Reviews 07-01-2007

Music Reviews 

 

   

Treasure

by David Helpling
and Jon Jenkins

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Even though Jon and David have been very successful with their music on an individual level for many years now this pairing was a perfect match of their musical abilities and their production sensibilities to create a blending of their talents into a collection of music that doesn’t seem like two individuals working together but rather the two speaking with a single voice through the music contained on this CD. Due to their schedules this project has been in the works for about 6 years now but as you listen to the music there is not even a hint that some parts were recorded a few years back and some more recently. This again points up the professionalism of these two artists in maintaining the same quality in their compositions from beginning to end regardless of the passage of time between the start and the finish of this project.  

Treasure was released on the Spotted Peccary label in mid June of 2007 and even though it has been several years in the making this release does not disappoint. Spotted Peccary has been releasing some great music since it was formed and this CD is certainly no exception to that tradition. Jon and David have created a sonic world on Treasure that is equal parts serene space drifts with luxurious synths suspending the listener in a peaceful environment and the more cinematic pieces that soar with rich and emotional music pulling the listener along for the ride. 

 In many of the songs echoes of Jon’s guitar are heard as it accents and gives an anchor to the gentle synths and allows the listener to have something to hold onto during the more ethereal portions of the songs . One of my favorite tracks on Treasure that highlights this very well is one called Not a Soul Not a Sound and at 10:30 is one of the longer songs on this CD. The length of this song works to the advantage of the overall piece as it gives Jon and David a chance to explore in depth the environment that they have created and it allows the listener to become more submersed in the sonic journey they have embarked upon. 

The opening song of the CD is called Grand Collision and will give you a feel for the rhythmic elements that Jon and David have blended into this project with as much skill as they have put forth in creating the lusher synth oriented sections of the CD.  This song is begins like it is going to be an atmospheric piece but quickly asserts itself with some great percussive elements that drive the song forward. It alternates between these more in your face rhythmic elements and with the keyboards that gain their own dominance later in the song. A great song to open this collection as it immediately gives notice to the listener that this is not going to be just another space/ambient release but something else instead.  

Another song that really caught my attention was Into the Deep which is track 5 on Treasure. This song does not lean towards the ambient/space music style of things but it does create a complex soundscape with lots of things to catch and hold your attention. The guitar on this track moves a little closer to front and center at one point during this song and Jon is in great form at keeping the guitar from becoming too dominant in relation to the other elements of this composition. Again this song emphasizes the diversity of talents that exists between these two musicians and that allows them to combine their sounds in a variety of unique and interesting ways.

Treasure is an impressive start for these two individuals who joined forces to create something more than the sum of their individual talents and succeeded in a big way. While taking some of the best parts of ambient/space music and combining them with some driving rhythms and percussions Helpling and Jenkins have given the listener more than what they might have been expecting  and beyond that they have given them some glimpses of the potentials for future releases from this duo. The music on Treasure is accessible and more than that it engages the listener emotionally and through the layered approach of the keyboards, the rhythms and the guitar keeps the listener plugged in right through the last song on the CD. Great job guys. AV recommended CD.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor of Ambient Visions

 

   

Something You Dream Of...

by Denise Young

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“Something You Dream Of...” is pianist Denise Young’s second CD. Produced by Will Ackerman and recorded at his Imaginary Road Studios, Young composed seven new pieces for this project and reworked four from her previous release, “Time Alone.” The older pieces were rerecorded on a Steinway grand (rather than keyboards) and parts were composed for additional musicians. “Something You Dream Of...” has a lot of the same personnel as recent recordings by Karen Marie Garrett and Dana Cunningham, so if you like the sound of those albums, you’ll love this one, too. Eugene Friesen’s haunting cello, Jill Haley’s English horn, Steve Schuch’s violin, and Noah Wilding’s ethereal vocals enchant, but seem a bit too similar to the other two recent productions from Ackerman, inviting comparison. That said, this is a gorgeous album, and I love the music. Calming and uplifting, Young seeks to bring joy with her music. A music therapist and instructor as well as a pianist and songwriter, her playing is graceful and her music heartfelt. With Ackerman’s production skills and Corin Nelsen’s recording genius, the sound quality is warm and pristine. Only one track is solo piano from beginning to end, but this is definitely a piano album with brilliant accompanying artists.

