ZMR - RJ Lannan
One World Music Radio
ZMR - Bill Binkelman
"Beauty comes in many forms, and Al Conti’s album, ‘Mystic’, is one of the most beautiful of all. Sweeping vistas of exotic places, defined through music, deeply move the soul. Each album Al creates embraces a whole new level of magnificence, and ‘Mystic’ transcends them all.”
-- Diane Arkenstone, New Age recording Artist.
Al Conti’s “Mystic” is an elegant and seamless landscape of shifting exotic textures, colors, and emotions. The production is immaculate: rich, clean, yet never overstated. There is a beautiful optimism to this music, an exotic world that sparkles and resonates with mystery, warmth and innocence.
-- Chris Spheeris, composer, recording artist
"Missing from the music scene for four years, multi-instrumentalist Al Conti returns with yet another masterful recording which blends his strong affinity for world fusion music with the widespread appeal of new age melodicism. Surrounding himself with stellar talent including Grammy-winner Ricky Kej, acclaimed vocalist Charlee Brooks, guitar virtuoso Jeff Pearce, and 2002's Pamela and Randy Copus, (among others), Conti whisks the listener away to exotic places and deeply spiritual soundscapes. Mystic is an album of sensual rhythms and romantic melodies, featuring an assortment of world music influences and brimming with ancient mystery, lush beauty, and infectious energy."
-- Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter
Reviewer: Kathy Parsons
Date: November 16, 2016.
"Four years in the making, Mystic is the anxiously-anticipated sixth album from Al Conti, one of the greatest story-tellers in the “new age” music genre. Nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award, Conti’s albums are always a special treat because every detail is so well thought-out and beautifully-designed. The 8-panel digipak for Mystic contains a wealth of information about Conti’s journey in creating the album as well as for each of the nine tracks. He composed, arranged and performed all of the music. His impressive guest list of additional musicians includes Ricky Kej, who aided in production as well as playing on the album; Pamela and Randy Copus of 2002; guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Pearce; and vocalist Charlee Brooks, who has worked with another legendary musical storyteller, David Arkenstone, for the past few years.
It is interesting to note that Conti used a very different process in composing the music for this album in that his previous projects had deadlines, release dates and expectations in place before any of the music was recorded. Conti explains: “As this album is about the inner mystical journey to spiritual deliverance, it 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.”
The album begins with the sound of a bell and the Oxford Court Monk Choir, sending us immediately back in time. Charlee Brooks’ timeless, haunting voice emerges, vocalizing without words. The monks return backed by shimmering atmospheric sounds. It is easy to imagine this title track being performed in a very large, open space. Jeff Pearce’s electric guitar is both exotic and contemporary, but the use of ancient ethnic percussion instruments as well as keyboards creates a kind of push and pull of time periods, making the music timeless. In the life of a mystic, a trance state can lead to communion with a higher source and to a higher level of being. In “Trance,” Conti conveys that state with an assortment of Middle Eastern instruments. “Pilgrimage” is loosely based on traditional music that was arranged and adapted by Conti. It begins with a slow and exotic violin solo, gradually adding more instruments and rhythms. Once the pilgrimage is underway, the music becomes much livelier, more upbeat and almost dancelike - a favorite! Pamela Copus performs on harp in “Contemplation” - gentle and hypnotic. Jeff Pearce also performs on electric guitar, keeping the mood subtle and introspective. Rituals come in many forms from very formal and elaborate to the mundane steps we take before retiring for the night. In this piece (“Ritual”), strong rhythmic elements propel the beautiful melodic passages and make them sparkle - another favorite. “Devotion” is based on a traditional Middle Ages pilgrimage song and reflects on the sacrifices made to follow a life of devotion. “Anima Aeterna” translates as “Eternal Soul,” the most mystical of all concepts. Charlee Brooks returns on this closing track that bids “farewell” to those on the journey. Poignant and haunting, it’s a beautiful conclusion to this excellent album.
Mystic is another musical masterpiece from Al Conti! It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!"
