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Mandala by Eric Bikales
- posted by Dyan Garris on 1/11/2021
Mandala by Eric Bikales
“Beautifully melodic and flowing, every song on this uplifting album feels like a universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. It is full circle back to wholeness.” – Dyan Garris

A mandala – simplified – is a cosmic symbol; a “circle of life,” representing unity or wholeness. Here, on the newest album from Eric Bikales, “Mandala,” we have 12 tracks each representing a specific universal concept. These are: Generosity, Kindness, Honesty, Love, Compassion, Charity, Forgiveness, Devotion, Resourcefulness, Humility, and Serenity. These are all characteristics and qualities that human nature aspires to master while here on Earth. Well, we can certainly try. And should. I think, too, it is no accident that there are 12 tracks. The number 12 has many spiritual connotations.

Now, let’s dig in.

I’m going to start by saying that I cannot pick a favorite on this album. I don’t think you’d be able to either. It’s outstanding, the whole thing. I also think it’s important to note that there is nothing even remotely “heavy” here. The album is easy, breezy, jazzy, upbeat, eloquent, feel-good music.

And every single note is as authentic as it gets. I think it’s all a stunning mirror reflection of Eric’s spirit. I do. Just beautiful. And the music makes US feel good about being here and being alive. It just does. This is the gift of a true artist.

Who is this guy? Eric Bikales is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist from an artistic and musical family. An accomplished, professional musician, he has played in orchestras, jazz groups, and rock ’n roll bands, and for 30 years maintained a career as a studio musician in California, as well as composing tons of music for television while he lived there. In addition, his solo albums are: “Tranquility,” “Fire in the Clouds,” “Follow Your Heart,” “Energy,” “Autumn Whispers-Winter Dreams,” “Ocean Reflections,” and now, “Mandala.”

Just to give you a little flavor of his illustrious career, Eric has played keyboards for numerous notables – too many to name all – such as Bette Midler, Cher, Dolly Parton, and Neil Sedaka. He’s also recorded with Kenny Rogers, Tom Waits, Mike Post, and Lisa Hartman Black, just to name a few. He’s performed on television shows such as The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, Good Morning America, A-Team, and Dragnet. He is also an online professor at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, and has also authored several courses on music theory, arranging and film scoring.
You get the idea, right? Right.

On “Mandala,” Eric plays ALL the instruments, including bass, alto and C flutes, melodica, and a host of synthesizers: Yamaha DX-7, Korg M1R, MS2000R, Waldorf MicroQ Synthesizers, Fender Rhodes/Wurlitzer electric pianos, Oberheim OB-8, Matrix 1000, Hammond B3/122. The word, “impressive” for the instrumentation on the album doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Some brief highlights from “Mandala:” The album opens with “Generosity.” This is melodic and happy. “Kindness” is warm and flowing. I found it artistically interesting that “Honesty” feels mysterious and brimming with intrigue. Not shady. Just a mysterious vibe to it. Light, smooth, and graceful, “Love” is heart-warming and twinkling with its supple synths and flute. “Compassion” is a flowing river of grace. Love it. I do want to point out that while all the instrumentation is simply superb throughout, I immensely enjoyed the flute performances on this album, which I found to be exquisite and uplifting, particularly in these two songs.

The melodic, piano based, “Charity” is just beautiful in every way. The atmospheric “Forgiveness” is effortless, and, again, we have a stunning flute performance here as well, with cinematic strings and poignant piano. Heart-opening and gently expansive, for sure. The piano on “Devotion” is melodic and memorable. Nicely done. Now, you’re going along on your journey of life, and wherever it takes you, there indeed comes a time when inevitably, you find you must dig deep into being resourceful. That is this song, “Resourcefulness.” Perfectly conveyed, it’s a “journey.”

I think humility is generally an oft misunderstood term. True humility has nothing to do with low self-worth. Simplified, it has everything to do with lack of arrogance. That’s what we have here in the song, “Humility.” Flowing grace and elegance with zero pretentiousness. Authenticity. Such cannot be faked.

The jazz vibe in “Respect” is wonderful, just wonderful. And the album closes out with “Serenity,” which is not one of those songs that puts you to sleep. This is one that genuinely soothes the soul on every level. Not the ambient, wandering, fuzzy kind of New Agey “serenity,” this is beautifully melodic, and it truly feels like an extremely comforting universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. The whole album is like that. This is full circle, back to wholeness. Thank you.

And by the way, I do want to mention the CD artwork is stunning, gives me chills, and is by the late Charles (Charlie) Hedges, to whom the album is also dedicated.

“Mandala” is available on all digital platforms, as well as in the form of a physical CD. Yay!

Official artist website: https://ericbikales.com/

Broadcast/media promotion:
LAZZ Promotions (Ed & Stacey Bonk)
E-mail: lazzpromotions@lazzpromotions.com


Rating: Excellent
Shunia by Shunia
- posted by sdkrdk@gmail.com on 1/2/2021
Shunia Releases a New Genre-Defying Album of Chant
Moroccan artist Hassan Hakmoun and producer Jamshied Sharifi join Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson, aka Shunia, for a new album that blends Sanskrit chants, Latin prayer, ancient poetry, and exquisite orchestration into a sound that feels both new and timeless.


