Reviews 09-23-2007

Music Reviews 



Innersound Piano Solos

by Rachel Currea

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2007 has proven itself to be a year of incredibly good solo piano albums, and Rachel Thomas Currea’s debut is one of the best. Vibrant and full of life, yet peaceful and soothing, Currea’s music is accessible and easy to grasp, yet complex, revealing new things each time you listen. Currea started composing music consistently at the age of nineteen, pretty much in self-defense. She would wake up every night around midnight with music running through her head, and she couldn’t get back to sleep unless she recorded the music or wrote it down. After a year of this kind of inspiration, she was in a serious car accident that resulted in head trauma that left her unable to compose. Even playing the piano was painful and challenging because of her arm and wrist injuries. Despite her injuries, Currea continued to perform and teach piano. Ten years after the accident, she learned the art of meditation. Within a month, the creative juices started flowing, and she was able to compose again. “Innersound” is a tribute to this personal and creative breakthrough. The Florida native has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano from the University of Miami, and has performed in classical recitals in the US, Middle East, and Europe as a soloist and a chamber musician.

“Soul Dance,” a lively and spirited piece of musical magic, begins the journey. A darker, more subdued middle section gives way to the joyful, playful dance - a celebration of the ups and downs of life. “Epic Romance” could only be a love song, passionate and tender, with lots of tonal color and expression. “Time Marches On” is a favorite. A sense of urgency permeates the piece with swirling notes and a poignant melody. The first half of “Quiet Joy” was written before the car accident. As the title indicates, this piece is warmly introspective and contented, like a simple daydream in the springtime sunshine. I also really like “Desert Night,” with its varied themes and changing rhythms. “Inner Peace” is gorgeous. Sometimes very quiet and restful and sometimes brimming with emotion, it is truly an inner self-portrait. “Announcement of War” was composed the night President Bush announced that the US would go to war with Iraq. Deeply thoughtful and sometimes hymn-like, this piece also overflows with emotion. “Dragonflies” returns to a more playful mood, yet has a sense of purpose. “Soaring” feels like drifting along on a cloud, free of cares and pain. “As the Night Moves” opens with shades of Erik Satie on the left hand and a delicate melody on the right. A bit more abstract than some of the other pieces, it is graceful, elegant, and very soulful.

Rachel Currea has released an extraordinary debut - a celebration of life and of the creative process. Sure to be a favorite for many years to come! “Innersound” will be available on 9/22/07 from, and on later in October. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Childhood Dreams

by Brenda Warren

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Brenda Warren’s “Childhood Dreams” was originally released in 1990 and received worldwide airplay. She followed it up in 2003 with “As Years Go By,” which is still one of my favorite albums. I never heard “Childhood Dreams” in its first release, although I had heard a lot about it, so this is a real treat! Subtitled “A Solo Piano Experience,” the music is a combination of playful childhood innocence and more thoughtful, pensive reflections. Rather than looking at life through a child’s eyes, these pieces are more of an adult’s recollection of childhood experiences - not all sweetness and light. Primarily solo piano, some of the music has synth washes as well as a few sound effects, but those are very minimal. This is a fascinating album, and I’m really glad Brenda Warren decided to rerelease it for those of us who missed it the first time around as well as for people who are new to her music.

The title track opens the album. Energetic yet still wistful, it overflows with optimism. “Solitude” is much darker and quieter. Eloquently emotional and very poignant, this is a beauty! “Together Again” begins very tenderly and then picks up playful energy, returning to the first theme at the end. “Eden Lane” is a favorite. Starting slowly and reflectively, it becomes more rhythmic as some of the chords become dark and bluesy, creating a sense of mystery. “Merry Go Round” begins with piano and a toy piano along with the sound of children’s voices. Warren does a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of going around and around and up and down, as well as the feeling of freedom and the excitement of riding a wild animal (safely!). “Another Time” is also a favorite. Much more subdued and introspective, this piece conveys feelings of sadness and hurt, and perhaps a little anger - very emotional! “Sunday Afternoon” goes even darker and deeper. Very spare and quiet yet very powerful and incredibly personal. “Only Charlie Knows” is an intriguing title for a fascinating piece. Touches of percussion and the sound of thunder make it even more mysterious and inviting, as secrets often are. I’d love to know the story behind this one! “Peace of Mind” is actually rather agitated, looking for resolution, and finding it at the end - another great piece. “A Revelation” brings us back to a more optimistic mood, happily moving forward and enjoying the ride.

