The Circus Leaves Town” and “Chasing the Waves” are classic Skaroulis vignettes - perfect in their brevity. “You Are My Sunshine” was a Skaroulis Family favorite when George was growing up, and this tender arrangement is one of the highlights of the album. “My New Friend” and “Parents” are remakes from the earlier “Generations” CD. “Parents” is an incredible piano and cello duet that could melt the most jaded of hearts. The title track has a gentle, tranquil feeling that flows effortlessly, and the sound of children’s laughter in the background adds sparkle. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Frere Jacque”  are two more of the children’s songs that are beautifully and elegantly arranged for a more adult taste. The CD closes with another vocal by Felicia Sorensen, this time Billy Joel’s “Lullaby (Good Night My Angel),” a deeply touching song that ends the collection on just the right note.

George Skaroulis puts so much of himself into his projects that I don’t know how anyone could not be moved by the openness and depth of emotion in his music. “Forever Young” is an incredibly beautiful album, and I really hope succeeds in bringing a new audience to Skaroulis’ music. It will be available from  on August 1, 2005, and , and   as well as other retail outlets on September 20, 2005. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions.



Beyond City Lights

by Jon Jenkins

Visit Spotted Peccary's website

 Jon Jenkins has many albums to his credit, including “Flow” and “Continuum” which I feel marks his success in the ambient market.  He has worked with such notable names as David Helping, Paul Lackey and Jeff Pearce.

His style is self described as “Ambient – Electronic Esoterica” and I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes bordering on classical with an electronic touch, sometimes almost space music, sometimes a touch of jazz, Jon Jenkins has created a style within a style of music making his compositions unique in a genera that is typically identified as a “non-descript” style of music. 

This CD is not the usual “ambient” production in that it is not meant to be soft and non-intrusive as much ambient is.  This CD is meant to be turned up and listened to… this is a “feel the music” CD that will leave you wanting more.  Jon Jenkins takes ambient to new ground here with some very powerful compositions.  There are ten tracks all deserving of serious consideration.

The first track “The Calling” offers space synth and ethereal vocals that rises and fall to rise again in a progression piece.   Filled with emotional stanzas, this piece could be considered an introduction to the balance of the work.

The first piece works into the second piece called “Zzyzx Road”.  This is keyboard with synth backfill that provides a lovely composition, both strong and emotional.  A very lovely melody is carried throughout the piece, making this a memorable track in a place where melody is not always memorable, but usually intentionally abstract.  This is a very remarkable composition giving ambient music a definition. 

“Through City Light” returns to the spacey electronica with a clearly identifiable beat and a hint of keyboard melody that tickles the mind as it sweeps you into the mood.  More of a “jazzy” feeling emerges but never dominates, giving this again a very unique feel.  Another powerful and emotion filled composition. 

At this point the pace changes.  “Secrets of the Virgin” is a softer composition that drifts in and out of stronger changeovers.   We are introduced to an almost romantic composition that seduces you into a calmer place within yourself and explodes into “sexy” vocalizations emphasized by a clearly defined, often orgasmic beat against a keyboard composition that sweeps you off your feet.   It will lull you into that calm place and back into the ecstatic beat several times over the course of the composition before allowing you to finally rest.

“Legacy” allows us to travel with the music as it lifts us up with keyboard chords suggesting melody, but it is the demanding beat that moves our feet.   We stop momentarily to linger in a soft explosion of sound and emotion only to move on again with the beat to the next destination this composition takes us to before allowing you to come finally to rest.

“Deep sleep and Dying Embers” is another change of pace, providing a very calming composition, drifting in and out of the mind.  Soft, very subtle and very delightful, allowing us a period of relaxation.

We then are called upon to enjoy an almost spiritual composition in “The Source”.  Suggestions of flute, keyboard, ghostly vocals, powerful musical phrases and strong waves of sound build and wash over you as you allow this piece to move you to another level. 

Then there are the delightful fields to wander in “Sky of Surrender”.  Again, this suggests an almost classical feel to the composition, but never gives into it.  We are allowed a feeling of vastness, a never ending horizon that this composition reaches out towards, but it never limits itself to one space.  This is a composition that follows the phrasing of the music, not a beat, and is expertly executed allowing us to drift with the music rather than forcing us to follow.

“Through Different Eyes” gives us a short, powerful burst of energy with a delightful composition drifting in a strong emotional background.  The melody is never lost, as the background seems to force the melody to the front of the piece.  Drifting over all this is a lovely vocal accompaniment to the melody that harmonizes rather than distracts.  Again, another composition that calls for our attention, rather than allowing itself to settle into the background.

The final track “Forever” caps this CD with another composition that declares open space rather than limited boundaries.  This piece is strong, bold and yet is not contained by a beat.  The phrases reach out and grab our attention; keyboard blends with synth and vocals to demand we pay attention, and then carries us over the vastness of the composition.  The ending of the journey comes with a feeling of timelessness and endless space. 