This album features the fusion of classical instruments from different countries, multiple styles of vocals, and the focusing energy of ancient chants, to bring feelings of joy, hope, and awareness to Western culture at a crucial moment in time.


In advance of the album’s full release on January 15, 2021, three tracks are releasing in the coming weeks, including “Sa Re Sa Sa” (Oct. 23, 2020); “Breeze At Dawn” (Nov. 13, 2020); and “Alleluia” (Dec. 4, 2020).

To create their self-titled album of transcendent music and melodic harmonies, Shunia, music duo Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson co-composed with Tony Award-winning producer Jamshied Sharifi. The album takes the listener through mantra melodies, energetic vocals, and dynamic compositions worthy of a feature film score (www.shuniasound.com). They are joined by renowned Moroccan artist Hassan Hakmoun on two of the tracks.

Asked for their thoughts on making the album,Reagan and Jackson said, “When we set out to make this album, our focus was to make it musically stunning. As musicians whose lives have been enriched by chanting, we wanted to create a beautiful garden of sound where the chants could come alive. We thought about the unique energy of each of these mantras and created music that would be in harmony with it. Our hope is that people will sing and dance along with this album because it profoundly moves them.”

Reagan and Jackson became friends while attending graduate school at University of Maryland. Both performed with the Washington National Opera for 20 years while launching successful solo careers. The duo decided to meld their love for the power of chanting with their Western vocal prowess. This led them to form Shunia (pronounced SHOON-ya), choosing the Sanskrit word meaning “stillness and receptivity” as the name of their duo. “Shunia” describes a stillness of power, not passivity; quiet, unmoving and totally focused.

There is indeed a sense of deep focus present in each track on Shunia, which invites listening on dual levels. On one level, listeners are entertained by stunning compositions, virtuosic playing, and the duos’ rich vocals. On another level, one can focus on the wisdom of each mantra and lyric as it is expressed with deep conviction and impressive clarity.

Music journalist Robin James previewed Shunia, writing, “Overall, the album has a powerful sound that brings clarity and joy to the spirit,” going on to highlight a few of the new tracks as such: “Sa Re Sa Sa” (4:54) featuring the bright energetic voice of Hakmoun and the choral voices of Reagan and Jackson; followed by “Breeze at Dawn” (4:12), a traditional poem of mystical romance by the beloved 13th Century Persian poet Rumi, accented with percussion, oud, flute and choral vocals. Heading into the winter holidays, radio programmers will embrace “Alleluia” (6:51) performed in Latin with a celebratory feeling including vocals, drums, bass and flute.

If charting singles are an indication of future album success, it bodes well that the sensitive and empathetic “Akal” landed in the Top 10 of the New Age Music Guide chart for two months after its June release. Shunia felt called to release it ahead of the album in response to the mournful period of loss in the United States, hoping to lend some comfort. It garnered positive reviews from the U.S. to India; LA-based music writer Jonathan Widran of THE JW VIBE wrote, “You certainly don’t need to know these deeper meanings to appreciate, and more importantly, feel and connect with, the subtle yet sweeping energy wafting through ‘Akal.’”

Shunia’s popular debut album Ascend, released in 2017,offers exquisite harmonies and nine powerful mantras in a healing balm of sound. Both Shunia and Ascend are available worldwide in both physical and digital format, and available for streaming on your favorite music and video platforms.

Shunia is recommended for group classes or personal practice of yoga, or for simply gathering inspiration to move through the remainder of 2020 and into a healthier and more enlightened future.

Shunia Album Track List (Playing Time) – Releasing January 15, 2021

Sa Re Sa Sa (4:54) – releasing Oct. 23, 2020

Breeze At Dawn (4:12) – releasing Nov. 13, 2020

Alleluia (6:51) – releasing Dec. 4, 2020

Akal (6:48)

Har Hare Han Wahe Guru (6:21)

Ang Sang Wahe Guru (6:42)

Ong Namo (5:37)

Sa Ta Na Ma (8:27)

Primary Music & Social Media Links:

Shunia: https://shuniasound.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shuniasound/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToSqyE2nGmI (new video October 24th)

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shuniasound/

Lisa Reagan, Suzanne Jackson, and Jamshied Sharifi are available for media interviews about the album. Shunia, individually or as a duo, are available to give guest commentary regarding the power of breathwork, yoga and chant, while Jamshied can speak to producing across all formats from music to TV to stage.

