Daniele Garella: Alquimia

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The subtitles of previous albums by Italian composer Daniele Garella, born in 1961 -- Music for relaxation, Music for meditation, and Music for inspiration -- establish an expectation that is not contradicted by his subsequent album, Alquimia: Music for spiritual evolution. Garella's work is unabashedly new age music of the simplest variety. The music is entirely diatonic or pentatonic and formally relies heavily on the unvaried repetition of phrases or sections. Garella's melodies are elementary: triadic and meandering, establishing a mood, but with little distinctive character. His accompaniments consist almost completely of arpeggiated chords that move in only the most conventional progressions. The pieces have descriptive titles that could be randomly exchanged without altering the listeners' perception of the pieces. The featured instrument here is the harp, which the composer plays. Most of the pieces also include other instruments, such as violin, recorder, gong, or a voice wordlessly vocalizing. The instruments, and especially the voice, are miked too closely, so most tracks have an edgy, biting quality at odds with the serenity the music is calculated to induce. Played at low volume, the album has utility for listeners looking for background music that's entirely predictable and soothing, guaranteed not to ruffle any sensibilities.

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