The compositions never become dark or monotonous.  There is a definite feeling of uplifting, of carrying you along with the music, so you do not encounter any blockages or distractions to the enjoyment of the compositions.  This is a CD to be listened to and enjoyed, rather than pushed to the background as
“mood music”.

Jon Jenkins weaves a patchwork of styles and compositions which are not only pleasing as a whole to the ear, but also calls our attention to each piece individually to truly appreciate the blending of styles and textures that create the entire CD.  This is not ambient music for the background, but rather it demands we pay attention to the music and allow ourselves to be pulled into it to truly appreciate the works as well as the journey the artist is presenting to us.  This is a lovely and masterful effort that should not be overlooked and should be part of your ambient collection.  And if you have never heard Jon Jenkins’ work before, this is a great introduction to the talent of this artist. mafoster

Reviewed by MA Foster



by Mark Ciaburri

Visit Real Music's website

 A very interesting presentation, “One” is one track, put together by various artists on the “Real Music” label.  The talents of Bruce Becvar on acoustic guitar, Daniel Paul on tablas and tamboura, Ginny Morgan on cello and harp, Jazlyn Woods on oboe and English horn, John Zangrando on alto/bass flutes, Mark Ciaburri on keyboards and percussion and The Angeles Choir of Maui providing the vocals all blend together to produce one long piece of ambient streams.

The combination of instruments is unique, creating a crossroad somewhere between East and West, going back and forth, and sometimes blending perfectly.  There does not appear to be an obvious melody, but rather the melodies vary, each progressing on the last, never sounding out of place but never sounding contrived.

The CD booklet carries the message the composition intends to convey:  “Don’t just do something, sit there.” – Osho

However, in listening to the piece, while intended for meditation, massage, yoga or other such pastime, I felt the composition should be listened to for the quality of the work, the blending of the styles and the beauty of the melodies and their progression.  There is a calling in the piece, asking you to also consider the emotion that is conveyed.  Yes, there is energy in this composition.  It is restrained in some places, but allowed to surface and be felt in others. 

There is a remarkable blending of different instruments in this composition.  Guitar and cello, flute and oboe, harp and horn all against a background of tablas and tamboura and percussion.  Each instrument has a chance to be heard, expertly played by each of the artists, and then they blend with another, coming together as one as a complete “orchestra” to emerge again and be heard individually or with another instrument.  It is a wall of sound softening to a single voice coming back to wrap you in the total experience again.

Softly, this could play in the background to whatever work you are doing.  However, in a pair of headphones, this music can be a powerful experience.  Turned up on your stereo this will fill a room with energy.  It can sooth, it can distract.  The soft harmonies lull you into a quiet place, only to have your ear pick up on a momentary melody or a poignant beat.  

The artists are well known in the ambient community.  Mark Ciaburri is the composer of this piece.  His time spent with Indian teachers and the various musical influences of the 60s are evident in this composition.  His own musical background flavors the work, with touches of jazz and classical mixed into the hour of music. 

But without the varied talents of Bruce Becvar, Ginny Morgan,  Jazlyn Woods, John Zangrando or Daniel Paul, this could have come out sounding like so much blended noise.  This is a tribute to their remarkable talents to interpret the piece so expertly and not end up with so much mush which it could easily have digressed to.  And The Angles Choir of Maui blends so well with the composition that they emerge quietly, allowing you to suddenly notice them and then they vanish, to resurface again to the delight of the listener.

While intended for quiet work, this piece contains more energy than that and deserves to be placed up front to be appreciated rather than take for granted.  While it may be meditative in nature, it is more so for the artist than the listener.  This is more a piece to be listened to and enjoyed. 

But whatever you do with it, it will be happily added to your collection of ambient/world music to be enjoyed again and again.  This is a very lovely presentation of the composition skills of Mark Ciaburri and the talents of some very remarkable artists. mafoster

Reviewed by MA Foster




by Akumu

Visit Spider Records' website

 Deane Hughes of Akumu has a particular talent for manipulating sound sources into fascinating and new shapes and forms.  His release from Last year, "Fluxes", was a complex exploration of field recordings made during a trip to South America which were manipulated and woven into an intricate tapestry of abstract sound.  

With the release of his latest disc "Magmas", Deane continues to explore the sonic riches from his travels, but takes a more pulse/beat driven approach rather than the free form nature of "Fluxes".  With it's use of percussive and drone elements, "Magmas" presents itself as a travelogue of new environments, an unbroken flow of sound and fluidity suggesting both alien landscapes and more familiar terrain.  Tracks slowly bleed into eachother, a constant parade of images and soundscapes that shift naturally from one into another in a slow but steady stream. 