The CD opens with “Time Alone,” a lovely flowing piece that is a piano solo for most of the first half and then becomes a haunting and introspective duet for piano and English horn. “Falling Leaves” also begins as a piano solo that evokes images of colorful leaves dancing in the wind. Steve Schuch’s violin enhances the swirling feeling of freedom. “Green Mountain Meadows” paints a picture of gentle contentment with wildflowers and long grasses swaying in the breeze. Ackerman’s guitar and T Bone Wolk’s bass add a folk song flavor. The title track is exceptional. Inspired by “The Benny Goodman Story” and Goodman’s passion for his music, it features David Weiss on clarinet. The emotions expressed really grab and hold you - a great piece! “Livia’s Song” is the only piano solo, and is a beautiful, graceful waltz. “You Were Always There” is my favorite. I love piano and cello, and Eugene Friesen is a master. This haunting piece could melt rocks and makes me say “wow!” every time I hear it. I also really like “Love Will Light Your Way,” a more upbeat and optimistic composition for piano, percussion, and bass. “West River” is a duet for piano and guitar that carries feelings of longing and of open space. “Autumn Colors” is the closing track. At almost 9 1/ 2 minutes, it takes its time to develop and evolve. Noah Wilding’s incredible voice accompanies the piano with floating, wordless vocals. The piano is Satie-like in its evocative simplicity, soothing the mind and creating dreamy images.

“Something You Dream Of...” is a wonderful listening experience and should put Denise Young high on the charts. Check it out at www.deniseyoung.com and cdbaby.com. Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions

 

   

The Regions Between

by Alpha Wave Movement

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For those of you who are not already familiar with Alpha Wave Movement let me introduce you. AWM is Gregory Kyryluk who hails from Massachusetts and whom I first became aware of when he was recording as Open Canvas on the Waveform label. He recorded two releases for Waveform entitled Nomadic Impressions and Indumani both of which impressed me with Gregory’s abilities and his musical talents. Gregory continues to release great music under his new name of Alpha Wave Movement and The Regions Between CD is no exception.  

The Regions Between is not new music that has just been composed and released this year but it is some great unreleased music that was recorded between 2001-2006 which Gregory decided to dust off and share with us on this CD. Although the music is rather diverse and covers multiple themes via the 8 tracks on this CD it is still an enjoyable trip and well worth taking. From the Ether kicks off this collection and was originally recorded back in 2004 as an introduction to a larger piece of music. From the Ether is a rather spacey sounding cut that does sound like it was leading up to something but does work rather well as a stand alone track too. Gregory uses the music to good effect as it drifts along using sparse instrumentation and some nice synth effects that fade into and out of the spotlight. The central keyboards occupy the main portion of the music which gives the song a nice open feel and as the synth effects fade into and out of the background it sounds like the wind blowing occasionally through the song.  

The Regions Between does offer the listener a diverse group of styles in regards to the music they will find here and track 2 which is called Nucleogenesis emphasizes this as it starts off with a nice little keyboard piece before moving into the heart of what makes this second track start to move ahead. The music has essentially a duel nature to it with the space music and otherworldly synths continuing but they share space with a pulsating sequencer that brings the whole song to life but doesn’t overpower the beautiful feeling of airiness that permeates the song as a whole. Solar Dub which is the next track on the CD is a very enjoyable piece of music that is very lighthearted with a great laid back groove and a catchy hook that keeps you bouncing and tapping your foot as you progress through the song.. Again this just goes to show that AWM is capable of quite a bit of diversity in his music and this collection of unreleased tunes should send you out looking for some of Gregory’s earlier works to see what else he has been up to.  

