Posts Tagged ‘Loreena McKennitt’

Shhhh! BOOO! An Echoes Halloween

October 31, 2013

the_white_noise._white_noise-an_electric_stormTonight on Echoes, it’s music for things that go bump in the night.  No, not those things.  Scary things.  It’s a time for spirits and spooks, vampires and zombies, witches and whispers.  We’ll hear them all as we go to the darkside of Echoes. I’ll be your sonic crypt-keeper as we explore a sound between worlds.  I’ve got music from a band named after a ghost, a song about a woman who lives in a mortuary and lots of ghost songs.  We’ll hear hymns for supernatural lovers and love in a mortuary.    I’ve also got a visitation from 1968 and one of the earliest rock electronic albums, White Noise’s An Electric Storm.  Keep the lights on.  It’s an Echoes Halloween tonight.

And if two hour’s of scary Echoes music isn’t enough, dial up our six hour, Wordless Echoes Halloween Soundscape, Transmigration at Echoes On-Line.

hv-coverTransmigration plunges you into the gloom of night, and explores the liminal times, when spirits cross-over and souls transmigrate. Featuring scary tunes by Ulrich Schauss and Mark Peters, Jeff Greinke, Patrick O’Hearn, Tangerine Dream, James Blackshaw, Nine Inch Nails, William Orbit, and many more.  It’s available to all subscribers at Echoes On-Line, where you can hear the show on demand, 24-7 on your iPhone, iPad, Droid or computer.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))WorldsBeyond

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Best of Echoes 2012-Listener Poll Results.

December 19, 2012

Hear The Best of Echoes 2012 Rewind TONIGHT!
See Spotify Playlist Below

How much of a runaway was Dead Can Dance’s win in the Best of Echoes 2012 Poll?  They had almost twice as many votes as the next artist, Hammock.  But after that, it’s pretty tight.

But what does the list say musically?  It’s pretty diverse for one. I could argue that the top five are variations on modern electronic strategies, even Dead Can Dance and their largely programmed Anastasis.  But delve into the next five and you find acoustic world fusion from Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun, mostly acoustic ambient chamber music from Jeff Pearce’s In the Season of Fading Light,   Kate Bush’s expansive song cycle set from late last year, 50 Words for Snow and then Eric Wollo’s more conventionally electronic excursions on Airborne.

Depature SongsWhat’s on the list? You’ll find some post-rock, including two by Sigur Ros, along with Tycho, Balmorhea and Hammock for whom ambition clearly paid off in their sprawling double CD, Departure Songs, an Echoes CD of the Month There’s different flavors of ambient including the Godfather, Brian Eno, joined by Marconi Union and Darshan Ambient.  The avatars of Space music, Tangerine Dream, get two on the list, and several of their disciples appear as well, Ian Boddy, Erik Wollo, Robert Rich, Thierry David and Paul Ellis.

Ambient Chamber Music continues to hold interest with Jeff Pearce and Kevin Keller. I’d include Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy’s gorgeous WaterSky in there as well.

Seven of the winners were Echoes CD of Month Club selections.  That’s a pretty good batting average.

WaterskyWhat’s missing?  Acoustic guitarists.  Outside of Todd Boston and the California Guitar Trio, none are present.  And even they aren’t truly solo which, given the amount of solo acoustic guitar we play, is surprising.

Another surprise is Loreena McKennitt’s Troubadours on the Rhine.   In years past McKennitt consistently topped this poll and in some years, held both the one and two positions.  But this year she only makes it to the middle of the pack.  Admittedly, it’s a live recording of materiel from one of McKennitt’s less auspicious albums, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

It was clearly the year for Dead Can Dance.  They may be a love ‘em or hate ‘em group, but the people who love them really do.

