Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music Albums

March 30, 2015 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music albums released during the fourth quarter of 2014 (or recently submitted to us directly). We highly recommend each of these albums. To qualify for this list, an album had to be a new release (not a re-release) in either October, November, or December of 2014 (or submitted directly to us since January 1, 2015). They must also feature primarily multi-instrumental music, and be available for purchase on either iTunes, Amazon.com, or CDBaby.com. In selecting these nine albums from over a hundred possibilities, we applied the same rigorous standards that we use in choosing music for play on GAIA Prime Radio. So if you enjoy the music we play on our station, we are confident that you will enjoy the music on these albums as well. Click on the album title or CD cover image and you will be taken to iTunes where you can listen to samples of music from that album and/or purchase it.

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Infinito – Corciolli

Corciolli is a Brazilian composer, producer and musician, and official YAMAHA artist. Born in São Paulo in 1968, he began his piano studies at the age of 13 and developed an interest in jazz and Brazilian popular music. In 1986, while studying to be an architect and urban planner, he began performing as a professional musician. He plays piano and keyboards and has recorded over 30 highly successful albums and sold countless millions of records since 1993. Some of his work has been featured on international compilation albums, with artists like Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, The Alan Parsons Project, Kitaro, Dead Can Dance, Secret Garden, Era, Sarah Brightman, Enigma, Luciano Pavarotti, Andreas Vollenweider and Diana Krall, among others.

In 1993, he also founded the record label Azul Music, releasing his first solo album “All That Binds U.” In 1995, inspired by ancient Latin texts and studies on alchemy, he produced one of his most well known works, the album “Unio Mystica”. This outstanding album features a singular mixture of Gregorian chants, ethereal piano melodies and innovative orchestral arrangements. The album was released in several countries and achieved a great success with both audiences and critics. It also received the Apostolic blessing of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. In 1996, Corciolli played at the America Latina memorial in São Paulo with the Tibetan Monks of Gaden Shartse. With the same group he recorded the album “The New Moon Of East”. This album was an unprecedented meeting of Tibetan sacred chants and music made by a Western artist. In the following years, he produced and released many more albums as a solo artist and several special projects for his recording company. Since 2011, Corciolli has dedicated himself to composing original soundtracks for films, producing the music of other artists, and performing live concerts throughout Brazil.

His newest album, “Infinito” (Portuguese for infinity), is an organic blend of electronic textures, orchestral layers and uplifting melodies, with dreamy atmospheres and a strong cinematic quality. The 14 tracks include 10 new compositions as well as exquisite arrangements of 4 masterpieces of Brazilian popular music: “A Noite Do Meu Bem” (The Night of My Well) by Delores Duran, “Melodia Sentimental” (Sentimental Melody) by Villa-Lobos, “Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce” (If Everyone Were Like You) by Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and “Eu Sonhei Que Tu Estavas Tao Linda” (I Dreamt You Were So Beautiful) by Lamartine Babo and Francisco Mattoso.

Enhancing Corciolli’s exquisite piano playing and array of synthesizers are special guests like Georgian flautist Gracieli Valverde, saxophonist Ma3, and Leonardo Padovani on the violin and erhu.

The real strength of Corciolli’s style is his masterful ability to seamlessly integrate multiple sound layers yielding music that is at once subtle, but also complex, sophisticated, mature, and rich in variety, creativity, and interest appeal. The music on “Infinito” in particular demonstrates his magnificent ability to evolve his compositions as they move forward and to allow the various components, e.g., instruments, voices, electronic accents, etc., to softly float into the track’s foreground and then transition into the background, allowing other sounds to take over.

Several of the tracks on “Infinito” have distinct “smooth-jazz-like” elements (Dream of Us, Infinite Love Song, and Solace), while other works, like “Spiral” and “Tucuma,” have a more up-tempo and lively quality that reminded us a lot of the music of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, respectively. “Mono No Aware” “San Telmo,” and “Lacrimae,” on the other hand, feature clear ethnic music elements and influences. “Dandelion,” at the outset, has a more down-tempo “space music” quality that slowly gives way to pulsating rhythms interlaced with orchestration and ethereal voices, in parts reminiscent of the early music of Kitaro. And the four covers of Brazilian popular songs are each, in their own right, particularly beautiful pieces of music, well chosen for this album, and compelling examples of Cociolli’s singular style.

