The modern world has given us so many fantastic things, but we have lost something essential along the way; the feeling of being one with nature. This is why I believe James Marienthal’s new album “Speak to the Sky” is important, because it connects us with nature and creation on a deep, metaphysical level. It is inspired by Marienthal’s explorations playing music in nature. When he “speaks to the sky” using his flutes, nature seems to answer. There is no other way to describe it. “Speak to the Sky” offers a deeply rewarding listening experience. It creates an atmosphere that your intuition will recognize as something long-lost and profoundly meaningful. There is no doubt that Marienthal has delivered one of 2020’s finest meditation albums, just when the world needs it the most.
James Marienthal studied music and jazz improvisation at Bard College and Naropa University. In 1986 he founded Silver Wave Records (Peter Kater & R. Carlos Nakai, Mary Youngblood, Joanne Shenandoah, and more) with the mission of presenting quality innovative music to the world while being a positive force in people’s lives. Marienthal plays various indigenous flutes, silver flute, piano, and percussion. In 2018 he released the album “Mysteries of the Night, Alive Inside The Tank”, which was very successful (#1 Healing Arts Music album of 2018 plus a top 10 worldwide New Age radio hit on ZMR). “Speak to the Sky” features all original compositions, and the title track features Grammy-winning producer Tom Wasinger playing lap steel guitar.
The album-opener is called “First Breath”. The meditative bell fades wonderfully into the sound of the flute. At first, it might sound lonely, perhaps even sad. But soon, you will realize that it is a wake-up-call, reaching out to the forces out there and asking for their attention. We also hear the lifegiving breath, breathing in and out. It ends with a meditative bell, too, ending the “birth of the album”.
“Wondering Who” is a brilliant piece! We live in a time where we think we have almost all the answers, while people of the distant past were wondering a lot more. I believe it is healthy to wonder; It is the source of all spirituality. Marienthal’s flute sounds rich and close, and when the female vocalization (Arwen Ek) comes on, she sings the same “song” as the flute. It is a duet made in heaven. I also like how the song comes and goes, almost stopping before continuing, using silence proactively. The ending is a bit abrupt, making you prepare your ears for the following piece.
Speak to the Sky
The title track is almost like an EP within the album. The flute is very close. Suddenly Tom Wasinger’s lap steel guitar cuts in. I like the change of flute and how it suddenly has several “voices”. “Speak to the Sky” is nothing short of masterful; If the piece is 6 minutes or 60 minutes, I couldn’t tell (I found myself looking for the replay button, wanting to extend the meditation). It seems to contain a whole cosmology.
“Escondida” is a bare and raw piece. The lone flute and female vocalization are both beautiful and haunting and seem to bring out something that has been hidden for a long time. Perhaps it is Mother Earth herself? “Navajo Twilight” continues where “Escondida” left off. Now there is a deep echo on the flute, which gives a feeling of tremendous space. On “Returning Home” a steel-string guitar comes out of nowhere. It is a lovely effect, and the flute, vocalization, and guitar sound fantastic. It is a very welcoming sound.
Then something incredible happens (spoiler alert!); “Silence Seen” features a piano and cello. It is a wonderful and reflective piece, a perfect conclusion to the meditation. “A Terraplace of Time” is almost a bonus track and a comment on the importance of time and how everything changes.
In conclusion: James Marienthal’s “Speak to the Sky” feels like much more than 46 minutes of music. While listening, it is almost as if you can feel and smell nature – which is relaxing, soothing, and grounding. It can also serve as a travel companion. Bring a loudspeaker on a hike, turn up the volume and let it “speak to the sky” – and nature around you will feel alive, almost by magic. There is no doubt that Marienthal has delivered one of 2020’s finest meditation albums, just when the world needed it the most.
If there is one thing both ancient cultures and the Bible agree upon, is that the sky will answer, always.
If you like what you hear, remember to check out “Mysteries of the Night, Alive Inside The Tank”, which is also highly recommended!
Score: 96/100 – See our scoring policy
For more information and music samples, visit jamesmarienthal.com