Here’s the list of The Best of Echoes 2012 – The Listener Poll

  1. Dead Can Dance – Anastasis (Pias America) Anastasis - Dead Can Dance
  2. Hammock – Departure Songs (Hammock) Departure Songs - Hammock
  3. Brian Eno – Lux (Warp Records)
  4. Marconi Union – Different Colours (Just Music)
  5. Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Astralwerks)
  6. Darshan Ambient – Falling Light(Lotuspike) Falling Light - Darshan Ambient
  7. Todd Boston – Touched by the Sun (Gita Records)
  8. Tycho – Dive (Ghostly International) Dive - Tycho
  9. Sigur Ros – Valtari (XL Recordings)
  10. Jeff Pearce – In the Season of Fading Light (Jeff Pearce Music) In the Season of Fading Light - Jeff Pearce
  11. Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (ANTI Records) 
  12. Tangerine Dream – (Eastgate Music & Art) The Angel From the West Window
  13. Erik Wollo – Airborne (Projekt) iTunes
  14. Jeff Johnson and Phil KeaggyWaterSky (Ark Records) WaterSky - Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy
  15. Loreena McKennitt – Troubadours on the Rhine (Quinlan Road) Troubadours On the Rhine - Loreena McKennitt
  16. Tangerine Dream – (Eastgate Music & Art) Finnegan’s Wake
  17. Kevin Keller Ensemble – The Day I Met Myself(Kevin Keller) Kevin Keller: The Day I Met Myself - Kevin Keller Ensemble
  18. Robert Rich – Nest (Soundscape Productions)
  19. Thierry David – Stellar Connection (Real Music) iTunes
  20. Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo – Frontiers (Inner Knot)
  21. California Guitar Trio – Masterworks (California Guitar Trio) iTunes
  22. Coyote Oldman – Time Travelers(Coyote Oldman) iTunes
  23. Sigur Ros – Inni (XL Recordings)
  24. Balmorhea – Stranger (Western Vinyl) Stranger - Balmorhea
  25. Paul Ellis – I Am Here (Lotuspike) Stranger - Balmorhea

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes On LineNow you can go Mobile with Echoes On-Line.  Find out how you can listen to Echoes 24/7 wherever you are on your iPhone, iPad or Droid.

Sign up for Echoes CD of the Month Club.

With the Echoes CD of the Month Club, you get great CDs like Hammock’s Departure Songs coming to you each month.  Follow the link to the Echoes CD of the Month Club  and see what you’ve been missing.

Join us on Facebook where you’ll get all the Echoes news so you won’t be left behind when Dead Can Dance appear on the show, Tangerine Dream tours or Brian Eno drops a new iPad album.

Here’s a Best of Echoes 2012 Spotify Playlist Minus Seven who weren’t on Spotify.

55th Grammy Awards-Return of Pure New Age.

December 6, 2012

New Age Music reasserts its hold on the Grammy’s New Age Category.

Grammy 55th-altI won’t be able to get my chakras in an uproar about the absurdity of the New Age Grammy category this year.  (See previous rants & reflections Grammys Goof Again in the New Age)  There aren’t any  hack New Agers that no one has ever heard of on the list this year.  In fact, while hardly inspiring in a musical sense, this year’s class represents the purest New Age music nominations in years.

Devotees of the genre, the ones who lamented Peter Gabriel winning a Grammy in 1990 for Passion, Jack DeJohnette in 2009 and Pat Metheny in 2012 will be happy to see several examples of pure New Age Music in the Grammy category this year.

Steven Halpern's Deep Alpha

Four out of the six nominated albums, Krishna Das’s Live Ananda, Michael Brant De Maria’s Bindu , Steven Halpern’s Deep Alpha and Peter Kater’s Light Body, are examples of new age music in its most unadulterated form.  All but Krishna Das are meditative, light on rhythm and melody, high on atmosphere and mood.  It’s the quintessential sound for massage, guided meditation, and healing that New Age purported to be back in the 1970s.  That’s exactly when Steven Halpern began.

It could be argued that Steven Halpern created the New Age genre.  He’s certainly a pioneer, one of the first to specifically market to the meditation and healing community.  Surprisingly, this is his first Grammy nomination. Halpern’s Deep Alpha, whose subtitle is Brainwave Synchronization for Meditation and Healing, could’ve been recorded back in 1975 when he released his first album, Spectrum Suite.  Sonorous and Light Bodyrelentlessly tonal, Halpern floats on clouds of electric Rhodes piano, its soft-focus bell-like tones hanging in space, always pleasant, but never resolving into a melody or a progression.  In other words, classic New Age music in caps.

Eight-time Grammy nominee, Peter Kater follows suit with Light Body,  music designed around the chakras, the most popular New Age trope.  Kater is a pianist and composer of broad skills and technique, but here he goes for drifty music: spare piano notes etched in the sky while the voices of angels caress your brow with gates-of-heaven sighs.  But unlike Halpern, Kater can’t help but bring in some melody eventually, playing classically-tinged themes, like Debussy in a dream with Paul McCandless’ always soulful oboe keening across the changes.

BinduMichael Brant DeMaria is a little less well-known, although he’s been nominated twice before.  He has albums with a more robust chamber world music sound, but this psychologist/musician also has a hard core New Age side.  Bindu is lovely in its sonics; beautiful keyboards from acoustic piano to synths, ethnic percussion, native flutes.  It’s all present in music that blows  perfumed breaths but never really intrudes, or aspires to much beyond a serene mood.

