MUSIC REVIEWS
By Jim Brenholts

 

 

Kitaro
Sacred Journey of Ku-kai, Volume 2
Domo Records
www.domorecords.com
www.kitaromusic.com
Kitaro, nee Masanori Takahashi, is one of the absolute legends of the e-music community. His career has spanned 30 years and his music has influenced generations of musicians and healers. Sacred Journey of the Kukai, Volume 2 is his second CD in a series that honors Ku-Kai, the legendary father of Japanese culture and the founder of Shingon esotericism.

Like Dean Evenson, one of Kitaro’s peers, he spreads peace and love through his music. (That is fitting because Kitaro is Japanese for “man of love.”) His sound design incorporates subtle overtones and smooth nature samples that speak directly to the hearts and souls of deep listeners. By incorporating ethnic acoustics and conventional electronics, Kitaro takes the healing powers beyond the norm to new levels.

He surrounds and augments his organic textures and pastoral timbres with bold arpeggios and gentle percussion. That strikes strongly and directly into the electro-organic functions of the psycho-acoustic feedback device (the brain).

However, the real beauty of this set is in its construction. Dark and foreboding ambience is relatively common in the e-music community. Only a dozen or so performers can create these joyful and uplifting soundscapes. Kitaro is truly one of those gifted individuals.

All of those qualities are combined expertly to create a formidable set of healing and meditative airs. This disc, and most of Kitaro’s discs, receive the highest recommendations possible.


William Paul
Horse Dreams
Delvian Records
www.DelvianRecords.com

Horse Dreams, by William Paul, is an ambitious undertaking that stretches the limits of the imagination. It is not unusual to have music or literature or — for that matter — any art form dedicated to the beauty and fortitude of the horse. It is unusual to find a CD so broadly encompassing man’s equine friends. The liner notes read “No creature on Earth has served mankind so nobly as the horse.” Indeed, that is true. From being a beast of burden, a sportsman and a friend or pet, to being an aide in psychotherapy (see Linda Kohanov’s great book, The Tao of Equus), the horse has been an integral of all human cultures.

The music on this CD is beautiful. William uses gentle acoustics and subtle electronics to create neo-classical atmospheres with new age sensitivities and meditative qualities. While each of the 13 compositions has its own theme, there is a soothing drone that gives the set continuity and integrity.

William designed the music to take listeners into the equine world. That is a bit far-fetched (much like Dog Dreams that I reviewed for the last issue) but the depth and clarity of the soundscapes and atmospheres will take focused listeners on many journeys. If the listeners read the liner notes first, those journeys can, indeed, be into the soul of the horse.

With or without the theme, this music stands on its own merits as a wonderful performance. It is a worthy addition to any collection.


Prem Joshua
Yatri Mystics of Sound
White Swan Records
www.whiteswanrecords.com
www.premjoshua.com
Yatri: Mystics of Sound is a brilliant album by Prem Joshua, “the new guru of World Fusion music” according to The Times of India. (“Yatri” is Hindi for “traveler.”)

This disc has eight tracks and runs for a little over 56 minutes. Each piece has its own message and its own inspiration. As Prem and his accomplices (musicians) traveled on their Yatra (pilgrimage), they recorded their impressions at each stop. They did so musically on traditional, ethnic and exotic instruments, and with little or no preconceived notions or structures. The album was developed through improvisations and polished in their European studios.

By their very design, Indian instruments have inherent overtone and spiritual properties. When chants are added, the properties are enhanced exponentially. Thus, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Prem has also added some very cool fusion. He has combined those spiritual elements with Western jazz and funk rhythms and riffs, adding extra oomph to the meditative possibilities and probabilities.

The best thing one can say about this album is that it a great listen! It can be used as background ambience during the daily routines but deep listeners will always return to it for the sheer joy of listening.

Prem is a veteran performer and not afraid to take risks. This is a very cool CD from a very cool individual.


Kent Marcrum
The Journey
Amazin’ Blue Publishing
www.kentmarcrummusic.com
The Journey is a CD of diverse styles and influences by Kent Marcrum, an extremely talented pianist, keyboardist, composer and sound designer. For fans of acoustic ambience, this is an awesome and essential set. For others, this could present as “piano music for folks who do not like piano music.” (I count myself among the latter group.)

It is very difficult to describe the effects of such a common and storied instrument. Kent had the good sense and foresight to augment his virtuoso style with other instruments and performers. Todd Bagdon (rainstick, drums, djembe, shakers), Mathias Haskell (guitars), Duane Corbin (Bass), Pete Bishop (bass), Julienne Bowers (violin) and Michael Grajek II (vocals) all contribute to Kent’s deep and gentle melodies.

So, back to the CD, these compositions are smooth and un-challenging — almost benign in their simplicity. That is what makes this such an appealing album. It is easy to sit and totally vegetate on these soundscapes. As a background for a complete “lose oneself” session, this is the perfect accompaniment. With this CD, the focus of deep listening is to lose focus entirely.

It takes monumental talent to create such simplicity. Kent has that and this is a great acoustic ambient disc.


David & Steve Gordon with Sequoia Artists
Perfect Balance: Musical Healing Vol. 2
Sequoia Records
www.sequoiarecords.com
Perfect Balance: Musical Healing Vol. 2 is a set of 14 pastoral ambient tracks from the Sequoia Records label. The disc contains seven new tracks and seven tracks from previously released CD’s. Eight of the selections are by David and/or Steve Gordon, the label’s founders and this disc’s curators. Five of those selections are new.

This is extraordinary enlightening electro-acoustic ambience on a par with Dean Evenson, Ki-taro, Steve Halpern and Lisa Lynne. The selections and the tracking are superb. David and Steve have taken these 14 pieces and molded them into one huge healing soundscape. Their talent makes the disc flow as if all of the pieces were intended for this project alone.

The other contributors are Gary Stadler and Wendy Rule, Ashron, Bernd Scholl, Shajan, EvenStar, and Sophia. Each composition has its own electro-acoustic sound design and they all employ sweet nature samples and strong overtone drones. The sound designs speak directly to the soul and are intended for use with meditation, yoga, massage and all the healing arts. The atmospheres will transform the listeners’ spirits and hearts with warmth and tenderness.

Steven Bratman, MD, the president of AHMedConsult.com, Inc., says, “This music touches the soul and spirit, the deepest roots of healing. There are no limits to what can happen when you touch that place.” That is a true and accurate statement. This CD is a magical and essential healing experience.
 


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