VALERIE ROMANOFF, Healing Music, Vol. 2
By: Jonathan Widran
Most of the critical praise thus far and deservedly heaped on composer, multi-instrumentalist, and musical visionary Valerie Romanoff’s latest epic collection Healing Music, Vol. 2 focuses on the artist’s powerful meditative and melodic artistry. Much is made of her seemingly otherworldly ability to use melodic, harmonic and rhythmic textures and a variety of instruments – her guitar, piano and synthesizers, along with Tom Rossi’s flute, kora and percussion and Stevin McNamara’s hypnotic sitar, which pulls our hearts ever Eastward – to soothe and caress our bodies and souls via what the artist calls “the transformative nature of sound.”
We eagerly learn about the myriad of influences she brings forth and fuses into her sonic landscapes, which is everything from world beat new age, jazz, rock and chill music. We’re also intrigued by the three-pronged foundation at the heart of her compositional style: Still, Chill, Thrill – and even without the parenthetical distinctions on each title, we know that this two disc collection is all about those fascinating places where “still” dreams alongside “chill” to create a majestic flow. Also of note is the way Sedona inspired so much of the artist’s life, education and multi-faceted musical career.
As spot on as all this collective divine wonder over Romanoff’s music is, it misses the larger picture – why this music is not only brilliant in its fusion of straightforward magical melodies and complex exotic textures, but also so crucial to us in this day and age. Perhaps in happier times, when the world and environment is in a healthier, more hopeful frame of mind, a collection like Healing Music Vol. 2 might be simply the most perfect background music ever for a deep tissue massage, or beautiful ambience for destressing after a difficult day. But clearly when the planet and its people are suffering, when our current media cycle allows us to be privy to these painful realities, music like this is more than escape. It’s an essential survival tool. Romanoff’s studies are in Mind Body Spirit Psychotherapy, but she provides as much relief as any med a dedicated M.D could provide.
Disc One (the main program) begins with two expansive “still” pieces that paint gorgeous images of “Pink Skies Over Still Water” and “Pink Skies Over Waves.” We are drawn immediately into the transcendent exotic world where our hearts can find tranquility (for 15 minutes, at least) amidst the sitar, lush flute and bright, hypnotic/guitar strumming, and no harm can come as gentle floating thoughts breeze in. Romanoff introduces her “chill” vibe on the gently percussive, joyfully loping “Beyond The Bend,” which is powerful soul travel carried along with a vibrant groove. The 17+ minutes of “Dawn of Tao” allow her to fashion the perfect “still/chill” hybrid, easing quickly into a melodic, gently rhythmic sensual flow enhanced by exotic percussion, then bringing in whimsical flute, breathy atmospheres and snappy acoustic guitar lines a deeper synthesis of sounds.
The journey then brings us into more “still”ness via the exotic ambiences of “Backdrop” and the stark guitar strumming of “Moving Glass,” then takes us deeper into “chill territory” with a Beatmix instrumental of the slow grooving “Om Shanti Shalom,” where rich exotica meets sensual and visceral electronica. Its irresistible beats will help you understand how Romanoff got her rep as a multi-groove musician. “Prelude Went Beyond the Bend,” the final track on the main disc, is another “still/chill” delight. It’s a vibrant symphonic fusion jam where guitar jangle, sitar madness, flute whimsy and folksy rhythms immerse us so deeply in the fun, spirit and healing that waking up to the chaotic world simply doesn’t seem like a viable option – at least not for a while.
Disc Two is where transcendence meets commercial/promotional considerations, providing excellent edited versions of these wondrous pieces that make them viable for radio airplay. There’s also an uninterrupted “Pink Skies: Full Suite,” which runs over 17 minutes and allows one to immerse in the free flow without any arbitrary time constraints. While Romanoff is clearly an artist whose musical soul is set on and draws from some eternal realm, she is also very much an artist of our time, providing not only escape from the chaos but empowering and inspirational musical fuel to combat the powers and principalities that rage beyond our control. Healing Music, Vol 2 provides strength at broken places, a path to transcend internally even as we engage in the solving of the day to day ills that plague us.