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Touched by the Stars by Richard Pouw
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
A shot in the arm the industry needed
When you gaze up at the night sky, what do you see, do you truly comprehend what you gaze upon, do you resonate with the vastness of creation, and are you Touched by the Stars?
Richard Pouw has created an album of music to allow your senses to be taken into another realm entirely, the amazing backdrop of symphonic sounds on the opening piece, which also happens to be the title track, Touched by the Stars says it all, it is as if we have literally lifted off into space, this is an arrangement that has an amazing amount of power and intensity within it.
On Reflections of Imagination we have quite a mournful structure to begin with; the keyboards create a texture so light and airy, while the pertinent percussion builds upon this delightful oasis of artistic endeavours. There is also a mysterious nature about this offering that makes it rather addictive to listen to.
The piano of Pouw now manifests something truly beautiful on the piece Light of Serenity. This gentle and flowing composition is carefully interwoven with an additional flute that only creates an even more sensual feel to the offering. The clever crescendos and build toward the end of this track made this one of my personal favourites from the release.
There is a certain Lord of the Rings feeling to the piece The Coronation, perhaps we we’re in the hall of the mountain king himself. The powerful narrative here is a delight to listen to, and reminds me at times of the work of David Arkenstone. The tempo is superb and the grand percussive beat brings a marvellous cinematic feel to the production, suspense, action and intensity, all of these qualities can be found in this quite breath taking opus.
In an almost mirror image of the last track, we have the steady, but ever onward offering of Stardust Wanderer. The piano here is splendid in all that it does, and creates a melody that will not get out of my head, and amazingly in all but just over two minutes or so long.
At the half way marker we come across Eclipse. The combination of Piano and the symphonic nature of the composition are simply stunning, but all kept perfectly contained in a well-structured arrangement that builds with purpose, and weaved a tale of light and dark for us all to enjoy.
There is something about Underwater Worlds that I adore, I guess though that living on one of the possible sites of Atlantis that it would peak my interest. The dramatic energies here are once again evident, and the strings manifest something quite stirring, there is a slight mournful repose as if one were perhaps looking at a long ancient city under an ocean so blue and complex.
The Pillars of Creation are always going to be an opportunity to excel, and I am so glad the Pouw has created this track with this title header for us to float within. The Eagle Nebula is a place so vast it would be hard for us to even comprehend, but the artist does this great justice, I simply fell in love with the organ segment at the 2 and a quarter minute mark, it is a slice of sublime genius it has to be said.
I found The Final Embrace, so very moving, I have had a few of these in my time, the last opportunity to hold, feel and touch the humanity that is about to leave this plain for good. This heart on a sleeve performance here is literally breath taking, and will move you deeper than you ever imagined possible; the tempo and power of the piece is so imploring and emotional, that it almost breaks your heart to listen to it.
Strangely I journeyed the other night and found myself in an oasis of purple light, just floating, drifting, without sensation of weight or pain, without human form, just pure energy. It took some time to get used to, but this composition, Levitation, is easily the musical interpretation of that out of the body moment with ease, simply peace filled and easy on the senses.
Our penultimate offering is now upon us and called Cosmic Consciousness. The rhythmic energies of this piece are a clever addition to a pretty ambient floaty composition, one that reflects the subject matter with great clarity. The melody here is also quite picturesque and adds a delightful colour to this charming musical narrative.
Our last portal of tone, sound and passion is entitled Tribal Earth Meditation. This is rather cleverly the longest piece off the release at just over six minutes long and from its very opening structure, offers up a vast landscape of music for us to all wonder within. The percussion and multi instrumental nature of this arrangement deliver a wonderfully multi-cultural style of a composition to end with.
Touched by the Stars by Richard Pouw is the shot in the arm the industry needed as we head towards winter, the fine and fully flowing compositions are both powerful and sensitive and create so many delightful mental vistas for us to all enjoy; listening to Touched by the Stars is like traveling without moving, as all around you each of the pieces from this release seem to fit so well with our lives. Touched by the Stars is a dream filled offering created by an artist who clearly is in tune with his musical muse.
Rating: Excellent
Where Giants Roam the Earth by Milana Zilnik
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
An enjoyable solo piano experience
There is a world far removed from the reality we know here on our plain, in this dimension sound and music are the only languages, each variety of wildlife, plant and flower all communicate musically, the wind blows summer from the trees in a perfectly pitched tone, and the rain falling is the percussive beat of this most amazing of realms, this is the reality of harmony, and the world in which pianos grow like giant trees.
I hope that moment of fantasy will highlight perfectly for you a world of musical fancy, which is the mood set on this quite beautiful release by Milana Zilnik and her trip to the most giant piano of all, this world is called Where Giants Roam The Earth, so let’s pick up the pace and allow ourselves to accept this Invitation to the Dream. This is a perfect beginning for us, a confident and calming performance can be found here on this simply dreamy piece, one that allows us to flow naturally into the entire concept with ease.
