Reviews 06-14-2008

Music Reviews 

 

   

Poesis Athesis

by Robert Scott Thompson

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This CD is the debut release of Robert Scott Thompson on the Lens Records label and gives fans of Robert's music a chance to see him stretch out into some other genres including elements of electronica, some ethnic influences and a tribute to French composer Erik Satie. The music that has been culled here on this CD was originally written as the soundtrack to a series of video releases created by Terrence Dunn who also happened to be an admirer of Robert's work.  

Robert is no stranger to most folks who have listened to ambient music over the years with more than 30 releases worldwide under his belt. And yet when I listen to each CD that comes across my desk here at Ambient Visions I like to hear it as an individual release and evaluate it on its own merits and not immediately compare it to everything else an artist has released in the past. I guess this attitude can be summed up quite succinctly with the expression  "what have you done for me lately". This in no way denigrates the artist's previous efforts in any way but each time I put a CD into my player I am looking for a pleasing sonic experience and if I don't find one then it won't matter how many great CD's this artist has put out in the past or how much I enjoyed the last CD they released because I wouldn't be able to recommend their latest CD because it did not stand on its own two feet as a great release.  

With that said I really enjoyed listening to Poesis Athesis and I do believe that this release while being different that what you might expect from Robert it is still a soothing musical experience that leaves the listener relaxed and in a contemplative state of mind by the time you get to the last track. But considering that these tracks were meant to work with the videos teaching Chi Kung or Qigong it is understandable that the music would be gentle and comfortable. Robert's keyboards tend to permeate the compositions creating rich soundscapes that draw the listener into each composition allowing them to think about what they are hearing and at the same time allowing the mind to relax its grip on the world. This gives the active listener something they can put on and enjoy while doing nothing else but enjoying the music. It also is unintrusive enough that a person can put it on in the background while doing other activities but still from time to time find themselves drawn to  a particular song that catches their attention momentarily.  

I would call the music on Poesis Athesis mysterious and brooding at times but it never sinks into a darkness so deep that you feel like you are being overwhelmed by the darkness of the compositions. I guess there is a fine line between being dark and just being very introspective. While the songs have been created for a variety of video productions it appears that they have all been chosen so that they form a cohesive vision of where the music should lead the listener. While each song is a unique composition the 13 tracks on this CD work well together and don't jar the listener out of their introspective frame of mind as the music shifts from track to track. As you listen to track number 1 called Paradigm as Supergenre you might think that I wasn't listening to the music as I wrote this review but even with the rhythms and the drums it still maintains an atmosphere that stays consistent with the rest of the CD. The rhythms continue through track 3 before breaking into a more laid back sound that depends more on the piano than it does on the drums.  

In short this CD encompasses many themes and explores them individually while the structure of the CD as a whole creates and maintains an environment that allows the listener to enter in to the landscape and be a participant in their minds if they so choose or  it also allows them to simply watch from a distance as the scenery moves by in a constantly changing collage of harmonics deftly woven together by Robert to put the listener into a meditative state of mind. Even the more rhythmic oriented pieces won't pull the listener too far out of this frame of mind and that is always an important consideration when putting together a CD such as this. No one likes to be drifting along taking in a peaceful sonic landscape and suddenly be yanked back or jarred out of this state by a song that just doesn't fit. All in all this CD is a fine addition to Robert's catalog of work and even if you don't know of Robert's work at all this would be a good stand alone CD to add to your collection. While it may not be indicative of Robert's overall work it still works beautifully as a single CD. A great debut by Robert on the Lens Records label and I'm sure this relationship will yield other CD's in the coming years. Recommended CD.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor of Ambient Visions

 

Moments Musicaux

by Lesley Spencer

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Composer Lesley Spencer has created a solo piano masterpiece with “Moments Musicaux,” her tenth full-length CD, which also commemorates the tenth anniversary of her indie label, Gabriella Music. Ms Spencer utilizes her vast musical training and experience to effortlessly bridge the classical and contemporary genres with music that is sometimes light and playful and sometimes very dark and haunting, with other pieces somewhere in between - much like life itself. The sixteen pieces are complex enough to satisfy the discerning classical music aficionado but still accessible and melodic enough for the more casual listener who wants some great music to relax and unwind with. The title of the album recalls a suite of pieces by 19th century composer Franz Schubert, and like Schubert’s beloved collection, this album contains a variety of moods and musical tales about life and the characters in it. Charming and compelling, I think this is Spencer’s strongest work to date. 

