Though I review and love almost all kinds of music, my home base—ever since Vanilla Fudge's Renaissance, the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed, H.P. Lovecraft II, and the mind-blowing In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson—has been progrock, not just for the rockin' 'n rollin' baseline but also the sophistications of classical, neoclassical, avant-garde, and jazz influences. As time went on, the mode branched out like mad and spawned any number of close and distant offshoots (even, f'gawdsakes!, disco: just listen to the drum machines in it, which, as far as I can tell, first occurred in Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come on the incredible Journey LP), eventually even yielding the New Age movement…which had arrived co-courtesy of what Oregon began in Paul Winter's Consort married with what might be seen as the best and worst aspects of ghazal and other motifs.
Though much of New Age was (and still is) hellishly over-simplistic and soppy, eventually Enigma, Dead Can Dance, Delerium, Lisa Gerrard, Sigur Ros, and others recaptured to the movement the intelligence and sophistications prog had long ago trademarked. That's where Akasa steps in. Portal is an intriguing disc on several levels and involves not only her musical wont but interests in shamanism, trans-psychology and trauma (those familiar with the work of Alice Miller will understand the implications), and multiple esoteric aesthetics. Working with musicians who have sat in with or joined prog ensembles (Hawkwind, Jon Anderson, Zappa, Sting, Shakti, etc.), Akasa has crafted a blend of New Age, Romantic, Impressionist, and lightly quasi-jazz musics carrying deeply spiritual layers encanted in full range, from husky to ethereal invocations.
What's most intriguing, though, is some of her lyrical content, at times almost frightening, cynical, even creepy and obdurate but ultimately redemptive:
Her innocence was lost when she was nine
Fortunately, the night always has a dawn in Akasa's work, but first the acolyte voyages through purgatorio without a Vergil. Often clumsy and a bit confusing in exposition (including a guitar solo by hands unknown in Return to Our Innocence), the words nonetheless combine with the music to form a unique and compelling novo-Gothic/Gregorian mind theater wrought of Mahler, Messiaen, Enya, de Machaut, florid kautische, Annie Lennox (her marvelous Medusa album), and various others, occasionally even seeming to be a Diamanda Galas coming to her senses (fancy that!). The entire CD succeeds nicely as a concept work, everything revolving around Akasa's singing and the enfolding painterly lush sonic environments.
My favorite cut? Ameno Amen, with its delicate beauty, Spanish guitar, ostinatoed Berlin pulse, and hand drums, a song at once both exalting and contemplative, later echoed in the singer's rendition of Ave Maria. But I think Portal goes best as night music, with the lights out and no disturbances. Play Hero's Journey (my second-fave track) first to see what I mean, then make your way back to the first song and play the disc all the way through. When you wake later with a slowly forming smile and sense of beatification, you'll understand.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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