The deepness of the piece Where Giants Roam The Earth, the title track, is up next, this is fantastical, but glorious in its construction. The magical fluency here by the artist is something to enjoy greatly. Zilnik, in just two tracks has proved herself the master narrator on our journey, and this empowering and colourful gift is an exciting place to immerse ourselves within for a short while.
As we move ever deeper in this picturesque vista of a musical land we come across a truly amazing offering entitled Summer Tale, we tread with care in the forest as not to disturb the natural abundance and harmonic undergrowth, and we find we can do that with ease with this next piece, this composition is simply sun dappled, but also so varied in its arrangement, I find the uniqueness of Zilnik’s performance delightful, she builds with ease and eases back with such charm
The artist’s journey to Germany see the largest upright piano in the world is revealed to you right here in this offering and called The Piano As Big As A Tree. I remember once going to the Tate Modern in London and gazing with awe at a piano that was hanging from the roof of the gallery, but I can only wonder at the emotions that the artist must have felt when gazing up this giant. Milana Zilnik portrays perfectly a sense of awe and splendour within this piece as she reflects her sojourn with this king of pianos; there is simply everything here, depth, passion, quality of light and a freshness that brings a whole new energy to a constantly creating opus of brilliance.
The longest piece off the release is up next at just under six minutes and is one of the most descriptive offerings off the album, it’s entitled Hidden Inside, this is one of my favourites from the album, it contains a nice mixture of minor and major, which manifests for me a reflective tone to caress, but there is also a gentle narrative that is so well performed within the weave as well, personally I find this composition deeply moving and will be revisiting it again many times over.
Autumn is one of the hardest months to deal with for some; where I live now in Cyprus it is delightful and one can enjoy its charms with a smile; here Zilnik has created something quite interesting in Autumn Tale that may appeal to cross over genres too. There is once more a moody undercurrent to the arrangement, but the performance at times touches both the New Age style, a slight hint of light Jazz, perhaps and even a little original droplet of the classical can be found here as too. This is without doubt a classy soundtrack to the season of mists and falling leaves.
The intensity increases with this next piece called Burning; one can feel a certain apprehensive and cautious energy within the piece, one that almost become haunting at times, but I must say that Zilnik has a style on piano that is so inventive and this is indeed a track that is similar to watching a fire burn slowly from the bottom to the top, a very clever performance will be found here indeed.
Interesting how I mention the word haunting and we now find ourselves at the musical portal of our next track called Haunted Waltz. Let me set the scene, the light of a dying day drifts its tendrils around the torn smoke damaged curtains, and a jazz like tune from an old worn and tired looking piano caresses the air, while on the dance floor two star crossed lovers from bygone a age dance to the song as if this is all they know, and perhaps it is, they move to the charm of the waltz and then slowly disappear into the last shards of sunlight, on this fading autumn afternoon.
From dawn to dusk, from autumn to winter, this is where we cross the threshold into the dark winter months, the harsh times, and the coldness of days rolls on. Winter Tale by the artist however brings a lighter side to the season, one that sparkles with a performance that is akin to watching snow fall in sunshine.
As we reach this next arrangement called Walking Away we find a musical depth that makes us realize that at times we just have to stop, reflect on what we’re doing in our lives, are we making the right choices and if not, we have to simply walk away. For me this song reflects just that, it is both emotive and sad, but also filled with an empowering sense of reality, that it is time to move onward and upward and we can do that, by listening to this enabling composition.
Solitude is sometimes what we all crave for, we may not like to admit it, but in each of us we have felt that moment, that need, so this is our divine moment of self-reflection and wonderfully portrayed so by the artist. This has a sombre mood, but also has a sensitive energy about its arrangement which makes it also most meditative at times.
Time now to once more grow, we have reconnected with our true path by dealing with the emotions that winter offers, and now we can once more be bathed in the warming light of a Spring Tale. This is one of the most fascinating offerings off the album, there seems to be much here to enjoy, from the traditional new age style to an almost Debussy styled classical motif.
As we reach the penultimate piece off the release we find the energy picking up pace, the tempo on Catching Up has that perfect sense of movement about its composition that draws you in willingly, and this breath taking opus is akin to someone pulling back the curtains in your bedroom and revealing a brand new sun kissed day brimming with hope and potential waiting outside.
It’s time to open the key to the final door of the album in this last piece called Coming Home. The perfect ending arrangement can be found here and a performance that reminds me of other solo piano artists, one in particular that I have just reviewed in Doug Hammer. This is such a brilliant presentation, one can almost imagine looking out of the window and seeing your loved one wandering home after a long time away, just crossing the old bridge on the horizon and now your heart begins to quicken with joy and relief, this magical song creates those feelings of, soon all will be as it should be, as you have finally come home.
Where Giants Roam The Earth has to be the most enjoyable solo piano experience for me for a long while, Milana Zilnik’s performance is unique but also honed and crafted in the forges of the fires of the traditional new age styles, and mixed perfectly with other genres to bring forth an album that has to be one of the most fascinating and all-encompassing voyages of solo piano I have listened to for years. Zilnik has a creativity that is so inventive and colourful that it is a pleasure to reside in its tones for an eternity.
