ALBUM REVIEW FOR: ERIC BIKALES Composer and Multi-Instrumentalist. “MANDALA”
Review by Kerry Barnes.
I see clearly the musical qualities of Eric Bikales, he is beautifully transparent, and we may feast our eyes on him and his talents!! A multi-instrumentalist of astounding virtuosity, not just on his favoured and beloved ‘piano and flute’. An unbelievable resume takes stock of his incredible life in music, rich, variedand enlightening. This album of “Mandala” and the “Twelve Truths” connects him and us to a complete journey of infinite rotation, a real circle of life. It symbolises everything Eric wants to feel as a man, and to hold close to his heart. How lucky are we to experience succulent glimpses of this through listening to his music.
Track 1. “Generosity” The First Truth. Eric is very generous here, and liberal with golden nuggets of sound. A cymbal release fizzes to it’s conclusion, welcoming a gorgeous synthy-sequence. A delicate percussion shows it’s mathematics and precision, persistence. A member of the drawbar-organ family brings happiness and uplift as it sings it’s five note motif. Very sweet. Repetition is key here, giving a beefy bass guitar all the space that it needs. Then bam!!....jazz piano to die for!! Literally!! …..bright and at the top of it’s game. This chordal language is beyond my understanding, pure genius, and punctuated with a staccato density. Glittering chimes in descending mode, makes way for a piano puzzle peppered in stresses and accents only it’s rhythm can know. More of the same for good measure. An electric choir, with heavenly harmonies to boot, paves the way for a beautiful coda, fading into the distance. Just gorgeous Eric.
Track 2 “Kindness” The Second Truth. Eric is in considerate mood here, favouring us with an electricity that will make your hairs stand on end! All manner of musical perspectives hit me at every corner, with just about every percussion instrument on the planet. It rumbles down below, and fizzes up on high. Eric’s new studio is on fire, with a synthesis of contemporary genius. I feel really happy and smiley listening to this, I want it to go on forever, the world really needs this right now!! Eric has woven together all the elements of his style with today’s technology, this golden symbiosis really stands out. There are some marvellous piano devices at play here too, namely acciaccatura, descending modulations, amazing chord progressions, perfectly blended voicings and more. I must say what I hear……and I’m getting Alexander O Neale vocals in my head, with a backdrop laid out brilliantly by Eric. This takes me right back to my twenties when I’d go cruising down the M11 (a very long road in the UK), with Alexander blaring out from my car’s stereo. Such a good feeling Eric, you have given me some rebirth in my musical memory!! Am loving the way the ‘strings’ plead with us, their elongated tentacles gently tickling, sublime. I feel very tingly as we come to rest, and with a sense of spiritual guidance.
Track 3. “Honesty” The Third Truth. There is a truth about this piece. It follows a path where percussion and bass entwine, just as we witness the blue and orange Mandala, happy to share the space, and follow the circle. The minor tonality is very honest with us from the start, and a divine flute devotes itself to a complimentary phrase of one staccato, just to trip us up, then legato mellowness warms us through. The silver flute flutters it’s lashes with an even mascara vibrato, and I am undulating inside. Eric’s intentions are resourceful and imaginative, never leaving us, not even for a moment, quite divine.
Track 4. “Love” The Fourth Truth. Music of deep affection gifts us a sun-shiny day. Super mellow flute work sits very happily amongst peppered percussion and bass guitar portamente. Gorgeous orchestrations without a care in the world, float on upper thermals of very happy synths!! I’m literally singing along here. I feel a sense of warmth and intimacy as the chromium tube sings it’s silver melodies, uplifting me at every corner.Such technical mastery indeed.
