Thursday, September 21, 2017

Music Review: FLOW


FLOW to perform first concert in NYC!

It isn’t often that the New Age genre finds itself harboring such an intense group as FLOW. The enormous talents of Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster have joined forces to give us an album of unrivaled beauty.  Each musician brings passion for their instruments and years of dedication to their craft into this album, manifesting a creative energy so strong that it resonates throughout every note. Nothing is wasted. Originally a project started by Lawrence Blatt, FLOW came together when he invited pianist Fiona Joy and composer Jeff Oster to collaborate with him at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. It wasn’t long, however, until Will became far more than just a producer, and an integral contributor to the project as detailed in NewAgeMusicGuide.

In Vermont (l. to r.): Will Ackerman, Lawrence Blatt, Fiona Joy, Jeff Oster are FLOW.


















This writer prefers to sample an album as opposed to sharing the full-course, so I'll highlight three tracks and "highly-recommend* that you discover all the rest. "Arrival" is clearly the best place to start this 11-song eponymous project, an opener that is equal parts welcoming, celebratory and triumphant. Fiona Joy's deft piano touch teases the listener into the track and builds, as does Jeff’s moody horn; Lawrence and Will join in on guitar, with percussion adding a sense of groovy momentum to FLOW’s introductory track.  The composition and sequencing of this song is perfect. Something that starts off gently swells into a full-blown showcase of the wonderful talent at hand, a promise of the musical adventures still to be heard.

In contrast to the opening track, the title song “Flow” focuses more on guitar and horns, with a more subtle piano influence. The gentle plucking of the guitar is perfectly accentuated by Fiona’s signature ethereal, wordless vocals reminiscent of Julee Cruise (Twin Peaks). The track slows for a few moments here and there to allow the guitar to shine. Ackerman’s creative direction emerges at times like these, with a “less is more” approach to guiding the record, particularly in this song. The little breaks throughout leave the listener "sonic windows" to soak in the mood that is being set.

Wrapping up the album, “For Rosita and Giovanni” is another complex and intimately-composed piece. Inspired by Will's trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, it awakens many human emotions within the listener. Feelings ranging from joy to melancholy, and reflection to gratitude can be felt within the four minutes and eighteen seconds of this song.  The guitar strums gently as Fiona Joy’s piano swoops in to compliment it.  Oster’s horn soars mournfully above the tender melodies, painting a poignant portrait of an unforgettable couple.

It's worth mentioning that the album also benefits from musical performances by Guest Artists like Marc Shulman, Tony Levin, Jeff Haynes, Sam Bevan, Eugene Friesen, and Tom Eaton, who also mixes, masters, and produces alongside Will. The album is being released on Lawrence's LMB Music label, available at all major music retailers; pre-orders are happening now.


The eponymous debut album.
FLOW is a dynamic project that came together after years of friendship and mutual artistic admiration, as reflected in their preview video and the project's whimsical cover art. One may have expected a more ethereal presentation from these New Age stars, but Oster's doodling captures the true spirit of the collaboration: good friends simply playing together and making music...and, really, what is more "zen" than that? Overall, the project is understated, sophisticated and incredibly clean. Without a doubt, Fiona, Lawrence, Jeff, and Will are taking New Age to a higher level as FLOW.

Catch FLOW's new release celebration concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on October 6, 2017; to buy tickets through Carnegie's website, click here.


TIP: Enjoy a preview of "Free Ascent" on Billboard Magazine's website.
- Samantha Garcia, for BEING


FLOW debuted at #1 on the ZMR Charts in August!

Monday, June 26, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW: THE ROAD HOME




New York City composer Peter Calandra takes us down a path of relaxation on his latest release The Road Home. With years of Broadway experience under his belt, this album showcases Peter for what he is, a beautiful composer.
            
If you’re looking for something upbeat, this might not be the album for you. Though if you’re in the mood for something touching and ethereal, Calandra hits that nail on the head. The Road Home plays out like a journey of the mind’s inner monologue. Starting off with “A New Dawn,” the angelic vocals, performed by renowned vocalist Joy Askew, beckon the listener to discover what is ahead. It invites us to forget whatever troubles are currently weighing us down and to start anew, conscious of the moment. Into “Mi Amore” we go, a song that feels like a smooth drive down a sunny highway. Here, Calandra - a Yamaha-endorsed artist - playfully showcases his skills as a pianist. In contrast to the gaiety of the preceding track, “Morning Dove” is a bit more solemn, certainly moreso than the rest of the songs on the album, yet sure to be a favorite among the laid-back piano crowd. 

