By Jim Brenholts




Stephen Philips
The Sobbing Stone: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Dark Duck records

Stephen Philips is a veteran “electronician.” He is also a very gifted musician and a prolific composer/performer. He has well over 100 releases in his discography. Some of them are good; many are great; a few are extraordinary. The Sobbing Stone is sheer brilliance and — easily — his best CD. (Unfortunately, the movie is one of the worst films of all time.) This is also the best album of 2007 (in my estimation, anyway).

(When I started to write this review, I was tempted to compare/contrast it with the movie. That would be a cheap shot and would not give the CD its due. I have chosen to allow the music to stand on its own merit.)

Stephen has created some very deep atmospheres and voluminous soundscapes on this canvas. He has used a pallet of pastel hues that wash across deep listeners and fill their listening spaces with rich resonance. The drones have fullness and they cavort with the atmospheres to generate vivid imagery. The mind sees what the music draws. Each experience is unique and each embarkation is complete.
This performance is timeless and flawless. Steve’s sound design showcases his sensibilities and sensitivities. It also displays his ability to create music to fit the mood and the mood to fit the music — i.e., there is no mood until the music defines it. The atmospheres and soundscapes are the experience and they become the adventure. They are, in essence, following a literary formula. There is an introduction, a plot, a climax and a denouement. It is, again, sheer brilliance.

This CD is a rare gem! It transcends mere superlatives and sits in heady company as a star among stars. 

Deborah Koan
Heart Play:
A Guided Meditation Practice
Intuitive Artist

[About 6½ years ago — on August 23, 2001 — I had a heart attack. My wife, Linda, and I were in Hilton Head, SC, on vacation. A cardiac infarction is frightening enough at home let alone 800 miles from home. Suffice it to say that I was one scared puppy. Well, I survived (DUH) and, after a couple years, embraced the life-changing experience that God intended it to be. (I’ve not smoked since August 22, 2001.) When I was able to do that, CD’s of this nature helped me immensely. They have become very dear to — well — my heart.]

The best thing about guided meditation is that it allows the listener to embrace the healing art mindlessly. The facilitator leads the way. There is very little, if any, room for “freelancing.” Deborah Koan has created a very cool set of calming and cleansing healing meditations — Heart Play: A Guided Meditation Practice. While the title is a tad misleading — this is not directed cardiac therapy — the liner notes are not misleading. Deborah describes the intent of each meditation. (There are four — each about 15 minutes long.) She has designed them to be used individually, all together or in any combination at all. Used in either format, they enhance cardiac health as all relaxation tools do.

Deborah has surrounded her gentle exhortations with symphonic synths. (There are no liner notes giving credit to any musicians. I am assuming that she performed all the music on a synth.) The airs and overtones enhance her soft, calm, steady voice. Deborah describes the process with subtle passion and genuine warmth. She shares that she was “guided to create (these) techniques” and that they are “about working with … energy (to calm) the mind.”

There are dozens of CD’s in this format. This is one of the better ones. 

Byron Metcalf
A Warning from the Elders
Dr. Bam’s Music
Byron Metcalf
has a PhD. in transpersonal psychology. He is a Shaman and a practitioner/teacher of psycho-spiritual integration. He is also a master percussionist, recording engineer and sound designer. A Warning from the Elders is a masterful menage of fierce drumming, deep textural chants, overtone vocals, didgeridoos, rattles, bowls, shakers, gongs and bells. (Jesse Pursley and John Dumas provide the didges. Gail Chastin and Ted Usatynski contribute overtones, throat singing and harmonic vocal drones.)

This is a different kind of ambient music. The focus is on the rhythms. The soundscapes invite listeners to enter Byron’s soundworld with urgency. The warning of which he speaks is of the flawed relationship between humanity and Mother Earth. The guttural tribal and ethnic elements deliver that urgency effectively and succinctly.

The surrounding sound de-sign elements are also quite effective. The atmospheres complement the percussion. The didg drones are deep and full. Deep listeners will enter a dance-trance state.
That is where this CD takes practitioners — on a ride to the movement side of ambience and overtone narcotica. The effect is similar but the zone is on a different level. There are many levels in the zone. Byron is one of the masters of this one.

This awesome CD is another of 2007’s best discs. It pleases at every level and is an important healing tool.

Middle Path
5th Element Music

Middle Path, by Paradiso, is another rare gem. 2008 is only three months old but this CD stands out as the year’s best. Indeed, it will take a brilliant effort to surpass it. While Paradiso (*) guards his birth name closely, he does not make any effort to protect his mission. He is a Shaman and is crusading to enhance humanity’s relationship with Mother Earth. “We are at a time when Mother Earth
is going through a transition. We are the granted souls who are witnessing the change through human eyes.”

This CD, while divided into 11 tracks, is actually one large soundscape with several subscapes. Paradiso’s sound design incorporates exotic instruments (didgeridoos, Tibetan bowls and a Theremin), simple chants, percussion and electronics. He uses simple drones as his base. He builds atmospheres from the drones. He surrounds the atmospheres with rhythms and airs to create deep introspective space music.
Thus, musical greatness surrounds listeners and fills the environment with awareness and sensitivity. Deep listeners will be rapt as the music takes hold and guides them on a search for and of the soul — the soul of the essence of life! The resonance and overtones are powerful!

This CD is that brilliant as well. It is a collector’s dream — an ambient high — to find albums that have such an impact. It can be transformational in its own right. 

Crystal Vibrations
Music Ensemble
Crystal Portal
Crystal Vibrations Music

Crystal Portal is a collection of deep sonic waves from Crystal Vibrations Music Ensemble. The artists are Elivia Melodey on singing crystal bowls, freenotes, Celtic harp, imbarimba, chimes, tingsha, bells and water drum; Amrita on singing crystal bowls, earth bowls, tingsha, gong and bells and Gene Passofaro on silver transverse flute and tingsha. This trio pooled their talents, resources and passions to create an amazing set of overtone grandeur.

In any set of this nature, the primary focus is likely to become the overtones of the bowls. The power of the healing properties transcends the other sound design elements and goes to the soul.
And that journey to the soul, while relaxing, is somewhat complex. It involves neuropathways, dopamine, brainwaves, serotonin, receptors, and lots of other scientific stuff. That can be interesting but is not necessary. The simplest explanation is that the effect is almost narcotic. It is easy to get into the zone as the overtones enter the biosonic feedback device and begin the journey. It progresses as the body succumbs to the will of the mind, heart and soul — all acting as one. Deep listeners achieve the ultimate relaxation. The body merely flows and follows.

This is a great CD and one of Elivia’s most important releases. She is a special person with special gifts.

Jim Brenholts resides in
N. Versailles, PA
and can be reached at`

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