John Balint

Paradise Within

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The inventive keyboardist's liner notes include a kind reminder that life is best lived in the moment, and the disc title is obviously urging us to find the greatest joys within our own hearts. These very organic, heartfelt, and spiritually affirming thoughts are slightly undermined, however, by Balint's overreliance on synthesizer machinery rather than the warmth he might have generated with more acoustic piano passages. The purpose of this kind of new age is to soothe, but the opening track's melody is halting, full of stop-and start-percussion and a mix of regular voices, soaring wordless vocals, and a few exotic percussion touches -- an interesting but sometimes jarring blend. "Perfectly Present" features acoustic piano and eases into a gentle hypnosis, but is slightly repetitive, more concerned with vibe than memorability. The title track has nice touches of Eastern exotica but again relies too much on spacy synth sounds; it's like Keiko Matsui's music without the deeper passion and flow. "Lullaby" blends African voices with a koto sound, creating an interesting cultural mix -- but again, it's hardly relaxing because of the contrasts. Later tracks like "Leaving Something More" (with its uncluttered hypnotic acoustic piano melody) achieve the soothing effect much better. But then he's back to too much machinery on "First Cause" and "Revisiting the Past." Balint is definitely creative and you can't knock good intentions, but he's a bit scattershot about the overall vibe he's trying to create.

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