Fear of the unknown may be the greatest fear of all – but listening to Joseph L Young’s album Into the Unknown – which is being released today – makes those first few steps into uncharted territory seem a lot less daunting. Thanks to Young’s masterful compositions, spotless arrangements and usual saxophone and flute brilliance, the land beyond the horizon is, to quote one of the titles, within reach. It is a genuine treasure chest for any New Age music fan. It is only July, but I can already say that Into the Unknown will be on many Best of 2022-lists.
Joseph L Young was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1972. At the age of 11, Joseph took guitar lessons which planted the seed of making music one of his life’s goals. He attended Boise State University and graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle in 1996 with a degree in Music and Video Business. After college, Joseph co-founded a smooth/contemporary jazz band, Mobius Trip. Joseph’s first album, Pathways, was released in 2004, followed by Face The Wind (2010), Life Spring (2013), Ethereum (2016), and Every Moment (2018). He also teaches the playing of world flutes, e.g., Native American style flute, Irish penny whistle, Chinese Xiao, among others. Currently, Joseph resides in Boise, Idaho.
Into the Unknown
The title track opens the album. Joseph L Young is a master storyteller and not a second is wasted in order to create the atmosphere that is Into the Unknown. Initially, we hear some interesting textures and eerie sounds, which jumpstart the imagination. The following arrangements are quite hard-hitting, with a mix of traditional and modern instruments, heavenly voices plus a deep and expressive rhythm. Three minutes into the track, it feels as if being lost in an alien wilderness. Luckily Young’s saxophone is there to guide us along. It is a phenomenon start to the album! Fans of Enigma, Delirium, Deep Forest and Al Conti will feel right at home.
Next out is Remembrance of Time. We hear heavy rain before all attention is on the most gorgeous flute-and-piano duet I have heard in years! Lynn Tredeau is great on the piano as always, but it is Young’s inspired flute that gives this piece wings and lifts it into heaven. It is breathtakingly beautiful – and a powerful reminder of how the wheel of time always turns. It is a winner from start to finish, a New Age music jewel.
Enchanted offers, as indicated by the title, a view into a bewitching world. It has a slow build-up and wonderful meditative qualities. It gives time to breathe and relax before Secrets of Stone leads this inspired voyage into even more enigmatic territory – into the realm of myths and legends. After two and a half minutes of souls stirring sax, a rhythm rises. The ethnic vibe is lovely and mysterious, while the sax adds coolness and modernity. The result is something truly out-of-this-world.
Now there is a notable change, as introduced by the tiny beep and inaudible radio chatter in the intro to Beyond the Horizon. The fantasy feel is suddenly replaced by Sci-fi and ambient-sounding synths. The Berlin school-influenced lead is marvelous! The theme is fantastic too; I find myself putting it on replay every time I reach this stage on the album. Between Worlds takes the release back on the previous fantasy trail. It is a heartwarming and deeply moving piece with flute, harp and strings – showing Young’s unique talent and expression. The orchestral arrangements are terrific!
Transcendence takes the album into yet another territory. With a steady, heart-like bass drum and a whispery pop vocalization, plus Young’s passionate saxophone, a new world of sound manifests itself – as beautiful as it is laid back. Fans of Nicholas Gunn will find Transcendence especially appealing. The Forgotten is a surprising twist. Statics, loud noises and scary are heard. It is a dark and gloomy place.
The seven minutes long Eclipsed is like an EP within the album. Young’s flute and saxophone are center stage, while gentle rhythm and light synth arrangements flow deliciously in the background. It is cool and relaxing at the same time. Fans of 1980s music will find themselves eclipsed in no time. Windswayed is yet another interesting contrast, mixing traditional flutes and saxophone with an enigmatic synth arrangement. It is a unique soundscape in every sense of the word. It is easy to get lost, but Young shows us the way back on the right path every time.
Ancestral Crossings concludes this voyage into the unknown. The melody with its nice hint of Asian mystique rises mighty and powerful. New and old, traditional and hypermodern, all have a part to play in this eclectic and inspired mix. At this stage, I often find myself going back to the beginning – to enjoy yet another voyage into a hidden and mysterious world.
In conclusion: When listening to Into the Unknown, I’m once again amazed by Joseph Young’s vibrant and dynamic storytelling, which makes this musical odyssey not only deeply compelling – but also highly inspirational. It is music, but its “literary” qualities are right there on the surface. Like a well-written novel, perhaps in the fantasy or sci-fi genres, it takes hold of the listener from the very beginning.
An entirely different way to look at the album is how it speaks to the time we live in. Given what we all have experienced over the last few years, and the current headlines of social unrest, climate change and war, Into the Unknown has a very timely message. The world is changing, and we have too. It might not be the artist’s main intention, but when meditating with this album as a backdrop, you come out on the other side feeling focused and ready for anything.
I must also mention the incredibly rich and expressive soundscape. Young’s unique ability to effortlessly move from synth arrangements to flute and saxophone, and mix it up by inviting other artists too, is remarkable. Just listen to Remembrance of Time and you will understand why I mean.
“Going into the unknown is how you expand what is known,” Julien Smith said. That applies to Joseph L Young’s Into the Unknown too.
For more information and music samples, visit josephlyoung.com.