Reviews 12-10-2000

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Sorcerer Stearns Sunsinger album cover


by Michael Stearns

and Ron Sunsinger

Spotted Pecarry Website

Both Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger testify, in the liner notes to this recording, that they have been deeply influenced by the writings of the late Carlos Castaneda. For those not familiar with this long series of books, Castaneda, beginning in the '60s, documented his experiences (whether fictional or "real," no one knows for sure) with a group of Native American shamans and sorcerers in the Southwest. Under the tutelage of "Don Juan," a master shaman, Castaneda takes the sacred psychedelic drugs and eventually learns to enter into "non-ordinary reality," the weird inner world of shamanism.

This album is a tribute to Castaneda, an attempt to embody the atmosphere, imagery, and mood of these books in sound. The mysterious electronic tones of Stearns' synthesizers, both sustained and percussive, are mixed with environmental sounds of birds, animals, insects, wind, thunder, and other things which feature prominently in the Castaneda books (especially the cawing of crows, who are magical birds). There are also passages of Native American chanting, shamanic rattles and drumming.

The feeling throughout the album is surrealistic and dark, and mostly slow-paced. Except for the last cut, which features a shamanic song, there is no melody and not many recognizable chords, either. Stearns, in his work on DESERT SOLITAIRE, used atonal drones to evoke the heat and desolation of the Southwest desert, and he uses them again here. In many passages, though, the special sound-effects take precedence over any musical material, and it comes to resemble a movie soundtrack where the listener, whether he/she has read the Castaneda books or not, must supply both the images and the story.

Hannah M.G. Shapero 12/9/00


Magical Healing Mantras Namaste album cover

Magical Healing Mantras

by Namaste

New Earth Records

The power of a verbalized mantra is in it's vibration, which has a profound effect on the body. When a mantra is sung, as is intended, it becomes a chant. Chanting facilitates meditation because it opens the heart and quiets the mind. It is always devotional singing. The three most common kinds of chanting are: Kirtan, a repetitive call and response singing; bhajan, poems to god that are said to music and written by realized beings; and concert, which is like any other musical concert but the instruments are Indian and the words are often in sanskrit.

New Earth Records Magical Healing Mantras by Namaste is a brilliant collection of seven mantras. Each mantra is recorded five to ten minutes in length. Twenty two vocalists accompany seven instrumental musicians. Guitars, flutes, sitars, tablas and a tarang are the instruments used to create a memorable Eastern and Western fusion sound that is, at once, exotic and familiar. The sound of the voices and the instrumental music flow together like the current of a river opening into the sea. The singers maintain a beautiful and sometimes haunting clarity while harmonizing seamlessly with the instrumental music. Though the lyrics are in sanskrit, the music cannot be defined or even characterized by any one culture. It is a true collaboration of individuals consciously choosing to unite as an eclectic group to serve a single intent.

The most important information to remember is that weather you choose to sing along or simply listen, the inherent healing power released by these mantras is unconditional and highly contagious.

 Reviewed by Jenna Robbert


Colors Of Trance 
by James Asher

and Madeline Doherty

New Earth Records

Each of the twelve pieces on the aptly titled Colors of Trance is a dreamy interpretation of a color, such as "Emerald," "Red," or "Magenta." The production joins the diverse talents of keyboardist/programmer James Asher with Madeleine Doherty playing electric and acoustic concert harps. "Olive" features some hot licks on the frame drum played by rhythm whiz Glen Velez, while Asher's insistent trance-patter programming keeps the piece jumping and jiving. "Yellow" mellows out with an easier swing, yet "Gold" heats things back up with racing, conga-driven snatches of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The watery "Emerald" opens with a swoosh of harp glissandi and choirs, while "Red" concocts a camel-caravan-meets-Romper-Room sound, so don your belly dance attire. Doherty has the last say, closing the album with a sublime harp solo and plaintive vocal on "Peace Song." The overall effect of the set is quite delightful; it's pure innocence touched with fun.

 Carol Wright -Barnes & Noble

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