But don’t get me wrong; Bright Angel is not an easy album. It demands attention. There is a lot of improvisation in Harlan Mark Vale’s piano works, and you have to tune your ears to it. This is not background music. But when you take the time to listen – to explore the world of the angels – you are rewarded.
The title track, Bright Angel, is the perfect introduction to Vale’s style. The first sharp tones grip your attention at once. For the first 4 minutes you can hear and feel the improvisation; it is like a river of sound. I guess this is where a few listeners will quit, because of the lack of melody and consistency. But if you close your eyes and let your subconsciousness do the work, you will see that this is not random notes. Suddenly more and more elements of a melody emerge. And when it does, your mind reacts. The intertwining melodies on this first track are truly beautiful, and the piano sounds divine; the last 3 minutes are tones from heaven itself.
Into the Buddha Temple
Track number two is called Buddha Temple. The first seven minutes are gentle and you can hear some Asian influences in the use of sharp and flat notes. For me it is like seeing the Buddha Temple manifest itself out of a fog. The structure is built by 4 minutes of powerful melodic elements. The piano is beautifully played, and definitely shows how talented Harlan Mark Vale is. The ending is quiet. Suddenly the Buddha Temple disappears into the fog it came from.
World of Good is track number 3. The atmosphere is positive and light from beginning to end, so it is easy to understand why it has such a name. Most of the song is played in a gentle way, but some parts in the middle are more powerful. The song ends with a pleasant shower of tones. Warm and uplifting at the same time.
Decisions & Fate is a dramatic song. Some elements are dark, other lighter. Here is room for the feelings of both defeat and greatness. It is interesting to hear how fast Vale can change from one theme to the next. Track number 5, The White Phase, is like a winter day. You can almost see the falling snow and feel the cold on your skin. But it not a dark song; it has a positive vibe. After all, winter is only sleep and not death. Soon spring will come knocking on the door. This is what I feel this song is communicating.
The last part of the album is the Intuition Suite. It is divided into three songs; Delivered Fresh From Eternity, Touched By Infinite Possibility and Manifestations of the Heart. Here Harlan Mark Vale goes much deeper into his artistic project. The three tracks have the same form; an intro with improvisation, and then beautiful melodic elements. There is a weightless feeling here, which make them perfect for meditation and relaxation. I just have to point out the great sounding names on these tracks. They are very poetical, don’t you agree?
The quality of the recording is very good. You can hear that it is not a studio recording. But I think that this gives the album a more authentic feeling. After all, piano music is live music.
Bright Angel is not uncomplicated or easy. But at the same time it is perhaps the most relaxing music I have ever heard. When you buy this album, you are not only getting beautiful music – you are also getting an instant meditation kit; press play and your mind takes off. Since large parts of the songs are improvisation, the replay possibilities are almost endless. You don’t get tired of these songs easily – and when you are finished listening, you know that you have been touched by an angel.
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