By Jim Brenholts



Copia Music
(Regular readers of this column will recall that I am not a big fan of vocal music at all. I prefer to let the music deliver the message unencumbered of the lyricist’s interpretations. I am, however, a huge fan of great music and great poetry. This CD has both of those in abundance.)

Copia is Nora Hendrick — vocals, Lori Williams — lyrics, Bradley Spears — music and musician, Keri Canchola — backup vocals and Ricky Hirsch — guitars. Copia is their debut CD and it is a real gem!

Bradley’s arrangements and airs float around Nora’s vocals effortlessly. Ricky’s guitars punctuate the proceedings. Keri’s support, while subtle, is crucial to the soundscapes.

This CD, however, is about Lori’s lyrics/poetry — poignant, melancholy, bittersweet, happy, joyous and free. Regardless of the venue, the words keep coming back to the listeners, energizing their souls. Lori’s experience, strength and hope radiate from the very fiber of the language. It is like hearing a foreign language for the first time with complete understanding.

Of course, Nora’s delivery is important as well. She has tremendous range and her style ranges from torch singer to cabaret performer and beyond. She is up to the task of bringing Lori’s poetry to the heart.

This CD is an essential experience for listeners looking to expand their horizons and center their spirits. Lori speaks from — and listens to — the heart.

Rudy Adrian
Rudy Adrian has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s finest performers of sequencer-driven electronica. [He releases his CD’s in that style on Groove Unlimited (} He has also released several CD’s of electronic ambience and minimalism. Moonwater, on Lotuspike, is in that mode.

This set is quiet, inviting and quite compelling. The sparse sound design creates a comfortable space for getting out of oneself to learn oneself. (The old cliché —  finding myself — is still going strong.) The liner notes provide a good description of how Rudy created this music. Sparse is, indeed, the right word as he used only one synth and one computer.

It worked! Right from the start the minimalism just slides out of the speakers and into the cerebral cortex. It floats around the neuropathways, stimulating serotonin, neuroprenephrin and dopamine along the way.

The music reaches no peak but unravels into itself as each new atmosphere begets another new atmosphere, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum (on continuous play). After several journeys, the atmospheres are still new as they unfold, unravel and roll, languidly, along.

There are several ways to create and define ambient minimalism and/or minimalist ambience. Rudy’s method of less is more is one of the better methods.

Return to Lakefront
Kevin R Osborn
Return to Lakefront is very sim-ilar — in structure — to Fairy Lul-labies, also featured in this column. Kevin Osborn’s (KevOz) sound design features an acoustic piano surrounded by a wide array of acoustic and electronic instruments. (While they are both excellent CD’s, the similarity ends there.)

This is a very cool CD with a nice theme — revisiting one’s past through an examination of familiar environments. There are good memories, sad memories, bad memories and painful memories. (In some cases — like mine — there are also cloudy and foggy memories. This occurs when one attempts to practice better living through chemistry. J L)

Kevin’s atmospheres and soundscapes are smooth. While the sound design is certainly intricate and complex, the sound is simple and clear. The loops and layers do not clash. Rather, they contrast and compliment.

There are, however, some flaws in the construction of this set though they are not fatal. It sounds like Kevin used computerized percussion for his upbeat pieces. That is a very effective and acceptable method for ambient and minimalist pieces and for harder tempos like electronica and techno. With this style — adult contemporary/new age — it does not work well at all.

While there are some uneven moments on this disc, they do not detract from its overall beauty and appeal. It still comes with a very high recommendation.

Gary Stadler
Fairy Lullabies
Sequoia Records
Solo piano music can be some of the most boring music in the world. It just seems to have been done ad nauseum until there is no new ground to break.

As a featured or accompanying instrument in a sophisticated sound design, however, the acoustic piano is still a beautiful and vibrant instrument. Such is the case with Fairy Lullabies by Gary Stadler.

He is an award-winning world-renowned composer/performer of Celtic music. He has taken 11 of his creations and transcribed them as lullabies. This is a stunning CD! These pieces are soft, gentle and warm. They caress listeners and lead them down paths of reverie and semi-lucid meditation. The atmospheres are like elves, sprites or — well — fairies as they use the magic of music to soothe the hearts and souls of the listeners.

Indeed, it is difficult to write while listening to this music. The primary urge is to lie back and go where the music beckons. That is the beauty of music like this — words are not enough. The music says it all — more eloquently than any writer could.

It has long been believed that music soothes the savage beast. Whoever coined that phrase must have been imagining music like this. It could soothe any beast — savage or otherwise.

The Tunnel Singer
Tunnel Singer Music
Lee Ellen Shoemaker is The Tunnel Singer. Cenote (See Note Tay) is her comeback disc after an absence of six years imposed by a throat condition that took away her ability to sing. (She did release Sailing the Solar Wind in 2003. That CD consists mainly of electronic and processed sounds with vocal samples.) A new surgical procedure restored her singing voice and she returned to the “Cistern Chapel” at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA. (She recorded Water Birth there in 1999.)

The cistern has a 45-second echo delay that adds natural processing to Lee Ellen’s stunning voice. She has tremendous range and uses wordless vocals to convey her feelings. The sheer beauty of her voice would be enough on its own. Enhanced by the natural reverberation, her voice becomes a sound board and an orchestra, allowing her to accompany herself.

This recording brings to mind others who have used similar techniques — Stuart Dempster, Jim Cole, Paul Horn, Carlos Nakai and Michael Stearns. (Indeed, Stuart recorded a CD in the same cistern in 1994 with ten of his trombone students.) In terms of originality, quality and innovation, Lee Ellen is definitely in that class. It is a wonder that she does not have more renown. 

Wolfsheart & Mexx
(Unofficial Harmonized
Chill-Out Tapes)
Silenzio Music (Distribution)
This is an extremely difficult CD to review. There are, perhaps, dozens of German individuals and ensembles attempting to create “Native American” music merely by virtue of their chosen instruments. They are all proficient technically and do not miss a note. Wolfsheart & Mexx are and are not exceptions.

The flute is awesome and Wolfs–heart gives a superb performance. The natural sonority of the Native American flute is consummate and it breathes and sings life. Track five — “Grandfather’s Journey” is a flute solo and it is easily the highlight of this set. Would that the entire CD was this good.

That, of course, begs the question — What is wrong with this CD? In a word, it is Mexx’s “Groove Box.” There is nothing wrong with combining atmospheric synths with Native American music. Several outstanding performers have doe so quite magnificently. (Carlos Nakai and Douglas Spotted Eagles are among the best at that style.) The piano can also work quite well accompanying the cedar flute too. Computer and synthesizer generated rhythms just don’t cut it. For the most part, they ruin it.

There are also some symphonic passages that grate as well. Navajo chants and cedar flutes do not play well with an orchestra — electronic or otherwise.

The oxymorons and juxtapositions are just too much to ignore. The flutes are great but the rest of the disc pales in comparison.

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