This third album by keyboardist Russell Suereth combines new age genre with world-fusion rhythms.

The unique quality of this genre combination is evident from Track 1: A Magic Flight. Suereth melds a variety of traditional instruments (piano, oboe, bassoon, guitar, viola, cello, and French horn) with ancient acoustic and percussion instruments like the duduk (a double-reed woodwind-flute), and the guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither), the grand marimba, the Japanese koto, the oud, the krin, and ethnic frame drums. Modern instruments include the hang drum and synthesizer.

The composer manages to tame this wild menagerie of instruments. His scoring is very clean and allows each instrumental voice to shine. Most pieces feature a woodwind or string melody augmented with specific percussion and accompanying instruments. There’s enough Western melodic content to make the music accessible to listeners, and enough international inflections to make the music charming and unusual.

I particularly enjoyed Track 3: Glimmer of Light. A woodwind explores a wandering melody while a variety of low-toned drums hold down the rhythm. A synth vocal “ooo” keeps peace between the instruments and rhythm sections.

The rhythmic patterns are derived from Asian, Middle Eastern, and Pacific Rim traditions. Some of the songs are remote and primitive, while others evoke a sense of community. The music is uncluttered by excessive layering so the focal ideas are easily conveyed. It features identifiable instruments rather than obvious synthesized sounds or electronica, and some listeners may prefer that type of orchestration.

This album is like a quick tour around the globe without any indigestion from foreign spices. It’s appropriate music for inclusion in rituals, celebrations, and some spell-casting and meditation uses. The mix of instruments and percussion can be otherworldly and mildly alien, so those conducting shamanic journeys and trance working may also find the album a compelling accompaniment in these quests.

Suereth succeeds in composing a collection of oddly appealing songs that many pagans will enjoy for solitary and group uses.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Russell Suereth
Haven Tone Records 2015

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