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Almost Home by Lena Natalia
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/10/2017
Extremely addictive and highly listenable
A new album by Lena Natalia has much to live up to, especially after the major successes with albums like Rendezvous and Sundays in Paris and of course the much acclaimed Second Youth. One perhaps might have expected Natalia to produce another high quality solo piano album, but you would be vastly mistaken, as she treads unknown terority and delivers to our doors a release that is bound for fame in the contemporary instrumental and piano with instrumentation genres.
The opening piece off the release is the title track called Almost Home, this is smooth and gentle in its build, the keyboards seem to shape a track of expectancy and urgency, and there is a real likeness to the work of Peter Calandra here, in what is a very enjoyable opener.
The shortest track off the album at just over 2 and half minutes long is the pristine and delicate Leaving the Nest. Through the elegant performance on piano we can truly feel the tentative first steps into a new and fascinating life.
The Gardner is a really passionate piece, a full flowing slice of magical musical narrative, the performance here by Natalia is sublime. The artist creates a beautiful and colourful composition with amazing textures and dimensions; the tempo here manifests a persistent sense of movement through its tones.
This constant mantra of a journey through Natalia’s music makes her work so very intriguing, you truly feel you are on that voyage with her and we’re off to Japan now with the brilliant Kyoto. This wondrous piece was one of my favourites from the album; again Natalia paints such a lovely picture here, and her creativity brings to our tables something that is lush and bathed in mystery.
On my travels I often see old men playing checkers, talking about the past or summers that have long gone and the girls they once knew. Here on Chess Players it’s not too difficult to see that scenario as well, perhaps in an old coffee shop, the artist plays, while two aged individuals make their moves on the chess board of life. This has a really picturesque motif about its construction, the added touch of melancholy only adds to the mix.
Like life’s rich pattern, we weave our way through the album Almost Home by Lena Natalia and come across a soothing keyboard structured piece called Acceptance Letter; this creates a real sense of calm and confidence. The artist has really brought something into our world that is tranquillity based and layered with such a peace filled motif that it’s a pure pleasure to just listen to.
It’s back to the more familiar role on piano now for Lena Natalia as she brings you the first composition that heralds in our movement into the latter half of the album, it is called Open Door. I have heard many pianists in my life, many are creative and passionate, many create beautiful melody’s and arrangements, but Natalia has that extra special ability that always draws from life, this eternal playhouse that we all partake within, and Open Door is a fine example of this genius. This I could play on repeat for hours, the descriptive nature of its construction is just inviting us in through that door, perhaps for us to take a chance and be a part of something greater.
The Solitary Tailor is one of those almost dream like arrangements that makes the hairs on the neck stand up. Natalia’s performance here is both mournful, but also mystical. There seems to be a slightly spectral essence about this one that really brings the whole narrative into focus. While your listen to the music, let your eyes gaze upon the world of The Solitary Tailor, who stands alone, like a hermit comfortable in his own realm, a world he has weaved for too many years now. This is an extremely emotive composition, one that is so easy to get lost in.
Now St Malo, the next piece is back to Natalia’s roots, the French connection is established, and as she looks over the channel we can listen to this emotive offering and watch the wave’s crash against the rocks, while the many small boats flutter by, like errant clouds on their way into harbour. Natalia is at her very descriptive and creative best with this one.
We love to spend time in our Coffee houses here in Cyprus, the perfection of watching a day drift by, people watching and being totally in the moment is always available, now it has a soundtrack too, with this offering called Coffee House Glances. You will also find on this short form composition a quite passionate performance here too, with a really graphic European flavour.
Our penultimate offering is the keyboard driven The Knight. Almost bordering on the ambient at times, the piece itself contains a very sweet and sensitive nature about its overall construction. This is our longest offering on the album at well over 5 and half minutes. The thoughtful styled presentation here is very beautiful and at times almost moves us into the European chill out genre, one that is still so popular these days.
We have reached our last port of call and come across a final piece called The Stoic; this is almost a mirror image of the last track, the same repetitive pattern can be found here, but unlike the last compositions warmth, this one has a slightly harder and more tolerant strength about its arrangement, but never the less, this would fit perfectly into the ambient genre of music with ease.
