Sunday, March 18, 2012

CD Review – Soundscapes, by Steve Bowe

Soundscapes are usually associated with typical New Age music that is soft and pastoral. On the contrary, the music here by multi-instrumentalist Steve Bowe is full of energy and rhythm and never lets up.

Bowe, who hails from and is based in Great Britain, plays all the instruments, including keyboards, guitars, basses, and percussion. Bowe creates dynamic synthesizer patterns and textures underscored by bouncy bass lines against a driving, almost techno backbeat. Over these he drapes lush acoustic guitar backings and sprinkles hot little flashes of electric guitar. Throughout, subliminal vocal samples create a sort of narrative continuity.

This is also a true world music album, with sounds from Egypt to France and everywhere in between working their way into the overall mix. However, the musical multiculturalism never detracts from the universally catchy hook-laden grooves and melodies. The result is authentic global New Age rock.

Standout tracks include the rocking opener “Prayers,” the mystical “After the Storm,” the eclectic “Orpheus,” the pensive “Caledonia,” and the Genesis-like coda “A Farewell.”

I have just one criticism -- Bowe doesn’t play enough electric guitar on the album. He definitely has the chops, and his labyrinthine style has a crackling fusion crunch to it.

Sparse electric guitar notwithstanding, this is the work of a musician with a clear, defining vision and the wherewithal to bring it to fruition. This is definitely a CD to add kick to your commute or pizzazz to your party.

--Raj Manoharan

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