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A new album by Grammy® nominee Al Conti holds the promise of transporting us to another place and time. The artist's long-awaited sixth release, MYSTIC, carries us on a journey to the past on a bed of exotic sounds performed, composed and arranged by Conti, complemented by the brilliant talents of Charlee Brooks (David Arkenstone), Pamela Copus (2002), Ricky Kej and Jeff Pearce.
Ideal for creating a relaxing and meditative space, MYSTIC begins with the tolling of distant bells calling us to introspection. In addition to this dramatic title track, another eight compositions feature the captivating medieval sounds of chant, udu, hurdy gurdy, cittern, lutes, violins, lush electric guitars by Jeff Pearce, haunting harps my Pamela Copus (2002), and alluring ambient vocals from Charlee Brooks.
With this artful, sweeping blend, Conti leads us to explore the eternal while inspiring the mystic within us all to embrace our surroundings and live a conscious life. Originally inspired by the life of 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen, Conti's four-year quest to compose this work grew to include songs encompassing such themes as the Oracle at Delphi, the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, and ancient rituals from the Temple of Diana. The artist shares his personal insights about each track in the compelling liner notes of the 8-panel digipak.
Walk the path of the mystic through medieval landscapes expertly crafted in this powerful album, a perfect addition to the Al Conti collection alongside Scheherazade, Northern Seas, The Blue Rose, and Poeta.
"Mystic is an album of sensual rhythms and romantic melodies, featuring an assortment of world music influences and brimming with ancient mystery, lush beauty, and infectious energy." Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter.
"Mystic is deep and insightful work that can be grasped on many emotional and spiritual levels. While it can be enjoyed all the way through for its dual ability to relax and exhilarate, upon further careful listens, one comes to appreciate the artist s incredible tapestry of textures." --Jonathan Widran
"Sweeping vistas of exotic places, defined through music, deeply move the soul. Each album Al creates embraces a whole new level of magnificence, and Mystic transcends them all." --Diane Arkenstone, New Age recording Artist.
"Al Conti's Mystic is an elegant and seamless landscape of shifting exotic textures, colors, and emotions. The production is immaculate: rich, clean, yet never overstated. There is a beautiful, sparkling, optimism to this music, an exotic world that sparkles and resonates with mystery, warmth and innocence." --Chris Spheeris, composer, recording artist.
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It is interesting to note that Conti used a very different process in composing the music for this album in that his previous projects had deadlines, release dates and expectations in place before any of the music was recorded. Conti explains: “As this album is about the inner mystical journey to spiritual deliverance, it seemed appropriate that the album itself would lead the way, rather than me as the composer, leading the direction. The journey, not the arrival, became the focus.”
The album begins with the sound of a bell and the Oxford Court Monk Choir, sending us immediately back in time. Charlee Brooks’ timeless, haunting voice emerges, vocalizing without words. The monks return backed by shimmering atmospheric sounds. It is easy to imagine this title track being performed in a very large, open space. Jeff Pearce’s electric guitar is both exotic and contemporary, but the use of ancient ethnic percussion instruments as well as keyboards creates a kind of push and pull of time periods, making the music timeless. In the life of a mystic, a trance state can lead to communion with a higher source and to a higher level of being. In “Trance,” Conti conveys that state with an assortment of Middle Eastern instruments. “Pilgrimage” is loosely based on traditional music that was arranged and adapted by Conti. It begins with a slow and exotic violin solo, gradually adding more instruments and rhythms. Once the pilgrimage is underway, the music becomes much livelier, more upbeat and almost dancelike - a favorite! Pamela Copus performs on harp in “Contemplation” - gentle and hypnotic. Jeff Pearce also performs on electric guitar, keeping the mood subtle and introspective. Rituals come in many forms from very formal and elaborate to the mundane steps we take before retiring for the night. In this piece (“Ritual”), strong rhythmic elements propel the beautiful melodic passages and make them sparkle - another favorite. “Devotion” is based on a traditional Middle Ages pilgrimage song and reflects on the sacrifices made to follow a life of devotion. “Anima Aeterna” translates as “Eternal Soul,” the most mystical of all concepts. Charlee Brooks returns on this closing track that bids “farewell” to those on the journey. Poignant and haunting, it’s a beautiful conclusion to this excellent album.
"Mystic" is another musical masterpiece from Al Conti! Very highly recommended!
“Mystic” opens the album with the solemn toll of a church bell followed by the reverent intonations of The Oxford Court Monk Choir. A stunningly beautiful introduction, it reminds me somewhat of the opening piece, “The Mystic’s Dream”, from Lorenna McKennitt’s The Mask and Mirror album. Jeff Pearce lends subtle brushes of electric guitar, as the soaring wordless vocals of Charlee Brooks join the monk choir – their voices collectively echoing among the halls of what feels like a vast cathedral hidden in the mountainous mists somewhere. An earthy and sensual rhythm comprised of both Indian and electronic percussion ensues, as the piece is carried along by a gypsy-like melody led by an arrangement of flute and other exotic instruments. “Trance” follows next and is one of my favorite pieces on the album, bringing to mind that of a night caravan trekking across the desert, as brushes of chimes remind me of twinkling stars spread across the sky. This piece is likewise supported by an earthy, sultry rhythm accentuated by Indian tabla drums, and showcases an exquisitely exotic melody comprised of santoor and harmonium. The more contemplative sixth track, “Contemplation”, is another favorite of mine which incorporates a distinctly Celtic flavor, blending ancient western and eastern musical influences to perfection. Showcasing Pamela Copus on harp, she leads the lovely composition with a lulling melody among a luxurious arrangement of instruments that include tabla, santoor and electric guitars. Another personal favorite is the seventh track, “Ritual”, which is dominated by an encompassing rhythm, as it seemingly paints a picture of festive lights and ecstatic dances by the Mediterranean seashore. Wrapping up this magical, mystical journey is the soulfully shining yet soothingly serene “Anima Aeterna”, which concludes with Charlee Brooks singing among of sea of both exotic and orchestral instruments.
Sensually imbued with a haunting mystique, Mystic could easily serve as the perfect soundtrack to an Arabian Nights tale. For comparison’s sake, those who are especially fond of more world-flavored works by Chris Spheeris, David Arkenstone and Loreena McKennitt are almost certain to relish this album as well. The music herein is earthy yet fiery, making the album a perfect companion for sacred dance and ritual. While listening to these breathtaking compositions, images frequently came to mind of temple dances, candlelit chambers and travelling nomads in the desert. A luxuriant weaving of cultures veiled in mystery, ecstasy and sensuality, Mystic is exemplary of new age world fusion at its finest!