Almost Home is a step into a new arena for Lena Natalia; she paints with musical colours and creates works of art that are quite unique within this album. She has increased her range and shifted her direction and has done so with style and class, and as such, has fashioned and crafted something extremely addictive and listenable. Lena Natalia’s growth path as an artist has just taken a massive leap with this release, and thus has expanded hers and our horizons, which is something that we, the eager listeners can only benefit from. This is a must for anyone who likes piano in all its forms, performed by a musician who has found her musical soul.
Rating: Excellent
Brainstorming by Tsode
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/8/2017
Some of the finest electronic work I've heard
A new artist comes across my path and a fresh new album opens up its doorways’ for us to once again explore, on another musical journey. The artist is Tsode, and the album is Brainstorming.
There is nothing like listening to something new and fresh and this album falls gently into both categories with ease, The opener called Amanecer which I believe is dawn or daybreak in English, is sublime perfection. A gentle start, a steady build, then the percussion builds and explodes with the keyboards, as our musical sun lights up our way on a brand new day.
We follow that up, with a somewhat deeper composition called A Darker Purpose. We can sense through the keyboards a feeling of apprehension and a darkness of purpose, this would fit a sci-fi movie with ease, now this has a subtle cinematic quality about its construction and also a very clever use of ethereal vocals to create a really moody piece.
The title track is next and Brainstorming floats from Jean Michael Jarre and David Wright in style. The electronic flavour of this offering is inspiring and extremely melodic. Tsode on keyboards is an inventive composer and once again uses voice samples to add a depth and quality, in what is one of my personal favourite up-tempo tracks from the release.
The mastery of Tsode is unveiled further on the next piece called Lost in Unconsciousness; this has all the hall marks of a Vangelis arrangement and is utterly super. The revved up guitar seals a classic track if I have ever heard one, and what a stunningly well produced piece this is to bathe in.
A thoughtful musician will know when to take the foot off the gas and allow the lush creativity of artistic brilliance to show, and on Heaven’s Walker we have just that. This down tempo styled arrangement has such an emotive energy about its construction; the gentle melody is both reflective and incredibly beautiful and the crescendo and percussion only go to make this piece yet another favourite of mine. Once more Tsode creates a cinematic composition of great quality.
We now step carefully into the second half of the release and find an offering called Elevation Angle. The ambience here is vast, but smoothe and fluent, the intention of the percussion at around the half way mark is clever and artistic and prepares the listener for a slight change in energy, which occurs just before the 3 minute mark. Tsode has also built in a sense of movement within this track as well, and created a juxtaposition between the first segment and the latter.
A grandstand piece is now upon us, this one is called Odisea and if you ever wanted to listen to a soundtrack for a movie perhaps about the Odyssey by Homer, this would be it. Tsode adds instrumentation, builds in a thundering crescendo and lays down an empowering guitar segment in a track that has all the markings of greatness. The energy of this arrangement is both powerful and moving and manifests an almost Mike Oldfield moment of magic for us.
And It Was So is our next offering. Tsode uses spoken audio in the creational aspect of the composition, with religious undertones as the main narrative of the composition, however, on a musical basis just listen to the inventive and creativeness of percussion and the amazingly smooth and colourful richness of musical pattern here.
Almost the mirror image of the last offering, we now move to Dystopia. This place where badness rules with the rod of fear, and an environmentally degraded landscape is illustrated perfectly with another classic EM styled composition that gains energy and tempo as it travels. The percussion and added female vocalisations create a vision of this dystopic state. Listen also to the stylish manifestation within the progression of this track its simply amazing.
Our penultimate track is a very stylish piece indeed and called Dulces sueños Pequeña and I hope I get this close in English, to have a sweet dream? This short form composition has a beautiful childlike lightness about its creation and is music you may well play to a child before they drop off to sleep.
So we are at the last track and what a stunning way to leave what has been a superb album to have been a part of. This one is long form all the way; you have 11 minutes plus, of a slice of genius called Angels in the Shadows. A sense of trepidation can be found here as Tsode brings into being a whole new reality of space and time into being. Angels in the Shadows is one of those pieces you would love to round off a release with, it has everything, a cautious start, a moody creation that uses the subtle crescendo sublimely. As you would expect the pace and intent picks up, which drifts intelligently into a piano segment, then floats into the loving arms of an angelic repose.
