Songs from the Mara
On her latest release, Songs from the Mara, Lis Addison’s stunningly beautiful voice takes a back seat to her equally astonishing talent for creating soothing keyboard and electronic soundscapes which she then melds with expertly recorded (by her) African nature and environmental sounds. The result is a truly immersive listening experience, the perfect blending of music and natural sounds that is almost certain to transport the listener to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. On her way to Kitui, Kenya to plant trees with her Singing Tree Institute non-profit, Lis stopped at the Maasai Mara. In both places she recorded the sounds of nature that serenaded her. These sounds inspired "Songs from the Mara” and were incorporated into the music.
The album opener, “Sunrise on the Mara,” begins with a serenade of songbirds greeting the new day while a warm, flowing piano melody joins in as well as assorted keyboard textures and embellishments – just gorgeous. A gentle bell tone rhythm comes into play along with Addison’s wordless vocals adding another level of beauty. Next up, “Sunset on the Mara,” has singing bowls accompanying birdsong and running water along with a repeating harp-like melody and Addison’s vocals (again wordless). As the song develops, more layers of keyboards and some shaker percussions are folded in. The haunting serenity of the song fills the air like softly scented incense. By this point, one can’t help but be impressed with all the assorted musical elements that Addison is utilizing to craft such wondrous soundscapes, not to mention the deftness with which she mixes in nature and environmental sounds. I had forgotten (from previous reviews of her music I had written) how talented she was at the dizzying assortment of keyboard sounds she has available at her home studio.
"Kitui Rain” features a slight bubbly effervescent mood via an ambient-esque synthesizer lead melody as well as a plaintive secondary orchestral string melody that develops later in the track, accompanied by bell tones. As the track ends, crickets and frogs join in to bring the song to a blissful conclusion. While I frequently concentrated my praise on Addison’s vocals on her earlier releases, on Songs from the Mara she allows her proficiency on keyboards and composing to come to the forefront. In fact, with those talents on prominent display, Lis Addison deserves a place among the best in the electronic keyboard genres of New Age and ambient music.
Two more fantastic songs (“Elephants on the Mara,” and “Lioness and Three Cubs”) lead into the concluding number, the 10-minute “Dream of the Mara” which takes the listener into even deeper ambient and, appropriately, dreamy territory. The sounds of flowing water and other nature elements waft over layers of lush keyboards, joined later by vibrant birdsong, and a tamboura drone joins in with the other sounds. A chorus of frogs (a rather large chorus it sounds like!) contributes their “voices” to the mix. Later, a percolating acoustic percussion beat emerges, injecting the sonic proceedings with a heartbeat like pulse. As the song winds down, some crickets decide to get in on the fun as well. All this time, the underlying ambient music soundscape flows uninterrupted, slowly fading amongst the reverberations from a singing bowl.
What can I say other than I am ultra-impressed with Songs from the Mara. Lis Addison has outdone herself, which is a bold statement based on her previous work. My praise for the album is in no way a diminishing statement about her usual fantastic singing and vocals, but instead, Songs from the Mara
clearly shows how broad and deep her many musical talents are. This is as essential an album as I have heard in years.