Deuter – New Earth Records
Deuter has been releasing new age music since 1971–think about that! Let it sink in. He is not only still relevant, but still on the cutting edge of soothing, serene, soundscapes that transport his legion of fans into states of relaxation and contemplation. It is almost unimaginable how many souls he has touched with his music. Space features the icon exploring a more minimalist aspect, with sparse piano melodies anchoring an assortment of ambient excursions into blissful musical meditations. Need I say more? Truthfully, I have run out of superlatives to describe this musical genius.
Another Sunday Drive
Damon Buxton – Many Miles Music
Damon Buxton is an acoustic guitarist of uncommon grace and elegance, while still maintaining a musical style of accessibility and warmth. His latest, most personal recording, Another Sunday Drive, was inspired by his dream of acquiring the car his father’s drove when Damon was a boy. a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible (then restoring it in his father’s honor). These solo acoustic guitar instrumentals are introspective, and low key, yet infused with an air of intimacy and personal reflection that makes the album a deeply satisfying listening experience. Both nylon and steel string guitars showcase Buxton’s fingerstyle playing—exquisite simplicity wedded to intricate melodies.
Union – Music for Lovers
Michael Stribling – Leela Music
Keyboardist Michael Stribling combed his previous recordings searching for tracks which would be best suited to serve as a soundtrack for intimate, romantic moments for couples. The result is Union – Music for Lovers, a collection of eleven instrumentals which allow the listener(s) to relax in a state of bliss tinted with sensuality. Not overtly sexual or primal, the selections (which, except for one, are culled from the artist’s discography) serve as a cupid-esque musical backdrop for everything from a romantic dinner to a sensual massage to whatever comes after. Sibling’s lush keyboards and ambient textures serve as a sonic backdrop for shared intimacy.
After the Rain
Neil Tatar – Tatar Associates
Pianist/guitarist Neil Tatar continues his composing and performing excellence on his third release, After the Rain, which sees him smooth out both the more adventurous side of his freshman release, Where Does the Time Go, as well as the overt jazziness of Learning to Fly. Working with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios, Tatar explores a softer, gentler, more introspective side of his musical persona, although there are a few moments of levity among the eleven instrumental tracks. Tatar once again impresses, and his three-disc stint is among the best runs in recent memory for this reviewer.
Filled with Light
Bernward Koch – Real Music
I remember reviewing my first Bernward Koch album in 1997 when I was still publishing Wind and Wire. His artistry has endured all these years, retaining its warmth, romanticism, and subtle playfulness for over two decades of music. These twelve piano/keyboard instrumentals are like a sonic tonic for the busy work life so many of us deal with on an everyday basis. While some tracks veer into a rhythmic mode, most here is low-key and ideal for quiet times. Even the occasional robust tunes, e.g. “That June Feeling,” and “Tidal Flow,” inject mild energy, merging with the more sedate soundscapes to create an ideal backdrop for relaxation.
From the Darker Seasons
Jeff Pearce – Jeff Pearce Music
It was high time that ambient wunderkind/guitarist Jeff Pearce released an album of autumnal/winter-esque soundscapes, since so much of his music released since 1997 has been melancholic in nature. He has not disappointed on the spectacular From the Darker Seasons, an exploration of this superb musician’s skills in executing both guitar-oriented soundscapes as well as more amorphous ambient, atmospheric, and textural sonic explorations using his advanced studio wizardry. Pearce excels at infusing humanity into a subset of ambient music that usually lacks it. As you listen to this disc, you can visualize a winter landscape suffused with both isolation and beauty.
Heartistry – Self-released
Recordings simply do not get more meditative than Inner Sanctum from Heartistry, the duo of Beckie Forsyth on alchemy crystal bowls and Carolyn “Gahana” Bonnington on Native American flutes. Eight tracks unwind at an extremely unhurried pace, Bonnington’s flutes flowing serenely above the reverberations from Forsyth’s bowls, each infusing any physical environment in which the album is played (although, hopefully a relatively quiet one) with serenity, peace, and contentment. It’s a no-brainer that this is a must-have release for your massage therapist customers, especially as the CD clocks in at just under 60 minutes.
Todd Boston – Gita Records
Todd Boston’s One is a testament to not just Boston’s versatility as a composer and performer, but his dedication to bringing a world-wide approach to his guitar-oriented music, evidenced by not just the discernible musical influences from other countries but also the presence of instruments such as the Chinese guzheng, the African djembe, and bamboo flutes. Wielding acoustic and electric guitar, as well as dobro, lap steel and more, Boston guides the listener to a multi-hued musical landscape of melody and rhythm. Most of the music is at least somewhat contemplative, but there are moments of soft playfulness present as well.
Johannes Linstead – Earthscape Media
The back cover liner notes describe guitarist Johannes Linstead’s Azul as “a fiesta of Spanish and electric guitars…” and that is 100 percent spot on. Exploding out of the gate on the opening title track, Linstead lays down a wide assortment of licks on both acoustic and electric guitar, aided by some fantastic guest artists on all manner of percussion, keyboards, and more. Linstead also contributes on piano/keyboards, flute and vocals. Whether the rocking sensuality of “Cha Cha Chu,” the laid-back tropical spiciness of “Lazy Sunday,” or the lush romanticism of “Surrender to Me,” all the songs herein prove conclusively that Linstead is a master of styles, moods, and evocations.
Steven C – Self-released
Pianist Steven C (Anderson) has reached a pinnacle of both composing and performing on Emotive, a wonderful and truly beautiful album. The pianist is ably supported by a small string ensemble and an eight-person choir singing wordless vocals, but what elevates this album above many others is not just the gorgeous neo-classical/cinematic orchestral music contained within, but that it was recorded in the historic Cathedral of St Paul in St Paul, Minnesota. As a result, the acoustics achieved reach magnificent heights (an amazing engineering job, obviously), and the album sounds fantastic. Steven C’s heartfelt performance (his personal 9-foot Bösendorfer piano) aptly displays his truly special artistry.