“Childhood Dreams” is a wonderful “solo piano experience” that I highly recommend to those who love solo piano with complexity and a wide range of emotions.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Cool Aberrations

by General Fuzz

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James Kirsch is General Fuzz. Cool Aberrations is his fourth album, the previous ones apparently being downtempo, whereas this one is uptempo and contains a lot of catchy tunes. The somewhat psychedelic and quirky cover art suggests that the music will be fun, and indeed it is. This is a collaborative effort with other musicians on guitars, bass, cello, flute, tabla, and vocals.

I love the opening, but all too short, track called “Acclimate”. Pretty notes slowly form into a delightful melody while burbling percussion on the tabla and then drum programming form a pleasing rhythm. The effect becomes quite hypnotic as counterpointed melodies harmonically stutter and ripple around the soundscape.

Most of the album is uptempo with positive melodic vibes, plus there's even some jazz and funk. But as the album progresses towards the end the mood becomes mellow, culminating in the final track “Acoustic Junction” which is a laid back mixture of piano and guitar.

The piece “The Grenabler” is where the style departs from melodic EM. Beginning with electronic cries rising and falling like distant sirens it then bursts into a funky rhythmic passage where guitar, bass, and something like electric piano vie to make the best grooves. It's like listening to a jam session where the music is free flowing and sounds more improvisational than composed. The atmosphere on this piece brought to mind 1970s American TV shows; you could imagine this being the soundtrack to one of them.

In the penultimate track “Reflective Moment” the textures are pared down to a few essential elements. Sparse piano notes and ripping effects lead into electronic melody and rhythm then take a back seat. Hand beaten drum percussion and cello pads fill out the piece and provide opposing tempos.

Don't let the cover art of Cool Aberrations put you off. It's an album full of cool tunes that will have you smiling and tapping your feet in pure enjoyment.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions



The Useless Lesson

by Kerry Leimer

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Kerry Leimer's latest album The Useless Lesson is a combination of constructed and deconstructed pieces (the downloadable one-sheet explains these terms) and includes Leo Abrahams, Dwight Ashley, and Anode on some tracks. The overall feel of the album is similar to previous works such as The Listening Room in that there are ambient classical forms, drones, and synthetic rhythmic sections.

Sonically one will find much that is familiar here compared to previous albums by the artist. The difference lies more in the structure of the music and the details. Several of the tracks are what can be thought of as ambient-classical where the tones are quasi-orchestral with string and cello textures and the mood is often rather earnest. Take the first track “To Force Our Closed Eyes”. Mournful tones wax and wane while similar tones are stretched out into drones. Sparing piano notes then add to the atmosphere.

In contrast “Declining Need of More” is more fully in drone ambient territory and is a piece of two halves. In the first half variously textured drones slowly throb and tunnel around each other in a manner reminiscent of Exuviae's piece “Silencia”. Then the tones change tack becoming brighter, higher pitched, and cloudily metallic. As the piece draws to a close distorted real world sounds are put together forming a sonic haze.

There's something unique about Kerry's music that is hard to pin down. I think it's that the music, even when uptempo and rhythmic, is also very poised and precise. In lesser hands this would be boring but instead it has a je nai sais quois keeping the listener's interest.

The Useless Lesson is a work of precisely crafted ambient art where all the sonic moves slot into place like pieces of a finely constructed jigsaw. Sublime, classical, abstract, lonely, and mathematical are just some of the words that it evokes.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


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