The album Spirit of Hope kicks off with its title track. And straight away we plug right into the intention of this collection of works.
Beautiful, lyrical phrasing on the piano and the flute, rich orchestration, tasty guitar licks (or is that an oud?), clean capture and an attentive, gorgeous mix.
Strings hold down root notes for the melodies to dance around and percussion skips and taps and claps around at moments of dynamic intervention.
Can a melody be described as hopeful? I certainly hope so! I would certainly call it yearning and searching and optimistic-sounding, which may well equate as hope…
Shades of Light reminds me of something that Pat Metheny would produce, or perhaps one of Sting’s explorations of pop/jazz utilising Branford Marsalis.
The piano and soprano saxophone intermittently join melodic forces to ease out some wonderful phrasing amongst the shifting sands of the backing track. I can honestly say that I was disappointed when the track began to fade out – the exploration of melody didn’t feel like it had finished mining the gold from that groove and sound world. The tasty rhythm section purrs through a 7/8 rhythm with an effortless lightness of touch that makes this kind of smooth and sensual jazz a joy – and absolutely the aural equivalent of pouring honey into your ears.
Sunset Sparrows continues to employ lyrical piano, simultaneously holding down arpeggios on the one hand, with simultaneous lyrical flourishes and trills being perfectly mapped by flute voices. The ululations of the flutes add a wonderful eastern and organic tinge to the flavour of sound and add mystery to the soothing mix. It becomes easy to visualise rolling desert dunes, a blistering, unrelenting sun and shimmering mirages, all filmed in widescreen and slow-mo…
Again, over too soon, and we move on to, appropriately, Infinite Horizon. Fascinating and complex percussive voices add moments of urgency to this tune, and a spiky rhythm on the offbeat helps to set Infinite Horizon up on its toes. It’s a wholly different flavour, and very welcome. We move through various shifts in tone and dynamic, while an exploration of melody remains wonderfully liquid and playful.
The laid back charm of Silent Whispers features, like all of the tracks here, a wonderful sense of syncopation and virtuosity that is enhanced by attention to detail. Deceptively easy to listen to, there’s a tremendous sense of rhythm and sensitivity here that’s a joy to behold. Ethereal, with just the right touch of an organic heartbeat.
Sacrifice of Soyembika features some extraordinary vocals teaming up with saxophone on some very fine Russian-inflected melodies. The bell-trees and rich, resonant bass work are all allowed space to shine in (yet) another sensational mix.
Once music has been dubbed ‘New Age’, there are many examples of writers succumbing to the temptation to write it off as clinical, elitist, dispassionate, worthy or just plain ‘wallpaper music’. Whilst there is clearly a terrific amount of technical musicianship (and technical studio prowess) evidenced on this collection, which could lead to some to cite such negative reactions to it, it’s my earnest response that this collection boasts an organic and beating heart that shines through the dizzying skill. It’s undeniable. Spirit of Hope, indeed.
The album marches on. In Awakenings, the piano is joined by beautiful violin. It feels like a conversation between the two – resolving in a climbing set of eastern-tinged melodies that again feel aspirational, optimistic and unashamedly wholesome. The bass is rhythmically on fire, driving, nudging, encouraging and busily underpinning everything. It’s another stand-out moment in another stand-out track.
Visions of Grace washes in on pads of synth and water sounds and perhaps behaves in the most expected way that any of these pieces’ titles may suggest, as it is, unsurprisingly, very graceful! There’s a 007 moment in terms of chord progression which provoked a smile from me, but I feel that’s what I brought to the party myself. Indeed, there are other moments that recall Pink Floyd’s Nobody Home in terms of chord progression / resolution – but again, that’s probably just me.
We end on Gratitude, which seems fitting. All water sounds and rainsticks at the intro. Again, the feature of multiple instruments playing in unison, both on the melody and in harmony with it. A union of hope? I believe it. Tinkling keys, melodic bass, unusual percussion, waves of lush orchestration.
Karandish’s website speaks of the need for hope in these difficult times, and very much sees this collection as a means to reach out to touch the hearts of all who hear it with such optimism. Maybe, in the midst of such times, I have allowed that to happen. But I’d like to think it would have happened irrespective of Covid-19.
Spirit of Hope feels like the sort of medicine that you look forward to taking. And not just because you have to. May it enter into you and enhance your hopefulness, too. A tremendous album.