Rating: Excellent
Woodland Moons by Marcia Watson Bendo
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
An outstanding debut album
There are times when you think you have heard all that there is to hear and then an album of such clarity and beauty hits you straight in the face and demands to be listened to and adored on high, that statement rings true for this new offering by Marcia Watson Bendo, entitled Woodland Moons.
This music journey of splendour starts with the track Fallen Leaves Moon, the sullen and moody composition falls around us like a day in late October, the flute is perfection indeed, but the symphonic backdrop is simply sublime at setting this vast cinematic offering squarely on stage for us all to admire.
It is no wonder to me that fans of contemporary instrumental music are falling in love with this release, it has everything, and on this next piece called Planting Moon we hear even more, we hear the energy build, we feel a sense of excitement through the music, the combination of an uplifting flute, a wonderfully enchanting piano and a sumptuous array of fine orchestrations.
The moon is always a subject of mystery and imagination and throughout my life I have looked up and have been entranced by her beauty. On Strawberry Moon the inclusion of percussion can be found, this comes courtesy of the only other musician on the album in Rafael Pereira, mix this with some startlingly significant piano and the constant narration of the flute, and once more you have a total winner of a track.
It must be said I am struggling to believe that this is a debut album, something of such quality you may find in someone’s collection at about the three album mark, but it’s true, and if you keep an open ear to this next piece called Midsummer Moon you will see why. Midsummer nights are indeed magical and the artist has created that energy right here in this piece that is so redolent of the subject matter, why I could even see Puck himself playing his pipes in the bow of a tree, while I gaze upwards at the midsummer moon and as I do, I repeat the words of Shakespeare “My soul is in the sky.” Musically this even touches the hem of the classical genre and one of the finest performances off the entire album can be found right here!
We are approaching the mid-way marker on our musical voyage of great beauty and as we do so we arrive at a graphic opportunity superbly seized by the artist called Forest Moon. There is a lightness of spirit about this offering that is very appealing, it could easily follow our midsummer night in the woodlands of mystery and magic. Some delicate natural sounds give us the backdrop of a Forest in the light of a new day, and the style and essence almost manifest a first light moment of musical brilliance by the musician on the flute.
Yellow Leaves Moon is our arrival at the fulcrum of the release, once more Watson Bendo conjures up a magical energy, one that sparkles through and into her performance, but then this tranquil fluency drifts over us completely so that we may enjoy this breath taking reverie via the flute and the lush orchestrations completely.
Being one who has studied animal totems for many years, I adored this next piece called Big Bear Moon. Watson Bendo has it down to a tee here. The slow and almost bizarrely delicate energies of the Bear are captured here, in a delightfully fun performance; the chimes and orchestrations just add weight to an already clever arrangement.
One of the most charming offerings on this album comes at this juncture and called Snow Moon. The symbiotic connection between flute and piano are melded here with perfection, a little reflective energy and an imploring performance by the artist go to make this a stunningly pretty, but also remarkably pristine composition, and here one can truly enjoy the attention to detail and the essence of the subject matter with ease.
As we edge ever deeper into this dimension created by Marcia Watson Bendo, we come across a delicate arrangement called Crane Moon. The piano here manifests the open musical threshold for us to crossover and into, the master narrator weaves tones from her flute in a wizardly fashion, one can see the Crane very carefully walk with such softness and exactness, it is exciting to listen to and be enthralled by this offering. A tip of the hat goes to Rafael Pereira for those timely crescendos.
Our journey has been long, and as we near a bend in the road we see the sign for the longest offering on the release, this one is called Maple Sugar Moon. There is a real rich tapestry of musical craft within this piece, one that almost glistens with expectation. The tempo is slow and full and one must say to this point that the piano here and added sounds, all go to manifesting a whole new layer of brilliance already created by the flute.
The penultimate piece off the release is fun and quite charming, Little Bear Moon, at just less than five minutes long it is the shortest track off the album, but that hardly matters as you will find another masterful performance and another one that has a really lively sense of fun within its light-hearted construction.
It is amazing to think that we are now about to open the last doorway to the album and it is a piece rather charmingly called Berry Moon. This is the perfect end of release piece as well, it has a slight elevation in tempo, it has a fluent and crisp melody, one that will raise the energy of the listener enabling them to leave the album fully refreshed, entertained and having enjoyed every second of what is a superb compilation of beautifully crafted arrangements.
Woodland Moons the debut album, yes I did just say that, has to one of the best released so far this year long. The production quality, the splendid orchestrations take us into an almost David Arkenstone styled realm, and through the tremendous performances from Watson Bendo, the listener will feel like they have journeyed far and wide to wonderful musical vistas, and would not hesitate to do so again. Woodland Moons is one of those albums you just cannot fault and as such I can see this going on to being a real listener favourite and a huge chart hit.
Rating: Excellent
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