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Mandala by Eric Bikales
- posted by Dyan Garris on 1/11/2021
Mandala by Eric Bikales
“Beautifully melodic and flowing, every song on this uplifting album feels like a universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. It is full circle back to wholeness.” – Dyan Garris

A mandala – simplified – is a cosmic symbol; a “circle of life,” representing unity or wholeness. Here, on the newest album from Eric Bikales, “Mandala,” we have 12 tracks each representing a specific universal concept. These are: Generosity, Kindness, Honesty, Love, Compassion, Charity, Forgiveness, Devotion, Resourcefulness, Humility, and Serenity. These are all characteristics and qualities that human nature aspires to master while here on Earth. Well, we can certainly try. And should. I think, too, it is no accident that there are 12 tracks. The number 12 has many spiritual connotations.

Now, let’s dig in.

I’m going to start by saying that I cannot pick a favorite on this album. I don’t think you’d be able to either. It’s outstanding, the whole thing. I also think it’s important to note that there is nothing even remotely “heavy” here. The album is easy, breezy, jazzy, upbeat, eloquent, feel-good music.

And every single note is as authentic as it gets. I think it’s all a stunning mirror reflection of Eric’s spirit. I do. Just beautiful. And the music makes US feel good about being here and being alive. It just does. This is the gift of a true artist.

Who is this guy? Eric Bikales is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist from an artistic and musical family. An accomplished, professional musician, he has played in orchestras, jazz groups, and rock ’n roll bands, and for 30 years maintained a career as a studio musician in California, as well as composing tons of music for television while he lived there. In addition, his solo albums are: “Tranquility,” “Fire in the Clouds,” “Follow Your Heart,” “Energy,” “Autumn Whispers-Winter Dreams,” “Ocean Reflections,” and now, “Mandala.”

Just to give you a little flavor of his illustrious career, Eric has played keyboards for numerous notables – too many to name all – such as Bette Midler, Cher, Dolly Parton, and Neil Sedaka. He’s also recorded with Kenny Rogers, Tom Waits, Mike Post, and Lisa Hartman Black, just to name a few. He’s performed on television shows such as The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, Good Morning America, A-Team, and Dragnet. He is also an online professor at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, and has also authored several courses on music theory, arranging and film scoring.
You get the idea, right? Right.

On “Mandala,” Eric plays ALL the instruments, including bass, alto and C flutes, melodica, and a host of synthesizers: Yamaha DX-7, Korg M1R, MS2000R, Waldorf MicroQ Synthesizers, Fender Rhodes/Wurlitzer electric pianos, Oberheim OB-8, Matrix 1000, Hammond B3/122. The word, “impressive” for the instrumentation on the album doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Some brief highlights from “Mandala:” The album opens with “Generosity.” This is melodic and happy. “Kindness” is warm and flowing. I found it artistically interesting that “Honesty” feels mysterious and brimming with intrigue. Not shady. Just a mysterious vibe to it. Light, smooth, and graceful, “Love” is heart-warming and twinkling with its supple synths and flute. “Compassion” is a flowing river of grace. Love it. I do want to point out that while all the instrumentation is simply superb throughout, I immensely enjoyed the flute performances on this album, which I found to be exquisite and uplifting, particularly in these two songs.

The melodic, piano based, “Charity” is just beautiful in every way. The atmospheric “Forgiveness” is effortless, and, again, we have a stunning flute performance here as well, with cinematic strings and poignant piano. Heart-opening and gently expansive, for sure. The piano on “Devotion” is melodic and memorable. Nicely done. Now, you’re going along on your journey of life, and wherever it takes you, there indeed comes a time when inevitably, you find you must dig deep into being resourceful. That is this song, “Resourcefulness.” Perfectly conveyed, it’s a “journey.”

I think humility is generally an oft misunderstood term. True humility has nothing to do with low self-worth. Simplified, it has everything to do with lack of arrogance. That’s what we have here in the song, “Humility.” Flowing grace and elegance with zero pretentiousness. Authenticity. Such cannot be faked.

