By Jim Brenholts



Healing All Around You
Goddesshug International
While reviewing music is an absolute joy and pleasure, it can be difficult to write about great music. Such is the case with Healing All Around You, by Micheline. This CD has all the ingredients for a superb healing experience. Micheline’s sound design includes chants, guided meditation, Tibetan singing bowls, a didgeridoo, keyboards and electronics. Her mix is excellent; her spirit is right on target; her goal is laudable. (Any minute now, the inspiration will kick in and the review will write itself.)

Mantra (mantram) comes from the Sanskrit word manas (mind) trai (liberate). Thus, a mantra is a vocal prayer intended to liberate the mind. It is also a spiritual discipline that transcends religion and is common to all beings. To quote Micheline’s liner notes, “I encourage you to experience your own true inspiration and get involved in the formation of your own mantras (that) will open your heart and mind to divine love.”

That is a tall order and Micheline is up to the task of facilitating the session. This set has some great droning ambience that is perfect for relaxation through focused listening. She has positioned the five compositions perfectly for a maximum progressive healing session.

The set starts with a common mantra — “Aum Shanti Hallelujah” — that sparkles under Micheline’s transcription. The drones surround deep listeners and set the stage for the chant. Her voice captivates listeners and guides them to levels of deeper focus and planes of higher enlightenment. It is ironic that drones with dirge qualities enhance this experience. Perhaps the spirit seeks irony.

A resonant gong (a bowl being clapped) and ocean samples open the guided meditation. Micheline’s voice is soothing and relaxing. She uses a classic meditation technique in which listeners relax their bodies from head to toe in step-by-step fashion. The surf sounds in the background augment the voice. After the meditation it is time to regenerate.

Micheline’s vocals serve as another instrument in the sound design. The didgeridoo, nature samples and singing bowls enhance it and the regeneration transforms listeners into healed and vibrant souls.

An acapella chant follows. Micheline’s style allows listeners to practice more introspection as the climax approaches.

As with all great healing sets, there is no climax. The journey and the denouement are the goals and the means to the end — relaxation, rejuvenation and rebirth. The spirit is uplifted and the soul is at peace. There is no need for emphasis.

This might be the best CD of 2006. It is definitely in the Top 10 and is destined to be a classic.


Mathias Grassow and Thomas Weiss
Conscience Nextera
While Mathias Grassow has been creating ambient music since about five years before he was born, Thomas Weiss is a newcomer to the ambient community.

Conscience, their first collaboration, is about as close to perfect ambient minimalism as it gets. Mathias has been the ultimate drone master for years and he continues to perfect his craft. This disc starts with a low drone that envelops listeners with its overtone qualities and subtle pitch changes. Mathias and Thomas build layers of atmospheres upon and from this drone. The atmospheres are gentle, cerebral and serene and they control the pace — slow, so slow as to approach standing still.

That is the unique characteristic of this set. The music evolves slowly and deliberately. It seems to hang forever in listeners’ neuropathways as it triggers serotonin and neuroprenephrin activity. On the surface, the overtones have no substance or purpose. As they enter the biosonic feedback device (read: brain), they define themselves anew and allow listeners to float at will.

For such a low-key soundscape, this CD evokes and promotes lots of activity — all of intangible and unquantifiable. While it might be impossible to dance to this music, it is just as impossible to prevent one’s insides from dancing to it. The music infects the mind, the heart, the spirit and the soul with its positive energy.

With this release, Thomas leaps to the forefront of the ambient community. Association with a master qualifies as a major endorsement. Mathias, with more than 100 releases in his discography, qualifies as a master. This CD is as good an introduction as any for his music. It comes with the highest recommendation.


John Conkle
Us and Them Music
After an extremely weak opening track, Eclipse becomes a very strong space music CD. John Con-kle has crafted some beautiful atmospheric minimalism that drifts along smoothly and easily. He surrounds that minimalism with nature samples and symphonic ambience. His melodies have strength and integrity and they do not overpower John’s soundworld.

That’s what this is! John is inviting his listeners in to share his soundworld. It is a very personal glimpse at his dynamic structure. As the title implies, John was “inspired by the rare beauty of the eclipse.” The deep atmospheres draw deep listeners into the folds and waves of John’s soundworld. Within these confines, listeners are free to choose their own paths to enlightenment, awareness or relaxation — or any combination thereof.

The symphonic synthesizer sets the pace for the journey, too. It keeps listeners interested and allows for more levels of concentration. This is a complete — albeit short — package.


Dean Evenson and d’Rachael
Spa Dreams
Soundings of the Planet
Dean Evenson and d’Rachael are true visionaries. They have been associates since Dean founded his label in 1979. Their collaborations, like all CD’s from Soundings, are deep euphoric ambience. They celebrate life and promote the healing arts. Spa Dreams fits that description perfectly. The liner notes even contain this caution: “(This music) may cause a heightened state of peacefulness. Do not use (this CD) while driving. (It) includes the Earth Resonance Frequency.”

That is both good advice and an accurate statement. These gentle atmospheres swirl around the listening area and create deep pockets of transcendent awareness. Dean’s flute plays with Rachael’s harp and their resonances intertwine. They are above, below, behind, next to and within each other. They are perfectly complementary.

The goal and motto of Soundings is “peace through music”. While it is unlikely that music will bring world peace to the planet, it is the perfect vehicle for inner peace and individual serenity.

Listening to this CD begets inner peace and all that goes with it — self confidence, a renewed sense of self worth and heightened self esteem. Focused listeners will leave this experience with rejuvenated souls and spirits.

It is impossible to pick the best Dean Evenson CD. They are all excellent and worthy of the highest recommendations. This CD, one of 2007’s first releases, continues the excellence.


Liz Story
Night Sky Essays
Digital Music Works
Liz Story is an absolute legend and pioneer in the new age music community. She was one of Windham Hill’s first female recording artists and her staying power speaks for itself. (She released her first album in 1983.) Night Sky Essays is a set of 12 tone poems, each one representing a zodiac sign — hence they are essays to the night sky.

The best way to describe this CD is to call it “solo piano music for people who do not like solo piano music”. (I count myself among those folks. I usually find it very difficult to relate to the solo piano. However, I understand and like this CD.) Liz has a unique style on the piano. Her touch is deft, allowing her to reflect many different moods. While the soundscapes are completely acoustic, Liz is able to generate atmospheres that do, indeed, suggest night skies and their mystery. Indeed, it seems that Liz is exploring the mysteries of the zodiac, perhaps even its mysticism.

Such a task is not very difficult with processors, sound effects and/or electronics. It is a bit more difficult with an array of acoustic instruments on hand. Suggesting such imagery with only an acoustic piano is a rare accomplishment, indeed. There might be a handful of artists capable of doing so. Liz is one of them.

This is a brilliant CD! Liz is a legendary performer and this release will serve to deepen and enhance that reputation — even to folks who do not like solo piano music.

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