Gandalf’s music is inspired by the beauty of nature and by the wisdom and myths of various cultures. Magician of sounds and painter of musical landscapes, he conjures moods and magical moments that point to other realities behind the scenes in our fast-paced modern world. Austrian born Gandalf blends acoustic, electronic and spherical sounds and weaves folk elements into a symphonic structure to create his unmistakable and unique musical style.
Between Earth and Sky
|1. Just a Heartbeat Away 6:46|
|2. Echoes from Ancient Dreams 5:31|
|3. The Blessing 6:28|
|4. Stardust Dreams 7:43|
|5. Dreamcatcher 2:49|
|6. Voice in the Wind 4:07|
|7. Peaceful Heart 4:24|
|8. A Seagull's Tale 6:24|
|9. Shine On Full Moon 5:15|
|10. Love is the Answer 4:41|
|11. Along the Milky Way 5:19|
|12. Floating Down the Silent Stream 6:52|
Between Earth and Sky is an album that takes you deep into the imagination, where elements of fantasy and reality dance together in dreamy, quasi-symphonic soundscapes. These idyllic compositions are the work of Austrian composer/multi-instrumentalist Heinz Strobl, a.k.a. Gandalf, whose work revels in the majesty of nature and was influenced by everything from ancient myth to the tomes of J.R.R. Tolkien. As the album opens, you are instantly greeted with the weeping sound of the cello, backed by wistful ambience. As the album progresses, it sometimes captures the kind of synthesized, percussion-fueled drama you’d expect of Kitaro or Cusco; at others, it is sweet and enchanting, like a sonic fairy tale.
New Age fans are sure to be acquainted with Gandalf“s output; this is my first introduction to his music though. When reviewing an artist I’ve never heard before, I feel at a disadvantage due to having little prior sense of where the artist is coming from musically, yet on the other side of the coin it’s refreshing to approach an album with little or no idea of what to expect. In this case, the opening track captivated me straight away, to the point that this album has had more than it’s fair share of time in my CD player recently. The name Gandalf is very appropriate because with music this guy is a magician! When Between Earth and Sky is playing I find it easy to become unencumbered by everyday concerns as Gandalf takes us to a relaxing fairy tale land where we can rediscover a reverence for life and nature. Indeed, by the end of the album it’s like one has been taken on a journey through a wondrous land and shown sights that we can also see in our own world if only we’d open our eyes more. The opening quarter of the album (the first 3 out of 12 tracks) is quite dramatic and upbeat, which is an excellent way to get the listener“s attention. On the whole the rest of the album, apart from some exceptions, is more restful; the last three tracks are really delightful, especially “Shine on Full Moon” which has lovely melodies delivered mainly by keyboards. I have no idea how Between Earth and Sky compares to Gandalf’s other albums, all I can tell you is that it’s fantastic. He really knows how to blend traditional instruments (for example, piano, acoustic guitar, cello), electric guitar, vocals, and electronic instruments to create what at times are nothing less than spellbinding pieces of music. I could go on and on about various elements in Between Earth and Sky and why they are good, suffice to say this is definitely on my list of favorite albums of 2003. Highly recommend for those who like their music uplifting.
Dramatic yet dreamy, Gandalf’s latest creation lingers between the world of accessible commercialism and meditative benefits. As a result, Between Earth And Sky could not be more appropriately titled, residing between the tangible and the intangible, compelling it to become a regular visitor on my CD player.
While Gandalf is new to the shores of the States, this self-taught Austrian composer has been gallivanting around the continents of Europe, Asia and South America since the early eighties. It was then that he released his freshman effort Journey To An Imaginary Land. Since then he has created a multitude of solo material, as well as involvement with many side projects. This has included an appearance on the former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett’s album Gallery Of Dreams in 1992.
As a result of his worldwide trekking, Gandalf amalgamates multiple musical cultures and creates a sweeping, yet not an overstated, musical tapestry that makes his musical style familiar yet still unique. Equally adept on guitar, keyboards and percussion, Gandalf needs little outside assistance on this project, though the musical duties are rounded out by the assistance of White Horse on cello and Peter Aschenorenner on flute and saxophone with both of them assisting on vocals. Those of you that despise vocals on instrumental albums, the arrangements are limited to the occasional chants and embellishments to bring the album a little variety.
Musically, the majority of the arrangements are keyboard based and dance between mellow meanderings and a random dramatic mid tempo composition. On many occasions, the songs flow right into each other with little or no break between each track, giving it [the album] a sense of continuity and unity sustaining a focused center point. This will be of assistance to those who may prefer the contemplative values of the project.
While this may be a valuable meditative tool, I get the impression that this secondary benefit plays second fiddle to the commercial benefits. While Gandalf has his own musical signature, there are influences of the sound-scaping you find courtesy of Mars Lasar and 2002 along with some of the sweeping visual dramatics you would find during the early electronic days of David Arkenstone.
One of the more outstanding tracks and probably the highlight of the album is “A Seagull’s Tale” that flows and soars effortlessly much like a seagull gliding in a firm gentle breeze. There are some gorgeous string arrangements embellished with the cleansing sound effects of the ocean waves and gulls quietly chirping in the background. Equally as dramatic is the surging “Love Is An Answer” that builds gently and includes the flutes of Aschenorenner and the electric guitar work of Gandalf. It is never overbearing, but I would say this [is] one of the more sonically intrusive compositions of the album. However, it is not out of place with the remainder of its cohorts.
Generally, the songs present low-key melodramatic themes that are best exemplified by the opening track “Just A Heartbeat Away.” Facilitated with some gentle percussion work replicating a beating heart, this song has some very strong Arkenstone features, best seen courtesy of the chorus arrangements. Gandalf’s closing track “Floating Down The Silent Stream,’ continues the irrefutable visual interpretations that parallel his expressive song titles.
Between Earth And Sky has unquestionable horizontal and vertical values. Despite this juxtaposition, there is no conflict, bringing a cohesive, consistent and complimentary listening experience that I look forward to enjoying over and over again.