Composed as a tribute to the late Donna Jo “DJ” Thornton, James Asher’s new single Fly High takes the listener on a spellbinding and high-flying musical journey. Thanks to Asher’s usual melodic brilliance and masterful arrangement, Fly High quickly gains altitude and gives the listener a bird’s perspective on music and life in general. It is a phenomenal track that both looks back on the New Age music of the 80s and 90s – and, thanks to its flawless and clear sound, points towards the future too.
James Asher is a multi-instrumental composer and producer specializing in world beat and chillout music. Amongst his catalog of over 30 albums, his worldbeat album Feet in the Soil has sold over 250,000 copies, and interestingly but at the other end of the spectrum, one of his early compositions has been sampled by Tyler the Creator, a high-profile American rapper, who for the second year running has won Grammy for best rap album 2022. If you listen to the song CORSO, you can prominently hear samples from Asher’s Oriental Workload (2008).
Donna Jo “DJ” Thornton was a DJ who specialised in playing New Age music on a Californian radio station The Morning Breeze. Every weekend since 1998, DJ hosted the show. The Morning Breeze is in partnership with the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, taking listeners young and old out on dolphin- and whale-watching cruises, while artists came along for the ride, often performing out on the open seas. DJ hosted interviews with many of the stars and personalities of this genre and gave them space to feel validated in their highly individual lifestyles and forms of expression.
Fly High starts with a light synth pad and a careful yet inquisitive flute. Already at this stage, the flute seems to point towards the sky as it goes – or flies! – from low to high notes. The listener will instantly sense a tension here, perhaps even melancholy. The carefree bell synth alters the atmosphere, and suddenly the piano cuts in with chords and notes. It is a terrific duet! But don’t take my word for it; check it out yourself:
One very interesting effect here is the texture in the background. It sounds like a wind chime, but it has an almost rhythmic feel to it thanks to the loop. Whatever it is, it drives the melody forwards and creates tension. The piano and bell synths are important, but it is the flute that is the main storyteller. And what a story it is! This is an adventure on a grand scale. The listener can’t help being swept away by this high-flying composition.
There is a touch of melancholy in the intro, but apart from that, there is not a hint of sadness. As a tribute to a life in music, it is joyous and exuberant. It also sums up everything that’s great about New Age music; the harmonies and timbre, the rhythm that’s not a rhythm, a feel-good atmosphere and, on top of that, an experimental yet carefree nature.
“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly,” J.R. Rim said. That quote nicely sums up James Asher’s Fly High too. Its grounding yet soul-stirring effect is apparent from the first listen. I’m tempted to say that it gives the imagination wings, although that sounds like a cliché – but in this case, it is the truth.
If your day is gray and dull, Fly High will lift your mood in six minutes or less. Recommending it is the easiest thing in the world.
For more information and music samples, visit james-asher.co.uk.
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