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January 15, 2020

Serene Sublime Earth and Sky, A review of Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers

Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers, by Robert Thies (piano) and Damjan Krajacic (flutes)

Delicate, like two wise birds heard singing on a breeze — piano and flute, bringing unhurried and relaxed, melodic instrumental wonderment. Consistently contemplative serene movements, weaving a diaphanous kaleidoscopic silk tapestry. Nothing is even remotely fast or moderately hasty, the entire album (74:55) is a perfect daydream with clouds and in my mind’s eye some mystical starfish are slow-stepping in the sky. Thies and Krajacic create soundscapes that leave enough space in the music for the listener to fill with their own thoughts. It is about life. It is about freedom. It is about taking the time to truly enjoy the fine art of listening.

All the sounds one hears on this album were acoustically created on flute and piano, and sometimes using extended techniques not commonly associated with the instruments, creating a well grounded acoustic music that reflects the natural vibrations of this planet and humanity. What I hear is a collection of honest, spontaneous musical conversations that capture a moment in time. The challenge and beauty of improvisation is to attentively listen and react to what you are hearing, discovering a story in the process. It stops becoming intellectual and becomes more emotional and spiritual. Perhaps that is really what this is about.

Thies and Krajacic, inspired by friendship, are each celebrated exquisite virtuosos, adding occasional unusual percussive instrumental textures, such as recording the sound of tapping rhythmically on the flute valves or thumping the piano while holding down the foot pedal, or applying putty to the strings, all to pull a lot more from those two instruments than what comes from a traditional color palette. And that is the true inspiration, just let it be what it is at that moment.

This is truly music from a quieter place, it is just really very, very sparse. You will hear peaceful intricate layers with no technical studio fireworks. Listen to delicate moments of fresh improvisations, each track feels new and one-of-a-kind, the performances are perfect magic, with haunting melodies, all gorgeous, no darkness or thunder, no hurry, no worry.

Some insights of les musiciens from the album notes:

“The music of Blue Landscapes is inspired and grounded by our love for Earth’s beauty and all of her natural wonders. Whether it be the motion of the seas, the majesty of the mountains, the rhythmic flow of the rivers and streams, the migrations of her creatures, or the mysteries of the forests, all feed the imagination.

“May we cherish and protect our planet for all the generations that follow.

“And as always, it is our hope that this music will take you to a quiet and reflective space.”

~ Robert & Damjan

Deeper Into the Frontier

The album begins with and maintains a consistently delicate slow levitating feeling created by the piano accompanied by flute, “Drifting” (3:37) explores sounds and colors, you feel like you might be blissfully sitting next to a stream for hours, just listening and watching the flowing water. Exploring moments of spirituality in music and in nature, “Forest Path” (6:56) presents detailed percussive flute fingering providing the path and tempo of the journey, melodic flute soaring and decorated with tiny piano embellishments. Nature has always been an inspiration for fine art and for sacred healing experiences. “The Abandoned Monastery” (5:42) with peaceful flute layers slow and stately, a single flute’s voice takes the focus over the slow layers exploring the potential with what the flute could do, the piano joins in, understated and keeping the slow stately pace, exploring the old monastery’s ruined stones overgrown with brush and raked by the wind, here is where the altar once was, there is where the monks once worshiped, they are now long gone…

Piano sketches, telling a story in music, perhaps about a quiet afternoon, slowly the flute joins in, matching the melody side by side, turning and gliding in perfect synchronicity, there is a sweet tiny chime hidden in the framework. “Le Musicien” (3:34) has a sound that is organic, pure, and ethereal. Next, you can see the lighthouse in the distance, and now you are on top of the lighthouse and looking into the horizon, feeling the magical slow pace, describing the sea on a still day, surveying infinity: “The Lighthouse” (3:46) stirring the heart and awakening the mind, it’s magical.

