If you had asked your family and friends: “Do you find it hard to relax?”, I’m pretty sure a good number would have replied “yes”. Long before Covid19 made the stress levels rise even more, our inability to unwind became a significant health problem. You can blame social media, binge-watching or caffeine, but I believe the real problem is how we go about solving the problem. Going from a hyperactive and hyper-stimulated modern life to meditating is not for everyone. In this context, I believe the new compilation by Domo Music – called RELAX – may offer something unique that many may benefit from. It is a collection of 15 instrumental pieces that doesn’t lull you to sleep or make your mind wander off into deep space. It is a focused kind of relaxation that matches the modern psyche; awake, yet relaxed. That is a major accomplishment!
RELAX is currently available as a MP3 download. The release date on other platforms is October 9th, 2020. There is also a single, Kitaro’s “Estrella (Remastered)” – which is available now – see below!
We live in an age of playlists. People want a mix, not albums by a single artist or a band. But when playlists are auto-generated, you lose the human touch that good playlists or compilations desperately need. RELAX, produced by Eiichi Naito and Dino Malito, is an eye-opener in this respect. From Kitaro and Uma Silbey to classical music by Steve Anderson, RELAX is 100% true to its name. It is a mix you can trust.
Wings To Fly
“Wings To Fly” (Tsubasa Wo Kudasai), one of Kuni Murai’s finest pieces, instantly puts your mind at ease. Ko Iwasaki’s cello sounds divine. Fans will remember this piece from Murai’s “Recollection” (2019), where it also was the opening track. “Wings To Fly” is like a blueprint to RELAX-ing; acoustic, genuine and heartwarming. It is a fabulous opening!
We are venturing into the realm of myths and fairytales with Luis Pérez Ixoneztli’s “Sleeping Woman”. I’m sure many reading this has a copy of his 1998 CD “Tales of Astral Travelers”, and hearing “Sleeping Woman” here brought a smile upon my face. I believe it is the same recording, but here it sounds thicker and richer, probably thanks to modern studio wizardry. Gavin Lurssen has done a terrific job mastering the album! It flows beautifully.
No Domo Music compilation is complete without the music of Kitaro, and on RELAX he is represented with two pieces: “Estrella” and “Wood Fairy” (track 12). “Estrella”, the opening piece on his Grammy-winning album “Thinking of You” from 1999, is a winner from start to finish. It is one of those pieces that never leaves you – and each time you play it, it feels a bit like being in the company of an old friend. One word; magnificent!
Yu-Xiao Guang’s “Linden” picks up and continues effortlessly where “Estrella” left off, and that in itself is remarkable. It is never easy being next-in-line after Kitaro, but Guang is a fearless artist and he fills the “Kitaro void” like a pro. Just by looking at the cover, you understand that trees are an important symbol on RELAX – and the erhu-driven “Linden” seems to refine this idea even further. I’m tempted to say that it is a very green piece. Ask any expert; Green plants are a part of any healthy and relaxing environment.
My favorite piece on the compilation is Seda Bağcan’s “Miracle”. As a huge Bağcan fan, I can’t decide which version I like the most; “Mul Mantra” with vocal (check it out on her 2016 “Miracle” album) or the instrumental piece (which is no. 8 on the original album). I LOVE them both equally. “Miracle” has so many different layers, and it is positive, rhythmic, eclectic and engaging from start to finish. It is the perfect New Age music piece!
The always excellent Dave Eggar takes us back to planet Earth with “Rune”. After “Miracle” it feels refreshing and cool. It takes the compilation in a new direction, laying the foundation for Hiroki Okano’s stargazing on “Rimpa: Cosmos” and Uma Silbey’s delicate “Joy”.
Another favorite is Dino Malito’s acoustic version of Kitaro’s “Aurora”. If you are not a fan of analog synths, there is a big chance that you will enjoy Malito’s performance more than the original Silk Road piece. The “Dino Malito E.P.” is incredible, and “Aurora” has done very well on Spotify.
The compilation is called RELAX, but it does not stop Domo Music from introducing exciting twists and turns, like Steve Anderson performing Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, which ends the album. It is a comment on how closely related Classical Music and Contemporary Instrumental/New Age Music really are.
Domo Music has saved some of the best pieces for last – first colorful and warm flamenco guitars on “Mediterranean Sunrise” by Benedetti & Svoboda (perhaps the best piece on their 2018 album “Spanish Gardens”) and Kitaro’s “Wood Fairy” (from “Gaia – Onbashira” 1998) – before fan favorite Fumio shows what a relaxing piece is all about in “See The Light”. Beautiful, just beautiful.
In conclusion: I started this review with the following rhetorical question: If you had asked your and friends: “Do you find it hard to relax?” If they say yes (many probably will, this is 2020 after all), I suggest recommending the album RELAX. Not because it offers a quick fix, but it communicates a state of mind, or idea if you will, on how to unwind with music. While many similar albums are too New Age-y or have heavy synths, RELAX is mostly acoustic and recorded by world-class performers. I also believe that the collection may inspire people to check out the music of Kitaro and the other fine artists featured here.
As indicated by the cover artwork, RELAX is like a gateway, a path for us stressed-out modern people. I thank Domo Music for showing us the way.
Score: 97/100 – See our scoring policy
For more information and music samples, visit domorecords-store.com