For these reasons, we give this album our highest possible recommendation.

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Night Flower – Nathan Connelly

The music on “Night Flower” features a variety of instruments and sounds, artfully integrated with occasional vocals, in an innovative style. More specifically, powerful rhythms, peaceful piano solos, Native American vocalists (both male and female voices), light electronics, and choir voices, are artfully integrated with unusual and beautiful instruments such as the Duduk, the Erhu, the Bawu, the Shakuhachi, and the Dizi. The result is music that is complex, sophisticated, layered, melodic, powerful, and lightly orchestrated, while also relaxing, soothing, and peaceful, and at times intensely emotional and incredibly beautiful.

A singular theme and purpose unites each piece of music. In the artists own words:

“Whether to the high peaks of joy and courage or the low valleys of reflection and sorrow, my music attempts to lead the listener on an emotional journey that is altogether challenging, comforting, rewarding, and inspiring.” Does it ever!!!

Despite this common theme, and many common elements, the music on “Night Flower” is nonetheless quite varied. There are deeply “emotional” songs, e.g.,”The Heart’s Cry,” with it’s stirring piano and plaintiff ethereal male vocal element, and “Two Paths,” again with strong emotive piano accompanied by heartfelt violin; soaring, uplifting, orchestration, e.g. “Strength of The Spirit” and “Adventures”; earthy and mysterious Native American inspired tracks “Running With The Wind,” “Shadows of Light,” and “Voices On The Wind”; and tracks that make use of innovative sounds, melodies, rhythms, and instruments, e.g., “Night Flower” and “Rivers of Grace.” Nearly all of the tracks have some type of vocal component in them, and where it is used, it is simply mesmerizing, beautiful, and exceptionally well-crafted and integrated with the music. The album ends with a stirring piano focused work, “On Mountains High,” which may be the most beautiful track on the entire album.

This is an easy album to listen to, as it moves quickly and provides a highly rewarding musical experience along the way. The only drawback may be that it leaves you wanting more. Very highly recommended.

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Soul Nektar – Diane Arkenstone

As a true multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, guitar, mandolin, wood flutes, dulcimers, percussion), and with work on over 45 separate albums, Diane Arkenstone, from California, is certainly one of the most multi-talented musicians and music producers in the contemporary instrumental, Celtic music, and New Age genres. This is exactly why we chose to make her one of the key “featured artists” on GAIA Prime Radio.

Diane wrote her first song at the age of three and picked up her first guitar at the age of seven, eventually studying music at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, before moving to Los Angeles. She worked as a photographer for the Fender guitar company for a year, then spent four years running rival Gibson’s West Coast operations office, working with recording artists including Aerosmith, Neil Diamond, Guns and Roses, and Ozzy Osborne.

In the late 1990s, she left Gibson to pursue her own musical career. She experimented with punk, heavy metal, and folk music until she co-formed the supremely successful duo Enaid & Einalem with a musician friend named Melanie (the names Enaid and Einalem are simply Diane and Melanie spelled backwards) and began to focus on Celtic inspired instrumental music. They recorded eight outstanding albums together. Later, she married multi-instrumentalist and prolific musician David Arkenstone and together they formed the Neo Pacifica music label. They then collaborated on many projects, with varied musical styles, including music recorded under the names Earth Trybe (Trance, Electonic), Adventure Cargo (World), and Ah Nee Mah (Native American), as well as albums recorded under their own names separately and together.

In 2001, after a divorce, Diane broke out on her own, and continued her outstanding work.