Once again, “The Road Home” picks the mood back up in a joyous mix of piano and synthesizer. Being its namesake, this track feels like the very core of the album. Continuing to wind down the musical road,  “Night Into Day” caps off a day’s journey with an incredibly soothing melody that puts a mind at ease and celebrates the passing of another beautiful day.  Perhaps the most complexly layered of the tracks, "The Cat’s Eye” plays around with European-inspired accordion and harmonica sounds and incorporates the use of subtle chimes. Finally, “Points in the Sky” slows the pace back down again, seemingly for the purpose of encouraging a final sense of inner peace and reflection.

Calandra’s music evokes a plethora of human emotions and moods. He aptly displays his understanding of composition by proving that emotive music is not always about the complexity of a sound but more so about how to convey an emotion by means of simplicity. In the case of The Road Home, less is more.  

The Pre-sale is now through 6/30; for sale via Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby on July 1st.

                                                              - Samantha Garcia, BEING

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW: ORIGIN


Musician Elise Lebec has grown up with travel in her blood. From New Zealand to Australia and England back to the states, Lebec has soaked up inspiration from every corner of the globe. Her latest release, ORIGIN, is a sonic interpretation of her spiritual trip to Egypt, the first in a series of adventurous cross-cultural albums under the One World Turning Project umbrella of music, videos and merchandise.

               The cultural richness that is entrenched within the sounds of traditional Egyptian music is something that can be felt within anyone. There is something so raw, spiritual and passionate that spills out from the sounds of this most ancient form of music.  The opening track “Taaly Maaya: Come With Me” focuses on Lebec’s smoothly sensual voice setting the stage for what is sure to be a mystical experience. She guides the way into the journey that later disperses into a musical medley of sorts. The following “Queen of Light” begins with a frenzy of doumbek drums and various string instruments driving a memorable melody, and Lebec's voice has a haunting, retro-cinema quality. “Cairo Morning” takes the concept of this album in a bit of a different direction by fusing the old and the new. The iconic Egyptian instrumentals are coupled with a man rapping in Arabic while Elise harmonizes softly in the background. 


               Moving into the midsection of ORIGIN, the song “Bolero” is a mesmerizing and mysterious love song that’s painted over with a slight air of melancholy. It is a song from a lover longingly calling out to her other half. “Rumi Song,” much like “Cairo Morning,” incorporates some more modern musical influences. It throws in some electronic beats on top of the traditional Upper Egyptian instrumentals and couples those sounds with a woman passionately singing in conjunction with a man's hip hop-influenced vocals.

               Remarkably different from the rest of the songs on her album, “Sekhmet: The Goddess Awakens” is an empowering chant that is uses minimal instrumentation but rather relies of layers of vocals and chants to convey a message of strength.  Furthermore, “The Jam: Luxor, Egypt” is a belly dancer’s delight that offers an infectious rhythm section that would be perfect to dance along to. Continuing with the experimentation, “Sufi Dance” incorporates some very obvious funk elements and offers a very strong message about love, compassion and having an understanding for all walks of life. There is an element of gospel in the female vocals in this track. As beautifully as it began, ORIGIN ends in the same light. “Hob Elahy: God is Within” sends the final message of Lebec’s spiritual journey. We are all one and we are all empowered from within.

               Whether you are seeking a musical journey, a spiritual awakening, or just curious to try something new, ORIGIN provides all of the above. With Lebec’s beautiful voice, wonderful Egyptian music, and powerful message, it is certain to bring meaning into your day.  

ORIGIN releases July 21st, but is available now for pre-sale on iTunes, with one early download to enjoy, and on Amazon.
                       
- Samantha Garcia

Friday, June 2, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW: INTO THE MIST



Few musicians have the ability to capture both the light and dark sides of human emotion quite as elegantly as Fiona Joy. Just when you think she has hit the pinnacle of her musical expertise, she unveils a masterpiece like Into the Mist (Blue Coast Records). With only a year in between the release of Signature Synchronicity and Into the Mist, it is clear that Joy has been stricken with a fever to create. The audiophile edition is being officially released at the LA Audio Show on Saturday June 3rd at 3 p.m. in a "Listening Party" with the Sony-Sponsored Magic Bus, as announced earlier on BEING.

