Reviews 09-01-2013

Music Reviews 



Day of Life

by Bernward Koch

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Bernward Koch's new album is called Day of Life and as you listen to the first few songs it feels like talking to a dear friend who has been away for awhile on vacation but has now returned home with stories of the many places he has visited while he was traveling. Bernward's music is very much like those travel stories as he narrates with his music what he has learned and seen and felt since the last time he had talked to us. His latest album from Real Music called Day of Life finds Bernward sitting down to talk to us again and sharing 13 new stories that recounts what he has been up to since the release of his last album Silent Star.

Bernwardís music is first and foremost a journey that starts with the goal of peace set out before it. The music envelopes the listener in a covering of calming energy and reassures them that for the next hour they can let go of all those pressing issues that had been at the front of their minds when the music started. His compositions are expressive songs that reach deep into a personís spirit and reminds them as the title of this album suggests that today is the Day of Life and to not find joy in each day is truly a sad situation.

While there are some additional musical instruments on this album played by some very fine musicians it is Bernwardís piano that is almost always in the spotlight on this collection of songs. Bernward plays piano, keyboards, synthesizer, melodica, guitar, bass, glockenspiel, cymbals and a gong. And yet when you finish this album you will remember Bernwardís gentle piano playing and his light touch on the keyboard above all else with the other instruments acting mainly as beacons pointing towards his keyboard work. You become very aware of how much Bernward has mastered his instrument of choice and that everything was recorded and mixed to shine the light very brightly upon the intimate and inviting music that pours forth from his piano which is sure to wend its way into your heart.

Some of my favorite stories from this album are Lonely Road, Morning Silence, Passing Clouds and Peaceful Childhood. While Bernward does not break new ground with this album he does show that it is not always necessary to go running in search of the next new thing when the music he is composing is of such a high caliber. He has created a musical landscape that is filled with his heartfelt playing that overflows with gentle but deep emotion. Bernward displays impressive musicianship with his playing and with his compositions on this latest release which is more than enough reason for me to recommend Day of Life for those who are looking for some soothing music to take the edge off of a rough day. Relax. Enjoy.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor Ambient Visions


Daytime Dreamer

by Omar Akram

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Omar Akram's 5th album Daytime Dreamer is due out in September 2013 and once again he presents us with a wonderfully diverse pallette of compositions ranging from the tender romantic song Love of My Heart to the Spanish tinged Last Dance. Omar is not one to relax after winning the Grammy for Best New Age Album at the 2012 Grammy ceremonies but instead follows Echoes of Love with another great album the very next year. Omar's musical sensibilities have allowed him to create music that touches a variety of emotions in the listeners that have discovered his albums over the past 11 years and with each new album he seems to hone those sensibilities to a very sharp razor's edge.  

While I would not classify all of the music that is found on Daytime Dreamer as soft and gentle love songs I would say that romance and love are ultimately behind each of the compositions on this new album. The music sets the stage, the lights go down and the listener finds themselves being wooed by Omar's melodic piano playing that immediately conveys a sense of tenderness and an intimacy with each and every note. Shakespeare once said "the course of true love never did run smooth" and at times I feel that Omar's music speaks to those times when his compositions turn a little reflective as he looks at what it takes to make a relationship endure through all of the good and bad times that will come up against a long term love. His music covers the gamut on this album from the celebratory song called Downpour to the introspective song called The Promise.  

Omar has discovered how to convey an emotional message with each of his compositions and he opens his heart to the listener and reveals all the truths that can be found there in each of his songs. In the final analysis his music comes from a personal place deep within and that is what makes his music so compelling as you listen. It also helps that Omar has surrounded himself with musicians who complement his piano/synthesizer playing with instruments that become part of the tapestry that Omar is weaving. Omar has proven time and time again that he is a consumate pianist who can skillfully bring his compositions to life.  

Daytime Dreamer is a fitting follow up to the grammy award winning Echoes of Love and will in and of itself garner even more acclaim for Omar's keyboard playing and for his songs that routinely throw open the shutters of the heart to reveal all that lies within. As a composer there is nothing you'd like to do more than to embed your emotions in each and every song you write and I can attest that Omar has done that with each of the 11 songs that you will find on this new album.  I think that if I had to choose a song off of this album to call my favorite it would have to be The Promise which is a peaceful song that is filled with rich emotions that invoke a feeling of delicate innoncence that we all have when we first fall in love. The piano is front and center on this mix as it should be but there is a soft synthesizer string section that frames his piano playing and makes it even more indicative of the emotions that it has called forth. Add to that the violin which appears on this track and on Love of My Heart and it makes this song a perfect haven for a heart that is deeply in love wishing only to revel in the beloved's prescence.  

Omar Akram's Daytime Dreamer is a great album that allows the listener to explore a side of themselves that is too often hidden in the day to day pressures of our 21st century world. All too often we are not encouraged to explore our softer sides but instead are told to look out for number one. Omar Akram's music encourages us to open our hearts to one another and share our love with another human being fully and completely. Whether you completely agree with this assessment or not you will find the songs contained on this new album to be an emotional voyage which will lead you to a place where you will see for yourself what Omar was trying to commumicate to you through his music. Anyway you look at it the voyage is one worth taking and the destination is simply to be more open to love in your life. Good job Omar.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor Ambient Visions


Path of the Divine

by  Rajendra Teredesai

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Rajendra Teredesai's second Real Music album was released earlier this year and again Rajendra is exploring his connections with the divine while inviting us all to join him as fellow pilgrims on this journey. He has accomplished this through the 10 songs that he has composed for this album which help to clear the clutter from our minds and thereby allows our hearts to make the connection with our spiritual nature and the divine. Path of the Divine runs a little over 73 minutes so there is ample time for the listener who is seeking to open themselves up to the deeper movements of the spirit to establish the correct frame of mind to do so. Rajendraís music setís an introspective atmosphere for the listener as they begin their inward journey. Most of the songs are oriented around his masterfully played flute and although there are some other instruments/voices accompanying him they never interfere or overpower the atmosphere that Rajendra has created with this album.

