WOUTER KELLERMAN AND DAVID ARKENSTONE
Next Music 2021
"Pangaea or Pangea ( /pænˈdʒiːə/) was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. ... In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, Pangaea was centred on the Equator and surrounded by the superocean Panthalassa." (source, Wikipedia).
Believe it or not, this is not the first "new age" album named after the Earth's initial "supercontinent." But it's certainly one of the best with those roots. Helmed by two legit superstars of instrumental music, Wouter Kellerman (assorted flutes) David Arkenstone (keyboards, guitar, and programming), with some talented guest artists sprinkled throughout the album, Pangaea can be summed up as a statement expressing how music unites the planet, much like how the original Pangaea was all one landmass. Featuring an array of global influences, no specific region dominating (which underscores the unifying concept behind Kellerman's and Arkenstone's vision), the nine tracks are superbly recorded and produced with a flawless mix and mastering job by Bill Hare (Bill Hare Productions, Milpitas, CA). You have to trust me on this – nix the ear buds and play this album loudly through quality speakers. You will thank me later.
An assortment of tempos, moods, and rhythms populate the album, yet the cohesion of the entire recording itself is obvious (at least to me it was). Part of this is the presence of Kellerman's various flutes but also Arkenstone's adroit keyboards and guitar. When rhythms are present, they vary from thunderously jubilant to smooth and pleasantly mellow. Sometimes the melodies and percussion amp up the energy, and other times there is a pronounced feeling of, well, for lack of a better phrase, "global chill." Some of the tracks feature vocals, mostly of the wordless type, and each of the singers brings his or her "A game." The mix expertly layers the instruments side by side with each vocalists' voice, which is not that easy to balance. While keyboards are listed in the liner notes, this sounds much "acoustic" so while I used the phrase "global chill" this doesn't embrace any of the typical "chill out" motifs.
As mentioned earlier, there are multiple worldbeat influences at work here, and even when they are not necessarily "subtle," I still would hesitate to label Pangaea as world fusion, since that term frequently is applied to music which over-emphasizes electronics or an overt presence of distinctly recognizable "country of origin" flavors mashed together. Instead, what elevates this album is how it overlays the global influences onto a highly accessible new age music framework. While bearing no literal resemblance to Arkenstone's masterpiece recording, Sketches from an American Journey, the two albums share a common approach to tying disparate tracks, style-wise, to a singular, unified musical statement.
At its core, Pangaea is a homage, if you will, to the universal appeal of music, rhythm, and voice, joining all citizens of planet Earth in their love for a celebration of joy, beauty, and exhilaration. Granted, given the shape our completely broken world is in now, it's more than a little Pollyanna-ish to embrace such a Utopian view, i.e. "let's all gather and sing kumbaya!" Still, even if Kellerman and Arkenstone's gift only speaks to those who share their ideals, it can only strengthen those enlightened souls to recommit themselves to making this a better place to live for all inhabitants (animal, vegetable, and mineral) of this small green and blue world. Hey, with all the work there is to do, we might as well have a great soundtrack for getting to it, right?
Finally, if you enjoy this album (and why wouldn't you?), I suggest you also look for Stephen Bacchus' Pangaea, which presents yet another vision of a unified world through a combination of new age and world beat music.
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