“Aquaria: A Liquid Blue Trancescape,” released in 2001, is a particularly impressive album and a true work of art. “Jewel in the Sun,” debuted at No. 16 on Billboard’s New Age charts when it was released in October 2002, peaking at number 11. In 2005, her album, “The Best of Diane Arkenstone” went No. 1 on the New Age radio charts.

Her latest release, “Soul Nektar,” features retitled selections from several of her previous albums, e.g., Jewel in The Sun, Echoes of Egypt, and African Skies. At least two of the tracks “Expansion” and “A Million Stars” do seem to be remastered and re-crafted, as well as renamed, works from previous albums. So if you already are a fan of Diane Arkenstone, and have the original albums, you won’t find much new here. But if you are new to her music, we highly, highly recommend this album, since the selections on it are truly representative of her best work, and some the best music that the contemporary instrumental genre has to offer.

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Aurora – Brunuhville

“Aurora” is the eighth album from the Portuguese Neo-classical composer BrunuhVille, pseudonym of Miguel Correia José Bruno. Heavily influenced by Celtic, Fantasy, and Gothic music, and the epic “soundtrack” music of Hans Zimmer, Jeremy Soule, and Howard Shore, the music of Brunuhville masterfully interweaves traditional Celtic music instrumentation, with light electronics, strong rhythms, complex and inspired orchestration (strings, woodwinds, percussion, brass, etc.), angelic choirs, and beautiful and soaring vocals from “Sharm.” The result is a “cinematic music” world of mystical lands, wizards, fairies, dragons, mermaids, romantic heroes, pirates, magical animals, kings and queens, and epic adventures.

On “Aurora,” while a few of the selections have a much more energized and upbeat quality, e.g., “Tales of Ice and Blood,” “Falls of Glory,” and “Fields of Elysium,” other tracks have a distinctly more melancholy feel to them, e.g., “Blue Rose” and “Black Heart.” Cry of the Dragons” is a particularly poignant and powerful track with a distinctly uplifting quality and may stand out as one of Brunuhville’s best works to date. And the Celtic version of “The Wolf and The Moon” is simply beautiful, and the non-Celtic verion is quite good as well. It is always a pleasure to review an album of such unquestionable careful crafting and sophisticated production quality. Every track on Aurora is simply outstanding. Highly Recommended.

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Trail of Dreams – 2002

Over the past 20 years, the New Age/Neo-classical group 2002 has continued to evolve artistically with increasingly creative, complex, inspired, and sophisticated instrumental arrangements, infused with elements from World, pop, folk and rock music. Each of their nine albums has seemingly raised the standard higher and pushed the boundaries of the genre. This is nonetheless true of their most recent release, Trail of Dreams. This album is simply outstanding.

Until recently, 2002 was the project of husband and wife team Randy and Pamela Copus. Randy plays piano, electric cello, guitar, bass, and keyboards and Pamela plays flutes, harp, keyboards, and a wind instrument called a WX5. Both musicians have also frequently provided ethereal and carefully crafted vocal harmonies on their albums, layering their voices multiple times to create a “virtual choir” with a celestial and distinctly angelic quality. Their vocals often have many dimensions, including not only words, but also artfully integrated chants in Sanskrit, Spanish, Latin and Japanese, representing sacred traditions from throughout the world.

However, on Trail of Dreams, their remarkably talented 10 year old daughter Sarah is now featured prominently. In addition to playing one of the harp tracks, she is now also the primary vocalist. In fact, she created many of the harmonies and vocal arrangements. With qualities reminiscent of the voices of the various Celtic Women, Sarah’s vocals are mature, sophisticated, angelic, and have a distinctly Celtic quality. And backing up these vocals are innovative, crisp, and memorable instrumentals — as we have come to expect from 2002 over the years.

