In '09, Phoenix Rising issued Ascension (here), a New Age/classicalist CD limning the sort of work most deserving of the sobriquet of 'meditation music', an intelligent blend of pastoral musics and moody reflection that cajoled the listener into a slower regard for life and its moments. However, not everything in it was in largo mode though each track was well imbued with serious songsmithing and expanded borders. Well, it's now 2014, and, as good as that disc was, this one's even better. In fact, the opening Atlantis is stunning, something Oregon, were that glorious ensemble still existent, would be envious of.
As before, Phoenix Rising is just two women, Wendy Loomis (keyb., perc.) and Monica Williams (winds), but their attention to craft and dimension fills up every measure of the 14 compositions. They need little else, their partnership more than sufficient. As readers of my work over 30 years will attest, I'm not noted for forebearance when it comes to New Age musics, but this duet's materials hark back to the birth of the genre from the cradle of progrock and serious World traditions. Where Paul Winter left off and eventually became largely schlocky, Williams and Loomis remained behind and stole ever more deeply into the heart and soul of the thinking that made those germinal days so striking and appealing. Ah, but the secret is that they understood and thus injected themselves into the task of keeping such heady rapturous forms of expression alive, transcending time considerations, ignoring the so-called 'eras', making music that never ages a day.
What I'm saying is that this is very rare stuff. It's almost scary how damn good it is. I was genuinely thrilled as thunder pealed in the opening to Piseco, Williams' flute owl-gliding in an arbor as Loomis laid down Native percussives, everything becoming ever more revealing as a second flute, this one played by the 11-year old Native American Taylor Alyssa Lai in breathtakingly beautiful accompaniment, wove itself into the three-dimensional tableau. I've hiked the forest being sketched—Lake Cuyamaca and environs in my case, but it doesn't matter which tract the players had in mind—and the short succinct song captures it to a 'T'. When I listen to work this stratospheric in elementality, I all of a sudden remember what a damn shame it was when the Windham Hill label shut down and especially when William Ackerman's pristine work ceased. Well, with Mystic Places, that pain is well assuaged.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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