The jazz vibe in “Respect” is wonderful, just wonderful. And the album closes out with “Serenity,” which is not one of those songs that puts you to sleep. This is one that genuinely soothes the soul on every level. Not the ambient, wandering, fuzzy kind of New Agey “serenity,” this is beautifully melodic, and it truly feels like an extremely comforting universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. The whole album is like that. This is full circle, back to wholeness. Thank you.

And by the way, I do want to mention the CD artwork is stunning, gives me chills, and is by the late Charles (Charlie) Hedges, to whom the album is also dedicated.

“Mandala” is available on all digital platforms, as well as in the form of a physical CD. Yay!

Official artist website: https://ericbikales.com/

Broadcast/media promotion:
LAZZ Promotions (Ed & Stacey Bonk)
E-mail: lazzpromotions@lazzpromotions.com


Rating: Excellent
Hemispherica Portalis by Desensitized
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/26/2020
A Portal of 1000 Years
On Hemispherica Portalis, the first from the creative entity calling itself Desensitized, we are faced with unknown possibilities. The sound: electronica and air, changing into new unnamed forms and impressions. It starts with flutes, winds through a vast array of electronic illusions and ends with harps. The sound brings the listener through new territory in the electronic ambient universe, two astonishing artists collaborating on a colossal sonic adventure, a series of creative acts and intellectual contemplation where the “experiencer” and “experienced” argue about the ways in which supernatural agents formed the earth and peopled it, the causation to direct the natural forces to produce various effects, and often inspires at least one ambition of science: to invent an explanation, translating the unknown into the known. However, the constant listener should not make the error of believing. Always question what can be assumed, and most of all, enjoy the show.

Lush melodic electronica that transports listeners into new territories, blending edgy textural and experimental sound craft with a commanding sense of depth and imagination. What I hear on Hemispherica Portalis is not traditionally melodic, I hear lots of textures, there are no words except for the song titles. The artists deploy new technologies which create a sonic experience that has never before been considered.

This album of sonic mythology is really different and essential, I think it is best suited for late night listening, when the planet is very quiet. There are so many tiny details and shivers to be experienced. Questions to be pondered, such as, are those myths and legends fanciful stories of something that existed only in the minds of our ancestors, or were they based on true events? How was the earth created? Why do we have night and day? Why do people die? How did the human species arise? There are no lyrics heard in the music, so your thoughts and discoveries are ultimately unlimited.

Music is organized sound, an invisible expression that lights up your inner universe. Here are some new colors and materials. Here are some delicate flavors for your tongue’s ears, moving between different points in time, experiencing products of vivid imagination, whose goals aren’t purely to portray phenomena beyond comprehension, but perhaps they function to assure, encourage, and inspire. In the history of humans it has been said that the world has always existed, or the world did not always exist but was created in some way, or the world previously existed, but in another form, and has somehow been brought into this present moment. Music can provide an atmosphere for thinking new thoughts.

Clocks glow across a dark background, representing time travel theories. Not all scientists believe that time travel is possible. Myths are a folklore genre consisting of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history close together, considering such stories to be true accounts of their remote past and mix into a blend of all their folktales, fairy tales, superstitions, weatherlore, ghost stories, as well as stories of isles and continents lost below the surface of the waters.

I sometimes wonder if some kinds of music permits the spirits of ancient humans to continue to navigate the seas, explore lost civilizations, examine sacred writings, tour ancient places, investigate ancient discoveries, question mysterious happenings, to ponder creation, divine will, fertility, death, and love – such concepts that are a universal part of many cultures throughout the world. Tales are told and sung, perhaps someone might embellish a detail here, exclude a name there, transpose two incidents, amplify a cryptic part, perhaps sometimes one might give greater motive or justification to an action. The only important question might be, do you like the way it sounds?