Physical CDs and digital dropbox of the album are available upon request to Windy Campbell at The B Company, thebcompanypublicist@gmail.com
Rating: Excellent
Hemispherica Portalis by Desensitized
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/26/2020
A Portal of 1000 Years
On Hemispherica Portalis, the first from the creative entity calling itself Desensitized, we are faced with unknown possibilities. The sound: electronica and air, changing into new unnamed forms and impressions. It starts with flutes, winds through a vast array of electronic illusions and ends with harps. The sound brings the listener through new territory in the electronic ambient universe, two astonishing artists collaborating on a colossal sonic adventure, a series of creative acts and intellectual contemplation where the “experiencer” and “experienced” argue about the ways in which supernatural agents formed the earth and peopled it, the causation to direct the natural forces to produce various effects, and often inspires at least one ambition of science: to invent an explanation, translating the unknown into the known. However, the constant listener should not make the error of believing. Always question what can be assumed, and most of all, enjoy the show.

Lush melodic electronica that transports listeners into new territories, blending edgy textural and experimental sound craft with a commanding sense of depth and imagination. What I hear on Hemispherica Portalis is not traditionally melodic, I hear lots of textures, there are no words except for the song titles. The artists deploy new technologies which create a sonic experience that has never before been considered.

This album of sonic mythology is really different and essential, I think it is best suited for late night listening, when the planet is very quiet. There are so many tiny details and shivers to be experienced. Questions to be pondered, such as, are those myths and legends fanciful stories of something that existed only in the minds of our ancestors, or were they based on true events? How was the earth created? Why do we have night and day? Why do people die? How did the human species arise? There are no lyrics heard in the music, so your thoughts and discoveries are ultimately unlimited.

Music is organized sound, an invisible expression that lights up your inner universe. Here are some new colors and materials. Here are some delicate flavors for your tongue’s ears, moving between different points in time, experiencing products of vivid imagination, whose goals aren’t purely to portray phenomena beyond comprehension, but perhaps they function to assure, encourage, and inspire. In the history of humans it has been said that the world has always existed, or the world did not always exist but was created in some way, or the world previously existed, but in another form, and has somehow been brought into this present moment. Music can provide an atmosphere for thinking new thoughts.

Clocks glow across a dark background, representing time travel theories. Not all scientists believe that time travel is possible. Myths are a folklore genre consisting of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history close together, considering such stories to be true accounts of their remote past and mix into a blend of all their folktales, fairy tales, superstitions, weatherlore, ghost stories, as well as stories of isles and continents lost below the surface of the waters.

I sometimes wonder if some kinds of music permits the spirits of ancient humans to continue to navigate the seas, explore lost civilizations, examine sacred writings, tour ancient places, investigate ancient discoveries, question mysterious happenings, to ponder creation, divine will, fertility, death, and love – such concepts that are a universal part of many cultures throughout the world. Tales are told and sung, perhaps someone might embellish a detail here, exclude a name there, transpose two incidents, amplify a cryptic part, perhaps sometimes one might give greater motive or justification to an action. The only important question might be, do you like the way it sounds?

The first track on Hemispherica Portalis is the title track “Hemispherica Portalis” (6:58) Portal of 1000 Years and is a splendid sort of a gateway, the listener is greeted by a cloud or hive of flutes swirling about in caverns. In the oldest caves archeologists have found ancient flutes that were played in the darkness, enjoying the echo found there. I also hear a steel guitar; I like the way the steel guitar sounds in the mix. The album notes list the following gear – flute, Taos drums, and percussion… Rode NT4 microphone. Synths and electronics: Yamaha Motif, Roland V-synth GT, Roland Integra, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, and Native Instruments Reaktor.

“Concunus Dracus” (9:30) Dragon of the Heavens. A dragon is a legendary creature that has been depicted variously as large, serpentine, winged, horned, four-legged, capable of breathing fire, and with above-average intelligence. The word is also a metaphor for difficulty or danger. There is no reptilian roaring or sound of any physical beast on this track, but you can sense the heart, wisdom, and power of the dragon.

In the middle, “Ecumenicus Orato” (12:54) The Umbilical Center. Prayer is an invocation or physical act that seeks to activate a connection with an object of worship through direct communication, either for supplication or to request intercession, and is directed towards a deity, or as a ritually obligatory and repetitive practice to sustain a sense of normalcy and peace.

MY FAVORITE is ”Saltis Nominus” (11:38) Floating Seabeds. I remember that supernatural sea creatures were said to live in underwater caves or submerged palaces made from sunken ships, some with the legs and wings of underwater birds, some playing a great variety of musical instruments. Ancient animals that can adapt to different conditions through time, where their young find cover from predators until they are mature. In this area the laws of physics are violated, and it was even suggested there is extraterrestrial activity there. What I hear are delicate pulses under water, tubes of infinite length and electronic chimes, strange insects purring and calling, with a bit more bounce as the song progresses. Some ringing metal, some bugs and waterbirds at night. My ears have many adventures each time I listen to this one.

Desensitized is a collaborative project realized between Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis. The name Desensitized could be an antidote for our strange times, seeking relief from the most recent changes that have emerged from the teetering and whirling globe we live on. The controversial author H.P. Lovecraft once postulated that the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. Desensitized is a balm for these new tribulations we are living through now.
Rating: Excellent
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