Voices From the Ethereal Forest
2022 / Kumatone Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Voices From the Ethereal Forest is Meg Bowles' ninth album to date and is a series of seven contemplative ambient/choral soundscapes inspired by the life-sustaining beauty and mystery of forests past and present. Ranging from 5 1/2 minutes to almost twelve minutes, each piece envelopes the listener in the beauty and wonder of the forests of the world and the life that dwells there - or used to. Quoting the album's promotional material:
"Impressionistic and introspective, this album is a tribute to the beauty and life sustained and witnessed by forests which—whether through natural aging, climate change, or destructive human interaction—no longer exist in this realm."
A classically-trained flutist, composer and synthesist, Meg Bowles is also a licensed psychoanalyst, choral singer, avid gardener and local wildlife connoisseur. She been releasing her award-winning ambient orchestral soundscapes for almost thirty years and lives in Connecticut with her husband, Richard Price, a Grammy-winning classical producer, engineer and the president of Candlewood Digital (who mastered this recording), a classical recording company.
Voices From the Ethereal Forest begins with the title track, a piece that features ambient vocals and synths along with the occasional sounds of birds, flowing water and other nature sounds. The music moves fluidly from feelings of sadness to wonder to a peaceful calm. In places, I can almost see sunlight filtering through the branches of tall trees - always a magical sight! "Ode to a Fragile Sea" beautifully captures the slow ebb and flow of a peaceful ocean, but also expresses tragedy and dire warnings of what is happening to the world's oceans and the life that is being destroyed within them. "Grove of Light" is perhaps the most ethereal of the seven tracks - a warm and inviting bit of musical heaven! "Slow Dance Under a Red Moon" goes much darker with voices that are both beautiful and mournful interwoven with the synth instrumentation. As its title suggests, "Woodland of Sorrows" mourns the tragic loss of so much natural beauty and wildlife as well as what that loss means for the world itself. Layered voices are the primary "instruments" for the track with minimal accompaniment in most of it - a deeply emotional expression! If you haven't experienced the quiet stillness of "Winter Fog," the piece with that title will give you a very good idea of what it feels like. Everything becomes very still and it is easy to get lost in the swirls of gray fog that envelope everything in its path. "Evening Chorus" moves slowly and fluidly, much like the changing sky at sunset. The emotional expression also changes gradually throughout and is sometimes very calm and serene and sometimes darker and more poignant.
Voices From the Ethereal Forest is a very effective and affecting musical journey that will likely mean something different to many listeners. I can't imagine anyone being unmoved by the beauty and message of this music! It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and many streaming sites including Spotify.
January 7, 2023