Canyons of Light

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Capturing visual atmospheres with musical paintbrushes, Zazen's extraordinary, impressionistic view of the Southwest comes to vibrant life on Canyons of Light, a travelogue through the sweeping parks of Utah; Native American rumblings in the pink, red, and orange landscapes of New Mexico and Arizona; and the desert, mountains, and waterscapes of California and Nevada. The region that defies traditional adjectives of beauty has been a popular means of instrumental inspiration and shifting perspective in recent years (see Michael Gettel, Nicholas Gunn, Larry Cansler), but Zazen's approach is more on par with labelmates Tangerine Dream's take on the Grand Canyon; that is, electronic synth soundscapes driven by hypnotic, brooding, and percussive skylines and soaring flavors complemented with acoustic guitar sauciness. The trio -- Steve Kaplan on keys, Joaquin Lievano on guitars, and Andy West on bass -- organizes its tourbook with three brief stops in each state. In Utah, they explore the whimsy of Zion's rock formations, while in Taos and Zuni, New Mexico, they uncover ethnic flute riches and a respect for the reservations. The Grand Canyon, tiptoed over at first light, is another sight and sound to behold. A climb up Mt. Shasta proves invigorating, as does a rattlesnake race through the eerie expanses of Joshua Tree.

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