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Autumn Monsoon by Suzanne Teng
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/6/2019
Perfect in all ways - true quality
I had listened to this album intently and was certain I had heard this style of flute performed on another album, until I slapped my head with my hand, with the realisation that this was some 2 years plus ago, and under the name of Mystic Journey, Teng and Levy’s skill set brought me a fantastic album called Kingdom of Mountains back then, and now were off on a new voyage entitled Autumn Monsoon.
This musical partnership have graced us with their music over the years on film, TV and various other commercial projects. I must admit to be a bit of a fan of their work as it sets a beautiful place of calm for us eager listeners to listen from, we therefore start this voyage with the opener and title track Autumn Monsoon. Teng’s flute here is majestic in creating an autumnal feel to the composition, whilst the crafted percussion manifests a wonderful base from with which we can all explore this graphic musical narrative.
The longest piece off the release is up next and called Indian Sisters, the scene is immediately set with simplicity, and we could with ease, be on the hills sides gazing down upon the valleys of a textured Indian countryside. Levy’s multi instrumental nature not only in this track, but in the entire album will bring us a fine array of plucked and percussive moments of genius. I would dare to say that this is a particular favourite of mine, but on an album of near on perfection that’s difficult, but the mood and graphic nature of this offering is utterly sublime.
It has been said that this pairing create music that will lift the listener to a place of beauty, that can be further emphasized by this following offering called Maya. The gentle nature of this track is soothing and most healing; there is also an underpinned and very lush sense of a Celtic refrain here that is equally charming.
The opening to this piece, Traveler, was superb; guitars lay down a bed of music that is almost like walking the boundaries of the wastelands in some middle Earth betwixt and between what we know as reality. Teng’s flute then brings an almost native energy to the proceedings as we seem to be moving further onward down a dusty track, where remnants of a forgotten past lay discarded as the world has moved on, this is a fine cinematic performance by both artists, and with ease my personal favourite off the album.
On Blue Ngoni we have an intriguing piece; one that offers up something truly fascinating to listen to, with the symbiotic partnership of percussion and flute, there’s a beautiful depth to this piece that I also found attractive as well, the sounds of the Ngoni were so fluent within this charming musical narrative.
Canyon Ghosts is one of those tracks that is simply magnificent in every way, the tones and wonderful instrumentation draw such evocative images of a spiritual location when the ancients reside, but can only been seen by those with a pure heart and intentions. The flute of Teng here is masterful, she creates such a mood filled landscape, and this sonic soundtrack is added to by the patient and timely percussion of Levy; note the textured layered backdrop here as well.
A truly meditative offering can be found on this next composition called Sueños. One could with ease slip into the other realms whilst listening to this transfixing offering. Levy’s musical talents bring us work on many instruments, so I hope I am right to applaud the work of the dulcimer here, one that at times reminded me of the work of the legendary new age artist Deuter.
As we move deeper into the dark waters of this album we come across a truly galactic track entitled Andromeda. Yes, another favourite of mine, I stated early there would be many. The soulfulness with which Teng’s performance is blessed with here is huge, and the outcome of this splendid arrangement is one that brings us something musically so vast, we could roam within its tones for eons.
We arrive at the penultimate offering off the album, it is called Journey of Life. All life is a circle, and everything the power of the world does is done in a circle, this I do believe. This is a beautiful composition, I mentioned the soul of Teng’s performance earlier, well this is the very track where you will not only see, but feel it present its stunning achievement. A mystical offering can be found here, one that is so deeply powerful and also very moving, a track that shows the sheer class of both artists at their very best.
We have now arrived at the very last portal of the album and we are given one last musical gift from this symbiotic musical partnership, which is called Prayer for Claire. A moment of reflection is before us, a moment of thought and a time to reflect on another, this was a nice touch at the end of a beautiful album, musical honour and respect, and of course love.
Autumn Monsoon is one of those albums you just can’t wait to get your hands on, perfect in all ways, brilliantly performed and craft fully produced. Teng and Levy have done it again, there intelligent and sparkling musical presentations have once more gifted to us listeners one of the finest contemporary instrumental albums of the year, and the fans and listeners of true quality music, should be queuing around the block to get hold of this one.
Rating: Excellent
Sempre: A New Dimension by Ian Maksin
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/6/2019
Every composition is a story unto its own
The Cello is a remarkable instrument, it is a creator of reflective musical images that can sometimes break the heart, and at other times bring comfort and delight to the soul, it seems Ian Maksin feels somewhat similar to myself, as his love of the Cello shines like a beacon in the night on this his latest release entitled, Sempre: A New Dimension.
Sempre I believe means loosely, always, forever, and this opening piece called just that gives us a charming opening to the album, one that lays the melody open for us all to enjoy, and makes the music truly accessible to all, in a very stylish opening composition.
