Celtic Zen


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    Celtic Zen Yin Yang Records

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Review Text Celtic Zen is the self-titled album by Levi Chen (guitar and gu zheng), harpist Lisa Franco, and Michael Masley on cymbalom (a chromatic hammered dulcimer played with special strikers attached to each finger). Featured guest artists include harpist Tina Tourin, percussionist Brent Lewis and other musicians playing an incredible variety of instruments: Chinese violin, various flutes, drums, chimes, bells, pan pipes, cello, and viol da gamba. As to the album title: the album sounds neither zen (the dry emptiness of the shakuhachi flute or the lonely sound of the koto), nor Celtic (typical song forms -- laments, airs, reels, jigs -- or instruments -- pipes, penny whistles, fiddle, bodhran). Celtic Zen does feature the Celtic harp played by both Lisa Franco and Tina Tourin, but their plinks are keyed to the intriguing clouds of sound created by high-pitched hammered dulcimers, chimes, zither, and electric guitar. Except for a unique interpretation of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez ("Black Rock Concierto"), Celtic Zen's sound is distinctly Chinese, with layers and layers of sounds and echoing overtones. Track one of "The Beauty: Peace" features a lovely Chinese melody played by violinist Lin Chung; track two blossoms like a liquid metal music box. The sultry, throaty sound of Chen's electric guitar, sounding like the gu zheng (and vice versa), is showcased on "Reunity." Here pools of sound are enveloped by the deep by the thumping of the Udu drum played by Brendon McNicho; the bamboo flute (Suzanne Teng) floats overhead like a butterfly. Tina Tourin plays harp on this track, adding raindrop sounds. Michael Masley plays the ethereal Lakota flute on "The Wind, The Wolf, and the Wild"; Chen's instruments almost sound like a dobro guitar, which gives the track a lazy Southern drawl. Masley's bowhammered cymbalom brings sparkling dimensions to "Eros, a Rose: Venus," while harpist Lisa Franco centers the piece with a steady cadence and the warmth of her notes. Brent Lewis' unique melodic percussion patterns on the 22-note Ikuma drum set creates a hypnotic sequence on "Baskali." If you listen to this album as a sonic bath, the swirling tapestries of sound can be very stimulating and relaxing. If you listen for the melody or a lead instrument, you might at times get lost. In many ways, Celtic Zen is similar to the sound of Popol Vuh's 1981 classic Hosianna Mantra. ~ Carol Wright

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Beauty: Peace, Pt. 1 - 7:36
  2. 2. Beauty: Peace, Pt. 2 - 4:31
  3. 3. Reunity - 4:15
  4. 4. Wind, the Wolf, and the Wild, Pt. 1 - 5:02
  5. 5. Wind, the Wolf, and the Wild, Pt. 2 - 3:43
  6. 6. Eros, A Rose: Venus, Pt. 1 - 4:02
  7. 7. Eros, A Rose: Venus, Pt. 2 - 3:29
  8. 8. Suite: Birds of Fire, Pt. 1 - 3:40
  9. 9. Suite: Birds of Fire, Pt. 2 - 3:39
  10. 10. Baskali - 7:50
  11. 11. She Moved Through the Aire - 5:12
  12. 12. Animaginal, Pt. I - 5:27
  13. 13. Animaginal, Pt. II - 3:36
  14. 14. Animaginal, Pt. III - 1:22
  15. 15. Knot Zen - 4:50
  16. 16. Melancholy's Passion - 5:35
  17. 17. Difinity - 8:50
  18. 18. Black Rock Concierto - 4:33

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