Opal Fire

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This one-name-only new age upstart -- who, as the son of a UN diplomat, grew up in places like Cuba, Switzerland, and Afghanistan -- creates a wide range of musical atmospheres and exotica around the core of his beautiful acoustic piano. Most of this kind of music is pleasant and very predictable, but Omar is more about unexpected twists and turns. The opening track, "Sugar Coated Love," begins gently and builds slowly toward a rich orchestral crescendo before exploding into a (synthesized) rhythmic jam featuring the sound of an oboe; what opens as a ballad becomes a spry piano number. "Morning Rain" doesn't get quite as bouncy, but breaks from the tender, melancholy opening into a pop/rock piece complete with electric guitar crackle. "Last Dance" incorporates a little flamenco, slightly reminiscent of some of Raúl DiBlasio's work. "Farewell for Now" draws more on Omar's classical background, but doesn't forsake his obvious passion for rock. Other numbers sound like pure, sweeping film scores. It's the rare new ager who can find unique ways to keep songs interesting all the way through, but Omar manages to do the trick. Very promising.

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