Various Artists

A Moonlight Retreat: The Sound of Mystery [Single Disc]

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There ought to be a bright yellow sticker on this double disc from the Style label that states explicitly what the content is, what it is not, and most important of all, who it is by. Unfortunately, the category tag on the spine, Classical Lifestyle, and the title, A Moonlight Retreat: The Sound of Mystery, may suggest to the unwary that this might be a collection of mellow classical pieces, and some hapless purchasers may guess that it's a compilation of nocturnes or other quiet, evocative pieces by composers of some repute. Instead, it is an anonymous compilation of bland and tedious synthesized improvisations with pretentious titles alluding to Stonehenge to make it look like a new age CD; so the classical identification is utterly bogus. The MIDI keyboards and drum machines that hum, drone, and click across this blasé album must have been played by someone, presumably by a musical functionary too embarrassed to be named, yet nowhere on this package is there any credit given, except in small print for the Delta Entertainment Corporation and the package designer. So we really are presented with a mystery, not of any aesthetic values or metaphysical significance, but only about dubious marketing ploys and artistic deception. What were they thinking? The mindless pieces in this collection run on in a forgetful way, predictably drifting back and forth between sugary lullabies in major keys to brooding dirges in minor keys, without any sense of structure, direction, or hints of human expression. On these grounds, the album may be dismissed as a failure by serious listeners, yet it is not much worse than other contemporary instrumental discs that are only meant to be played as background music. However, something is really wrong when no one steps up to take credit for this mediocre work; even if it is the weakest pap, someone needs to take the rap. Caveat emptor.

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