Track 5. “Compassion” The Fifth Truth. A deep understanding of electric-fargo in ascent and descent patterns, creating pointed mountains of sound that even Bob Ross would be proud of! There’s a playing around with special effects that only Eric knows and wants, so creative. Blessed. The atmosphere is dry and airy, with a note of sacred space. Music meets incredible imagination! I am honoured to review the music of such an esteemed international artist!! …..and I’m learning so much from him!! This is a melodic and contemporary sounding collection of writing and recording, accomplished in all disciplines and stands alone. I keep coming back to Eric’s amazing flute playing, so natural and has it’s own ‘happenings’ that fall gently upon our laps, for us to hold in eagerness and love. Standing in front, clever percussion presents itself, never afraid and most confident. We follow it’s movement, to the right, and to the right again. Then BAM!!! ……complete jazz mastery on staccato piano solo. What an amazing terrain we have to walk through now, bathed in virtuosic light. Completely illuminating!! Just wow Eric!!
Track 6. “Charity” The Sixth Truth. There is a selflessness and giving spirit to this track, and goodwill to all men. Gorgeous use of three-four or six-eight, my mind and body tell me it’s more six-eight, as it has a lovely lilt, bringing a rocking motion that is moving me from side to side. Beautiful Eric x I am soothed and washed in swathes of emotion. This music has the “Jane” effect……let me explain, I lost my younger sister to breast cancer five years ago now, and it is only the most beautiful music that makes me think of her, and the tears come. This track is one of those pieces, I don’t plan it, it just comes and washes over me. Thank you Eric, and Jane would have loved this music too. Xx I love the six-note melodic thread running through, and the acoustic guitar as it speaks in gentle counterpoint. Something else rather surprising,…when you listen through headphones near the end, a stereo motion is felt as the sound moves rhythmically from left to right, and then repeated that way, and it has a surprisingly relaxing effect, my head and neck feels comforted, a place where as humans in today’s world we hold much tension. Eric’s music releases that. You must try it.
Track 7. “Forgiveness” The Seventh Truth. A change of feeling comes into being. I’m with constellations, all around me. I’ve overcome any negative emotion. A golden cymbal shimmer electrifies me into a state of odyssey, bright as lights. Illuminating. Searing. A deeper flute sings to us a gold-plated song, dripping with every note it plays. Strings with bows that last forever in their sweep and stroke. A minor tonality mourns for me, while the flute asks for my forgiveness, and duly given. Keys of light express their sadness, but why? …..I have forgiven them. Chordal interludes ascend and descend, and I note a spot of dischord, just within a single moment. My body shudders as a tinsel triangle brushes past me, like a Christmas twinkle in the sky. Delightful. Eric is a master of minimalist-motifs, and when coupled with a harp, are just so pretty and persistent. I have also loved the strings on this track, they make all the difference, but only when they are in Eric’s hands!! A last little phrase sits delicately on point, my breath is slightly held. Now exhale.
Track 8. “Devotion” The Eighth Truth. Eric gives his listeners so much. Loyalty and Time, just two. His ‘Devotion’ to a very high standard of music, and to his beloved wife Khai, are also just two. The loyalty of this ‘major-tonality’ is surely timeless. Rising and falling melodic fragments support the hymn like vertical structures, and a deeper quietness embrace the ‘fermata’ inclusions. Suspended 4ths gently greet their much needed resolve, with abundant joy, and a craving for a ‘Tierce de Picardie’ is delightfully satisfied. Glorious!!
Track 9 “Resourcefulness” The Ninth Truth. Clever creativity in 8 sections is at work here!! Sublimely compartmentalised. I’m getting some splashes of latin-fever, compelling me to move in an 8 shape on my chair. Percussive shaking, enhancing the mood. The main flute riff on this track is to absolutely die for, I mean that from the bottom of my heart, it is so cool! It’s 8 note construction is simple, but works better than any other complex pattern I can think of. Why I’m thinking of a Chopin Nocturne phrase I’ll never know!! I’m crusin’ with this all American sound, as the keyboard presents it’s counter riff, so evenly shared across a four-four time signature. Second time round, strings sing overhead, long and still as night. Why am I now thinking of Henry Mancini, I have to say what comes to me in this musical subconscious!! One of my musical heroes is Stevie Wonder, and I think of him every time I hear the ‘harmonica’. Eric’s harmonica playing is very lyrical and sensuous, with a ‘cantabile’ sound. Combine that with a divine flute and that takes us some way to understanding Eric’s mastery of this genre. A point of interest here, the unexpected sound of ‘metallica-terrain’ and pretty complex at that. And then the unmistakable nuance of a drawbar organ, flat lining and tailing off with vibrato. I’ve always wanted to have a go at that!!
