Review by Jeff Day
Meteo Xavier, known as well under the unique alias of 12 Followers, has delivered what could be considered a significant contribution to the oft-stagnating electronic music universe with his latest album, “Espers”. Though the album doesn’t directly reference the famed Espers of legendary Final Fantasy VI fame, it very well could have some close relation as the music presented here reflects an otherworldly influence not unlike those digital creatures. “Espers” is an amalgamation of new age, electronic, and most prominently, ambient themes that together form an hour-long journey of the senses beyond merely sound.
The entire album feels as though it has been torn directly from the golden age of role-playing games, within the same calibre as legendary soundtracks such as Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. Their connections to the album are undeniable; a name like “Sagetellah” oozes of Final Fantasy IV’s charm. Espers, however, takes on a voice of its own, though driven by more than mere advanced technology. 12 Followers/Meteo Xavier has injected each track with a crystalline experience, showering the listener simultaneously with the wonder of an immense world and the halcyon of a microscopic existence. From the forefront of the introductory track, “Tritochiark – Vestigial Dreamcatcher for the Heavenly Integer” (and this, surprisingly, is not the longest track name on the album) to the denouement of “Sagetellah” featuring Michael Huang in a touching solo piano performance, it is immediately clear that the journey will indeed be filled with transcendental mystique.
12 Followers/Meteo Xavier effectively utilized natural sounds to the fullest, ultimately resulting in an organic work. Tribal percussions in “Amenemhetopelzai”, for example, or the wind-driven clashes and bellows of “Icidina” leave the listener with the feeling that they are no longer in their own location and that they have travelled without really travelling. Aside from the ability to help you save money on airplane fares, the artist has provided a simple yet compelling method of escapism. As well, the album boasts high production values, a compliment of which Meteo will be the primary antagonist. Rich, full tones are dotted throughout, making for a pleasant treat for the ears.
Espers provides a generally relaxing experience similar to that of famed new age artists such as Enigma and Mike Oldfield. in his own heyday. There are certain overwhelming sections to the album, though; parts of “Icidina”, in particular, may require you to lower your volume for a short while. However, barring such incidents, which are few and far between, Espers is a novel way to chill out from the many unnecessary stresses of life. Every song has character. It is a highly-recommended work of art and indeed a solid addition to any aficionado’s music library.
A little background first. After the devastating December 2004 tsunami struck South Asia, Earthsync — a world music enterprise based in South India — sent a crew of field recordists and film makers into areas of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, The Maldives, Myanmar and India. They recorded songs that reflected the folk traditions as the people of the region struggled to rebuild their lives. The result was Laya. Laya, while quite remarkable, is not the focus of this review. Five years after Laya, urban musicians approached the project as a remix. The finished product, two CDs named Embrace and Union, is just absolutely fantastic.
Artists featured include Pitch Black, Shaman’s Dream, DJ Pathaan and the Bhaki Brothers featuring MC Yogi. “Glorious Sun” – which includes a hip hop set of instructions for the Sun Salutation yoga sequence by MC Yogi – is hands down my favorite track. It is infectiously danceable, wonderfully listenable and in fact was something I played through the darkest days around the winter solstice to turn my thoughts to the sun’s return.
Another favorite is the Dimm Summer remix of “Rain Buddha,” which begins with soft chanting and gives way to an ecstatic dance groove. And bouncy rhythms featured in “Sunset in Akkarai” (Desert Dwellers Dance Remix) seemingly have the ability to propel the listener right into a good mood.
But what is most cheering about this 2-CD set is how, with the assistance of urban DJs, the traditional cultural music of extremely remote villages can be enjoyed by a worldwide audience. This hope and resilience conveyed here of the survivors of the Asian tsunami is truly a celebration.
The juxtaposition of regional folk tunes with the electronic remix creates an audio patchwork quilt of vastly different colors that, together, simply works. Not to be missed.
Review by Diane Saarinen
In this new era of “conscious entertainment,” one would be challenged to find more positive music than Michele de Wilton’s mystically beautiful Myths & Legends. In her new album of musical storytelling via piano solos, the artist delivers soothing music sophisticated enough for adults, yet also enjoyable for children of all ages.
The artist — an Ohio-based mother of two and lifelong pianist — has created a stunning work of 13 original compositions conveying compelling stories of adventure, love, and endless yearning. The album’s generous 55 minutes of relaxing and emotive music share both well-known and obscure tales from around the world, sure to inspire the imaginations of adults and children alike.
The album itself seems imbued with mystery, perhaps picking up on the magical time it was recorded at the Chicago Recording Company during the record Chicago snowstorms of 2008. Laughing, de Wilton fondly recalls hunkering down to record, cozy in her favorite pink Uggs.
Its theme attracts a broad array of mythology fans to the album, which includes sophisticated interpretations of classic tales like “The Ice Maiden” alongside less well-known myths such as “Salt River.” The artist sees an interest from teachers, as well as a family appeal, with the gently twinkling “Nursery Rhyme for a Starry Sky” sure to become a favorite for young children at bedtime. The stories behind each of the 13 intriguing tales are explained at the “Musical Journey” page on the artist’s equally beautiful interactive website (www.micheledewilton.com).