The opening title “A Walk in the Park” begins the album with a wave of gaiety and radiates with a warm sense of peace. It feels as though a door has been burst open and has led the listener directly into the beautiful world that Fiona paints with her songs.  Segueing into “Moon Over Lotus Pond,” the mood is glazed over with a dash of pensive melancholy and evokes a sense of gratitude and wonderment.

Fiona Joy
The true heart of the album resides within the title tracks. “Into the Mist” is where Joy begins to bleed her emotion onto the ivory keys of her piano. That same air of melancholy echoes into “Mist Rising” until finally lifting once again in “Mist Before Dawn.” The symbolism in the titles is not lost within the music with the “mist” standing for emotional turmoil that eventually comes to pass.

All sense of sadness and doubt is lifted as soon as “Feeling Sunshine” rolls around. It tinkers around playfully in stark contrast to the opus that precedes it.  Complimented by “Grey Sky Morning,” a song that conveys a feeling of softness of having woken up from a nostalgic dream.  “Galloping” is an oeuvre doused in rising crescendos and plummeting diminuendos that leads the album to its graceful end with “The Void.” The final track has a languid air of mystery that ends the journey with an elegant touch.

There is no doubt that Fiona Joy is a being defined by her raw sense of emotion.  Considering it is only her second solo release, one can only imagine the powerful works that are yet to come.  Into the Mist is a beautiful continuation of Fiona Joy’s musical autobiography.


- Samantha Garcia

FIONA JOY VIDEO: GALLOPING


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MUSIC EVENT

 Audiophiles Like Cupcakes, too... 

Australian Pianist Fiona Joy officially releases her new audiophile recording of  INTO THE MIST amidst a flurry of "pink treats" at this Saturday's LA Audio Show.  The public is invited to enjoy a heightened music-listening experience inside the Sony-sponsored Hi-Res MAGIC BUS.



"Hear to Make Music" is the theme of the LA Audio Show and Saturday, June 3rd will be a special day for piano music fans in Southern Californians. At a special event open to the public, Fiona Joy will greet fans and officially unveil her latest solo piano album, "Into the Mist" and three new music videos. In a nod to her beloved pink dress, the Australian talent will serve pink lemonade and her favorite pink treats (including Yummy cupcakes and Tim Tams) at her "Listening Fest" from 3 to 5 PM on June 3, next to the Sony Sponsored Hi-Res Magic Bus, located near the Sheraton Gateway hotel's main entrance.  


"This is a chance to enjoy piano music on a million dollar sound system; it almost feels as though you're playing it yourself," she says, adding, "I'd really like younger people who've only experienced music in a compressed mp3 format to come and experience this for themselves."

"Into the Mist" is the second album for the acclaimed Australian  musician.  The first, "Signature Solo," was well received and won a number of recording awards.   Both are on the Blue Coast Records, which is also an exhibitor at the Show. 

This worldwide release will include SACD, CD, and high-resolution audio download formats as well as Internet radio. The neo-classical program, a #1 album at Blue Coast Music for high-resolution audio sales, was recorded in and released as DSD256. It may be downloaded in additional formats as 44.1kHz (WAV), 96kHz (FLAC) 2.8 MHz (DSF), 5. 6MHz (DSF) and 11.2MHz (DSF) files . 

Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast Records, recorded, mixed and mastered the album using her proprietary recording technique called Extended Sound Environment (E.S.E.) that includes recording the musicians in the studio without headphones or overdubs onto DSD or analog tape. Into the Mist was recorded in a single take using the E.S.E technique.

Blue Coast will have a model studio set up at the Show and after the official launch of the album, held in conjunction with Sony and the Magic Bus, Ms. Joy and Ms. Marenco will host a tour of the studio.  While the Fiona Joy album debut is set for the first day of the LA Audio Show, other Blue Coast artists will appear during the course of the Show's three-day run.

See event info on Facebook for existing friends and fans, here: https://goo.gl/x9BMDo 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Snackin's

Happy Easter, Pesach Sameach!


I just had to share this yummy Easter Popcorn Snack from MidWestern Moms / Life Captured because it is my favorite combo of salty and sweet!

Wishing you and your family holiday blessings. Enjoy in peace and good health!

B.