The music on this album is relaxing and calming while creating an otherworldly air in the mind of the listener allowing them to step out of their day to day lives and immerse themselves in the sound palette that Rajendra has laid down in these songs. The recording quality of this project is top notch and has captured the quiet nuances of the flute that Rajendra plays. The recording was especially well mixed when it came to the subtle instruments that are in the background of this recording by allowing them to be clearly heard in the music but never to the point that the meditative state was broken or disturbed by these peripheral instruments. The song called Samarpan is a wonderful example of how these songs are so enhanced by what they have chosen to mix into the background. The track opens with the sound of water flowing, a steady synth note that lays the foundation for everything else and then a bell (bowl) that rings  a couple of times before Rajendraís flute begins and the song is immediately transformed into a beautiful, inspiring piece that is a perfect example of what this album is all about. This song clocks in at 8:55 making it the longest composition on this album which also allows the listener to fully enter into the song (state of mind) or even put it on repeat and stay in the song (state of mind) for a few cycles.

This album continues to showcase why Rajendra has been one of the leading flute maestros in India and also serves as a second introduction to those of us who are just becoming aware of his playing through his Real Music releases here in the states. Rajendra has woven a musical tapestry that pulls the listener in and allows them to go deeper into a state of tranquility through his evocative simplicity. The music has the ability to function on a couple of levels for the listener. The music can be put on in the ambient sense and it will not intrude into whatever task you are pursuing whether that means being spiritually quiet or as background for some other activity that you need to take care of. It can also be actively listened to which will surprise the listener as to how much there is to actually hear in the songs if you pay attention. When you listen at a surface level you may miss some of the more subtle elements that make up this album. That would be a shame to miss.

All in all I was pleased with my second exposure to Rajendraís music on Path of the Divine and its emotional texture was something that lay just below the surface of the compositions and was an unexpected surprise. He was able to paint majestic strokes with his music that in the end rendered a marvelous canvas of compositions that were well-structured and showed the impressive musicianship that Rajendra possesses. While he may not be all that well known here in the states his heartfelt playing and his ability to communicate deeply to his listeners will surely endear him to a new audience before you know it.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor Ambient Visions


Cranium Fizz

by  Richard Bone

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Richard Boneís music has been entertaining me for more than a decade here at Ambient Visions and his talent to delve into a wide variety of styles continually amazes me as each new release seems to head off in a different direction. Some artists may end up being predictable and their music never varies all that much from album to album but I guarantee that this is not the case for Richard. From pure ambient to bossa nova flavored music to Latin tinged releases Richard has chosen to follow his own musical muse regardless of where it may lead him and I say go for it Richard!

For those who may not know this Richard was the 3rd artist to be interviewed here on Ambient Visions and we have had a great friendship ever since that time. And of course we canít forget to mention Marleen Kingsley who has been a loyal fan of Richardís music since forever; webmistress for Richard and a supporter of Ambient Visions from the word go. I canít seem to think about one of them without thinking about both of them. I started listening to Richardís music back when he was releasing Electropica, Ascensionism and Coxa on his Quirkworks label and I fell in love with his delightful style and his ability to consistently turn out great music.

His latest release is called Cranium Fizz and again Richard is leading us into new and interesting areas of his imagination. Richard has thrown an interesting twist into this release by putting it out on vinyl instead of CD. Of course if you buy the EP you will also receive the digital files of the four songs on this EP along with your vinyl copy. It has been 30 years since Richard has released a vinyl anything and according to a note that I got from him when he sent me the digital files for this release the pressing process hasnít gotten any easier with time. I enjoyed the title of the EP right off the bat. Cranium Fizz. Richardís music has always had an effervescence about it that seems to go right to your head, sort of like champagne, as you listen so the title is right on in that regards. A little aside here is that the digital files are labeled A1, A2, B1, B2 which hearkens back to when you designated songs as being either on Side A of the record or Side B of the record. This brought back a lot of memories of getting up to turn an album over to hear the other side when I finished the side I was listening to. Of course it has been claimed by sound purists that vinyl dynamic range is much greater than the clipped music that appears on CD and this is your chance to try out that theory for yourself with this new release.

I normally would say in one of my reviews that I had a favorite song or two on any given album but on this EP with only four songs I will have to say that I like them all. As you might expect The Dream Lounge is the only song that I would deem to be quiet and definitely on the chill side of Richardís repertoire but even chilled out such as it is it still provides the listener with a gentle beat and a peacefully rolling rhythm. Cranium Fizz is one of those songs that immediately takes me back to when I first heard Richardís music as it is playful in nature and keeps your foot tapping throughout the entire song. The music of Cranium Fizz is bright, uplifting and swirls around you as you are instantly engaged by the captivating compositions that Richard has brought together for this EP. Richard is a highly talented individual and he manages to hit the target with each release that he sends out into the world. If there was anything that I would wish for in regards to Cranium Fizz is that I wish it would have been longer. Otherwise Cranium Fizz is a sonic delight and listening to it was like coming home to a familiar place after you have been away for a while. Great work Richard and I wait to see what you will do next.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor Ambient Visions