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To Sleep Beneath the Stars

A meditative and journey bound album

To Sleep Beneath the Stars has been described as

'Magical and comforting' ... 'just stunning'

To Sleep Beneath The Stars

CD review by Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist,

Artists and musicians come to us in many different forms and mediums and, as an audience, we are usually quite happy to discover someone who does transcendent work in a single creative area. Brilliance on one level is normally quite enough to draw us in and make us eager for more.

Elaine Nolan is that rare artist who comes along and smashes all that to bits by turning in brilliant work in multiple mediums and styles, as well as on multiple instruments. She's an award-winning Irish author and winner of the Cecil Day Lewis Literature Award, as well as a classical musician, composer, and choral singer of no small reputation. She plays piano, cello, classical guitar, and viola, sings soprano and tenor, and has worked with the Irish Philharmonic Choir, the Wexford Festival Singers, and the Celbridge Concert Orchestra.

Her latest recording is To Sleep Beneath The Stars, and it sees her going in yet another inspired direction. The record is an instrumental album of meditation music inspired by monthly sessions with a local meditation group near Co Kilkenny, Ireland. Atmospheric music like this is harder to make than it appears to be and often devolves into child-like piano noodling or endless synth washes. Happily, Nolan avoids those pitfalls on this set and delivers her listeners a vibe that is gentle, encompassing, and substantial.

The tracks presented here capture the vibration and ephemeral nature of the meditation experience while also remaining deeply hypnotic. The music rises, falls, ebbs, flows, develops, and evolves, never turning into mere background. Instrumentally, To Sleep Beneath The Stars is an interesting mix of acoustic and electronic sounds and features wonderful performances on piano, cello, synthesizer, and percussion. It compares very well with Moby’s Long Ambients in tone, but is more musician-y and less electronic, especially considering the strong presence of Nolan’s piano on much of the album.

The album feels like it wants to be consumed in a single listening experience for maximum meditative impact, but each track stands well on its own and would work well in a mix with other similar artists. Production is outstanding across the board, especially the piano sound. Listeners will have their own favorites, but tracks like “A Simple Twist,” “Deep In The Celtic Woods,” and the opening cut “The Om Rooms” state Nolan’s case very well.

All in all, To Sleep Beneath The Stars is an extremely well thought out and executed set of soft yet compelling music from an artist who seems to deal exclusively in greatness. Fans of graceful atmospheres will find a lot to enjoy here. Elaine Nolan exudes a certain quiet and focused beauty all through this record that is quite attractive. It needs to be personally experienced, but you will know it when you hear it. Use it to keep yourself a bit more mindful or as the soundtrack to a long highway drive. Either way, you'll be in a disappointment-free zone.

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