Flowing piano with a shadowy flute chiffon, evoking raw, human emotion, memories long faded and treasured, “Goodbye” (6:42) light and dark speaking to the experience of life, that’s really what the music is about. Improvisation is, like life, magical and unpredictable. “Frontiers” (6:09), geometric patterns of piano thistledown with a breezy flute sweeping overhead, some percussive tapping on the instrument to create more depth in places, very delicate. As the song progresses, the sparse fingering of the piano becomes more bold on top of the constantly repeating geometric patterns, calming and transforming. The uncertainty that comes with improvisation allows us, listeners and musicians, all to reach deep and let go, unifying us musically and spiritually and with everything around us at the same time.

For the next track the piano is disguised as a harpsichord, slow and diaphanous, the flute is dry and whispery, joined by another layer of piano, all understated and delicately stunning, gorgeous, a love for other kinds of music coming from a different place, “Tranquility” (4:24). With an elegant symphonic sound from just one pianist and one flutist, waking with no memories, just the fascinating new day ahead, thinking: “Take My Hand” (3:49). Absolutely authentic, heartfelt, thoughtful and comforting. Fine silken piano fields under a sky that has no horizon, it just goes forever, the flute brings punctuation and textures, punching a playful breeze, percussive touches to complete the portrait of “Infinity” (6:41). Thoughtful, moving, healing. Graceful — a rich palette of colors, sounds and percussive effects not commonly associated with the flute.

Nature is a muse for many composers, it’s no different with this music. The piano creates a cascading liquid flowing feeling, the flute provides the breeze and all you can do is float along, on a perfect afternoon. “The Distant Waterfall” (3:42), shape shifting, playing the flute and creating a deep connection to our natural world, allowing for more soul searching. Melodic tides bring the sand endless treasures, fine details sent by ocean currents, a night of warm breezes and “Waves on a Moonlit Sea” (4:28) gently clearing the heart very deeply, inspired by our beautiful natural world.

In this collection of sonic jewels there is more than one miniature journey, this next track is a mystical cavalcade, a caravan of free spirited wanderers. Here you can find solemn nomads who pass through “The Valley of Echoes” (4:35) reaching forefronts of beauty and visions of nature, reinforcing a feeling of connection to our planet. Gossamer thin and timeless, “Forgotten Memories” (6:28), the piano draws pictures of incredibly beautiful visual landscapes, an extremely beautiful sonically elegant little pattern that in your mind is going to play on and on, long after the recording has stopped. Floating and “Letting Go” (4:38) is an improvisational musical dialogue, the musicians are so tuned in to each other, providing a very deep listening experience, kind of like life, with situations where you have no idea of what’s going to happen next.

Robert Thies is the only American pianist in four decades to win a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn. He is in high demand at festivals and special celebrations, a master class teacher, chamber music coach, lecturer, and adjudicator across the globe. Thies’s recordings can be found on the music labels Centaur, Albany, Golden Tone, Denouement Records, and now on Myndstream.

Damjan Krajacic is a musician of eclectic styles, spanning jazz, latin jazz, and classical training, he is of Eastern European heritage, a native of Zagreb, Croatia. He was instrumental in starting the Croatia Flute Academy, and has 8 CD releases. His groove-packed latin-jazz and meditative ambient music show his jazz and classical sensibilities as well as Eastern European rhythms and melodies. On this album he plays a regular C flute, and a bass flute, which is an octave lower, at times it might sound as if a folk instrument is playing, or Native American flute, perhaps not to simulate those instruments, always extending the color palette of the flute.

This album is the third part of a series, preceded by Blue Landscapes (2012) and Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries (2016), which is a 2018 Global Music Award Bronze winner.

Track List
1 Drifting
2 Forest Path
3 The Abandoned Monastery
4 Le Musicien
5 The Lighthouse
6 Goodbye
7 Frontiers
8 Tranquility
9 Take My Hand
10 Infinity
11 The Distant Waterfall
12 Waves on a Moonlit Sea
13 The Valley of Echoes
14 Forgotten Memories
15 Letting Go

I highly recommend that you listen deeply to this New Age instrumental ambient meditation, you will be rewarded with an easy peaceful feeling, again and again. For more about the story behind the musical series Blue Landscapes, as well as the individual artists Robert Edward Thies and Damjan Krajacic, visit these links:

There is a new video premiere of Forest Path and a “meet the artists” chat LIVE on Wednesday January 15th (2020) at noon here:

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