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The Presence of Wonder by Pam Asberry
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/15/2019
Truly a landmark in the career of pianist
Pam Asberry has been building up to this moment since the release of her debut album Seashells in my Pocket back in 2017, and this could well be the grand stage of piano that lifts her to the very top of the tree in 2019.
This new release has a real upsurge of both energy and experience, and tracks like the beautifully textured title offering The Presence of Wonder really highlight just what an accomplished pianist Asberry is becoming, the track has such a reverence of reality about it.
One of my personal favourites was the almost classical reverie inspired magic of the track Nebula. With ease film score standard and played with the confidence of an artist who truly believes in herself.
This thirteen track album is packed with music that takes you on a wonderful journey through many chapters of musical genius, like the addictive Above the Clouds, or the deeply powerful opus of Surrender. One thing is for sure, Asberry has pulled all the stops out for this release, one can literally feel the energy bristle with each track played.
The album though is balanced like a ballerinas dance across a smoky stage, listen to the harmonious delights of pieces like The Kindness of Strangers, a track blessed with love and tenderness, partner that with Wishes in the Wind, a smooth and charming narrative that would make anyone’s day shine brighter and finally ending this delightful moment of musical time with the composition simply entitled, Now, a perfect ending indeed.
There can be no doubt that this in my opinion is Asberry’s breakout album, whilst Seashells was good, this is outstanding, the time, the thought, the sheer hard work and love that must have gone into creating this album is immense and deserves to be rewarded. The Presence of Wonder is truly a landmark in the career of pianist Pam Asberry and one that for me is very easy to recommend.
Rating: Excellent
Beyond the Purple Sun by Jim Ottaway
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/12/2019
A tapestry of brilliant compositions
There are few musicians who can take you to the edge of infinity and beyond, one of the few is Australian space supremo Jim Ottaway, whose brand of electronic space styled music, literally paints the sectors of the galactic emporium as we listen.
The opening offering sees us breaking free of our space port and manoeuvring into a high orbit of our home world, as we prepare to break free and enter deep space at a slow, but determined speed. Ottaway on Celestial Rainbows perfectly illustrates for us the beauty of space and its vast realms with some sublime synth work that draws into view for us the miracle of the universe.
The mastery of Ottaway’s modus operandi, is that each track is live and improvised, that talent is a rare gift and on the track Lavender Moons we can hear that methodology in full flow, the stylish construction using synths and keyboards gifts us a stunning sight of twin lavender moons to marvel at.
A completely different colour and texture of dimension now greets our eyes as we drop from warp, the ominous deep and mysterious region of the galaxy that is known to but a few wary travellers as the Dark Spaces. Ottaway’s musical database tell us that this region has barely been mapped and the tones of the performance are ones that warn, there is more here than the eye could ever see. Here lies a powerful and atmospheric offering, one that crackles and rumbles with the intent of a black hole manifesting itself, these swirling synths are absolutely perfect for drawing a musical narrative of a final frontier, perhaps the borderlands of space and time itself!
Now one must bear in mind that the artist has had these compositions in his grip for nearly 10 years now, as they were recorded from 2009 to 2019, but space music is timeless and the production quality on each and every track is faultless.
As we approach the half way buoy, our space beacon tells us we have the opportunity to witness the Birth of a Violet Quasar. This long form offering allows us the room and time to explore this expansive opus. There can be no doubt that this piece is genius, I have listened several times now and I am still in awe of its arrangement. The pulsating motif in the first few minutes could well be the actual birth of the quasar, as the feminine divide finally expels the quasar from her galactic belly; the peace that follows is simply sublime. Ottaway on this track has truly excelled, and I am right there on the bridge of our ship watching this occurrence happen.
We explore the deeper regions of what we are told are the Badlands of space, bright flashes in this region of the sector are picked up on our scanners and even via our view screen, as we watch Space Lightning. Jim Ottaway beautifully narrates this galactic area brilliantly with some simply incredible synth work; his textures are matched with some startling effects, ones that add a layer of tension to the whole composition.
