Review by Kathy Parsons
Antiquus is the debut from pianist/keyboard wizard David Wahler, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence that this is a first recording. From the stunning cover artwork by Matt Strieby at Newleaf Design to the outstanding sound quality of the production, this is one very impressive recording - and I haven’t even mentioned the music yet! Even though it will be classified as an “ambient” or “new age” album, Antiquus rates very high on the “wow!” meter. Layers of sound produced on a variety of keyboards give the music a complexity that isn’t immediately obvious. Wahler studied classical piano from a young age through college and then began working in theater. He taught music appreciation to disadvantaged and handicapped children before embarking on a career in retail and design. Finding something missing in his life, Wahler enrolled in the Berklee College of Music’s Electronic Music Production program and a new world opened for him. Antiquus is a musical exploration of our common heritage, and each of the ten tracks refers to an ancient myth, sacred love, or eternal truth. Wahler says, “I strive to unveil the answers to questions men and women have asked since antiquity.” Whether or not those questions are answered, Antiquus is a breathtaking exploration.
The title track opens with almost a whisper. Soft-spoken broken chords roll in the background as the spare, graceful melody brings is in. The echoing effect makes it sound like the music is being played in a large open space - perhaps an ancient Greek temple - and the sense of mystery is intriguing. “Kyoto Mist” is a cool, gentle daydream with piano, various plucked instruments, and sparkling bells and chimes. The patterns are simple and relaxed and the mood they create is serene. “Teresa” is a favorite. Beginning with the sound of thunder and bells in the background, the first chords are dark and mysterious. A gently rolling bass pattern lays a foundation for the very spare melody. As the piece develops, strings and voices fill the open spaces. “Teresa” reminds me of Michael Dulin’s keyboard work - stirring yet very peaceful. “Night Sky of Orion” suggests vast darkness pierced occasionally by sparkling light - tranquil and hushed. “Hyacinthus” is another favorite. In Greek mythology, Hyacinthus was a beautiful youth loved by Apollo who was killed when he was struck by a discus. The piece conveys profound grief and is achingly beautiful. “Lune Mysterieuse” picks up the tempo a bit with a gentle but compelling rhythm and plenty of atmosphere. I also love the closing track, “Ancient Dawn.” Overflowing with musical colors, this would be the perfect soundtrack to enhance a film of stunning images. Yum!
Antiquus is one of those wonderful albums that people are not going to be able to keep quiet about. I fully expect it to top the charts and to be on many “year’s best” lists for 2009 (including mine!). Check it out at davidwahler.com, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!!
June 11, 2009
For What is Time?
I think there are some that are specifically attuned the Music of the Spheres. Perhaps David Wahler is such a person. His unique music embraces the ideology of Pythagoras and Heraclitus. He visits the mythology and mystery that made the glory days of ancient Greece one of the most profound eras in man’s history. His album Antiquus is a chronology of wondrous places and events leading up to the modern century. Wahler uses a synthesizer the way metaphysics uses abstract concepts. His music has depth, light and texture. There is literally openness to his compositions, as if he left room inside them for us to wander about, learn something new and make up our own thoughts.
David Wahler began the piano at age seven using his natural instinct to understand and play music. That did not give him discipline, so sought out formal training at music clinics and eventually he went on to study performance at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and Mannes College of Music in New York. Eventually he found himself at the Berklee College of Music's Electronic Music Production in the cultural center of the universe, Boston Massachusetts. His musical influences range from Kitaro to Stravinsky, Satie to Eno, and others before and beyond.
Antiquus, the title tune is a refrain that is found in the Spheres, echoing, mirroring sounds that are like rings of waves in a pool of still water. Is it a harmonious portal to an era where thoughts became ideas and reality was in its early stages? The solution lies deep within the music and as I listen, I find myself floating, and trying desperately to latch on to an answer.
With a sound like tinkling glass, Apollo’s Lyre is transparent and intricately formed of prismatic light. In mythology, Apollo used his lyre in a contest to defeat Marsyas and his flute. The flute plays a major role in David’s tune, dancing gently along with the background strings.
No matter how many times I listen to the album I am drawn repeatedly to Hyacinthus. It contains an eerie chorus and a haunting piano melody that somehow parts the fabric of time and lets me drift into an unknown, ancient universe. I can almost feel the angry, jealous breath of Zephyrus as he uses his power to destroy Hyacinthus, the beloved of Apollo. Wahler uses the flute to symbolize Apollo’s grief and undying devotion.