Publication: Zone Music Reporter
Reviewer: RJ Lannan
Date: December 2016
"With Mist and Fire, Light and Stars
My favorite Al Conti album to date was Scheherazade up until he produced his latest opus called Mystic. Conti has always been able to get out of body musically and transform his compositions into earthy expressions no matter what time period or what location. On Mystic he travels around the planet evoking the mysteries of the ancients and the powers of spirituality. Every culture has a mystic, be it a shaman, a priest, an imam, a soothsayer or an oracle. They guide us in the direction of our faith and unite us to the Gods, sometimes directly and sometimes in mysterious ways.
The title tune, Mystic opens with the tintinnabulation of a distant bell and the voice of a solitary seraph, Charlee Brooks. It is a call, a beckoning to join in the journey. The song is a promise that we will discover many great things; much that we do not know and many things we do know, but must search within to finds the answers. Follow.
The tune, Prayer had a tinge of oriental influences between the harmonic piano and the fluttering violin as the theme churned up images of man, arms raised to the heavens, begs for guidance and grace. Prayer is humankind’s offering to God what is in our hearts, whether it be thanks or questions. Mahatma Gandhi wrote of prayer, “Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Pilgrimage opens with a marvelous nomadic violin by Manoj George and the tune sounds traditional, but suddenly energy flows, warmth is exuded and the journey begins in earnest. There is a lively rhythm as each percussive beat is a footstep, ever going forward. Our goal might be to the top of a distant mountain or down into the depths of a dark cave, but rest assured for we are never alone.
The magical harp of Pamela Copus (2002) opens the song, Contemplation. The tune is too lyrical to be meditative, but instead takes on the mantle of a mythical theme. The music speaks of valleys, forests, and rivers. And then we come to that magic place. Be prepared to be amazed.
There are many Gods unseen, many miracles not easily explained, but there is always faith and with faith comes devotion. Conti’s tune Devotion is a celebration of that faith, a thank you, and an acknowledgement of a positive force greater than oneself. The music is decidedly upbeat as if for a dance. It may be around a campfire or under sparkling stars, but its gratitude is obvious even when heard in the darkest places.
The final track is called Anima Aeterna, Eternal Soul. It features the talents of Charlee Brooks on vocals, Varsha Kej on percussion, Jeff Pearce on electric guitar, and Ganesh Mathur on esraj, a rare stringed instrument from northern India. The tune is exotic and blissful. There is a deep poignancy to the melody, a promise of a hopeful beginning and wonderful ending, the lemniscuses of forthright faith.
The blend of female vocals, male chant chorus, and a multitude of ethnic as well as traditional instruments makes this album extremely complex, but balances it with a reverently universal appeal. Mystics rarely have the jurisdictional boundaries that harangue earthly kings and princes. On Mystic, brilliant composer Al Conti has put together a collection of musical invocations that not only praise the wellspring of many beliefs, but also conveys a unity that transcends global distances."
Rating: Very Good+
Reviewer: Samantha Garcia
Date: October 2016
"Al Conti ‘s latest oeuvre, Mystic, is capable of bringing any listener to tears. Its beauty and breadth is compounded of imagery and sounds found in dreams and fantasies. Conti’s musical musings will be sure to transpose anyone into a different realm from the very beginning. Perfect for anyone looking to partake in a grandiose journey of the senses.
The title and opening track “Mystic” begins with monastic church bells and chanting before delving into chill-inducing female vocals that sound like a goddess calling down from the heavens to her subjects below. It’s a song that artfully blends the spiritual with the earthly. The following track “Trance” takes us east to a Middle Eastern wonderland. The seductive sounds conjured in this piece; imbued with doumbek beats, render the listener with fantasies of Scheherazade and her exotic lands of endless dunes.