The first track on Hemispherica Portalis is the title track “Hemispherica Portalis” (6:58) Portal of 1000 Years and is a splendid sort of a gateway, the listener is greeted by a cloud or hive of flutes swirling about in caverns. In the oldest caves archeologists have found ancient flutes that were played in the darkness, enjoying the echo found there. I also hear a steel guitar; I like the way the steel guitar sounds in the mix. The album notes list the following gear – flute, Taos drums, and percussion… Rode NT4 microphone. Synths and electronics: Yamaha Motif, Roland V-synth GT, Roland Integra, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, and Native Instruments Reaktor.

“Concunus Dracus” (9:30) Dragon of the Heavens. A dragon is a legendary creature that has been depicted variously as large, serpentine, winged, horned, four-legged, capable of breathing fire, and with above-average intelligence. The word is also a metaphor for difficulty or danger. There is no reptilian roaring or sound of any physical beast on this track, but you can sense the heart, wisdom, and power of the dragon.

In the middle, “Ecumenicus Orato” (12:54) The Umbilical Center. Prayer is an invocation or physical act that seeks to activate a connection with an object of worship through direct communication, either for supplication or to request intercession, and is directed towards a deity, or as a ritually obligatory and repetitive practice to sustain a sense of normalcy and peace.

MY FAVORITE is ”Saltis Nominus” (11:38) Floating Seabeds. I remember that supernatural sea creatures were said to live in underwater caves or submerged palaces made from sunken ships, some with the legs and wings of underwater birds, some playing a great variety of musical instruments. Ancient animals that can adapt to different conditions through time, where their young find cover from predators until they are mature. In this area the laws of physics are violated, and it was even suggested there is extraterrestrial activity there. What I hear are delicate pulses under water, tubes of infinite length and electronic chimes, strange insects purring and calling, with a bit more bounce as the song progresses. Some ringing metal, some bugs and waterbirds at night. My ears have many adventures each time I listen to this one.

Desensitized is a collaborative project realized between Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis. The name Desensitized could be an antidote for our strange times, seeking relief from the most recent changes that have emerged from the teetering and whirling globe we live on. The controversial author H.P. Lovecraft once postulated that the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. Desensitized is a balm for these new tribulations we are living through now.
Rating: Excellent
An Ocean of Time by Time Being
- posted by Robin James on 10/23/2020
Are we in the cosmos or is the cosmos in us?
Ambient cinematic electronic space music that is vast, sparkling, slow, and detailed, symphonic with exotic instruments emerging and transforming, capturing time, eternity, and the presence of the current moment. The cover art is based on a photograph by Matthew Cooper, and the package design is by Daniel Pipitone. What you will hear is electronica created by hands trained for classical music, employing a variety of synthesized instrumentation, such as sometimes just a hint of strings, always light, not dense, yet with complexity. Always slow and interesting, consistently relaxing and engaging without requiring your constantly focused attention, the music both rewards focused listening and at the same time allows the listener float in their own thoughts, without external drama.

Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik, also known as Time Being, inspire a deep fascination about time and how we experience it. The flow of sand in an hourglass can be used to measure the passage of time amidst the swirl of experience going on around. Thinking of the present as being a point somewhere between the past and the future is further complicated by enlarging the scope from an hourglass to all the sands on a beach and all the dunes surrounding an ocean. And that ocean is in itself also captured within the sky.

An Ocean of Time has 8 tracks that invite us to learn how to actively listen to music, not just hear it. The composers have captured the notion of an ocean of time using their ample imaginations, with audio tools and soundcraft, to create a listening experience suitable for relaxing, dreaming, thinking deeply and being in the present moment of time, as well as for enhancing the practice of yoga and meditation.

A global ocean has existed in one form or another on Earth for eons, and the notion dates back to classical antiquity in the form of Oceanus. In the first track, the title track, "An Ocean of Time" (7:09) I hear a subtle sigh of surf under a night sky, gentle tones, with no repeating melody, from a fantastic ethereal piano, with a slight hint of strings shimmering for brief moments. Various objects pass through the stars never lingering. The sound portrays forms in fog that offer suggestions without resolving. Darkness within darkness, nearly revealing fragments of gradually emerging details in a wide open skyscape, "Drifting Form, Ineffable Void" (5:47). There are significant differences between the way things are perceived to exist and the way things really exist, the "now" and the "not now" are part of the music.