I must admit to be pleasantly surprised with Brainstorming by Tsode, you never know quite what to expect from an artist you have not heard of before, but I tell you this, here within this album lies some of the finest electronic work I have heard for decades. I urge you to all take a listen to this release, Brainstorming by Tsode is just the shot in the arm this genre needed, and I for one thoroughly recommend it.
Rating: Excellent
Origin by Elise Lebec
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/31/2017
Profound and Captivating
There is one thing that can be said about 2017, musically, it has brought to our tables several fine examples of projects that are quite unique and fresh. Many of them have this underlying desire to bring the world together through the only language that is the truth, music.
That laudable statement can also be laid at the doorstep of Origin, the latest offering by Elise Lebec. Each track has been carefully crafted and wonderfully produced and performed, so with that said, let’s take another voyage on our ship of sonic sound as we traverse the realm of Origin.
The start is simply perfect and called Taaly Maaya: Come With Me. The tempo and percussive genius here adds a real rhythm and pace to the piece that is so well sung by Lebec, you can feel an all-encompassing sense of awareness, an imploring desire; this is truly a magical start, one that will guide us along the pathway of musical enlightenment.
Our second place of wonderment is the piece Queen of Light; this is a remarkable track, one that has such a positive message wrapped up in a beautiful song, one that is unique in its construction. The fusion here of instrumentation is sublime; the mixture of violin and eastern percussion is stunning to give but one example.
For a moment I will use my imagination, if I travel just over 300 miles south, I could be in Egypt within hours, a few more miles, I could perhaps sample a Cairo Morning. Once more the pathway to originality has been walked, as Lebec brings an Arabic rap into her composition, now that’s something you don’t hear of at all in New Age based music very often, but within this piece it seems to work majestically and creates a real vista, a true musical narrative of that journey to Cairo, and being part of another warm morning as Ra’s golden globe ascends into the sky once more.
We near the half way point of the journey, and as we do so we come across a familiar offering called Bolero. This arrangement continues its build and empowering sense of rhythm and during that process Elise Lebec weaves such a loving narrative of oneness, its addictive, then when you add in the chant by Sheikh Mahmoud El Tahomy, and the pulsating instrumentation, you once again have a total winner of a track.
There are many who have been touched by the wisdom and works of Rumi, the 13th century mystic and poet. Years later though, I can pretty much guarantee that even the great scholar himself would have never imagined that a song about him would have been created aeons later, and would feature on an album to expand further wisdom. Rumi Song has also been enhanced further into the 21st century medium, with a poignant rap from Mahmoud Abu Zead, the vocals for this piece were performed imploringly by Mai Mostafa.
The global nature of this album and its production quality, which was shared by visits to both the US, and Egypt, should appeal to all. Now take a listen to Sekhmet: The Goddess Awakens. A driving percussive beat joins with a harmonic team of singers, who radiate a chant or a mantra styled composition; this is one piece that will really raise the power and the energy.
The Jam: Luxor, Egypt, well the title reveals all, so pick up your instruments and let’s go for it. This moment of freedom of expression works wonderfully and allows the listener an arrangement that is not to dissimilar from the chill out styled global fusion genre that is so popular in the west.
We have now reached the penultimate offering on the album and this one is called Sufi Dance. Lebec creates an amazing fresh ethic here that has some elements of 70’s Funk, Rap, Gospel and Rock, all wrapped up in the cloak of a global fused moment of sublime genius. This is one of those that you’re going to have to revisit many times over, once is simply not enough. This has to be one of the most original recordings I think I have ever heard.
So our journey now ends, but before we leave this dimension of sight and vibrant sound, Elise Lebec has one more offering for us, this parting gift is called Hob Elahy: God Is Within. This is a clever way to leave the album; the mixture of a one world music ethic proves an all-out winner. The usage of Upper Egyptian instrumentation mixed with a modern unconfined and inspirational ethic, a rap of distinction and simply divine vocals from Lebec, manifests one of the most smooth and exotic ways to leave an album all time.
Origin by Elise Lebec is without doubt the most exclusive, distinctive and exceptional releases of the 21st century within this genre. This album should receive glowing reviews from all those that listen to its quite delightful compositions and arrangements. Lebec’s vocals are heavenly and perhaps even prescient for our times. Origin is an album made with 36 other musicians across thousands of miles, a veritable exploration of a spiritual quest through music that is both profound and captivating.
Rating: Excellent
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