Towards the middle of the album, the song “Visions” artfully fuses together chamber music sensibility with heavy Indian inspiration. The aptly named oeuvre is rife with visions of graceful, ornately dressed dancers spinning and whirling to the sounds of the table beats. In contrast, “Contemplation” puts a contemporary spin on the same Renaissance-esque sound that serves as the album’s backbone. Simple in its complexities, the song serves as a dreamy intermission that seems to bring the momentum of the album to a temporary standstill.
Conti finishes off Mystic with the powerful and meditative “Anima Aeterna.” A beautiful sarangi introduction welcomes the listener into a realm outside of daily consciousness. It progresses to the sounds of angelic female vocals interspersed with table drumming and a soaring flute symphony. The closing track emanates a divine healing energy that wraps the album up perfectly.
Four years in the making, Mystic serves as a glimpse into Al Conti’s personal spiritual journey. He poured his heart and soul into the sixth work of his musical career and the results are nothing short of magic."
Reviewer: Rotcod Zzaj
Date: November 2016
"It’s been a bit since I last reviewed Al’s fabulous works (issue # 132, to be exact)… this exciting new release from him is assuredly the best I’ve heard from him (yet)! Al is joined by some fabulous talents on this sonic adventure – Charlee Brooks (vocalist, David Arkenstone); Pamela Copus (Top Billboard duo 2002); Grammy Winner Ricky Kej and Award Winning Jeff Pearce – and together, they will transport you to another time – the far (and immediate) FUTURE! As you listen to the mysterious tones and percussives on “Trance“, you may think you’re walking through a Suq (market) somewhere in ancient times. I found the wonderful flute work on “Visions” to be totally engaging, and it’s the type of music that “haunts” your head… you’ll find yourself coming back to this one often. Per the one-sheet notes, Al says that the music took four years for his inspiration, based on the life 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen, together, and it’s clear from pieces like my personal favorite of the nine compositions on the album, “Contemplation“, with the beautiful harp intro, that he realized his dream on this fantastic musical journey. I give Al and all his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most inspiring release”!
Publication: One World Music Radio
Reviewer: Steve Sheppard
Date: November 2016
"I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to be able to write this review for Al Conti, his last release, The Blue Rose turned my life around and forever I will be truly grateful. Now to have his latest album at my door, called Mystic, is a delight, as I know what will follow will be sublime moments of musical bliss.
We’re not disappointed dear reader. The opening piece; the proud title track Mystic is amazing, and starts with the chiming of a bell and some wonderful Gregorian styled vocalisations. This for me is always a winner, the mood and scene is immediately set. Ricky Kej’s influence on this album can be heard from the off and when you also include the stunningly beautiful vocals of Charlie Brooks, you have simply the perfect opening piece to start an album with; this also happens to be the longest composition at well over eight minutes as well.
We follow that up with Trance; there is a real East meets Mediterranean feel to this arrangement. I adored the multi instrumental nature of this piece and it reminds me slightly of some of the folk music we have here in the mountain villages in Cyprus at times. We can sample Ricky Kej on Harmonium, Vanil Veigas on santoor (a form of Dulcimer) and Manoj George, violin. There efforts really create for us a wonderfully ethnic composition full of colour and life.
Prayer is an interesting composition that is filled with different meanings and pathways to understand and travel. For me prayer is a joining of my letting go, and becoming at one with all that there is, a symbiosis of spirt perhaps. Al Conti’s creation does just that, the smooth flow, the gentle percussion and wonderful Violin by Manoj George combined with the ever narrating piano, all gift us a piece filled with the one thing were all after, balance.
This incredibly spiritual album continues with its lush flow into the many realms of beauty and calmness, and tracks like Visions continue that stimulating river of inner peace. The Butto flute can be heard drifting like smoke through this track, and amidst the percussive brilliance; the song weaves a pattern of musical genius with tenderness at the helm, and a rhythmic pulse at its very core.
Along the dusty desert path we go on our Pilgrimage. We all must make our own journeys in life, and we could do so with ease using this composition as the soundtrack of the tour itself. The arrangement has great movement and flow, the powerful tempo assists that motion, combined with some absolutely outstanding guitar by Jeff Pearce.
