Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Levi Chen/Devocean

The wordplay in the album title isn’t the only cleverness that Levi Chen is capable of. A chart staple on New Age radio programming, Chen almost doesn’t belong in the genre. While the compositions on Devocean do have the meditative, atmospheric qualities that define New Age, Chen colors beyond the boundaries, so to speak. What Devocean is actually progressive-rock masterpiece that uses New Age simply as frosting. Much of that has to do with Chen’s impeccable guitar playing which suggests an older Jimi Hendrix discovering Zen. Chen doesn’t indulge in axeman heroics; his guitars create layers of sound and imagery that will awaken all of your senses.

If all this sounds a tad intellectual, it can be appreciated for its surface beauty, too. The lovely “Memory (DNA)” has a sweeping, theatrical rush that’ll leave you breathless. “Sound and Recent Sorrow” delves into light funk with some of Chen’s most fiery guitar playing. On “Brios” and “New Edge,” Chen has taken off into another dimension, taking us on a dreamy flight of transcendent awe. Chen uses several musical genres at his disposal – New Age, progressive rock, Latin music, jazz, blues, rock – and fuses them together without a moment’s hesitation. It’s an exhilarating, spellbinding work of pure genius.



Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Mario Konrad/Spirit Cave

The ambient landscapes of Mario Konrad is music that is actually better experienced than heard. In other words, this is a record that you should take on a journey, especially one in isolation. Playing this album in the woods, it became the soundtrack of my adventure; it made me feel one with nature and the stripped-down world around me. It’s ironic how sounds that are the product of high technology can bring us closer to the primitive environment around us. The 13:52 long “Some Distant Shadows” will always remind me of the rain falling on the rooftops of my cabin; alone there in the evening, you can sense the slightly ominous synth tones that Konrad is aiming for on this track. As it progresses, when the tribal rhythms kick in, it gives off a very intense, cinematic sensation that stays with you.

The spacey “The Spirits Dance” continues Konrad’s taste for film-score drama; it has a thumping, urgent beat that could be used for a Ridley Scott picture. Konrad utilizes phantom voices on “A Ritual Ceremony” to creepy effect. However, what probably stands out on Spirit Cave the most for me is the percussion, especially on “Deep Cave Dreaming,” wherein the drums have a 3-D effect that almost gives you the feeling that percussionists have invaded your private space.