The last track that I want to mention is the song called Distant Nebula and as the title suggests this is a song that will take you wandering around the cosmos with expansive soundscapes that really do justice to the song’s title. There are some great sounds wandering around the soundscape that add character to the piece and gives you something to look at as the stars go drifting by. The song clocks in at 10 minutes so it gives Gregory ample time to develop the musical textures along this journey and to dazzle you with some great snyth washes along the way. The song does not stop there as a subtle undercurrent of a pulsing beat is added in around the 7 minute mark that takes the listener in a slightly different direction but still maintains the feel of the song as a whole. The synths and the effects continue to play out in the background while the listener is treated to the rhythms as yet another point of focus during this very pleasant trip.  

All in all The Regions Between is a collection of songs from AWM that covers a period of 5 years but listening to them collected here they all seem to belong together on this CD. The music is well produced and the songs even though some of them may have been outtakes or tracks not used from other projects don’t have the feel of songs that should have been abandoned or never revisited. It is apparent that Gregory has spent time with this music and by knowing his material so well he knew which songs, even though they weren’t used at the time, were still powerful pieces of music in and of themselves. This release just goes to show that even the music that didn’t get used is still great music. It also points to the fact that if the music that didn’t get used is this great then how much better is the material that did get used the first time through. Just a little something to think about there.
AV recommended CD.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor of Ambient Visions

 

   

Key of Sea

by Jennifer Thomas

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“Key of Sea” is a stunning debut from pianist/composer/violinist Jennifer Thomas. Classically-trained on both instruments from a very early age by her musician-mother as well as other teachers and professors through college, Jennifer’s lifelong immersion in and passion for music is immediately obvious. As a teenager and young adult, Thomas constantly challenged herself to play more difficult and complex classical music, culminating in winning a concerto competition that allowed her to fulfill a dream of playing the piano with a full symphony. She also continued to play the violin in local symphonies, but the piano is her first love. “Key of Sea” is made up of thirteen original works, some of which were inspired by classical pieces, and the music is a combination of solo piano tracks, piano and orchestra, piano ensemble, and one vocal selection. Although it is very soothing, Thomas’ music packs a very powerful punch both musically and emotionally. Personally, I found it wonderful to wake up to rather than go to sleep with. Thomas’ technique is flawless and jaw-dropping in its precision and agility. From one pianist to another, wow!

“Key of Sea” opens with “Beautiful Storm,” an orchestrated piece that features Thomas on piano and violin (how’d she play them both at the same time?); she also performs the orchestrations, which are very natural-sounding. Anyone who has watched a storm come in by the ocean can appreciate how this piece goes from still and shimmering to turbulent and agitated. This is a great opening piece because it demonstrates the qualities that make this a standout album - passionate piano, quiet moments, big cinematic areas, grace, beauty, and an original vision. “Prelude in F” is an energetic piano solo that dances all over the piano celebrating the good things in life. “Release” begins as a flowing piano solo. Light percussion comes in, and then strings, building the intensity. “You By My Side” is a gentle piece of musical contentment. Warmth and love are expressed in every note, and strings enhance the tender beauty of the piano. “Suite Dreams” is based on Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G Major and Bach’s “Ave Maria,” and features Carolyn Southworth (Jennifer’s mom!) on violin - a gorgeous collaboration! “Old Movie Romance” was Thomas’ first composition. (It is interesting to note that she didn’t start composing until the end of 2004!) Piano and strings once again create and loving and passionate ensemble. “Pure” is a “song for the angels in our lives.” Ethereal voices add innocence and charm to the lovely piano melody. “Red Aspens” is a graceful piano solo that exudes peace and serenity. “Somewhere” is a wonderful piece based on Leonard Bernstein’s song from “West Side Story.” Piano and strings give voice to the passion of the original. I really like “The Tempest,” a powerful composition for orchestra and two pianos. Like the opening track, it alternates from calm to very turbulent and agitated, but is quite different from “Beautiful Storm.” “Sospiro” is the piece Thomas likes to end her performances with. Based on a Lizst etude, this piece clearly demonstrates what a phenomenal pianist she is. Again, wow!

“Key of Sea” is an awesome debut, and presents a very exciting beginning! It is available at www.jenniferthomasmusic.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions

 

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