Based on his past recordings, at first blush one was expecting a no edge musical experience somewhat similar to Steiner’s label mate Bernward Koch. There is a certain element of truth to that expectation but as soon as the disc loaded this was the first indication that this was going to be a unique listening experience. With only five tracks present, the shortest track runs no less than nine minutes suggesting that Steiner was in an adventurous mood.
While Momentum opens with the elegant and attractive “Fill the Sky,” the immediate observation was the openness of the high quality production as well as the optimistic moving musical experience. “Fill the Sky” will have you floating in the stratosphere as the keyboards, guitar and light orchestration collide gently allowing you to feel like you can reach for the stars. The album is bookended by the equally impressive “Epiphany” whose light but constant percussion drives the song that uses its entire eleven minute plus musical frame to build and then gently bring us to a breathy conclusion. Add the three additional tracks found in between and clearly there is no filler, making the results on Momentum striking.
Unlike his previous recording Into Forever, though Momentum has some meditative qualities, it does not have the minimalistic qualities of its predecessor. With impressive creations between the opener and closer, Frank Steiner, Jr. has presented his listeners with clearly his most remarkable recording to date. Momentum, while not momentous, is still highly impressive and has sleeper hit of 2015 written all over it.
Music Design In Review
Whenever Frank Steiner, Jr. presents a new release, you can be certain that enchantment lies on the horizon. Or, to be more specific, enchantment with an edge of jazzy elegance, multicultural essence, and plenty of examples of beautiful composition work. With a title like Momentum, you might expect a certain amount of energy. In truth, the album is quite serene; the momentum comes in the flood of musical ideas that cascade through the album, featuring a variety of musical instruments and the occasional shamanic texture to create a richly arranged musical space. Piano and keyboards shimmer and sway through arrangements of soft guitar, percussion and orchestration. For example, the opening track “To Fill the Sky” is an uplifting piece featuring melodic piano, an undercurrent of guitar, and breezy beats dotted with kalimba. Like all of the tracks, it wraps you in a cocoon of tranquility; it is perfect for adding a dash of peace to any atmosphere.
With Momentum, which is Frank Steiner, Jr.’s 4th album release since 1998, he has created an intricate musical landscape that moves easily between several styles of music, and yet the flow of the album as a whole feels very homogenous and unified as you move from song to song. Momentum is unusual in the sense that each of the songs on this project are between 9 and 11 minutes long which allows Steiner to really pull the listener into each of the compositions in a way that shorter songs do not allow. The album runs 51:31in length, but is broken down into only five tracks which has afforded Steiner plenty of time to explore the theme presented in each individual song.
The common thread that ties the tracks together is the marvelous piano playing of Frank Steiner, Jr. that seems to stand out in each one. I especially like the mood that Steiner creates on the track called “Out There” which blends a gentle beat that not only is the first thing you hear at the beginning of the track, but offers a steady palette upon which all the other sound elements are layered onto. The piano offers a luxurious and intimate feel to the whole track as if it were something that might complement an evening spent in the company of someone close to you. The addition of strings, guitar and horns to this piece really brings this composition to an emotional high point that the listener is sure to love. The ending of “Out There” is simply Steiner on the keyboard along with the haunting background fading away as he brings this track to a beautiful close.
The song “To Fill the Sky,” with its delicate piano intro, immediately sets the mood for what is to follow on the rest of the album and creates within the mind of the listener a feeling of serenity and well-being that simply makes the music a joy to listen to.
“Swimming with Delphin” is a lovely composition that really shows the versatility of what Steiner is capable of within the songs that comprise this album. The song features the soft beat of a drum almost shamanic in nature, a flute that adds texture to the song as well as a feeling of mystery, a contemplative piano and finally a wonderfully ethereal female vocal that allows the song to become truly mystical in nature. Add in some strings and a guitar and you will see why this track is so deeply poignant and so emotionally moving. Steiner has organically blended all of these musical elements into this impressive composition that is both polished by a deft hand on the instruments and on the mixing board, and yet it still retains a very sensitive core for the listener to extract through multiple listening sessions. While I don’t always like to pick a favorite song from the albums I review, I would have to say that this one really stands out in my mind and is worth repeated listenings to fully absorb what Steiner has accomplished.
Momentum is a pleasure to listen to and even though there are only five tracks, it is obvious that Steiner has invested much of himself into each of the songs on this project. His cohesive artistic vision can be felt on each of the tracks and perhaps that is where the name Momentum came from. His forward motion began on the first song and carries through to the end of the track five. From the contemplative, to the mystical, to the jazzy strains of “Tigam Enome,” Steiner’s musicianship is first-class filled with nuance and delicacy. His music has a way of wending its way into your soul and once there makes itself at home. Steiner is a world class musician and Momentum only confirms that the future is bright for his music and even brighter for those of us who are fortunate enough to discover and listen to his compositions. Recommended by Ambient Visions.
A new age/very lite jazz set that puts motion into motion, this impressionistic outing sonically captures various forms of motion in flight nicely. Very much the kind of music that aids mellowing out, Steiner’s music goes places other than in circles and this is music that won’t embarrass you when it bleeds out of your headphones as you walk through a thicket of hipsters. Well done throughout with extra points for inherent thought and composition.
Frank Steiner, Jr.’s Momentum contains five compositions which provide listeners with over fifty minutes of introspection and compelling music. Beginning with the ten-plus minute composition “To Fill the Sky,” his effort starts off with a sedate, twinkling set of arrangements that add disparate elements before gradually gaining tempo, creating something that sits at the precipice of American folk, jazz, and new age music. A narrative is present during this opening that far outstrips vocal music; listeners can take the rising and falling actions as part of an epic journey that contains innumerable stimuli; the track possesses bright and dark elements before Steiner moves to his next work.
“Swimming with Delphin” is a similarly deep and intricate set of arrangements that shift and change just enough to establish a theme that matches the titular action well. Listeners will be sent on a journey through synth and vocal elements. The track picks up and elicits comparisons to schools of fish and larger aquatic animals flittering by.
“Tigam Enome” bridges the gap between classical and current styles of music. The raw passion and emotionality of Steiner’s arrangements are given further depth through the inclusion of vocals. While the track stands out, “Tigam Enome” is threaded through by the same thematic elements that have been presented throughout the entire title.
Momentum concludes with “Out There” and “Epiphany,” two tracks that unite despite possessing wholly different foundations. “Out There” has a flair for more Latin elements even as a nod to modern electronic artists like Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze can be discerned, while “Epiphany” provides an emphatic ending to the album as well as a pulling back of the veil concerning where Steiner may take listeners on later releases.
Top Tracks: “Swimming with Delphin,” “To Fill the Sky”
Galaxie CBC Digital Radio
The paper in this packaging matches precisely the silky, exquisite music inside…Touching Silk is not east or west and I LOVE it!
Frank Steiner, Jr. is a German composer, but he's shown a penchant for Asian tonalities in recent years. His I Ching Symphony was a surprisingly austere and affecting work, and he dips from that well once again with Touching Silk. Steiner is a gifted sound designer and player, who tends to drown his uncomplicated melodies and often striking instrumentation in honey-laden arrangements and Ray Conniff-esque voices. Playing most of the instruments himself, and most of them being keyboards or samples, Steiner mixes electronics, acoustic orchestral sounds, and traditional Chinese instruments. An electronic wind instrument effectively mimics a Chinese flute on "Indira Chant," and Chinese zithers ripple throughout his arrangements.
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