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Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Zingaia

Sundari
Zingaia
Sequoia Records
www.sequoiarecords.com

This is Zingaia’s fifth album and the first since 2012’s Earth Church.  Once again, Mike Breene has dialed up a seductive, sensual blend of electronica grooves, percolating beats, and global influences a-plenty, along with wife Katlyn’s dreamy vocals (other vocalists on the album include Abbi Spinner and Samina).  Sundari pulses, flows, bobs, and weaves, enchanting and beguiling on the mellower tracks and compelling listeners to get up on the floor and get their groove on when they heat things up.  This superbly produced, and highly infectious album may be one of the most obvious musical choices for active yoga classes in a long time.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Peter Kater

Resonance
Peter Kater
New Earth Records
www.newearthrecords.com

Pianist Peter Kater heads in a contemplative, meditative, and thoroughly serene direction on his latest album. Resonance’s eight tracks unwind slowly and patiently.  The sparse music, while warm and wholly accessible, also carries with it Zen-like influences, especially since Kater also plays gongs and chimes on the recording (as well as synthesizers and sampled strings).  It’s his reverbed piano playing, however, that begs a deep and concentrated exploration of the album’s many pleasures and nuances.  Kater is one of the more versatile piano artists in the New Age genre, and Resonance is one of this 11-time Grammy-nominated artist’s best recordings.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Shastro

Satsang
Shastro
Malimba Records
www.malimba.com

The man who heads up Malimba Records is quite the talent himself, as this, his 14th release, demonstrates from the first minute to the final note. With only six tracks on the CD, you could rightfully surmise that these are long songs, and, indeed, only the closing track (“Talking to Nature”) clocks in under nine minutes.  Playing an assortment of Indian and other instruments, such as piano, guitar, and keyboards, Shastro takes the listener deep into hauntingly serene meditative territory with wafting flutes and clarinet melodies, accented by ethnic rhythms, ambient textures, and Indian drones.  Guest artist Purana also sits in on two tracks on guitar and piano.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Richard Carr

Matters of Balance
Richard Carr
Rec’D Music
www.richardcarr.com

Carr’s 15th album is also the first time the pianist has recorded with other musicians.  He made a superb decision in traveling to Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios and working with him and engineer Tom Eaton, as well as choosing to invite many of the IR “usual suspects” to join him on the recording (e.g., Eugene Friesen, Jill Haley, and Jeff Oster, among others). Carr’s piano compositions are sometimes on the somber side of the genre, and on Matters of Balance, that aspect is emphasized even more than usual. There is a sparse yet rich quality to the 11 tracks, and Carr’s utmost control of nuance is always on display.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Craig Urquhart

Calm Seas
Craig Urquhart
Heart Earth Music
www.craigurquhart.com

It’s likely that I write the same thing every time I review one of pianist Craig Urquhart’s albums, but it’s true, nonetheless. He is a master of quiet, introspective piano soundscapes and tone poems.  With the title Calm Seas, of course, you would expect the album to be soothing and contemplative, but as is the case with most of his music so far, there is a hint of shadow and somberness, as well. The 13 tracks straddle the line between sparse/not-quite minimal and slow-tempo, fluid melodies.  Urquhart is never showy, instead concentrating on making his few notes communicate deep-rooted emotions.  Calm Seas is a great late-night listen.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Mariah Parker

Indo Latin Jazz Live in Concert
Mariah Parker
Ancient Future Records
www.ancient-future.com

If ever an album featured “truth in advertising” when it comes to its title, it’s this one. There are indeed both Latin and Indian influences on some of the songs on this fantastic recording, as well as enough tasty jazz licks, infectious rhythms, and tight ensemble playing to satisfy even your most demanding jazz-hound customers. While pianist Mariah Parker heads the show, the rest of these cats keep up with her step for step.  While the mood and tempo does slow down once in a while, it doesn’t happen often.  Parker’s band cooks up serious feel-good music, so give this some in-store play on gloomy days and watch your customers’ faces light up!


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Dean Evenson

Stillness
Dean Evenson
Soundings of the Planet
www.soundings.com

New age maestro Dean Evenson pares down to the essentials on Stillness, one of his most serene, soothing, and ambient-like releases in his decades-long career.  Evenson, playing only silver flute and synthesizers, is joined on a few tracks by Doug Tessler playing bass flute.  Since 1979, Evenson has produced music designed for healing and inner journeys, and Stillness is sublime at just that.  Besides the flute melodies, he incorporates synth effects such as strings, ethereal chorals, bell tones, and spacemusic washes.  Listening to Stillness is like falling into the softest feather bed imaginable while the sun sets outside your window.  Pure bliss!


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Jennifer Defrayne

Sisu
Jennifer DeFrayne
Palo Isle Music
www.jenniferdefrayne.com

Pianist Jennifer DeFrayne is of Finnish ancestry and grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, an area steeped in Finnish culture and tradition. Sisu, the album’s title, is (per the liner notes) a uniquely Finnish quality, a mindset of perseverance, resilience, courage, and determination—all powerful, passionate terms that are boldly interpreted musically by DeFrayne’s compositions and, in particular, her fiercely bravura performance.  These are intensely personal and powerful portraits of her ancestral spirit, whether the tempo is fast or slow or the mood is somber or joyous. Sterling production and superb guest stars flesh out this artist’s triumphant second album.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Byron Metcalf

Inner Rhythm Meditations
Byron Metcalf
Sounds True
www.soundstrue.com

Unlike Byron Metcalf’s usual shamanic excursions, which explore the faster and more powerfully passionate side of ethnic-tribal drumming, Inner Rhythm Meditations slows things down while still retaining the innate sensuality and primal driving force behind his skilled percussion and drumming on ancient instruments. Joined by two master-class musicians—ambient guitarist Erik Wøllo and flutist Peter Phippen (here playing bansuri and shakuhachi)— Metcalf spins an alluring web of sultry, slower-tempo rhythm fests with superb backing by the two aforementioned guest artists.  Wøllo and Phippen’s fluid melodic backdrops meld seamlessly with Metcalf’s beats throughout the album’s six tracks.


 

Retailing Insight Magazine Music Review Vin Downes

When the Sea Lets Go
Vin Downes
Riverwide Records
www.vindownes.com

Some musicians seem so in sync with their instruments it’s as if the instrument is an extension of their persona, a way to express what makes them individuals: dreams, regrets, hopes, loves, and tragedies. Acoustic guitarist Vin Downes is one such musician.  His new album, When the Sea Lets Go, is a stellar collection of 10 acoustic-guitar tone poems, wonderfully nuanced, expertly performed, and carefully recorded by the Ackerman/Eaton production team at Imaginary Road Studios.  For the most part, the music is quiet and reflective, tailor-made for days when the skies are grey but not stormy and you want to sit by the window and just drift away into your own thoughts.

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Bill Binkelman

Bill Binkelman has been reviewing New Age, ambient, and world music since 1997. Email him at bill@retailinginsight.com