All three of these albums subscribe to the hard core, original dictates of New Age music, the sound before more adventurous sonic explorers like Steve Roach, Michael Stearns, Robert Rich and even George Winston came on the scene.

KrishnaDas-LiveAnandaKrishna Das’ music isn’t quite as meditative as these three, but he also takes his inspiration from eastern music and philosophies, in this case, Hindu chants.  He’s one of the superstars on the Kirtan chanting scene. As Das recordings go, Live Ananda is less ecstatic and more serene than some of his other CDs.  His coarse, guttural voice intones the chants against tablas, harmonium, occasional strings and a chorus of his followers.  For the uninitiated, think Hare Krishna for the upwardly mobile.

OmarAkram-EchoesWhile these artists subscribe to the original tenets of New Age music, Omar Akram’s Echoes Of Love represents the commercialization of New Age into the middle of the road, easy listening music.  This is upscale dinner music, pleasant melodies, vaguely exotic instrumentation, nice atmospheres, all mixed into a sweet sonic cocktail.  No healing, meditation or exploration here, just Muzak™.

TroubadoursThe odd nominee out this year is Loreena McKennitt.  For years, the New Age category has been a harbor for artists like McKennitt who couldn’t find a home elsewhere.  But in 2012, her Troubadours on the Rhine, a live recording of her more traditionally Celtic, albeit exotic and Middle-Eastern-ized sound, seems to be from another planet, and certainly another category entirely.

The Grammys are flawed in so many ways, and the fact that an artist like Loreena McKennitt sticks out in the category is an issue that should be addressed.    She elevates the category by her presence, but really shares little with it aesthetically, spiritually or even in image.   In which case, where does that leave groups like Dead Can Dance, Hammock, Steve Roach, The Album Leaf, or even Sigur Ros?.

Oh, and if I’m making a pick, I guess it’s Loreena McKennitt, both to win and as a personal choice.

John Diliberto

Vote in the Best of Echoes 2012 PollWin Prizes

Vote in the Best of Echoes 2012 Poll
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ADDENDUM: The main reason we conduct our Best of Echoes year end polls is  we want to recognize artists like Loreena McKennitt, who don’t get acknowledged by other awards or even other media.  For example, check out NPR’s Year End lists.  Let me know if you find an Echoes artist on there, let alone an Echoes list.

So, you can’t vote in the Grammys.  But you can send a message to the world about the music you love by voting in the Best of Echoes 2012 Poll today.  And you can also win a years subscription to Echoes On-Line, a membership to the Echoes CD of the Month Clubor a copy of Tangents – The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 18.

Vote now, for the Poll that really matters if you love this music.

Echoes On LineSign up forEchoes CD of the Month Club now and receive the December CD pick, Hammock’s Departure Songs . With the Echoes CD of the Month Club, you get great CDs like this coming to you each month.  Follow the link to the Echoes CD of the Month Club  and see what you’ve been missing.

Now you can go Mobile with Echoes On-Line.  Find out how you can listen to Echoes 24/7 wherever you are on your iPhone, iPad or Droid.

Join us on Facebook where you’ll get all the Echoes news so you won’t be left behind when Dead Can Dance appear on the show, Tangerine Dream tours or Brian Eno drops a new iPad album.

20 Icons of Echoes #4: Loreena McKennitt

January 14, 2010

Five Essential Loreena McKennitt CDs

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How much do Echoes listeners love Loreena McKennitt?
They voted not one, but two of her CDs into our list of 200 CDs for 20 Years of Echoes.  And they were #1 and #2.   Her Christmas CD, A Midwinter Night’s Dream, was voted as their number one disc of The Best of Echoes 2009.  Finally they made  Loreena McKennitt their fourth selection for 20 Icons of Echoes.  She began recording in 1985, but it was her 1991 album, The Visit that introduced her to Echoes. She’s been a major part of the show ever since with live performances and interviews and her music was one of the defining sounds of the world fusion played on the show.  We’ll be featuring Loreena McKennitt tonight 01/14/2010, on Echoes with a thorough profile and interview.  She’s only released seven studio albums in 25 years, along with three live recordings.  Here are the five that should be in your collection.