Trail of Dreams is about “that great journey into the unknown, to find one’s destiny.” The first two tracks – “Into The Light” and “Forever Sky” – featuring the stunning voice of Sarah, are quite beautiful. “Wait For Me,” which is mostly instrumental, is exceptional. And the title track, which features the voice of Randy, is an exquisite, upbeat, masterfully crafted work. It is based the great spiritual epic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” where Yoga Nanda travels to far away America to bring the spirituality of India to the west. The Celtic qualities of Sarah’s voice really come through on “Ta Me ‘Mo Shui” and “Follow Your Star,” the latter being our favorite track on the entire album. It tells the story of Honera O’Flynn, who is kidnapped from her homeland of Ireland and brought to America, where she ultimately finds her destiny, and true love. “Navagatio, ” which is also a particularly strong track, recounts the voyage of Saint Brendan from Ireland in the sixth century, setting out to find the “terra repromissionis sanctorum,” the Promised Land of the Saints or the Earthly Paradise. The album ends with “Ever Onward”, a life-affirming anthem, again performed by Randy, about following dreams, and always moving forward.

Trail of Dreams is an emotional, relaxing, distinctly spiritual listening experience worthy of our high recommendation.

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Journey – Kelly Andrew

Kelly Andrew, originally from Denver, Colorado, is an accomplished musician, composer, pianist, producer, and sound engineer. Although previous albums from Kelly have leaned more in the direction of a “Trance” style (The Incursion) or an “epic music/soundtrack” style (e.g., Epoch Dawn), the music on “Journey” is a distinct departure, in that it has a more classic “New Age” feel. The music artfully integrates innovative melodies with elements of jazz, ethereal vocals, modern phrasing, tribal rhythms, world music, occasional electronics (synthesizer, electric guitar), and sophisticated and rich orchestration (especially strings and flutes). The result is music that is not quite as “ambient” and certainly not quite as “soaring” as some of Kelly’s previous work. Nevertheless, the result is outstanding contemporary instrumental music that is powerful, memorable, varied, uplifting, engaging, inspiring, and captivating, and represents a clear maturing of Kelly’s musical talents. In fact, we would rate this album as his best work to date.

“World of Discovery” and “Promised Land”, for example, feature exceptional and emotionally evocative “string” elements, while “Glistening Waters, “Keepers of The Veldt,” and “Sail Away” have a delightful and distinctly “jazz” quality reminiscent of some of the music from the early days of New Age/Jazz crossover music. “Dreamscapes, “Rainforest,” and “Dancing Dunes”, in contrast have clear world music influences — Asian, South American, and Middle Eastern, respectively. And “Into The Sun” and “Along The River” are enlivened by pulsating percussion and amazingly beautiful vocals. The title track, in particular, which is arguably the best on the album, along with several of the other tracks, e.g., “Expedition,” easily calls to mind the early music of David Arkenstone, especially from his “Echoes of Light and Shadow.” And it is every bit as good!!!

“Journey” truly carries the listener on a exciting, wondrous, and worldly musical adventure. For that reason, we give this album our highest possible recommendation.

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Sacred Nation – Ah Nee Mah / Diane Arkenstone

Ah Nee Mah is the “Native American culture and music” inspired project of musicians Diane Arkenstone (of Cherokee heritage) and David Arkenstone who provide the sounds of flute and keyboards respectively, along with Tom Torre on violin and guitar, David Kaplan on drums/percussion and Seth Osburn with additional keyboard and percussion accompaniment.

Their latest album “Sacred Nation” continues the outstanding work that the collaboration between these two master artists has yielded in the past. while most of the the tracks on this album are renamed selections from previous albums, a few of the seem to have been remastered and recrafted as well. The music, while prominently featuring Native-American instruments and rhythms, is nonetheless complex and sophisticated, creating a musical environment that is both rich and filled with emotion. If you are not a familiar with the work of Ah Nee Mah, but are a fan of Native American influenced music, this album will be an excellent starting point. We highly recommend Sacred Nation.