Track 10. “Humility” The Tenth Truth. Soothing, harmonious string work and definitely no need to be modest here. A gorgeous twang from a guitar is plucked to perfection, while a pan flute delivers it’s mellow message, both drawn into an ostinato. Am loving this wall of sound, speckled with bright piano flakes. Gorgeous modulations secure a pedal-note over two bars and follows in a very interesting manner indeed, well of course, Eric is a very interesting man and musician! We cannot escape the blue and orange engine of this Mandala, and nor do we want to, for it snags us into being. Rapunzel enjoys the long winds flowing through her hair, crusin’ on the highway, not a care in the world, entwined with a synth from heaven, they harmonise together, teasing and pleading with each other. Reaching for the stars, we catch a sunburst guitar motif to finish. Absolutely humbled to hear this music! Thank you Eric, you never disappoint!!
Track 11. “Respect” The Eleventh Truth. A fantastic energy, drives it’s turbo-power, with no regard for resting! Acclaimed and admired. A chilling introduction fills it’s space with a terminator-terrain, coming towards us. Anticipation. This piece is like a form of ‘oscillation’ coming at us in waves, that fade at the end of every phrase……and to counter, a clock tiks- and-tocks, fizzing in a staccato terrain, with complete synchronicity. Eric is so together here, furiously keeping up on the piano with it’s eye on the prize! The tom-toms are on a mission, in a virtuosic splendour, how can they be played this fast? Just incredible. I can just about keep up with this energy, born of a ‘cheetah’. A momentary discord, hides behind a veil, but I spotted it!! Now it’s gone!! Stuff just doesn’t hang around here! My head is full of tingly-toms, they have taken on a life all their own. Now they are quite ‘dry’ and although still present, I sense a gradual closing down. They jostle briefly with the bright piano. An electric descent in portamente surprises me, but ultimately has the last word.
Track 12. “Serenity” The Twelfth Truth. My daughter Penny and me are in a complete ‘conundrum’ about this gorgeous track that is very serene and beautiful indeed!! Just for the moment, let me tell you of the properties at play here, beautifully plucked, slow acoustic guitar, sprayed in a cymbalesque light, so illuminating again. Flat-lined drawbar, so essential again, perfect percussion, so textured again. It has an inner peace, most certainly. But, what I wasn’t expecting, was my daughter and me breaking into passionate song, like a pair of larks ascending!! Let me explain……’serenity’ has all the hallmarks of a world-class ‘power-ballad’ going on!! It’s so singable, so familiar in a way. The three chord motif is so ‘popular’, pop songish. We are singing with venomous emotion, at the tops of our voices!!..but the words are on the tips of our tongues only at this point!! Come on, what song is it!! I’m sure Eric has wrapped his arms around his beautiful wife Khai, and gently whispered these words…….”God bless you, you make me feel brand new, I sing this song for you!!”……of course, it’s The Stylistics!!! I nearly drove myself mad trying to think of this. I really didn’t expect to be taken down such a road, but there we are! Just one tiny bar of notes sparked this off like blue touch paper! A masterful invention Eric. Bravo! Closing Outro. Well, what a journey……and “ain’t that the TRUTH!!” Eric’s generosity musically speaking has been second to none, his respect for style and form impeccable, his love for truth in sound is genuine, he remains very humble and modest about his extraordinary talents and gifts, but it is we and us who have had the luxury to indulge in them, in a perfect circle of life that has been the MANDALA. Eric has worked with a team of stunning musical colleagues to bring his creation to life and I would just like to mention them here: Lang Bliss Gus Laux Julie Webster Debra Sheridan Charlie Hedges RIP Khai Bikales Ed Basel Sherry Carlisle Anna Jaap Mark Legget Cathy Oakes Donovan Johnson David Nevue Casey Martin Dane Bryant Vida, Gina and Anna Bikales Kerry Kirk Stacey and Ed Bonk of Lazz Promotions Spectrasonics Synthology United Audio and Mark of the Unicorn