A moment of reflection is called for now on the piece Contemplation. The bass and guitars here are stunningly sublime, but once more Conti has it about right in its structure and composition. The lightness of this song is utterly charming and one could easily sit looking down upon a vast valley in total contemplation of things past, present and future. This was one of my favourite tracks off the album, and also features Pamela Copus from 2002 on Harp.
We now move into the last third of the release Mystic by Al Conti. A light but up-tempo percussive beat manifests the piece Ritual for us, and we may well use this track to begin our winter solstice here in a few days’ time, it has that perfect pattern of ritualistic drumming to raise the energies, a really lively and vibrant arrangement indeed.
Our penultimate offering is called Devotion, once more Conti manifests something very simple, but effective. There is again a sense of movement here, as if we are entering into a journey of a vast commitment. The combinations of Darbuka and Tabla here were undeniably addictive to listen to as well.
So, dear reader, we are at the final piece of album, Mystic by Al Conti and this gift is entitled Anima Aeterna. This is one very clever way to leave the release. We complete the circle as Charlie Brooks joins us on vocals once more, but the melody here is amazing and deeply emotive and the added symphonic arrangement, really made this composition the perfect piece to leave, what has been a truly wonderful musical journey.
Mystic by Al Conti is a class album that oozes quality out of every pore of its being. In my view the artist never fails to be the true creator of superior instrumental music and to surround you with truly masterful artistes and contributors on this release, must make this album destined for a future award, contemporary instrumental music simply doesn’t come any better than this."
Publication: Midwest Record
Date: October 13, 2016
"Loreena McKennitt may have stopped making Loreena McKennitt records, but apparently Conti hasn't. Originally inspired by the life of Hildegard von Bingen, this set that journeys back to what it must have been like in the life and times of a 12th century mystic shows there's still new ground to be broken in new age/chant music. A grand and sweeping date that bands together a bunch of current rising new age superstars to let them show off their best, even the most stringent anti-granola eater will stop and give pause to the depth and scope this soundscape offers. This is a must for the medieval mystic lurking within you. "
Reviewer: Jonathan Widran
Date: October 2016
"Even before inviting us into the grand sweeping musical experience of his latest masterwork Mystic, Grammy nominated new age and world fusion composer arranger and multi-instrumentalist Al Conti intrigues us with the darkness and light of the CD’s compelling artwork. In a monastic setting, a lone seeker dressed in a red robe stands before a mysterious black door, as sunlight pours through stately columns on the left, but not the right. We wonder, is he contemplating a trip towards the light, or towards exploring the mystery of the other side? Or is he the generator of the light that’s flowing out? As we contemplate these questions, Conti sets the musical stage for this mystical opening of a door on the opening title track by laying down a haunting ambience behind the ethereal wordless vocals of Charlee Brooks and The Oxford Court Monk Choir.
These bookend the piece and helps it build to a dramatic conclusion – which of course, is just the beginning of the journey. As a sensual groove and exotic keyboard melody take hold, Conti is pulling (rather sweeping!) us toward the heart of his exploratory journey – given extra emotional heft by Butto’s whimsical flute solo. Infusing the soul with relaxation, “Trance” puts us in a moody, musically liquid space before evolving into an exotic and hypnotic ballad featuring an elegant lead melody on the Indian santoor (played by Vanil Veigas, whose mastery graces a total of seven tracks).
Driven by Conti’s elegant, contemplative piano melody and some later caressing string harmonies and a gentle violin solo by Manoj George, we are drawn into a “Prayer” whose ultimate aim is to become one with the cosmos – and grateful for all things. In this state, it’s easy to have “Visions” of what Conti’s inspiration, 12th Century mystic Hildegard von Bingen, called “the shade of living light.” Conti proves a masterful weaver of trippy sonic delights here, tying seamlessly together a gentle flute line, a resonant santoor melody and a deepening wash of dreamy ambience even before the rhythms enter the picture via Karthik K’s ever present tabla. The stark, ambient and trance-inducing “Pilgrimage” was inspired by Spain’s renowned Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. It features an initial conversation between dark and light elements via Conti’s keyboard melody and George’s violin – then as the tempo picks up, Conti swirls his ancient flavored keys with a lively, dancing violin and the fiery electric guitar of another guest star, Jeff Pearce.
