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Reviews of the FLOWERS album - page 3


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Review from Wind and Wire

"...Sounding, at times, as if it were a companion piece to his earlier release, Spring (which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense), Kevin Kendle's latest effort, Flowers, shows that this electronic keyboard artist is continuing to explore subtle new directions to his wonderful recordings of relaxing melodic keyboard music. In stark contrast to the more ethereal, floating and more overtly "electronic" sides of albums like Clouds, Aerial Vistas and Eventide, Flowers has a more "natural" sound, as befitting a recording whose theme is, after all, the natural beauty of the garden.

This is not to say that this is an acoustic album! However, Kevin continues to refine and improve on his synthesized versions of instruments like guitar, flute, oboe and the like. On this CD, the line between "real" and synthesized becomes quite blurred at times. The result of this, of course, is that fans of earlier Kendle releases, such as First Light or the aforementioned Aerial Vistas, may find the music on Flowers almost "too" earthbound. But if you count Spring among your favorite Kendle recordings, than this album will delight you from the first playing!

A "first" for Kevin on Flowers is that he is joined on some cuts by guitarist Ian Cameron Smith (playing both acoustic and subtle electric guitars). The two musicians play off each other wonderfully and the guitar adds even more pastoral elements to the songs on which it is heard.

The album begins with the lively and sparkling "Daffodils" (one of the songs on which Cameron Smith is heard). Following a pattern he began on Clouds, (naming each song after a cloud type) Kevin has named the cuts after, what else, various flowers. While I'm the world's worst botanist (I can recognize a daisy, a rose, and maybe one more species), I can certainly hear Kevin's (successful) attempt to paint a musical "portrait" of each flower's personality, if you will. For instance, "Daffodils" is a sunny, warm, and even happy-go-lucky piece, with the melody line carried by piano with tasteful guitar fills.

"Bluebells" begins with, no surprise, synth bells twinkling over a lush and warm layer of synths. Piano and harp carry the slower paced melody. Tempo is relaxed yet also has a drifting element to it, like a soft summer breeze. I was glad to hear Kevin using synth choruses again, which he first began (in earnest) on Clouds. He handles these exceptionally well, with perfect restraint, expertly layered and placed in the mix at just the right spot. String patches on this cut are likewise improved and are even higher in quality than the usual Kendle standard.

"Jasmine" comes close to sounding like some of Kevin's earlier works. The key is in the "trademark" keyboards he uses and the more ambient style of composition. Swirling layers of keyboards course underneath a soft flute line, accented with delicate harp notes. I don't know how Kevin isolated the "essence" of the flower, but this song does indeed sound like the sweet delicate fragrance of jasmine. One of the other new wrinkles that Kevin has added to his music (as he did on Tarot) is the employment of subtle (and sometimes not so!) crescendo in songs. He does it on this cut somewhat and even moreso in the celebratory and joyous "Sunflowers." But, always I was aware that Kevin knew how to walk the tightrope between drama and full-blown excessive melodrama. The swelling of strings and escalation into rising notes and chords is perfectly executed to avoid any trace of bombast.

"Freesia" is subdued, opening with piano and very soft underlying keyboard textures. In fact, a lot of Flowers' main melodies are carried by piano. Again, don't take this to mean that Kevin has abandoned electronic keyboards or that he's becoming David Lanz. But there is more of an underlying naturalness to the music here, and I'm sure it has to do with the album's theme. One would not use an abundance of spacemusic soundsculpting, after all, to paint a picture of something as simple as a rose. The other thing that kept occurring to me as I played Flowers was how good the flute synth patch is. I mean, it's really excellent - almost eerily so. The very nature of the music and instrumentation on this album would allow the songs on the CD to be played completely on acoustic instruments, if one wanted to do such a thing.

That statement means, of course, that fans of Kevin's more ambient recordings may not warm to Flowers. As someone who has every album Kevin's made, I hear lots of similarities here with previous releases, but I also hear (as I've made clear above) new sounds and evolutions from previous works. I can say that if a listener is looking for the haunting shadings of an album like Eventide, Flowers may not be to your liking. But, just the same, it's a simply splendid recording to my ears and absolutely perfect for summertime afternoons...."


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