Speak to the Sky
James Marienthal – Silver Wave Records
Silver Wave Records was one of the founding labels of New Age music (they came on the scene in 1986). James Marienthal’s Speak to the Sky shows why the label is still among the best in the genre. Marienthal (assorted wooden flutes, xylophone, piano, rattles) is joined by vocalist Arwen Ek and Tom Wasinger (guitars). The liner notes sum up the album’s intent nicely “May this reverent music journey carry you to place of peace and serenity…” Centered on Marienthal’s haunting, lilting flutes, Speak to the Sky is indeed the ultimate in de-stressing music, a soothing musical tonic for our troubled times.
Todd Mosby – Mosby Music Group
If there was ever a year when the world needed a “pick me up” of light-hearted, cheery, enjoyable music, it was 2020! Guitarist Todd Mosby, with able assistance from the Imaginary Road Studio “usual suspects,” spins one grin-inducing, spirit-lifting tune after another. The musical equivalence of soaring among the clouds (as the cover depicts) or, perhaps driving up US 1 on the Pacific Coast on a sunny day, Aerial Views is not just masterfully composed, superbly produced (by the Ackerman/Eaton team, ‘natch), and artistically performed, it also takes the “light jazz” genre and injects a healthy dose of fun.
Music from The Long Quiet
Matthew Labarge – Cynelic Gast Music
Perusing the song titles on pianist Matthew Labarge’s latest album, it’s easy to discern that this is music born of deep-rooted emotions, likely based on life-changing events (e.g. “Longing,” “Regret,” “Compassion,” and “Redemption”). The album’s nine tracks are a sublime example of peaceful piano meditations, played masterfully by Labarge, each tone poem performed in a soft manner, with somewhat sparse yet beautiful melodies. Some may consider these songs to border on minimalism, however, the album is infused with unmistakable humanity, featuring music which invites reflection, contemplation, and remembrance. Surely, this is one of the best late-night albums in years.
Deep Dream – Shamanic Flute Journeys
Bodhi – Crystal Wind Music
Deep Dream features Bodhi (a musician I have long admired) performing on flutes, keyboards, guitar, drum, and more. He is joined by Christopher Krotky (drums and drum programming), Jen Rund (bass) and Spencer Nielson (didgeridoo). Per the liner notes, the album is perfect for the healing arts, yoga, massage, and similar scenarios, and I positively concur. Rhythms here are unforced and subtle, the anchoring flute melodies are performed with Bodhi’s usual expertise, and the album’s overall mood is a combination of relaxation and a subtle sensation of graceful movement in space. Judicious use of nature sounds enhances tracks when they are present.
Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years)
Desensitized – Spotted Peccary Music
Desensitized is an ambient music duo comprised of Deborah Martin and Dene De Benedictis, two artists who have crafted unique music for many years. Hemispherica Portalis explores an assortment of diverse (but always ambient in nature) soundscapes across its seven tracks, sometimes blending acoustic instruments (flute, Taos drum, percussion) with synthesizers and electronics and other times wholly electronic. Unlike some ambient music, which may suffer under direct listening, this recording is the opposite and invites a deep dive into its many crevices to discover the flowing tones, the subtle rhythms, and multitude of textures and effects. It’s another winner from Spotted Peccary!