The chamber music and rock influenced “Contemplation” features the mystical charms of another special guest, harpist Pamela Copus (2002) interacting with George’s soulful violin lines; later in the piece, Pearce’s soulful and crisp electric guitar echoes sweetly over the lush ambience, then creates a hypnotic steel string harmony behind the harp melody. “Ritual” alternates atmospheric dreaminess with dramatic drums and percussion fills, bells and powerful keyboard chords. Underneath all that is the deep rhythm of a beating heart, as if on a mission to pump life into the spirit. Capturing the lighthearted side of Conti’s fluid musical spirituality, “Devotion” is a playful and poppy, sensual and infectious romp based on a pilgrimage song from the Middle Ages. It was inspired by a visit to a cloister and reflects humanity’s constant struggle to sustain one’s own devotion and balance.
The artist wraps the collection with “Anima Aeterna,” a contemplation of one of the most mystical concepts of all, the human soul. He expresses this never ending mystery via Brooks’ dreamy vocalizing, lush atmospheres, a unique combination of santoor, electric guitar, tabla and other exotic elements. With this artful, sweeping blend, Conti helps us explore the eternal while inspiring the mystic in us all to engage in our surroundings.
Mystic is deep and insightful work that can be grasped on many emotional and spiritual levels. While it can be enjoyed all the way through for its dual ability to relax and exhilarate, upon further careful listens, one comes to appreciate the artist’s incredible tapestry of textures." – Jonathan Widran
Reviewer: Vivek Kumar
Date: January 2017
"It is difficult to create a sound for the phenomenon which is beyond sound, yet considered the very source of sound. However, the best creativity lies in trying it, and this is what mystics, poets, musicians and artists of various ages, lands and tastes have been trying to do, filling our world with so much variety of creative ingenuity that sometimes you feel overwhelmed and choked with emotions.
The album ‘Mystic’ is a mix of various such tastes – it’s rich in its tenor, assortment and flavor. It does not compel you to meditate on the divine but often makes you lose yourself in a slow dance. The topping of Indian flavor is noticeable on almost all the tracks, which definitely give a lot of rhythm to the songs.
As Al mentions in his notes that he chose a different approach while composing this album, the tracks carry a different mood. Usually, you expect a lot of deep-throated sounds that are hard to discern but keep you rooted to a place in such kind of albums. But there is lot of freshness and light in this album. Al collaborated with Ricky [Kej] and the duo has given it a good vibrancy. The mystic of this album is not in a sad mood to say–he is joyous and celebrating in a subdued, docile manner.
I really liked the richness and variety that Al brought to this album–starting with Georgian chants from the Oxford Court Monk Choir to the Indian string instrument Esraj in the ninth track. The arrangement of using vocals with different Western as well as Eastern instrument is not easily done but Al has doen it beautifully.
If you are up to shed the drowsiness of a inactive state that you feel you have fallen into, and want to shake some muscles in slow yet graceful movements, this is the album you will pick." – Vivek Kumar
Date: January 30, 2017
"Al Conti is a Grammy-nominated recording artist whose latest album, Mystic, casts a seductive veil of enchantment upon a culturally rich and beautiful landscape. Beautifully packaged with artwork that visually captures the essence of the music just perfectly, the album’s nine outstanding compositions are likewise each accompanied by short stories that serve to further give the listener glimpses into the past. Conti wrote, arranged and performed the compositions, while two tracks (“Pilgrimage” and “Devotion”) were loosely based on traditional music that he arranged and adapted. Composed within a style that could perhaps be described as new age world fusion, the album draws most notably from Mediterranean, Near-Eastern, Persian and Indian cultural influences. A talented team of guest musicians throughout includes Grammy award-winning artist Ricky Kej, who serves as associate producer as well as lends additional programming, keyboards and harmonium. Vanil Veigas likewise provides additional programming, keyboards and santoor. Also joining the lineup is Jeff Pearce on electric guitar, Charlee Brooks on vocals, Pamela Copus (of 2002) on harp, Karthik K. on tabla, Butto on flute, and Jenevieve D’Silva on ghatam, cajon and assorted percussion.