Our mission to explore, record, witness and enjoy the mechanics of space is nearly complete, we must prepare to make the jump to hyperspace, but before we do so, we manoeuvre slowly to port to watch the Secrets of the Hidden Stars reveal themselves to us. One by one, with a twinkling of the eye, stars are born and then disappear; as if in a micro second, life and death have been in a simultaneous and symbiotic partnership. This is portrayed to me with such skill and aplomb; the talents of Ottaway and his composure gift us a piece that is the ultimate arrangement of excellent synth work, and a harmonious rhythmic performance that is sheer class to listen to.
We end our voyage now with the title track Beyond the Purple Sun, this is the blank canvas that the artist will paint for us the over view of the concept of his entire work, this lush and colourful pastiche is a marvel to behold and at times one feels a little energy of a David Wright composition here, the pulsating onward musical movement mixed with sublime eddying synths, manifest the perfect composition to dock our musical space ship with.
Beyond The Purple Sun in my view is one of the best albums I have heard from Ottaway, it’s a tapestry of splendid arrangements are all weaved together in an absolutely beautifully produced collection of quite brilliant compositions. If you’re a fan of electronic space music, you would be remiss in not snagging a copy of this for your collection; it is a true masterpiece of just how good this style of music can be, from an artist who clearly knows his own musical soul.
Rating: Excellent
Fire Opal by Massergy
- posted by R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews on 4/3/2019
Fire Opal
Fire Opal

A Tenuous Hold of Reality at Best
Fire Opal is one of those albums that you put on and immerse yourself in the music. Trust me; you’re going to get lost. You’re going to drift along, maybe lose track of time, and eventually you will be better off for the experience. Fire Opal, the seven-track release from Massergy is ambient alchemy. Like gazing at a fire opal made of mineral, the music is mesmerizing, vivid, and enriching.
Massergy is the nom-de-synth of Eric Jensen. He taught himself music to honor his brother Adam’s work after he passed many years ago. It sounds to me like Eric has the chops. The music is atmospheric, but down to earth rather than from outer space. His topics are unpretentious, but interesting, as you will read and hopefully, hear. There aren’t a lot of semi-quavers, pops, and whistles in Massergy’s music. Just compositions that are naturally calming, highly textural, and convey a unique sense of buoyancy.
Vinesong launches the album with a swirling guitar motif. It has a gentle cadence to it; slow, solid, and soothing. Its resonance is warm to the senses. The music puts your body and mind at ease, making it receptive to what is to follow.
There are a trio of really long tracks on the album. The Shepherdess comes in at 10:46, Opal Fire at 17:17 and Cold White Smoke at a length of 17:57. Each one of these is an amazing journey in of itself. The Shepherdess is dreamy tones of bass and bells, electric guitar and synth organ. The melody becomes your guide, encouraging you to move on, go forward, and reach higher. Lunar Cinema is a perfect background score for the recent super moon. There is a brightness to the overall theme, but the languorous quality slows the internal clock allowing for meditation on any subject.
Cold White Smoke starts with an exhalation of sorts, as if the planet breathes in deeply and releases. We are cast away into a mist of hazy thoughts and blurred visions. The tune becomes more lively as it progresses, expanding, and churning about. It is more room for your imagination to play with, so carry on.
Can you feel color? Emotionally you can. On Fire Opal the reds and yellows are warm tones, the blues and greens are cool. The soft echoing voice comes and goes like a wraith. The title cut, Fire Opal is a sonic kaleidoscope. Just listen and you will hear sound taking shape, merging into itself, and coming out as something entirely different.
One of my favorites on the album is El Viajero, The Traveler. It is muted compared to other tracks on the recording, but there’s a wonderful sense of movement on this guitar infused piece. As I listened to it, it felt as if the landscape was passing by me making me the traveler.
The final cut is called La Extraña, The Strange. Deep bass, warm washes of sound, and a flowing background all combine into a song of primordial ponderings. There is a tinny, snapping percussion that acts as the heartbeat to it all.
In all of Massergy’s music there is a lot of subtext to be found. It’s not just good, flowing compositions. There’s a subliminal quality to the themes. Kudos to Massergy for finding in a dozen years for what many spend a lifetime looking. As I said, if you get lost, blame it on the music. Highly recommended ambience.
- R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews

Rating: Excellent
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