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Urban Metta, Vol. 1 by Anaamaly
- posted by Dyan Garris on 3/11/2017
A Masterpiece of Zen
At first glance or listen, one might perceive the album, “Urban Metta, Volume 1,” by Anaamaly (otherwise known as Phoenix based recording artist, Phil Strickland), as “just another New Age relaxation album.” Far from it. Reminiscent of Steven Halpern’s sound healing work, here in “Urban Metta, Volume 1,” we have this same kind of multi-dimensional healing music, carried up a few notches, and evocative of a contemporary, innovative, 21st century Zen. In fact, the whole album is so Zen, it may even redefine the word “Zen.”
Sophisticated in its amplitude and brilliantly produced, the best experience of this album is through headphones or earbuds. This allows you to pick up on and take in all of the intricately woven beats, subtleties, and nuances that are essential to this experience.
A journey through dimensions, each song is an “I am” kind of affirmation, a mantra; a multi-dimensional mantra that awakens a vivid soundscape in the listener.
Track 6, “I Am Grateful For,” is my favorite track on the album. Here we have soothing strings and elements of electronica, developing into a light, exquisite melody, and ultimately melting into an ultra-gorgeous soundscape to get lost in. And this is right in the middle of the “urban,” the beat which never gets obscured throughout the entire album. We know it’s there. We are aware of it through the subtleties. Yet one can literally feel their own oneness, and at the same time a sense of being connected to all. Yes, very “Zen.”
My second favorite track on “Urban Metta, Volume 1,” is track 7, “I Am Lighthearted. “ This is a spatial, otherworldly track that put me in the “zone” straight away. You feel like you’re in space. You’re light and floating free, yet not lost by any means. This sense of “light,” or “being light,” interestingly, is experienced in multi-dimensional ways. For example, while I was listening to this track, I felt as if the room was filled with little particles of light. And you have a sense at the same time that maybe you can see the light or maybe you are one with the light. I like it. Very relaxing.
Rating: Excellent
Rainbow Road by Nancy Shoop-Wu
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/10/2017
Nancy Shoop-Wu - Rainbow Road
Nancy Shoop-Wu is a composer and violinist originally from Connecticut who resides in Hawaii. As a member of the Honolulu Symphony she has shared the stage with many notable Hawaiian musicians, as well as superstars such as Yo-Yo Ma and Bela Fleck. Rainbow Road is Nancy’s second release and first full-length album, having previously released a debut EP titled Beautiful Mana’o. Comprised of twelve compositions spanning forty-nine minutes, Nancy combines both classical and contemporary musical styles while additionally drawing inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. Joining her throughout are several guest musicians, of which include Derek Nakamoto on acoustic piano and keyboards, both Jan O’Sullivan and Jeff Peterson on Hawaiian slack key guitar, Dean Taba on acoustic bass, Garin Poliahu on drums, Satnam Ramgotra on frame drum, and Holo’ua Stender on Ipu drum.

The album opens with the title track, “Rainbow Road”, on which solo piano introduces a gentle ensemble of acoustic bass and Hawaiian slack key guitar led by Nancy’s beautiful violin. She plays a tenderly warm melody evocative of the soft radiance of a rising sun. “Pulelehua (Mountain Butterfly)” follows next, an especially lovely composition that conveys the tranquil essence of the Pacific Ocean along with surrounding greenery and colorful blossoms. Distinguished by graceful piano and violin, the piece flows along in a gently swaying motion, recalling that of a small boat sailing out at sea. The fourth track, “Sunrise Over Haleiwa”, is another notable highlight beginning with a repeating piano motif, as Nancy’s gently soulful violin soars above an earthy accompaniment of drums. The seventh track, “Walmanalo”, is likewise rhythmic and moderately-paced, boasting a joyfully spirited violin melody accompanied by an ensemble of piano, cymbals and drums. Nancy lends her own vocals to the eighth track, “Carry Me Home”, on which she sings a lyrically heartfelt and down-to-earth melody in a tone that’s sweet and simple.

Included on the album are three bonus tracks taken from Nancy’s previous debut EP. The first of these is the ninth track on the album, “Beautiful Mana’o”, which includes both Ipu and frame drums that add a subtle tribal touch. On the eleventh track, “Ma’Noa Rain”, acoustic guitar comes to the forefront in tandem with an impassioned violin melody that’s additionally graced by delicate brushes of piano.

Conveying a warmly heart-centric vibe, Nancy gently serenades her listeners throughout with her soothing yet passionate violin melodies, as she plays with an ease of grace and authenticity of spirit. The varying ensemble of instruments are nicely spaced and easy to individually discern from one another, mostly conveying a consistent mood without much stylistic divergence among the compositions. In fact, one could easily imagine hearing these elegantly uplifting pieces playing at a beautifully decorated, leisurely outdoor café or retreat. A delightfully positive, peaceful listening experience overall, Rainbow Road unfolds like a welcome invitation to embark along a pathway illuminated by dreams, hopes and promises! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Very Good +
Lights, Shadows and Colors by Giuseppe Dio
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/9/2017
Giuseppe Dio - Lights, Shadows and Colors
Giuseppe Dio is an Italian electronic music composer and photographer who combines his passion for both music and photography on his album, Lights, Shadows and Colors. Drawing upon both vintage and modern electronic music styles that span several decades, the album incorporates elements of Berlin-school, chillout and dance-trance music throughout its twelve amazing, adventure-packed compositions.

“Blancheur” begins our journey with simmering, swirling synths and bubbling effects that immediately recalls the music of Jean Michel-Jarre, who is one of Giuseppe’s most notable influences. Guided by a steady bassline and four-by-four trance rhythm, the colorfully spinning and euphorically melodic nature of this fantastic opener is characteristic of most of the compositions throughout. Alluding to nightlife and travelling, “Night Streets” follows in a similar motif with its vintage synth melody and high energy, laser-like effects, which convey a feeling of driving along an extended highway beneath the glow of streetlights. The beautifully breathtaking, “Blue Melody”, is easily my favorite composition on the album. Here an aquatic, echoic melody is carried upon an electronic chill rhythm accompanied by soaring strings and synthesized vocal washes. Cosmically dreamy and fantasy-like, it brings to mind the kinds of beautiful, mythical scenery (such as the flying griffon or magical unicorn) depicted in the classic 1980’s cult films, The Never Ending Story and Legend. “Lights and Shadows” is also particularly mesmerizing, likewise seeming to convey a whimsical feeling of flight and long-distance travel. Underscored by a smooth electronica rhythm, it boasts a soaring melody led by a horn-like synth that also bears notable elements of Jarre. “Through the Rainforest” is another outstanding favorite; initially opening with tribal rhythmic elements, it soon blossoms into an enthralling arrangement of cosmically colorful and swirling sounds.

An epically visual-audio experience, Lights, Shadows and Colors feels like a fantasy adventure novel having come to life, evoking otherworldly images of the past, present and future. Certain to appeal to a wide range of listeners, stylistic hallmarks of Jean Michel-Jarre, David Wright, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis are echoed throughout, as well as that of modern electronic dance and chill-trance artists such as Ryan Farish and Tigerforest. Destined to become one my favorite electronica albums of the year, Lights, Shadows and Colors is an instant classic that is not to be missed by fans of electronic music, particularly those who love both space and trance! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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