BlueMonk and Michael Whalen
2020 / Real Music/Myndstream
Review by Kathy Parsons
Karmic Dreams is a soothing, relaxing and inspiring collaboration between Malaysian flutist/multi-instrumentalist BlueMonk (Rasull Soon) and American pianist/composer/producer Michael Whalen. The album also has a fascinating story that once again proves the amazing healing power of music. Michael Whalen explains it best: “I caught COVID-19 in early April. I have never been so sick — fever, chills, terrible body aches and the worst headaches of my life. My doctor said I had a ‘mild’ case and I couldn’t believe it. I was exhausted. A few weeks later, I started getting tracks from BlueMonk. Gorgeous flute performances. I started with creating tracks for one song and then I sent him a finished track to play over. The whole album happened in less than 3 weeks. Amazing. What was even better was that making music, getting out of bed and focusing beyond the aches and chills of COVID helped heal me and get me back on my feet - - - literally...” For this album, Whalen performs on synthesizers, electronics and percussion, and BlueMonk plays flutes, percussion and additional keyboards. More ambient than melodic, the pace on all seven tracks is slow and fluid, gently easing the stresses that have taken a toll on everyone in this year.
Michael Whalen has won a very impressive list of awards (too many to mention here) and has 34 solo and soundtrack recordings to his credit. BlueMonk released his first album on the Real Music label, Enlightened Love, back in 2011. This is their first album together.
Karmic Dreams begins the album with “The Secret Garden,” a gorgeous piece that blends the sounds of ancient flutes with electronic instrumentation and light percussion. The video that goes with this piece is well-worth checking out with its stunningly beautiful nature photography that pairs so perfectly with this music. “The Way of the Samurai” is more peaceful and reflective with a haunting sadness expressed by the flute(s). Chimes, synth and a variety of Asian instruments paint a still life in shades of blue and gray. “Cherry Blossom Heart” seems like a light-hearted title, but the piece is mysterious and a bit mournful. It is also extremely beautiful, hypnotic and deeply affecting. “Moonscape” is much lighter and more ambient, expressing the magic of discovery as we float effortlessly through space. “The Trance” has a fascinating juxtaposition of very dark background sounds and light, almost twinkling bells. The flute seems to dance through the middle of both atmospheres, bringing them together. “Boundless Love” surrounds the listener with a soothing warmth created with flutes, gongs, ambient strings and dark yet peaceful atmospheric sounds. The title track is the last one on the album and is, indeed, very dreamy - tranquility set to music.
Karmic Dreams is widely available from sites that include Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, and myndstream as well as streaming sites such as Spotify.
September 13, 2020