The fact that her current piano coach, Jennifer Loftus, is also a Reiki healer seems apropos to Michele’s path in exploring conscious music. New Age piano music fans will recognize Myths & Legends as entertaining background music or as music for massage, thanks to de Wilton’s contemplative style on the piano, having begun training at age 6. Her love for musical storytelling was inspired by artists like Janis Ian and Chris de Burgh, but her music is much more along the lines of new age artists such as Liz Story, George Winston or David Lanz. De Wilton names composers Frédéric Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn and Bedrich Smetana as a few of her earliest classical influences.
A lover of performance, the pianist herself is featured in a popular music video of “The Ice Maiden” currently airing on YouTube, MusicDishTV, and numerous websites worldwide. The album is supported by a marketing team comprised of Only New Age Music, The B Company, KDM Promotion, and Greg Steffan; distributors include New Leaf Distributing and CPI Distribution, Inc.
Praise is abundant for this debut album, which is available through both specialty book and music stores and mainstream stores like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Online outlets include sites like iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon.
Veteran reviewer RJ Lannan of New Age Reporter recently wrote “…I like to get lost in tall tales of heroes and characters of ancient times…So to appease my imagination and stimulate my spirit I put on Michele de Wilton’s new album Myths & Legends.”
In an earlier indicator of success, the album earned an impressive 33 New Adds in its first month of radio promotion. Additionally, FHI (For Her Information) Magazine’s annual “It Girl” issue also proclaimed “Sophisticated, dramatic, and truly relaxing, this debut album is perfect for unwinding at the end of the day and as great dinner music.” CMH Magazine in Columbus recently featured an interview with Michele de Wilton following her relocation to the Ohio city from Chicago. The artist has also lived and studied abroad in London, Cape Town, and Athens; indeed, it was in these places that she gathered some of the colorful stories she shares through her music.
For performance updates, videos, music downloads and background information, please visit the artist’s website at www.micheledewilton.com.
Fans can join Michele de Wilton’s Fan Club at ReverbNation.com/micheledewilton.
About the Artist
Michele de Wilton lives in Columbus, OH, with her husband and two children; she holds a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees from Northwestern University. Myths and Legends is her debut album. Her fascination with musical storytelling was inspired by more contemporary singer-songwriters like Joan Baez, Chris de Burgh and Janis Ian, with a nod to Broadway composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Claude-Michel Schönberg. However, her list of influences is not complete without mentioning the illustrative film composers Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman and Hans Zimmer.
Isaac Shepard (2009): 33mins (approx)
Review by Kate Russell
“The Renewing” is the third album by Isaac Shepard. A composer for twenty years, Isaac finds inspiration in travel, the beauty of life and, perhaps most importantly, his faith. In his words “(He’s) just trying to do (his) small part in sharing the peace and joy that God has given (him)”. Though a relatively short album, it is also one that for the most part is packed with unexpected twists and turns – just as you think you have the hook, it inverts and turns into something completely different, whisking you away down another musical rabbit hole. This is music that evolves, that renews itself as much as you might expect from an album with this title.
Starting off the album, ‘Tears Can Fall’ uses unexpected ‘drips’ of piano trills against the main melody to evocative effect.
‘Let Me Sleep’ starts off with an interesting hook, that includes minors and missed notes. Moving between more melodic and sinister tones, it could easily represent the transition through nightmare to dream, consciousness to shadow. ‘Dimming the Lights’ isn’t so contrasting, but deserves a mention for hook and atmosphere.
A playful feeling waltz, with a soft hook, ‘Good Company’ is as delicate and thought provoking as any Satie composition at the beginning and melts into a feel-good conclusion by the end. Definitely one of the best tracks on the album, along with ‘Countdown’, in which the piece’s strong 2/4 rhythm captures perfectly the inescapable feeling of time passing.
Sometimes pensive, and at other times hopeful, ‘Simple Moments’ explores more of the changeability on this album. ‘Pretty Fingers’ follows on comfortably from here, with more major/minor contrast that gives it duality of emotion.
As slow as its name suggests, ‘Slow Down’ is a quintessential outro track. With drama building in the middle, it seems as though there will be definite resolution to the album. But the pensive melody returns at the end of the piece, leaving the listener with a question – the answer and meaning of which, it is up to the listener to decide.
There were songs on the album which took more than a few listens to get into. ‘Doors of Life’ was a simple piece in contrast to the playful jumps and hooks found elsewhere on the album. ‘All Smiles’ was a little arpeggio-heavy, and I wanted to hear more of the tantalizing flares that existed but did so all too sparingly. I appreciate, personal taste is a factor here, but on a 33 minute album every second counts to make an impact.
To sum, the pieces played on “The Renewing” are a perfect representation of the concept that contains them. The twists and turns in the music remind us of the evolution of things, of music and of ourselves.
If you’d like to listen and contemplate the meaning of ‘The Renewing’ for yourself, or read a little more about the artist in his own words, then check out his official site and blog at: http://www.isaacshepard.com/. Mp3s of the album are available for download from iTunes and Amazon mp3, whilst physical CDs are available at both Amazon and CD Baby.
Kate Russell is a singer/songwriter and busker from Vancouver, up until recently performing under the stage name Jadis Gloom (www.myspace.com/jadisgloom). Currently she is taking some time out from her solo music projects to write, listen to other styles of music and gain inspiration from other artists and their own creative journeys. Believing that to look into someone’s art is also to look inside their soul, she enjoys the intimate opportunities for understanding others in new ways that being a music critic provides.