A bridge crosses the Styx at Limbo. "Here. Now. Always." (6:51) considers the ever expanding present, depicted by colorful vapors and small thin clouds of desire. Form, and formlessness, the "present" is a relative concept different for observers in relative motion. The music invites us to muse in our beds about dreaming and multiple consciousnesses, death, collective memory, and the simultaneity of the constant presence of the "dreamer."

When living consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Life is raging all around, and every moment is magical. Time as an illusion, a mirage of strings touched and reverberating, patterns form in the haze. "Infinite Cadence" (10:35) suggests that there could be a correct understanding of the relation of the self to the external world, but offers no actual proof. No matter, I just like the way it sounds.

The next track speaks of liminal experiences, radical subjectivity, and the great moment, only to wake into another dream. "Unfolding Way" (3:56) to me sounds like a series of sheets that are made of night. The sound has a flowing, surreal, dreamlike quality, neither affirming or denying what "is" or "is not."

Human reason has boundaries, when we sometimes experience existential dread, anxiety, or anguish, the moment gets stuck and stands still, and to seek expectantly the possibility of the good is to hope, perfection guides us from inside. Following this principle allows us to live in peace with nature and to find tranquillity. "A Perfect Heart" (9:44) brings a sound of motion deep within huge clouds. Later the sun comes out and is sparkling brightly.

A centaur is an example of poetic fiction, an illusion from antiquity, or perhaps a relic of someone’s dream. Humans are thus sometimes compelled to find or create meaning, authenticity is evidenced in acting, one should act as oneself and try to realize that in the most lucid dreams we are in control. "Momentary Illusions" (11:21) brings us deeper ever more, floating between the bottom of the ocean and the shimmering surface of the water. Does a dream offer clues for a deeper interpretation of waking reality?

The idea of lucid dreaming, of knowing that you're dreaming and thus being able to exert some control over your dreams, suggests that the only things that exist are thoughts and ideas. In the closing track, "A Notion of Being" (15:30), the sound asks me, can there be a desert canyon under water? This is what the wind might sound like there. Time Being allows listeners to consider many impossible things.

Time travel is the concept of moving backwards or forwards to different points in time, and some people might be traveling at different speeds, while agreeing on cause and effect, and measure different time separations between events. The past lies behind, fixed and immutable, while the future lies ahead and is not necessarily fixed. Music such as this investigates being as being, often to find no real equivalent of our concept of existence. Again the essential questions, perhaps the only questions that matter, are: Does it sound pleasing? Will you play it again?

1 An Ocean of Time
2 Drifting Form, Ineffable Void
3 Here. Now. Always.
4 Infinite Cadence
5 Unfolding Way
6 A Perfect Heart
7 Momentary Illusions
8 A Notion of Being

An Ocean Of Time was mastered by Ben Cox, and is available for physical purchase in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. The CD version of the album arrives in a factory sealed 6-panel gatefold package that includes vibrant artwork, liner notes, a 4-page booklet, and exquisite package design by Daniel Pipitone, with an original photo by Matthew Cooper.

Time Being will be featured in the coming weeks on Spotted Peccary Music's popular Spotify "Impulse: Artist Curated" playlist, and on the label's YouTube live stream series: Transmissions; subscribe for updates at the links below.

Spotted Peccary Album page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/an-ocean-of-time/
Youtube Transmissions: https://youtu.be/kxuu089d-48
Time Being Artist page: https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/time-being/
MeWe: https://mewe.com/p/spottedpeccarymusic
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timebeingmusic
Bandcamp: https://ambientelectronic.bandcamp.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spottedpeccary/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/spottedpeccary
Rating: Excellent
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