“Mystic” opens the album with the solemn toll of a church bell followed by the reverent intonations of The Oxford Court Monk Choir. A stunningly beautiful introduction, it reminds me somewhat of the opening piece, “The Mystic’s Dream”, from Lorenna McKennitt’s The Mask and Mirror album. Jeff Pearce lends subtle brushes of electric guitar, as the soaring wordless vocals of Charlee Brooks join the monk choir – their voices collectively echoing among the halls of what feels like a vast cathedral hidden in the mountainous mists somewhere. An earthy and sensual rhythm comprised of both Indian and electronic percussion ensues, as the piece is carried along by a gypsy-like melody led by an arrangement of flute and other exotic instruments. “Trance” follows next and is one of my favorite pieces on the album, bringing to mind that of a night caravan trekking across the desert, as brushes of chimes remind me of twinkling stars spread across the sky. This piece is likewise supported by an earthy, sultry rhythm accentuated by Indian tabla drums, and showcases an exquisitely exotic melody comprised of santoor and harmonium. The more contemplative sixth track, “Contemplation”, is another favorite of mine which incorporates a distinctly Celtic flavor, blending ancient western and eastern musical influences to perfection. Showcasing Pamela Copus on harp, she leads the lovely composition with a lulling melody among a luxurious arrangement of instruments that include tabla, santoor and electric guitars. Another personal favorite is the seventh track, “Ritual”, which is dominated by an encompassing rhythm, as it seemingly paints a picture of festive lights and ecstatic dances by the Mediterranean seashore. Wrapping up this magical, mystical journey is the soulfully shining yet soothingly serene “Anima Aeterna”, which concludes with Charlee Brooks singing among of sea of both exotic and orchestral instruments.
Sensually imbued with a haunting mystique, Mystic could easily serve as the perfect soundtrack to an Arabian Nights tale. For comparison’s sake, those who are especially fond of more world-flavored works by Chris Spheeris, David Arkenstone and Loreena McKennitt are almost certain to relish this album as well. The music herein is earthy yet fiery, making the album a perfect companion for sacred dance and ritual. While listening to these breathtaking compositions, images frequently came to mind of temple dances, candlelit chambers and travelling nomads in the desert. A luxuriant weaving of cultures veiled in mystery, ecstasy and sensuality, Mystic is exemplary of new age world fusion at its finest!" ~Candice Michelle
Publication: MuzicMan Reviews
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Date: January 30, 2017
"People that record new age music are a closely-knit family from around the world. If you do not know someone and you are involved in the genre in some fashion, you will come to know them eventually. With that spirit of fellowship and a common bond, great music is then created. Late last year, Al Conti released an extremely successful recording. Mystic arrived to the delight of people in the music business and fans alike.
The multitalented Mr. Conti and friends such as Jeff Pearce (electric guitar), Pamela Copus (harps), Charlee Brooks (vocals) and Ricky Kej (associate producer) add their magical talents to the mix.
The compositions feature chant, udu, hurdy gurdy, cittern, lutes, violins, and electric guitars. The cinematic tracks and their multitude of energies and sound sweep you away. Picture the wind that takes away the sands from the desert floor. And in a literal sense, as if you are somewhere in the Middle East taking a musical magic carpet ride through the beginning of time and civilization. Just listen and ride the waves of music that surround you and then you are instantly there.
The opening tittle track “Mystic” is a door opener into a different world and the anticipation of “Ritual” brings thoughts of ancient people paying tribute to their gods and idols as you await a ceremony in your mind’s eye.
