Terra Guitarra is one of the most popular, best-selling and entertaining acoustic guitar groups in the world with rock-solid rhythms and exquisite melodies featured both on their recordings and in their concerts. They consider their newest album, Spirit Wheel, to be “medicine” for themselves and their audience — a spiritual, healing, meditational, transformational, trance/chill collection of instrumentals designed to help listeners explore internally first and then their place in the universe.
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“The title Spirit Wheel,” explains Terra Guitarra lead-guitarist and composer Bruce Hecksel, “comes from my understanding that Consciousness and Reality are of the Cycle, the Circle, and the Spiral which encompasses all that is. This album should immediately pull a person inside, into their inner-self. At this time on Earth, energy is scattered, tattered and divided so we made this album to pull ourselves into focus and into our oneness of self which is the pathway towards us experiencing the larger oneness that includes everyone and everything.”
Spirit Wheel is the ninth Terra Guitarra album. Several of their most recent recordings have received international marketing campaigns and accumulated wide-spread accolades. Dragonfly, Firelight and Of Sea & Stars all went Top 5 (the latter climbed to the #2 position) on the monthly international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 Chart (the main list for this type of music globally). Firelight and Of Sea & Stars both went to #1 on the prestigious One World Music Radio Chart (the top European channel airing this style of music). Terra Guitarra’s widespread fan base is also fueled by the group performing 200 shows each year (more than 4,000 so far).
Terra Guitarra’s music features Hecksel’s fluid, melodic soloing on acoustic guitar in combination with the foundational rhythm-guitar playing by his partner, Julie Patchouli. On this recording, there also is additional instrumentation such as bass, drums and hand percussion played by both members. In addition, Hecksel plays keyboards and, on four tunes, wood flutes. While the music on Spirit Wheel contains the essence of the musical style that has made Terra Guitarra so popular, the album also visits more extensively the duo’s gentler, more spiritual side.
“I was really feeling stressed, despite regular meditation and immersion in art and music,” Hecksel says. “The insanity of the material culture around me was closing in. I found myself trying to stay afloat in a quagmire of fear and anger and insecurity and I was looking for tools to haul myself back out of the swamp, so to speak. So unintentionally I sat down in my studio, created a meditative rhythm track, and then recorded the lead guitar part of the first song in one sitting. It seemed to be able to transport me powerfully inward and back to myself. So the next day I sat down and did it again and so on until these songs were complete. This is medicine. It was created out of my need initially, but I realized that if the music was a positive force that helped me, it might also benefit others.”
Julie Patchouli offers insights into the individual tunes on the album. She says “Autumns Breath” is “like a soft light breeze on an autumn day with the feeling of falling gently into a pile of yellow, red and rust-brown leaves. The tune ‘Ambrosia’ has a sweet and addictive flavor while ‘Daydream’ reminds me of rain on the water or the movement of waves, and allowing the mind to relax into a dream-state. ‘Spirit Wheel’ is rhythmic like a turning wheel while the flute and guitar dance the melody together. The repeating motif in ‘Lemuria’ makes my heart open wide.”
With the tune “Palomino,” Patchouli states it makes her feel like she is watching “a horse running free across an open field while the uplifting melody recharges my soul. Listening to ‘Cloud Caravan’ is like watching the clouds drift and move off toward a sky oasis. ‘Mountain Lake’ is a soundscape that reminds us of pristine mountain air around a pure and reflective lake. ‘Oriel’ was written for a dear soul who passed away, a bright light always joyful and kind. ‘Zephyr’ is the longest piece on the album, a mellow float that rolls along like a spinning spirit wheel.”
Terra Guitarra, as their name implies, focuses on two things — guitar explorations and planet earth. The music encompasses their love of nature, travel, festivals, journeys of personal growth, and spiritual reflection. “Most often the melodies come to me when I am in a meditative state,” explains Hecksel. “The melodies are reflective of the earth’s energy and vibrations.”
Following intensive, broad-based musical studies during their youth, Hecksel and Patchouli have become famous for their prodigious discipline of touring and prolific creative output. They have traveled over a million miles to perform. They toured Europe in 2017 and will return to Europe in 2018 as well as touring China. The duo also has released an album per year for 20 years taking them into the top ranks of two distinct genres — contemporary instrumental world-fusion with Terra Guitarra; and eclectic acoustic singer-songwriter folk-pop with the group Patchouli (which has more than a dozen albums available).
Additionally, Bruce Hecksel has created a unique and instantly-recognizable visual art style in paint and animation. Hecksel, who has painted all his life, began a special series of guitar-based paintings for the artwork on the first Terra Guitarra album, and his art has continued to be featured on all their subsequent CDs (the artwork, mostly depicting nature scenes, is comprised of small paintings of acoustic guitars). Hecksel’s painting has expanded and evolved leading to national art exhibitions as well as sales of originals and limited edition giclee prints (details at terraguitarra dot com). At special concerts Terra Guitarra presents “The Landscape of Guitar,” a multi-media experience that combines their music with projection of Bruce’s artwork in animated form.
“When I painted the Mandala for the cover art of Spirit Wheel, I used items directly from our life to make the concentric circles — a bike tire, a pizza pan and a bowl. I chose the dragonfly, bird, and butterfly to symbolize the Illusion, the Messenger and the Transformation. The Illusion is that we are bound into this material reality and subject to its perceived limitations and fears. The Messenger is our own soul coming to us from beyond this dimension to connect us to our infinity, and the Transformation takes place as we participate in this new vision. Each animal or insect in my drawing is also completely composed of guitars, in my trademarked Terra Guitarra art style, which communicates that everything is an instrument, a vibration, a frequency.”
More information on Terra Guitarra is available at their website (terraguitarra dot com). Their Earthsign Records CDs — Terra Guitarra, Winter Solstice, The Mother Night, Dragonfly, Auld Lang Syne, Firelight, Live at the Big River Theatre, Of Sea & Stars and Spirit Wheel, and digital download tracks from those recordings — are available on their website as well as at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes and many others. Fans can also purchase recordings by their alter-ego vocal group Patchouli (patchouli dot net)
“Our Spirit Wheel album leans a bit to the ‘chill out’ style, deliberately downtempo,” Hecksel states. “I listen to meditative, trance, chill out music all the time and love its ability to create beautiful space in my mind and also have palpable impacts on my well-being. On this album, instead of writing a part and rehearsing a number of variations, I simply played what I was feeling and used that first stream-of-consciousness part that I wrote in order to keep the music as pure and tuned-into-the-meditation as possible, and also keep the music away from any ego, material or commercial impulses which could arise. The music on this album was really just an unplanned surprise to me.”
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