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A Hero's Journey by Karen Olson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/12/2017
A thoroughly recommended album
We had an evening of thunderous storms last night, as winter finally lost its grasp on our landscape of beauty, so it is with a blissful heart, that I find I have a calming and quite peaceful album to review this morning, from the amazing Karen Olson, featuring the skills of Crispin Barrymore on piano.
We start our musical sojourn with the delightful opener called Horizons Calling, what a smooth and dreamlike beginning we have; the initial first few bars had that same floaty essence to it as one of Deuter’s Reiki compositions. This is one of those blissful tranquil songs I could listen to forever; it is a creation that always manifests peace as it drifts into the mind’s eye.
With such tenderness we slide into the loving arms of the next piece called Life’s Persuasions, this album has such an organic feel to it, as we listen, it’s as if time itself is being created. The use of a rhythmic percussive beat on this track was extremely effective.
The chilled nature of this release is sublime and as we find ourselves deep within its weave we come across a lush offering called Promising Hope. This is one very emotive composition that I personally felt moved by, the classical references mix perfectly with the new age nuances. The deeper I fall into this release, the more I find myself wrapped in its warm cloak of musical love.
Still Crying is up next, here we have a really descriptive arrangement with a smart chill-out beat that brings a classy awareness to the composition, this combined with Olson’s artistry on Viola, and the clever synth and keyboard work, creates for us a really fresh and exciting offering to enjoy.
As we near the half way point of the release we come across a charming track called Dream Quest. This has a real lightness and freshness to it that manifests a feeling of a journey about to be travelled. Olson’s magical Viola is pivotal to the tracks ultra-ambience and the extremely delicate percussion and keyboards only go to add a further layer of mystery and imagination to this most delightful of pieces.
Over the border and into the second half of the album we go and we arrive at a very tense and emotive short form piece called Facing Fear. Within the music one can really feel the apprehension that has been superbly built into the arrangement, with such skill and style.
On Going Beyond we have a track that has a real expansive feel to it, and Crispin Barrymore’s performance on piano is the perfect artistic tool for creating this musical borderland. I also hope dear reader and listener, you will enjoy the sense of energy that hovers here, there is a wonderful energetic feeling of anticipation manifested within this piece.
On Life Force, we see that lightness of touch, the rhythmic percussion is also like our own heartbeat, emphasising the title header of the composition even more thoroughly. Olson’s performance here drifts with a real crafting sense of professionalism throughout this brilliant arrangement.
The true mastery of Karen Olson can be found right here, on this very track entitled Inner Wanderings. This for me is a composition that is almost timeless, and defiantly meditative in quality and texture. Olson’s magnificent performance here is truly something to behold and within this arrangement one can really feel a vast realm of inner peace ready for us to explore.
The penultimate offing is truly angelic in its structure, and of course it would be with the title Heaven’s Gate, but the strings here create a dream like state in an almost out of body experience through its tones. The composition is thankfully well over seven minutes, so we can musically traverse the cosmos and wander in a calm way through the multi inner-dimensional layers of this grand opus. I also found this track very emotional in its content, one that touches us with the magical hand of reflection.
For our last piece we are going long form, as Epilogue is well over eleven minutes long. The organ, mixed with Olson’s Viola creates a true symphony of the soul. This is a track dear reader that will require you to just close your eyes and totally immerse yourself in, there is literally so much to enjoy here. Contemporary instrumental music has never sounded so good and through this last track one can feel a circle being completed through its genius. Here on Epilogue we have a track that is emotive yes, but also inspiring in its construction.
A Hero’s Journey by Karen Olson and Crispin Barrymore is a well-crafted release, manifested into our realm by two musicians who have worked hard, listened well, and used there abundant talent to bring us, the ever eager listener, one album that is jam packed from start to finish with compositions of pure quality, that allow us to reflect, to be moved, to float upon and bathe within a veritable musical waterfall, of blissful meditative ambience. This is one release you really can’t miss adding to you ever expanding collection, a thoroughly recommended album.
Rating: Excellent
Timeless e-Motion by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/12/2017
Jim Ottaway - Timeless e-Motion
Jim Ottaway is an Australia-based electronic music composer with an impressive catalog of recordings that range from ambient-space to chill-out electronica. While his latest album, Timeless e-Motion, combines stylistic characteristics of both, it’s also a bit different from anything Jim has previously recorded. Namely, he employs greater elements of classic electronic space music in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre, all while infusing his compositions with a wholly up-to-date and modern feel via his vast arsenal of electronic music equipment and gear. Comprised of thirteen tracks spanning sixty-five minuets, the album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jim between the years of 2013 and 2016.

