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Santa Plays the Stick by Michael Kollwitz
- posted by R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews on 12/10/2019
Santa Plays the Stick
Michael Kollwitz
Santa Plays the Stick

Michael Kollwitz, a veteran of more than two dozen recordings, releases a traditional Christmas album called Santa Plays the Stick. Kollwitz plays the Chapman Stick, a device that looks like a long, fat electric guitar without a body. By tapping on the strings, it issues a unique electronic sound that reproduces chords and note simultaneously. Kollwitz’ music is fifteen tracks of traditional Christmas fare without jingled bells and with some very merry tones. It is light, cheerful, and there’s even some jolly in it.
With a tiny echo of synthesizer, Michael starts out with Away in the Manger. A warm, cozy piece of traditional comfort. Nothing better than when Michael takes a melody and goes off on a musical tangent as he does in this one. The next song is a Kollwitz original called A Pile of Presents. You can imagine the snow from the night before piled up outside the door, the tree decorated with care and love, and those gifts for all. The next track is one of my favorites. I Saw Three Ships is based on a 17th century English carol. Could they be three silver boats from Bohemia or three desert ships known as camels conveying worshippers to pay respect to the birth of Jesus Christ?
Snow Ride, another one of Michael’s own tunes, is happy and uplifting. The snow swirls all around, but the trek through the woods is a contrast of green pines and white drifts. It is a happy time for one and all. My absolute favorite on Santa Plays the Stick is his original tune called December Wedding. For me, the music represents “winter music” in where the artist transforms the beauty and quiet of winter into a marvelous, joyful tune. Kollwitz has done this and I hope he considers many more of these. And yes, any couple would be proud and pleased to walk down the aisle to this tune wintery tune.
We Three Kings is a sedate, but respectful song with just a tiny bit of swing in the tempo, but it comes out like a medieval piece for some reason. The familiar refrain, “Oh, star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright,” reminds us of many things greater than ourselves. We need only believe. The final tune on the album is appropriately Silent Night. Kollwitz’ intro has an almost Hawaiian slack key guitar intro and I liked it for that. There is no doubting the beauty and reverence of the rendition. All an all, a good album for wrapping the presents and building new Christmas memories. – R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews

Rating: Very Good
Two Hearts by David Wahler
- posted by RJ Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews on 12/10/2019
Two Hearts
David Wahler
Two Hearts

When two hearts meet, it is the beginning of a new day. When two hearts part, it is the end of the world. Keyboardist David Wahler captures both experiences and everything in between on his latest album, Two Hearts. David’s eleven-track undertaking is full of emotionally light, ambient songs of love discovered and love lost with an ear to ardor and much warmth.
Wahler opens with a hopeful song titled Always and that is just what we want and expect from love. We want fairytale love that lives happily ever after. It is fate or fortune that makes it so. There are moderate rhythms on this album, but there is an emotional subtlety to the music as provided by this first tune.
Just imagine walking hand in hand across the Pont d’Avignon as the rain falls over the City of Light. The streetlights glimmer in the distance and it does not matter if you get wet down to the soul. The love you have is an impenetrable shield of thoughts and feelings. The tune Paris Rain is a soundscape for that experience. If you listen closely, you can just about hear two heartbeats synchronized by an invisible force that cannot be denied.
Love Lost has a silent sadness to it and of course, love lost is a heartbreaking event. Wahler’s melody has little sonic will o’ the wisps, glistening notes, and a sorrowful refrain. It possesses an ethereal tone in its grief as if heaven is weeping as much as the heart that is breaking. One of the best on the album for me.
You and Me is a slow moving waltz around a very big room, perhaps as big as the planet. This music is so sublime I could almost imagine the stars spinning in the universe trying to catch up. The music is almost bell like and echoingly soft. The guitar resonates with a gentle tug at the heartstrings as two lovers, oblivious to the world around them, dance like there is no tomorrow.
The title track Two Hearts is an emotionally rich piano arrangement in two-heart harmony. Again, Wahler, whether intentional or not, offers up a pas de deux of agonizing beauty. There are soft voices, elegant piano notes, and a warm rhythm that combines for the best of the best on the recording. This truly is a lover’s theme.
Is there doubt? Is there betrayal? There is an air of mystery to the music. Are there dark alleys and late night rendezvous? Dynamic guitar and cooing voices combine on the tune Confession. There is a hint of trepidation in this song. All you can do is pray for forgiveness.
Then She Went to Sleep is the grand finale. This piano tune is another weightless musical spiral of David’s talent as a composer. The music drifts along tranquilly, as if the sleeping world is now made out of stardust and pale, distant light. You hope that the dreams are about you.
David Wahler knew that music would be his vocation at an early age. What’s different about most of David’s music is the underlying, yet unmistakable spirituality that springs forth whenever he touches the piano keys. Wahler isn’t what I would label prolific in the number of releases he has made, but every single one of them has been notable for their innate beauty and polished refinements. Two Hearts, his latest offering, is definitive. – R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews

Rating: Excellent
Dead Air by Marconi Union
- posted by Gena on 12/3/2019


UK-based Marconi Union is considered one of the top electronic and ambient groups in the world based on sales, acclaim and online viewing/listening. They have more than 200-million streams and over a million track-sales (which is rare for an ambient act). Now they are back with their tenth studio album, DEAD AIR, a return to more traditional ambient after the more experimental GHOST STATIONS three years ago (which won the prestigious Zone Music Reporter Award for Best Electronic Album). DEAD AIR is full of the floating, sinuous and subtle pulsations of synthesizers. But this is sometimes broken up with a resonating bass-line here or piano notes and chords there, plus the sound of breathing and processed human vocal sounds. Their hats occasionally tip to ambient pioneering legend Brian Eno. This is world-class ambient music.
Rating: Excellent
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