MUSIC REVIEWS
By Jim Brenholts

 

 

— IN MEMORIAM —
Jim Brenholts
1956 - 2009

It is with great sadness that we report the loss of our amazing Music Reviewer, Jim Brenholts, who has been reviewing music for Awareness Magazine for several years now.  He actually became one with the music and always put his heart and soul into every one of them.

Jim had a major heart attack in mid-September, and spent two weeks in critical care before returning home.  After resting for only a few days, he turned on the music and began writing his reviews.  Three days later, he passed away in his sleep.

While we know he is free from pain, and most likely busy critiquing the angels’ music now, we will miss him!

Jim is survived by his father Walter, wife Linda, stepsons David and Michael, three grandsons, four sisters and a brother.



Terra Ambient
Wanderlust
Lotuspike
www.lotuspike.com
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.terraambient.com
Jeff Kowal creates deep ambient soundscapes under the nom de plume Terra Ambient. Wanderlust is his third release and it finds Jeff exploring new territories and horizons.

In his liner notes, Jeff discusses the evolution of the album as a journal for his transitions over a three-year period, including relocation from Pittsburgh to New Mexico. The music became somewhat of a catharsis. He described as “the music that I needed to make.”

Jeff combines drifting passages with overt and subtle rhythms. His atmospheric structures are vast, wide and expansive. They drift around the listening area, transforming it into a meditation chamber.

The disc opens with two pieces that are somewhat more active. They are excellent for hypnotic movement and active meditation. The percussion on the second track approaches and borders on techno but does not cross the line. The rhythms contrast and complement the atmospheres.

Track three presents deeper atmospheric ambience with strong overtones and eclectic timbres. This is where Jeff absolutely excels. He combines organic textures, desert ambience and tribal timbres to deliver a unique sound that is truly his own.

While this is a musical journal of Jeff’s transitions, it is also a vehicle for private journeys. The flexibility and variety allow for many different experiences, each having its own, well, Wanderlust.

In a relatively short time, Jeff has established himself as one of the top electric ambient masters of the new millennium. He is a true artiste.


The Tunnel Singer
Beyond Stillness
Tunnel Singer Records
www.tunnelsinger.com
“Fragments of silence, moments without time, the ethereal song abides beyond stillness.” Thus Lee Ellen Shoemaker, aka The Tunnel Singer introduces Beyond Stillness, another triumphant testimony to her brilliant vocal abilities and unique style.

In the past, Lee Ellen performed and recorded her compositions in cisterns, tunnels, shelters and empty tanks. Recently, however, her recording engineer developed a recording technique that recreates the delays and echoes of those structures. She is now able to create her magic in the studio.

Using wordless chants with no electronics, she does, indeed, deliver magic. Dense atmospheres and organic textures take the psychoactivity to the nth degree. There are no boundaries as the atmospheres surround the listening area, taking the biosonic feedback device to new depths and new heights. The journey is fulfilling and rejuvenating. It goes beyond the edge of reality into new zones of consciousness and subconsciousness.

The textures have healing properties, too. As the journey unfolds, listeners will feel the synaptic activity as the chakra centers align and vibrate with the timbres. It is a rare experience. It is joyful.

Lee Ellen has delivered another winner with one of the best CD’s of 2008. This is a timeless classic and comes with the highest recommendation.


Acoustic Ocean
Light Returning
Acoustic Ocean Music
www.acousticoceanmusic.com
If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.

With that Chinese proverb, Peggy Morgan (credited only as Morgan) and Bette Phelan Credited only as Phelan) introduce Light Returning, their debut CD as Acoustic Ocean. In the press release they state that they created this CD primarily for listening pleasure. Given its healing properties and subtle overtones, that is difficult to believe. It is perfect for accompanying meditation, massage, yoga, relaxation and other healing practices. It is, quite succinctly, one of the best acoustic ambients ever! The composition, musicianship and sound design are excellent. There are no flaws!