With the peal of a distant bell, Angelis begins. Lightly strummed guitar and a haunting chorus call and answer in polyphonic tones. Taken from the Missa de Angelis (Mass of the Angels), David has a wondrous sense of balance between the chorus for heaven and the guitar for earth. It is a quiet, spiraling tune perhaps representing the coalescence of the two worlds. This is one of my favorites on Antiquus.
The album concludes with the song Ancient Dawn. Truly, I could visualize the sun as it reaches out golden fingers upon the earth. Where goes light, so goes life. The animals wake, the plants grow, the fire is kindled. The fire not only of warmth, but also of spirit.
David Wahler, in a modern fashion represents very well the Classical Age of the Greeks in his music. It embodies a fascinating time of discovery, invention and trial. His synthesized orchestrations are passionate and his compositions survive with a very strong structure. Overall, I like every cut and look forward to more of his music.
Zone Music Reporter
Darius Productions (2009)
During my years of reviewing music, I've heard many debut recordings, ranging from dreadful to impressive. Antiquus, the freshman CD from keyboardist David Wahler, easily sits at the latter end of that continuum. With great production standards, a high caliber of assorted electronic keyboards, and a surprising variety of moods, styles and tempos, Antiquus instantly grabbed my attention and held it for its fifty-five plus minute playing time. A variety of musical influences are sprinkled throughout the CD: Vangelis ("Antiquus"), Jonn Serrie ("Angelis") [note: this would be Serrie from his romantic-era, circa Midsummer Century and Ixlandia], Deuter ("Ancient Dawn"), and a blend of Bernward Koch and Tristan Feldbauer ("Night Sky of Orion"). While these similarities are discerned if one listens for them, they are not in any way derivative or imitative. Wahler obviously pays attention to what these artists are doing with their music, but uses their motifs as a jumping off point, then spinning off in his own artistic directions. The artist adroitly carves out his own artistic niche employing a wide array of electronic keyboard virtuosity. Mood/musical style on the album varies from the stately subdued drama of the title track with delicate piano refrains over layers of electronics (layering in strings and emphatic Greek-sounding keyboards playing the refrain) to the gentle effervescence of the bubbly chill-out on "Night Sky of Orion" (my favorite song on the CD) to the somber yet lush melancholy of "Teresa" (an homage to Mother Teresa and the human suffering she witnessed in her life) to the floating ethereal strains of tones, sampled guitar, bell trees, and classic new age keyboard effects on "Angelis." "Apollo's Lyre" features solo flute and solo violin, soothing chorals, strings, and plucked harp evoking both romance and mystery while "Lune Mysterieuse" blends a gentle chill-out rhythm with twinkling bell tones and laser-zap synths. Despite this cornucopia of music, as with all good artists, Wahler has a distinct "footprint" evident throughout Antiquus. You can hear it in the predominance of reverbed piano on some tracks, as well as the reoccurrence of assorted keyboard sounds, and an overall common thread of how the artist structures his compositions. Wahler favors strong often warm and romantic melodies played out on a blend of both new age keyboard sounds and sampled orchestral ones. When rhythms are present on a few tracks, they are relatively gentle and unforced, back in the mix not "in your face" which, if they were present, would "take the listener out of" the mostly non-stop dreamy/reflective atmosphere. Even the stronger rhythmic elements of "Delphi Dream" (which combine with cascading synth arpeggios, flowing pads and subdued world percussive effects) don't distract, but are expertly blended and set at the "just right" volume level. Of course, a "perfect" album is a rare thing indeed, and there is slight room for improvement on future recordings, but this particular weak point is also shared with many other CDs I've reviewed in my career. It's the solo violin sample. This may be the single most difficult orchestral instrument to "get right," especially compared to woodwinds, flute, guitar or other members of the string family, e.g. cello. However, this minor criticism is only present for a few moments on one or two tracks and easily overlooked in the presence of many other worthwhile qualities. Wahler also hit a home run with the album artwork which he must have turned over to a professional. Antiquus is gorgeous! Design, layout, color, and font choices are flawless. I'd strongly suggest buying the CD, not downloading it. It's that beautiful a digipack. With a debut this strong, David Wahler has launched his contemporary instrumental recording career straight into the upper stratosphere. Antiquus heralds another artist to keep a close watch on, expecting more great music on future musical efforts. Highly recommended.
Bill Binkelman New Age Reporter