Art cannot be rushed, it matures and develops like good wine. Al Conti’s new album «Mystic» is about inner journeys to spiritual deliverance. At the same time it tells a story about how travelling without a fixed destination can lead to both personal and artistic growth. It is one of Al Conti’s best albums to date.
In the booklet Al writes: «The concept for this album emerged before I had wrapped up work on «The Blue Rose». Unbeknownst to me, I was beginning a four-year long journey. […] It is seemed appropriate that the album itself would lead the way, rather than me as the composer, leading the direction. The journey, not the arrival, became the focus.»
Looking at the cover I was a bit worried that we here would get yet another Enigma/Michael Cretu copy – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. No, “Mystic” is a true, original piece of art, made by one of the finest artists around.
The album starts with the title track. “Mystic” illustrates the above quote beautifully. The slow, almost simplistic melody connects with the listener immediately. There are wonderful contrasts here; first the Oxford Court Monk Choir, then Charlee Brooks‘ vocal and, lastly, the gentle synth. It is impressive sound design. If this had been a classical painting, the synth would have been the divine light from above, illuminating the worshippers with holy light.
“Trance” picks up where “Mystic” left off, adding some nice Middle Eastern flavours as well. It feels a bit like stepping back into the Middle Ages. “Trance” is yet another example of Al Conti’s ability to create interesting and colorful atmospheres. It is an adventure in sound, unique and exciting.
Dreaming and wishing
“Prayer means different things to different people,” writes Al in the booklet. Prayer is about hoping, dreaming and wishing – but also about hard feelings and sorrow. The song “Prayer” balances these conflicting emotions. The gentle piano and violin have a hint of melancholy, telling a story about a life that could have been much better. It is beautiful and thought-provoking at the same time.
Originally Al planned to make this album all about Hildegard von Bingen, a famous 12th century mystic. In the end, one song is about her – and visions in general. The song is quite complex. At the same time it has a wonderful flow, much thanks to Butto’s flute and some amazing studio work. This seems like a great time to mention that Ricky Kej is credited as associate producer on “Mystic”, and Jeff Pearce plays electric guitar on several songs. When we hear Pamela Copus’ on “Contemplation”, it is obvious that this is also a gathering of some of the finest New Age music artists around.
A pilgrimage is the very definition of a journey to spiritual deliverance. Al Conti’s “Pilgrimage” is about movement, excitement and exotic atmospheres. It is a great illumination of what a voyage to the Holy land must have felt like hundreds of year ago.
My favourite track on the album is “Ritual”. Al tells about two experiences he had on his travels. One was in Sicily, the other in Mexico. The places are a world apart, yet they have the same energy and atmosphere. When listening to “Ritual” we get a sense of what it means to take a spiritual path. You have to leave much of this world behind, yet at the same time you gain access to something incredible and divine. Al manages to communicate all of this, and it shows what a marvelous artist he is. The album ends with the two songs “Devotions” and “Anima Aeterna”. Both have lovely melodies and meditative vibe.
In conclusion; “Mystic” by Al Conti is one of the finest New Age music albums from recent times. No wonder this album won “Best World Album” at the ZMR Music Awards. Here we have an artist who is willing to go into the realm of the mystics and report his findings. This makes “Mystic” into a personal, bold and highly interesting album.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here.
Picture/audio copyright Shadowside Music