Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Music Review: AONKI

AONKI by Anaya Music

Capping an extraordinary year for her epic 2016 album Eternity with a ZMR nomination for Best Neo-Classical Album, world-renowned Brazilian composer/producer Anaya reflected on her inspiration and creative process. She said, “I make music to fulfill a collective yearning shared by humanity for harmony, unity and balance. The magic of music and the profound feelings of love are a divine instrument of perfection to give re-birth to our soul. Music is the sound of Light. Our best instrument is the universal harmony of being.” 

Over the course of her career - which includes her earlier works Eternity, Fifth EssenceDevotion (2014), and Aligned in the Universe (2013) - her music has captured the soothing, energizing and transcendent essence of the music of her native country, while forging a dynamic synthesis of orchestral new age, electronic and melodic trance influences and textures. 2017 included even more award recognition from the Global Music Awards for her composition of the song "Dharma."  

Anaya Music of Brazil releases new album, AONKI
Anaya’s latest collection, the mysteriously titled Aonki: Gateway of Love, is a powerful, sweeping work that marks her second virtual collaboration and real-time recording in cyberspace between the artist’s label AnayaMusic in Brazil at Studio 1234, a live symphony orchestra in Prague (featuring members of the Czech Philharmonic) and Orchestra.Net in Los Angeles. When she’s composing, Anaya retires from this world and enters a realm of music vibration; yet when production begins, she draws on her background as a Digital Information Specialist analyzes the most effective sounds to best convey her spiritual concepts. 

Reflective of its title, Aonki is the name of the Gateway of Love and it came to Anaya in meditation as the driving force and guiding light for the journey of the recording. As a whole, it reflects her belief that 2018 is a gateway year for overcoming differences and going to the Divine aspect of life, both individually and collectively. With its wild melody and fresh rhythmic twists and turns, the opening track reflects her optimism, tempered with the reality of step-by-step progress that such ambitious goals demand. “Laman Song” opens with a fast-paced film score like energy, then gives way to a gentle flute reflection before several competing musical paths emerge and dial down to a soulful keyboard-induced hypnosis with subtle orchestral harmonies.

“Breath,” which features musicians from OrchestraNet, weaves its profound magic like a gentle classical piece, with the stark melody of a lone violin crying out amidst the ambiance, as if for justice. The violin departs and the spacey ambiance dominates leading into a meditative state, as the solo voices of several other instruments (including a horn) pick up the mission. This leads us to the “Gate,” which begins with a sweeping orchestra and booming percussion before easing into more mystical, less linear realms. There is a moment of shift towards the end where the orchestra rises up more tunefully and, with a burst of sunlit percussion, shares hope for a brighter day. But first, of course, there are some dramatic steps to be taken, as per the dark chords beneath the soaring intentions at the start of the brief interlude “Over the Clouds.”

We enter the heart of Aonki on “Because of You,” a dream-like reflection that taps into romance and hope with the orchestra caressing a lone violin, then opens up towards an exciting showcase for Bernardo Bittencourt’s plucky lute. It plays a tense duet with the violin before emerging with a stark but resolute solo. Light and courage have won over the troubling obstacles. The dark chamber music clouds come back briefly, but the line is cast towards a brighter day. Like an homage to classical movements, the title centerpiece of the album comes in a two-part suite, “Aonki Mov 1” and “Aonki Mov II.” The first track is pure symphonic light, an intensely beautiful movement towards peace and harmony, with brief moments of individual horn cries. The second movement features high toned violins atop darker, atonal edges. There is more drama, less harmony, more rhythmic shift and dynamics in search of the elusive but attainable beauty. This piece features the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra and featured solos by violinists Ivan Quintana and Fabianne Gotelipe, viola player Daniel Marques and cellist Priscilla Jota.

The last third of Aonki launches with “Extase II,” infused with a wash of spacey synthesizers and trippy percussion textures that help connect us with higher mystical sources. The ecstasy of this outreach includes an immersion into deeper “waters,” with hopeful chimes and flute notes rising above the deep atmospheres. “Just For You” is a purely orchestral piece, full of highs and lows, stops and starts – but underscored with a rich sense of melody and harmony which indicate that the end of the journey will bring light and love. This gives way to the final piece, another all-orchestral mood piece that bathes the listener in a rich ambiance full of love and the brightness of eternity.

The Aonki CD arrives in a brightly-colored digipak, with romantic artwork evoking thoughts of the Girl from Ipanema. Love is surely the mood here. As her liner notes say, “Anaya’s musical invitation to experience the Gateway of Love stirs the soul with passionate melodies of timeless inspiration to awaken our heart’s song.” Aonki marks yet another powerful milestone on Anaya’s journey of creating innovative, life-changing, heart transforming and consciousness shifting cosmic new age music. Her remarkable artistry is always full of a type of musical and harmonic magic that can be appreciated on a purely visceral, emotional level and in spiritual ways that no words can adequately capture.

Visit www.anayamusic.com for more music and updates; AONKI is available for presale before Valentine's Day on Amazon and iTunes.

 – Jonathan Widran for BEING

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Music Review: In the Company of Clouds

          Erik Scott is certainly no stranger to the music world. Throughout his career, he has played with such names as Alice Cooper, Flo & Eddie, Pops Staples and many more. This rocker, multi-instrumentalist and composer has opted for a radically different, laid-back sound in recent years. Though mostly known for his performance on bass, Scott takes his expertise up a notch and shows his chops on keyboards, drums, mandolin, percussion programs and even incorporates some of his own vocals. Adding to the depth of In the Company of Clouds are Jeff Pearce on guitar, John Pirruccello on steel guitar, and Chris Cameron on piano.

         Inspired by King Arthur, the tracks on this album are meant to set a mood and tell a story. “Nine Lives” begins the tale in a powerfully soulful manner with the vocal talents of Sandy Griffith, Larry Batiste and Brian Dyer crooning along with the twanging of the steel guitar and earthly percussion. There is complexity within the simplicity of this track as the layers come together like a finely woven cloth warmly leading the listener into the album. Following is the trance-like “Seven Veils.” The progression of this track leads the listener into a short spiritual journey. It starts off with just some delayed percussion and works up the energy into a mystically hypnotic experience.

         In an unexpected twist, the track “Waves” brings in a little 80s sensibility with the wavering steel guitar. Much like the ebb and flow of waves, this track swells and breaks until finally dissolving into calm sea foam. The subtleties of this track marvelously paint a picture without saying a single word.  Furthermore, “Open Door” allows Chris Cameron to showcase his piano skills. The piano is beautifully laced in with an array of atmospheric sounds that lead the hopeful and soothing tone of this beautiful track. 

Erik has said that music mirrors the mood of the musician playing it, so one can only image the uplifted state of mind he was in when he wrote it. It brings to mind a sense of peace, light, and healing. Granted Erik Scott is a cancer survivor, it is apparent that this song is a way for him to pass on the torch of hope to anyone who may need it.

         Reaching the number one spot on the ZMR Airply Chart, Erik Scott proves that he can gracefully apply his rock and roll sensibilities to the New Age genre. His compositions are technically sound, subtly complex and never pretentious, proving there is nothing Erik Scott can’t do. In the Company of Clouds is a wonderful contribution to the world of New Age music; it was recently chosen by programmers as Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental album at the ZMR Awards 2017.

          Erik Scott's album is available through his website, CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, and most streaming sites.

            -Samantha Garcia, BEING

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


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


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


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


Wednesday, May 31, 2017


 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