Intended to bring the listener "to a state of relaxation and reflection," according to the liner notes, Ethereal Journey succeeds very well at creating peaceful, restful synth atmospheres well suited to deep relaxation or meditation. Each track takes more or less the same form, constructed from several different synth loops interwoven with electronic percussion and sometimes guitar (or guitar-like sounds, anyway). On the plus side, the repeated loops can induce a state of almost hypnotic relaxation; on the minus side, they can also get kind of old when they aren't varied enough to sustain interest throughout a given song.
Happily, most of the tracks fall on the plus side of that equation. "Endless Frontiers" particularly impressed me. The track begins with slow-plucked guitar laid over a foundational drone; electronic percussion and a bouncy synth loop build outward from there. As you listen, the world seems to drop away, boundaries opening and space expanding all around you as your mind floats free of its usual fetters and explores the vast universe within and without. And "Whale's Lullaby" does an excellent job of seamlessly interweaving natural and electronic sounds throughout, with whale songs and water burbles from the deep ocean blending into low drones, string sounds and electronic space-blips, and a high-toned, calliope-like "light organ" synth line. The piece makes me think of the work of the artist who paints whales swimming among the stars; "Whale's Lullaby" makes a similarly persuasive analogy between the deep oceans and deep space through music. In the end, Ethereal Journey is well worth a listen if you're looking for a peaceful, uplifting, New Age musical experience.
Ray Leonard Records, 25531 Crockett Lane, Stevenson Ranch, CA, 91381, http://www.RayLeonardRecords.com