5 Essential Loreena McKennitt CDs

#1 The Mask and Mirror
Loreena McKennitt started out as a Celtic Diva, but she made a radical shift with The Mask and Mirror, a CD that explored Middle Eastern and Moroccan themes and had more dumbek than bodhran, more oud than harp.  In fact, her signature instrument barely appears on a CD that creates a darkly hued landscape of cinematic dimensions.  “The Mystics Dream”  with it’s gothic choirs and churning slow camel lurch has been a favorite in film trailers for years.  The Mask and Mirror is a nearly perfect album as McKennitt revels in the sensuality, mysticism and romance of her caravan journey.

#2 The Visit
This was the first Loreena McKennitt album I heard and I was immediately entranced by her mix of Celtic themes and Indian overtones.  The Visit is a turning point CD for McKennitt as she expanded on her Celtic themes and began finding a new, almost mythical sound.  “All Soul’s Night” is a dramatic rendering of Celtic myth and “The Lady of Shallott” revealed her penchant for the epic tale.  “Cymbeline” may be the most serene track she’s ever composed.

#3 The Book of Secrets
This was the follow up to The Mask and Mirror and it picks up on many of the same Middle Eastern themes.  Again there are epic stories like “The Highwayman”, gorgeous instrumentals like “La Serenissima” and on this album, the closest McKennitt has come to a hit, “The Mummer’s Dance.” A remix of the song got up to #18 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This is one of the more Celtic songs on the album, mixing hurdy gurdy with Middle Eastern percussion from Hossam Ramzy and the earthy bass of Danny Thompson.

#4 An Ancient Muse
It was nearly a decade between studio albums, but you’d never know they way McKennitt picked up the caravan exactly where she got off on The Book of Secrets with her mystical journey through Middle Eastern and northern Saharan cultures.  You’ll find the same kind of album opening incantation that she used on the previous two CDs,  calling out in a wordless voice across an echoing space, cleansing the air and the mind.   What follows is a lot like those albums as well, a pan-global excursion centered on Middle Eastern themes and instruments cast into a dramatic exotica.   Taken as a group, An Ancient Muse sounds like a bit of a retread, but on its own, it’s as compelling as any of McKennitt’s other CDs.

#5 Parallel Dreams
This is not Loreena at her most Celtic.  That would be her first CD, Elemental which is mostly traditional songs sung by Loreena and played on harp.  But Parallel Dreams is the album where she realized she was an artist and all that entails.  She wrote much of the music herself, including songs like “Huron Beltane Fire Dance” which presages the moods and grooves of “The Mystics Dream.”  Although not as elaborately produced as her later CDs, Parallel Dreams, shows McKennitt stretching the concept of Celtic music and getting read to move on to grander themes.  The other records are epic, but this may be her most charming outing.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

200 CDs for 20 Years of Echoes

20 Icons of Echoes

The Best of Echoes 2009

200 CDs for 20 Years of Echoes

October 12, 2009

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Loreena McKennitt, BT & Ludovico Einaudi Top Listener Poll

51nEHmOXwEL._SL500_AA240_For the next two weeks on Echoes you’ll be hearing the 200 CDs that you voted for in our 20th Anniversary Poll.  Surprises? Definitely at the top.  We expected Loreena McKennitt to place very high in the poll, but we certainly didn’t expect her to take the top 3 slots with The Book of Secrets, An Ancient Muse, The Mask & the Mirror.  Whew!  It’s interesting to note that while Loreena still has a reputation as a Celtic inclined harpist, all these albums show her in her Middle Eastern mode with virtually no harp.  And providing a nice contrast to Loreena’s romantically inclined moods is BT at #4 with his edgy album, This Binary Universe. Lounge jazz with solos in the key of abstract, plaintive arpeggiatted guitars, electro marches, minimalist hymns and pastoral dreamscapes drive an album that seeks out joy and redemption, but not without traveling through the dark.

21-xRV25RKL._SL500_AA240_The list loops back again to a more romantic sound with Ludivico Einaudi’s Divenire, his gorgeous, neo-romantic, neo-Minimalist  chamber work.  It’s not surprising that Bombay Dub Orchestra‘s eponymous debut or Moby‘s brilliant, introspective Wait for Me placed high, #6 and 7 respectively.   California Guitar Trio‘s Echoes, released early in 2009  is stil fresh in listeners minds at number 8, but very surprising are the #9 and 10 selections.  General Fuzz‘s ambient lounge music on Soulful Filling was an Echoes favorite but I didn’t get the sense he’s well known outside of our limited sphere.   But even more surprising to me is Johann Johannsson‘s abstract ambient chamber work, Fordlandia.

Yet, the entire list is full of these surprises . You can see the complete 200 CDs for 20 Years of Echoes here.
You can also see my personal choices earlier in the Echoes Blog.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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