At just five years old the artist was entranced by the Cello, his deft skills on this next offering is a sample of that cultured craft on the composition called Blues Au Jardin Du Luxembourg. This fine example of a crossover arrangement is not only superbly played; it is done so with such a high level of skill and fluency to manifest something that is so incredibly transfixing.
On Vancouver Rain we have a track that has a real energy of reflection within its overall construction, there is something about this opus that is wonderfully addictive, but then the Cello is a masterful instrument, a tool of musical emotion and charm, and on this piece you have both, a combination of a slight Jazz ethic, blues and a little classical all meet to manifest a thoroughly compelling piece.
The short form piece Summer Garden could have taken us back in time to years gone by, to an era where the summers were as long as ladies dresses, this beautifully little danceable number will Waltz its way into your heart.
Respiro was one of my favourites off the album, its depth and intensity drew me into the composition with ease, it is without doubt the most fluent arrangement off the release. Strange thing is I feel so drawn to this music, and have now listened to it three times in a row already, the beauty of the arrangement is utterly outstanding, and now if you pardon me, I will enjoy its refrains again and just, breathe!
Lacrimae Novae is our next offering and another moving moment of musical interpretation from Maksim. At slightly under 6 minutes we have a piece that held its energies quite beautifully and manifested something quite ambient for me. This would be another favourite of mine, the depth in both performance and arrangement was sublime and to be honest, I could have listened to this on repeat for hours and would have still loved every second of it, a track as deeply mournful as the tears of a young child.
A shift in energy occurs as we reach the track entitled Per Me Per Te, a familiar tune indeed, but one played by the artist with a true uniqueness of style and performance. The melody seems to drift in and out with each note played, as if we stand on a musical shore and the tide of time and tone moves back and forth before us.
If we were silent within silence, perhaps we could detect the universal love we can all tap into, this is made much easier when listening to the following track entitled Sunset On The Cascade. A redolent moment, a halcyon segment of musical life;I can picture myself with my wife, just outside of the harbour on a boat, and as the engine stills, this music plays in the background across the backdrop of the Mediterranean ocean, as a glorious orange sun sets beneath salmon pink skies.
We have finally reached the last composition on the album; it is called Brand New Page. A fine sense of movement can be found here with the light but pertinent percussion that is contained within, this lively and vibrant song is simply the perfect way to leave an album of such classy intent.
Sempre: A New Dimension is an album that will hook it’s listeners with the intent of entertaining and engaging its audience in something fresh new and exciting. Ian Maksin has brought something very different to this musical table of ours, and I think you will love it, his unique performance style is bathed with such intelligence and class that each and every composition is a story unto its own, a thoroughly thoughtful and fascinating release, one that offers it’s listeners a totally different musical perspective.
Rating: Excellent
Healing Hands by Cathy Oakes
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/6/2019
Creative and beautiful, bringing peace and calm to
There can be no harder journey to travel than one through Cancer, and to have the courage to create an album based on that journey is not only remarkable, it is inspirational and beautiful, the essence of gratitude and the love of life shines bright within Cathy Oakes, and this her latest offering is breath taking for many reasons.
The opener The Threshold speaks volumes for the alley way and corridors that a person walks down on their way to this portal of physical and psychological change, and Oakes melody is so heartfelt and poignant, one can actually feel the letting go of control as we literally have non at this point, yet still this performance and it’s resulting sound, has a colourful element of beauty about its nature that is so deeply felt.
Healing Hands is a mournful repose that has highlights of empowering tones built perfectly within its structures, ones that contain both hope and respect and played with such calmness of spirt, however Oakes doesn’t shy away from the The Darkest Hour, her track entitled just that, is a walk through those moments when you wake up in the early hours, and crazy thoughts of dark proportions enter your mind, her composition here explores her belief system, and how it brings comfort to her at these times.
A Fragile Grasp continues that theme, but illustrates the sheer lack of control over life that we all actually have, but even more so when you are going through a journey like this, her performance on this piece is emotional and thought provoking, but played with such a harmonious attitude, that may give to us the only control we may have at this point, to let go of everything.
The twists and turns of a journey through extreme illness are all beautifully portrayed here by Cathy Oakes on this 12 track offering, and one must commend the artist for this courageous musical narrative, and as a constant reminder to us all, she finishes this deeply moving album off with a track called Blessed Journey, something perhaps that we may all take for granted, it is enough surely, to celebrate each breath that we take on this wonderful journey of human experience.
Healing Hands is an album that is as creative and beautiful, as it is therapeutic and cathartic for the artist, it is very likely that many will not only find a good deal of peace and calm from listening to and reading about this album, they may also find a deep well of inspiration and courage from it too, now if on those conditions only, surely that’s enough to thoroughly recommend this album completely.
Rating: Excellent
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