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Summon The Wind – Timothy Wenzel

American born artist Timothy Wenzel, who also holds a is Ph.D. in chemistry, radically changed direction in life recently by embarking on a pursuit of his other passion: music. His debut album, “Mountains Take Wing” was selected as a Best New Age Album of 2012 by New Age Music World. His second album, “A Coalescence of Dreams” (October 2012) received widespread airplay and acclaim, climbing to #6 in the International New Age Charts (Zone Music Reporter) in 2013. His third album, River Serene, also jumped into the top 10 at ZMR. It was mastered by Grammy Award winning engineer Corin Nelsen and was released November 23, 2013 on the Coyote Floe label. And as Timothy continues to pursue his musical passions, he is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the top keyboardists in the new age genre.

This album, “Summon the Wind,” is his fourth and explores the general theme of “wind,” as well as the themes of love, dreaming, exploration, inventions, and the earth and nature. It also continues Timothy’s tradition of creating excellent contemporary instrumental ensemble music that is innovative, thoroughly developed, sophisticated, and well produced. Again Mastered by Grammy Award winning engineer Corin Nelsen, the music displays a variety of instrumentation, including keyboards, synthesizers, violins, cellos, flutes, harps, bells, guitars, bass, and percussion, as well as wordless male and female voices. Electric guitarist Michael Rud from Denmark makes a special guest appearance on one tune.

The music on “Summon The Wind” is varied, complex, melodic, well-crafted, innovative, visual, and at times emotional and gentle, but also with a quiet power behind the compositions. Mariner’s Lament,” “Still The Wind,” and “All That Might Have Been” are emotionally evocative compositions with an undercurrent of sadness. “Crystal Man” was inspired by poor workers digging for diamonds in Africa and features lush piano accompanied by soulful violins. “Elven Dance” and “Tesla’s dream” are more upbeat and lively with an obvious Celtic music influence. While the music does make a bit more use of light electronics than what we usually prefer, the use of electronics is not overly done, with those elements typically serving more to accent the main instrumental theme, and not carry it. Ranging from lively to serene, the album takes the listener on a contemporary instrumental music journey rich with emotional peaks and valleys yielding a powerfully rewarding and memorable sonic experience.

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Total Serenity (Music for Meditation) – Niall

Born in Luton, England, Niall (pronounced Nee-Al) is a prolific writer and producer of World, Relaxation and New Age music. He began learning the trumpet and recorder at the age of 7. As a teenager he progressed to playing drums, flute, guitar and keyboards. In the early 90’s he started writing and producing music for various production companies, as well as music films, radio, television, and computer games, and taking on location recording projects for choirs, orchestras and bands.

His first full album release in 2007 was “Spirit of the Shaman,” a Native American inspired album with Native American flutes and chants accenting a powerful musical underscore. With several other successful album projects completed over the past few years, in January 2014 Niall released his first independent album titled “Earth Angels,” an album of stunning and diverse music as he pushes the boundaries of New Age music. We reviewed Earth Angels in May of 2014 and described the album as “a truly compelling work of art.”

Niall’s music can generally be described as uplifting, relaxing and hauntingly beautiful. He plays the majority of the instruments featured on his albums, and works in a style that blends ethnic, world and new age together. “Total Serenity” brings you over 75 minutes of beautiful meditation music. Specially timed 5, 10 & 20 minute tracks are ideal for sitting, standing & walking meditation. Working closely with meditation expert, Susan West, each track is designed to take you on a slow, relaxing journey of discovery and an unfolding of your body and mind. The music sets out to encompass different meditation disciplines and draws on influences including Buddhist Sutras, Asian, Native American and ethereal landscapes. The goal of the album is to help you experience the benefits of deep relaxation and inner peace.

While the music on “Total Serenity” is generally speaking down-tempo, ambient, “meditation” style music, two of the tracks – “Sacred Spirit” and “Buddha Temple” – display the same hauntingly beautiful music masterfully integrated with spiritual chants (Native American, Buddhist, etc.), and innovative rhythms that we have come to expect from Niall’s music. These two tracks, along with “Star of Siam,” which is simply mesmerizing, are particularly poignant and powerful examples of Niall’s singular and compelling style – music that we thoroughly enjoy.

Coming Soon: Our favorite albums released in the first quarter of 2015.

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