If you happen to enjoy consistency in a thematic and musical sense and enjoy listening for those two elements colliding to form beauty, then listen closely. Mystic will excite you, soothe your soul and take on an adventure of your own design. The music makes all this unfold before you and then your mind, body and spirit indulge it to lead the way, and that it does.
Mystic is more than befitting its name, it is art and poetry in motion. The music cycles through your being and transports you far away from inside your own mind to a different spiritual plane. Music the great healer, is on awesome display on this recording. I loved every minute of it."
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Publication: Zone Music Reporter
Reviewer: Bill Binkelman
Date: March 6, 2017
"After traveling around the world musicals, with stops in the Arabian Desert (Scheherazade), the birthplace of the Vikings (Northern Seas), and the Far East, (The Blue Rose), Multi-instrumentalist Al Conti took a recording break and moved his personal life geographically from the north USA to the south. Coinciding with this change of locale was a desire to journey inward and explore a different aspect of his music. This led to examining the life of the Hildegard Von Bingen, a remarkable woman from the ninth-tenth century - a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, and visionary Christian mystic. While the album Mystic was supposed to be centered around her life, it ended up, in organic fashion (as happens many times with musicians), going where it will. The album’s focus widened to include the entire concept of the "mystic," which according to dictionary.com is "a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect."
What this translates to in Conti's capable and talented hands is his most ambitious, deeply textured, and well-actualized album to date. It would not be a reach to call this his masterpiece, except since his career is still relatively short, it might be premature to assume he won't someday top it. Conti enlisted the artistic help of a fair number of folks, including (but not limited to) vocalist Charlee Brooks, harpist Pamela Copus, guitarist Jeff Pearce, and Grammy-winner Ricky Kej. Also along for the ride are some notable world beat artists playing assorted global instruments, e.g. esraj, santoor, darbuka. Conti wields the piano and keyboards and programming with contributions from Kej and Vanil Veigas.
Trying to describe Mystic in usual terms proves to be difficult, as the nine tracks each offer something different, and sometimes an individual song will morph through various phases, such as the nearly nine-minute long opening title track which opens with church bells and choirs and Charlee Brooks’ angelic wordless vocals but then transitions into a rhythmic chill-out tune about 3 minutes in with both programmed and ethnic beats. If you have heard or purchased previous Conti albums, you will find the production quality has taken a sizable step forward (and that is saying something because previous releases were all very well produced). You will also find the music to be broader, less focused on a specific motif or influence. However, two things are retained. One is Conti’s absurd attention to detail which is among the best in contemporary instrumental music. The other is that no matter what style or influence is present in the music, it is always not just accessible but enjoyable, with a strong sense of melody and an abundance of infectious rhythms.
With a title like Mystic, you can imagine that the mood of the music will be, well, mysterious and spiritual (not in any specific religious way, but in a way that feels, I suppose, ancient and reverential). This is quite a feat given there is also a contemporary (i.e. world fusion-centered with rhythm programming and keyboards) aspect to the music too. Conti’s done this kind of balancing act before, of course (Scheherazade is a great example) but here it’s even more pronounced.
As I stated two paragraphs above, describing in detail the actual songs on this album would be daunting indeed. While there are moments of high energy (the latter half of “Pilgrimage,” for example), the closest the album gets to being joyous may be on “Devotion,” and while the assorted musical elements still retain some sense of the haunting quality of mysticism, here the Eastern European/Mediterranean influence colors the atmosphere with at least the appearance of good cheer. I hesitate to use the word “heady” in describing the music on Mystic, but this is not your garden variety world/chill-out mixture. Because of this, Mystic is an album to delve into deeply, and listening with headphones is preferable. There’s so much going on here, but make no mistake, the album is cohesive and presents a unified musical vision, despite the variety of styles scattered throughout the nine tracks. I must say I don’t know how Al Conti will top this amazing feat, but I know he is going to try. Maybe he needs to move again? (just kidding Al, you can stay put for a while)."
Zone Music Reporter
Click a title below to read the review.