Meagan composed the material on the Celtic harp and Phelan expanded it into rich layered arrangements with acoustic guitars, a mandolin, dulcimers, a bass, a rain stick, various other instruments and ocean and nature sounds. They were attempting the feeling of being in Hawaii, their home base. They succeeded.

The soundscapes grab listeners in a unique fashion. The duo uses the natural sonority of their instruments to build simple atmospheres and light overtones. The synaptic response is subtle yet sure. Listeners must respond to the narcotic effects. It is too hard to ignore the healing powers. The synaptic response is subtle; the human response is overt.

Peggy and Bette are amazing women. Their music transcends harmonic convergence and enters stratospheric levels of serenity. This is an absolutely essential CD!


Dean Evenson
& Tom Barabas
Healing Suite
Soundings of the Planet
www.soundings.com
Dean Evenson and Tom Barabas are giants in the new age community. They have both been creating elegant healing music for close to 30 years. They have been collaborating for almost a quarter century. Natalie Twigg, a classically-trained oboist, joins them for Healing Suite, an overt healing set that incorporates earth resonance frequency for the deepest relaxation.

Dean’s music and contributions to society are well known. He preaches and practices peace through music — vigilantly and constantly. He has dedicated his life to that goal. Tom has followed a similar path in his life and his music has touched thousands of lives. While Natalie is not as well-known, she is a virtuoso performer, quite at home with these two icons.

The sound design for this set incorporates subtle electronics to complement and expand the acoustics. Dean’s flutes dominate the soundscapes and the atmospheres grow around them. Tom’s keyboards are gentile and sure. Natalie’s winds are sublime and perfect. The soundscapes are pastoral and evoke strong spiritual responses. The music is gentle and sweet. It floats and drifts to all corners of the listening area, surrounding the listener with serenity, love and harmony.

This is a great CD! It furthers Dean’s and Tom’s reputations and enhances their standings as new age icons. It is an important addition to any collection.

(Readers of this column are aware that my musical tastes run the gamut and are somewhat eclectic. I make no secret that my favorite music is electronic space music with dark ambient being a close second. While I was writing this review, my wife interrupted me for lunch. She has never really appreciated my music but she commented that this CD did not fit her perceptions of my tastes. She said, “It sounds normal.”)


Sky
The Twins
Music of Florence
www.musicofflorence.com
Sky, born Ronny Bunke, is a multi-instrumentalist from Ahlen, Germany. He began his musical career as a drummer in a rock and roll band. He changed directions in 1978 and again in 1985. He released his first album in 1988 and by 1999 had released five more. He relocated to Santa Fe, NM, and did not release any music for the next ten years. The Twins is a double CD comprised of two separate albums. Silent Ears was recorded in 1997 in India and in 1998 in Nederland, CO. Mesa Twins was recorded in 2004 and 2005 in the high deserts of New Mexico.

Mesa Twins is a broad-brush recording created with an acoustic piano and synthesizers with orchestral sound cards. While this is not desert ambience in the classic sense, Sky has captured the essence of the desert in a unique fashion. His expansive atmospheres evoke feelings of being alone in a vast barren land. It is an ideal setting for introspection and meditation.

Silent Ears is completely different in the structure and very similar in its invocations. Sky combines field recordings with in location live  recordings. He used a bouzouki, a flute, a Ravanahatta (similar to a violin, perhaps it forerunner), a sitar, a tambourine, a synthesizer, a harmonica and an acoustic guitar. The simplicity of the sound design is the beauty of the album. Sky recorded the bouzouki, flute and Ravanahatta at various locations in India while the soundtrack (field recordings) played in the background. He enhanced the music with the other elements in the studio. The atmospheres evoke feelings of isolated beauty and singleness of purpose.

This is a brilliant release! Sky has created two masterpieces and combines them for a monumental experience. It is an important contribution to the new age.




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