Valley in the Clouds, David Arkenstone's Narada debut, established the new age composer's effortless blend of worldly, contemporary instrumental, and conventional pop/rock textures, and laid the foundation for his successful career. The nine electronic soundscapes of Clouds seem guided by a restless desire to keep things interesting. Not too interesting, mind you -- this is, after all, new age, and it's built for relaxation. But "Stepping Stars" begins as a series of synthesizer washes, with two half-formed melodies fluttering by each other, only to transform itself with another melody halfway through. The third part unites the song's drifting sections and makes it much more than a simple keyboard experiment. The same goes for the title track, where a breathy flute adds exotic depth to the track's loping rhythm. While Arkenstone's building blocks will be common to new age listeners -- swirling synths, world music references, and light, insistent percussion -- it's in the way he arranges his songs that make them his own. "Eastern Dream" incorporates harp and violin, while "Rain"'s pattering keyboard lines travel over and across one other, suggesting the hypnotizing quality of a morning thundershower. Valley in the Clouds ends with more nature-noise atmospherics, bringing in triumphant keys and percussion for the rousing "Lost Temple." The album is a solid debut that's definitely lush and relaxing, but never boring.
Valley in the Clouds Review
by Johnny Loftus