“Sequence of Life” opens with a dynamic and rhythmic arrangement of sequencers and pulsing effects. A fantastic introduction, it conveys a feeling of moving through space and time. Following next is the hauntingly beautiful “Timeless e-Motion”, which gently paces along on a dreamily floating, liquid-like current. Easily my favorite piece on the album, hazy tones, scattering chimes and vocal-like washes are carried along by a hypnotic bassline and rhythmic pulse, which gradually evolves into a subtle chill beat. Digital bleeps and signals echo throughout, as if emanating from somewhere deep in the galaxy. At just over eight minutes in length, this piece could easily drift on forever, perhaps while one endlessly tries to solve the infinite mysteries of our vast and largely unknowable universe. Varying between the more dynamic, travelling pace of the first track and the floating ambience of the title track, the compositions always seem to move in a linear, forward motion. Each employs a varied degree of digital sequencing, synthesized vocals, spacey signals and pulsating electronic rhythms. The seventh track, “Behind Close Eyes”, is another especially notable and mesmerizing piece, which effectively brings to mind that of being in virtual reality or dreamlike simulation. Despite these distinctive sci-fi motifs, the compositions herein convey human warmth and a conscious presence throughout, as if musically illustrating a narrative of the cosmos and how it relates to life here on earth. Another favorite is the twelfth track, “Cosmic Shift”, a classic ambient-space number characterized by ethereal chords, sparkling chimes and a wondrous sense of mystery, as one can easily imagine numerous constellations of twinkling stars against a stark midnight sky. Aptly concluding the album is “Timeless e-Motion (radio edit)”, which clocks in at just over five minutes, lending itself as a sort of reprise of the title track to wrap-up this fantastical cosmic journey.

Jim Ottaway’s previous album, Southern Cross, was one of my favorite recordings of 2016 and this one is surely destined to become another. In fact, Timeless e-Motion may very well be the best output from this amazingly talented artist thus far, unquestionably solidifying Jim’s place as a distinctive and innovative electronic music composer. Fusing ambient, modern electronica and classic space music, I can detect several decades of musical influences here, as Jim masterfully carves out his own sound and style that he has both developed and gradually improved on over the years. Lending itself to an emotive sci-fi quality, the music of Timeless e-Motion conveys a mesmerizing notion of having entered some futuristic parallel dream-world that’s dominated by themes of hyperspace, wormholes and time-travel. Likewise permeated by an ever-present and intangible mystery throughout, this album is both an interstellar and inner voyage that’s absolutely not to be missed! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
Awakened by Marshall Barnhouse
- posted by Candice Michelle on 1/9/2017
Marshall Barnhouse - Awakened
Marshall Barnhouse is a pianist, composer and teacher who began his musical pursuits at the age of eight. By ten years of age he was already serving as a church pianist and has since performed at many venues covering all different genres of music. Comprised of fourteen solo piano compositions spanning sixty-two minutes in length, Awakened is Marshall’s sophomore album, which seemingly showcases a humble passion that is so eloquently expressed through his instrument.

The title piece, “Awakened”, opens in the higher registers with a brightly crystal-clear sound. A gently uplifting and rejuvenating piece, its sparkling quality can be likened to awakening in the morning to the sun’s rays softly pouring in through a window. One particular quality I immediately noticed about this composition, as well as throughout much of the album, is that the music generally treads along a somewhat unpredictable path, often boasting many subtle twists and turns within the same composition. “Invocation” follows next, likewise opening in the higher registers before gently moving into the lower registers. Marshall initially lends a soft, velvety touch to the keys, before extending a bit more force and dynamism at about the hallway mark. Conveying a somewhat hymnal feel within a more contemporary framework, “Searching for Home” ensues with a hint of nostalgia and tender touch of reverence, which brings to mind that of an old chapel in the countryside. Many of the compositions have an inspirational underpinning, which is further conveyed by some of the song titles. Among them is “The Promise”, the fifth track on the album, as well as one of my favorites. Hovering around the middle and lower registers throughout, Marshall delivers a perfectly understated melody that moves along in a seemingly mindful, unhurried manner. Other compositions that feel distinctly inspired by Marshall’s extensive background of performing in the church include “Light of the World” and “The Breath of Prayer”. Perhaps the most beautifully moving piece of all is the more classically-nuanced, aptly-titled thirteenth track, “Under the Stars”. Beginning in a delicately twirling, ballet-like fashion that floats among the higher registers, the composition bears a whimsical quality with a perfect touch of mystery throughout. Concluding the album is “All Is Well”, a slower-paced number that begins more brightly and airily, increasingly tending towards bolder strokes as it moves along its course.

Upon listening to this album in full and taking notes throughout, I then decided to read the liner notes to hopefully glean more details about the recording. The opening paragraph inside begins with “When I was five years old I felt a strong attraction to the piano after hearing good gospel pianists at the little country church my family attended.” Certainly, the timeless essence of, and connection to, that childhood experience has stayed with Marshall throughout his life and continues to imbue the compositions he creates today. Soulfully inspired and warmly heartfelt, these lovely arrangements are sure to soothe the listener with their gentle comfort and joy! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Very Good +
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