Sunday, July 31, 2011

CD Review – Resonance, by Takashi Suzuki

The first album by architect, painter, and sculptor Takashi Suzuki is a fine work of art in itself, exhibiting all the traits of Suzuki’s other professions/trades.

Suzuki lays down a foundation of soothing synthesizer textures on the ten namesake tracks (“Resonance in Blue 1-10”), a canvas upon which he adds a dash of piano here and an accent of jarring sound effect there. The ten tracks, while exhibiting their own subtle nuances, are of one accord. They are similar in tempo and feel and have the effect of a sonic painting that slowly stimulates your senses and gradually works its way into your psyche.

This CD is New Age in the classic sense, with peaceful, tranquil tones that set the mind at ease and at the same time transform the listening experience into something more profound.

The music will definitely appeal to those who enjoy soft synthesized sounds but should prove just as useful to those seeking sonic escape and refuge. It is applicable in a variety of settings but is perhaps most effective during a nighttime sojourn under the stars.

--Raj Manoharan

CD Review – …and Love Rages On! by AOMUSIC

You can’t help but feel the love on this joyous and exuberant celebration of the diversity of life throughout this planet. This is one of the most uplifting and inspiring albums I have had the pleasure of listening to in a long time.

AOMUSIC primarily consists of Richard Gannaway (stringed instruments, vocals), Jay Oliver (keyboards, synthesizers, samples), and Miriam Stockley (vocals), all of whom are also the principal composers and songwriters. They are backed by an impressive lineup of top session musicians and vocalists hailing from and recording in various parts of the world.

While most of the songs contain vocals, they are wordless vocals, or vocalese. In many cases, they are phonetically based on existing languages, helping create the sense of all the different languages of the world blending into one unified voice. In some cases, actual English can be discerned, such as on the second track’s deep baritone intonation of “I am another you…You are another me.” The throaty, raspy vocalization is so shadowy and sinister that it’s almost subliminal, which is probably the intent so as to foster focused reception of the message. The song then ends with a beautiful chorus of “I am you and you are me” ad infinitum.

A key ingredient in the success of this album is the utilization of various children’s choirs from around the world, including the CRC Children’s Choir from Beijing in the People’s Republic of China, the Martve Children’s Choir from Tbilisi in the People’s Republic of Georgia, and the Bishop Bavin St. George’s Children’s Choir from Johannesburg, South Africa. This bolsters the concept of different cultures and peoples coming together for a common goal – in this case a much-needed musical message.

This is a very enjoyable and stimulating album. If you like the global rock stylings of artists such as Peter Gabriel and Sting, as well as various ethnic vocals, you’ll dig this.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, July 16, 2011

CD Review – In the Flow, by Michael Brant DeMaria

Psychologist and multi-instrumentalist recording artist Michael Brant DeMaria’s latest album is a form of regression therapy, actually compiling material from his first three albums to weave a soothing, sonic tapestry that has as one of its main themes the healing, regenerative properties of water.

As the album title, artwork, and many of the track names suggest, the music creates the warm, visceral sensation of floating in water. DeMaria accomplishes this through the use of his keyboards, synthesizers, and flutes to generate soft sounds and gentle vibrations that envelop the subconscious in comfort and serenity.

DeMaria’s keyboards and synthesizers set the tone for the entire recording, functioning as a sort of musical anesthetic that lulls the senses into a state of tranquility, enabling reception of the therapeutic healing. DeMaria’s flute is the musical scalpel with which he precisely penetrates the core of the listener’s being and fine-tunes it into equilibrium with peace and harmony.

The album functions well as both background music and music for meditation, healing, and therapy and also stands on its own as a pure, blissful listening experience.

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, July 4, 2011

CD Review – Something Getting Wrong, by Michael de Salem

Michael de Salem’s first CD is a brooding masterpiece that has a dark, ominous sense of foreboding, with musical rays of hope peering through.

The multi-instrumentalist fuses piano, keyboards, bass, guitar, and drum programming, along with beautiful, searing cello from Ann Nina, to sculpt edgy, shadowy music that reflects de Salem’s perceptions of the disharmony that exists between Earth and its inhabitants.

The set opens with “Metropolitan,” a solemn soundtrack to life in the city, with police sirens wailing quietly in the background. Reflective pieces like “Sentimental Steps” and “Remind” are sentimental without being sappy.

The three most solid tracks on the album, “Emergency Talking,” “Tribal Interlude,” and “Something Getting Wrong,” are representative of de Salem’s overall sound, which is industrial and progressive yet lush and melodic, with a beat that is infectious but not bouncy.

“Emergency Talking” starts with a pensive theme that increases in intensity, and “Something Getting Wrong” fleshes de Salem’s jazz-rock fusion sound to its fullest. “Tribal Interlude” is the most gripping of the three and as a result the album’s most formidable and probing track, propelled primarily by pulsating, rhythmic percussion in lockstep with equally pulsating, rhythmic bass notes, resulting in an entrancing, ritualistic, cinematic sound.

De Salem has created a compelling musical vista, both grand and subtle, that is riveting from beginning to end.

--Raj Manoharan