A brief vocal track, "Maximon", opens the disc, leading into "Evolute"

featuring a wave pattern that sweeps in and out interspersed with a simultaneously hypnotic and beautiful metallic noise pattern.  "Come for Festival?" shifts the tone subtly, adding a more percussive element to the sounds of metal that play throughout.  As the song progresses tones become more frenetic in nature, eventually reaching a fever pitch of scraping and whirring before returning to a sense of calm.  "Imitated" follows using a shifting rhythm overtop an oscillating drone, gradually building in complexity and intensity.  "Aguanatural" employs fluid sources as a backdrop for a mesmerizing repeated percussive pattern, an overall effect that brings to mind the work of musique concrete artiste Aube given his preoccupation with water and its charms. "Alarma" is a hypnotic and beautiful piece using a siren-like oscillation underneath an almost playful percussive undercurrent.  "Landscape XIX" has a windtunnel quality to it, a struggling almost choked percussive pattern that works in contrast to the steady pulse of the underlying drone.  This pulse eventually gives way to "Arrythmica" which has a certain manic energy to its percussive elements ultimately leading the listener to the cool chill of "And other isms", which closes the disc with a pulsing wave pattern.  

Without doubt "Magmas" is a release which firmly establishes Deane as a master of the shaping and creation of sonic environments.  It's an engaging and thoughtful release which solidifies Akumu's position as a truly innovative project and Deane's standing as a distinct and important artist in the experimental genre.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rik at Pink Things. Reprinted on Ambient Visions


Body Cage

by Aidan Baker

Visit Aidan Baker's website

 "Body Cage", the latest release by Aidan Baker's project Nadia, is a fascinating piece of work influenced by the condition Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, a rare illness where muscles and connective tissue slowly turn to bone ultimately causing immobility.  By way of slowly buidling tension, a sense of dread and unease, the disc succinctly and  powerfully captures the fear of one's body slowly becoming a prison.   

Powerful and emotive, "Body Cage" is most certainly an example of uneasy listening. 

"Clinodactyl" begins the disc, a slow expansion from minimal sound sources gradually building in strength as the song progresses, ultimately becoming a wall of sound, a dark monolith of droning feedback and percussion.  It's a frightening piece, but a truly beautiful one nonetheless. 

"Autosomal" follows, opening with a writhing snake-like piece of guitar work playing overtop a sparse hi hat rhythm that gradually evolves into a percussive barrage.  As I listen to it I can't help but feel this is a track that truly captures a feeling of claustrophobia, one that encapsulates all the fears inherent in that state of mind. Chilling. 

The final track "Ossification" begins with a repeated arpegio loop and an alternately climbing and receding drone.  As the piece progresses, tones shift and mutate around eachother, weaving and interplaying in subtle ways to become something completely different from it's original component pieces. 

Throughtout the disc, one can't help but feel the gradual loss of control of the body, the slow imprisonment that comes from progression, a sense of sheer helplessness.  Aidan Baker has proven himself in the past to have a tremendous ability to create music that leads his listeners in terms of sensation and experience.  With "Body Cage" he has progressed beyond that level of talent and added a physical component as well.  Truly a moving and emotional work from a master manipulator of the senses.

Reviewed by Rik at Pink Things. Reprinted on Ambient Visions


On Water

by Ben Cox

Visit Ben Cox's website

"On Water" by Ben Cox is a lovely recording filled with fluid drones and vivid imagery.

Sparse and darkly beautiful in its use of sound, Cox has created a work that envelopes the listener in a liquid embrace.  A wonderful example of the expressiveness of dark ambience, and a fine example of the emotionality of drones. 

"Anhinga" opens the disc with a beautiful blend of simple guitar and piano notes played overtop a droning background.  "Merganser" follows, a dark ambient drone coupled with distorted guitar and minimal vocals weaving throughout to create a stunning piece.

"Willet" returns the disc to brighter territories, a synthesis of piano and field recordings matched with high bell tones.  There's a sense of hope and renewal to this track, discovery and possibility despite the threat of oncoming rain.  And really, who can't use a little more hope?  Track four, "Gannet", is a spiralling piece that gives a sense of movement and fluidity around a centre or fixed point, growing as time passes, gaining clarity and form as the piece progresses.  Very powerful and very beautiful.  The fifth piece on the disc, "Grebe", continues along the brighter path of ambience, with small arpegios and bright flourishes interspersed throughout a steady drone.  "Plover" follows, a series of pads mingling and entwining with an ebbing and flowing pulse.  Trumpet swells throughout adding an organic quality to the track, the feeling of a living organism.  "Pray for Rain" closes the disc, light hand percussion playing throughout the piece overtop slight synth patterns.

A stirring, fluid track to close the disc.  Wonderful. 

Without doubt, "On Water" is an impressive collection of drone-based work, a series of pieces that cover a wide range of emotions and environments.  Highly recommended for the obvious fans of drones and dark ambience, and for those who enjoy the creation of new and distinct environments.  Beautiful work.

Reviewed by Rik at Pink Things. Reprinted on Ambient Visions


Return Home