In any album review, the music is the obvious focal point. However in the case of AOMUSIC, while the sound is clearly the focus, there is so much to share about the unique creative process and the intention behind it, that a review would be incomplete without shining a light on those aspects as well. Serving as a brief introduction or gateway, the word “AO” [e’i-o] comes from the ancient Polynesian language and means “pure light” or “all colors.” This second meaning is particularly descriptive as the music is a virtual rainbow of sound and soul.
To delve a bit deeper into what a rainbow sounds like coming out of your speakers, AOMUSIC has been described as “a pan-cultural acoustic fusion of musical texture from around the globe… a commonwealth of spirit and celebration.” The first comparative reference point that came to mind as I began listening is the music of Peter Gabriel – although not surprising since they site him as a major influence, along with the likes of Deep Forest, Afro Celt Sound System, and Adiemus.
AOMUSIC is comprised of three primary collaborators, Richard Gannaway (stringed instruments and vocals), Jay Oliver (keyboards and synth samples), and Miram Stockley (vocals) who is also the voice of the aforementioned group Adiemus. Their collective recording industry credits are impressive to say the least, and include having worked with Sheryl Crow, The Eagles, Celine Dion, Bonnie Raitt, Chaka Khan, Mike Oldfield, Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen, and many others. Miram’s creatively layered vocals, which have sometimes been compared to Enya – although distinctly different and exquisitely enchanting in their own expression, can also be heard on the “Lord Of The Rings” film soundtrack. The group had the honor of being asked to compose music for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. There are also a number of other associate producers and musicians who add their hues to the rainbow.
One of the most distinctive and integral facets in the sound of AOMUSIC is the inclusion of a variety of children’s choirs from around the globe. On this CD there are five different choirs representing South Africa, China, and The Republic Of Georgia, as well as the US. Lyrics are often a variety of ancient languages or carefully crafted phonetics, chosen for their “shape.” While there are diverse musical elements and cultures represented, there is one overriding message of the album and of the group: “AOMUSIC is the spirit, color and timbre of global oneness. “
In addition to highlighting the children’s musical contribution on the album, AOMUSIC is committed to this goal: “ to establish a non-profit foundation to benefit all the choirs” and to promote the value of music in their curriculums to give them skills and a focus towards a better future, especially in countries where children have been displaced by war, natural disaster, or political unrest.
With regard to their creative process, in an increasingly familiar hallmark of the digital age, the three principle artists are rarely together in the same place at the same time. In their words, “ we compose as three musicians in three different cities, in three studios. Ricky (Richard) creates the base of the song form, sometimes mocking it up with one of the children’s choruses, other times leaving it blank for Miriam to write her own chorus. Then Richard brings it to Jay, whom he refers to as “the maestro”, who augments harmonies and joins in producing a template for Miriam to design her vocals.”
What all this adds up to is a sound that, while it has its influences, is unique and speaks its own creative language. This album, “…and Love Rages On!” is less ambient than their previous two releases, and features powerful driving percussion and rhythmic tracks that uplift the spirit and get your head nodding and foot tapping as well. Beautifully crafted electronic textures and earthy stringed instruments blend with the groove and the vocal tracks to create a sound that “is derived from the purity of primitive world culture… and at the same time, is presented within a palette of modern timbre and production.” One thing I particularly enjoy is the way vocals and choirs are sometimes processed with digital effects to add a whole different dimension to their sonic signature.
AOMUSIC is a magical merging of accomplished professional musicians and blossoming young talent, and according to the group, “the goal is to never stray from a sense of purity and innocence. The childlike spirit must remain within every piece, isolated or together. It’s about a collective spirit.” This album is majestic in its vision and magnificent in its presence, promoting a message of urgent relevance for our times.