The first musical moment is “Dance of Life,” a piece that swirls and spins with energy and excitement. With only a few pauses to catch its breath, this pieces just keeps moving. “Child’s Play” brims over with such lighthearted innocence that you can almost hear children laughing in the background. One of my favorites is “Fellini Waltz,” a wonderful minor key tribute that is compelling, ironic, and very Italian - much like the filmmaker who inspired it. “The Lost Baby” is a tragic piece that goes right to the heart with its emotionally wrenching melody and haunting mood. “Ode to Harry Potter” is another favorite. Mysterious, lively, and energetic, it captures the spirit of the boy wizard. “Piano Suite II” is a group of five shorter pieces. “Morning Edition” is frenetic, describing the rush of the morning commute and getting the day started in a big city. “Scherzo,” which means “joke,” is lively, playful, and full of fun. “Little Jazz Waltz” is a carefree little dance. “Rainy Day Theme” is wistful and dreamy. And then “Force of Nature” storms in, turning everything dark and mysterious. “Waltz For Keegan” is a tender waltz written for a friend’s son who died of leukemia a few years ago at the age of eight. It’s a beautiful remembrance. 

I should probably mention that I had the opportunity to edit the piano sheet music for this collection before I heard the finished CD, and the music is as much of a joy to play as it is to listen to. “Moments Musicaux” is available from www.lesleyspencer.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions

 

East Wind

by Timothy Cooper

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“East Wind” is one of two solo piano CDs released simultaneously by Timothy Cooper (the other is “Light on the Water”). “East Wind” is a fascinating collection of thirty short (from 43 seconds to 3 1/2 minutes) piano pieces that were composed as a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and recorded on a concert grand piano. Open and a bit on the dark (but not brooding) side, this is music caught in the moment of creation by an artist who has been involved in music his whole life. Cooper’s musical career began as a soprano in various boys choirs that recorded albums and toured the US and abroad. As a teenager, he studied sitar until he took up piano as a student at The American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Over the years, Cooper developed his own style of improvisational composition, and finally began recording his music later in 2001. Most of the pieces on “East Wind” are quiet and intimate, with the feeling of vast, deep space. There is nothing harsh or flamboyant about the music, and it works well with full attention or as a backdrop for other activities. From Cooper’s website: "I love the piano's ability to create oceanic sound—a great wash of sustained sound that can seem at once infinite and intimate, with no borders or boundaries--only the presence of being... Sometimes my music has no definable beginnings, no absolute endings: only waves upon waves of sound headed as if for all shores, as in the music of dreams.” Many improvised albums do not hold together well with repeated plays, but this one does, revealing more about the music as well as the composer each time. Most of these musical vignettes have nature themes and their brevity is impressionistic like watercolor paintings or gesture drawings. Many have no distinct beginnings or endings, yet the CD is solid and consistent as a whole entity. Each little piece is distinct and unique, yet each is a part of the mood, expression, and experience of the whole. I highly recommend “East Wind” especially to those who enjoy music that is a bit more experimental and slightly edgy. It is available from www.new-piano-age.com, amazon.com, iTunes, and cdbaby.com.

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions

 

Light on the Water

by Timothy Cooper

Visit Timothy's  website

 

“Light On the Water” is one of two solo piano CDs released simultaneously by Timothy Cooper (the other is “East Winds”). Dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and recorded on a concert grand piano, the nineteen pieces on this album are improvisational compositions that are introspective, a bit on the dark side, and very intimate. Where the pieces on “East Wind” were mostly very short, these are somewhat longer and more developed, with time to explore the various themes that involve nature and aspects of the human experience while reflecting on the events of that fateful day. Each of these freeform gems is unique yet becomes part of a beautiful whole, creating a mood that stays fairly consistent throughout the album. Most of the music is on the quiet side with no flash or harshness although some of the harmony is unusual in places. Several of these pieces have more energy than those on “East Wind,” but none of them is flamboyant. Somewhat edgy and deeply personal, Timothy Cooper brings a fresh new voice to the solo piano genre. 

The CD opens with one of two versions of “Worldscapes,” a piece with a gently rocking rhythm on the left hand and a more improvised, freeform right hand. Both peaceful and questioning, it’s an auspicious beginning. “Solar Nights” is very atmospheric - mysterious with a feeling of vast open space. “Soundings” is one of my favorites, exploring a variety of musical moods that are mostly calming, but become stormy and dark in places. “Curve of Madness” is more turbulent and agitated, as its title implies, but is beautiful in its own way. “Open Soul” is one of the more melodic pieces, beginning with a whisper and building with the variations on the melody - richly compelling. “A Quiet Urgency” is more energetic, but doesn’t lose the peaceful mood of the album. The title track is another favorite with its grace and hypnotic flow. (There is a music video of this piece on Cooper’s website www.new-piano-age.com.) “Glad Sorrows” reflects the strange mix of emotions we all felt in the weeks following 9/11. I also really like “Ribbons of Starlight,” a gorgeous piece full of longing and hope. “Advent” is a lovely theme for that most-forgiving season of the year. Pensive and intimate, it brings the CD to a quiet close. 

“Light On the Water” is excellent from start to finish. Edgy and experimental, this is music captured at the moment of its creation, inspired by events that changed all of our lives forever. It is available from www.new-piano-age.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions

 

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