Spiritus is the fourth release by accomplished composer/ keyboardist David Wahler. Although this is the first time I’ve written about his music, I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to two of his earlier albums, Antiquus (2009) and A Star Danced (2010). His debut recording, Antiquus, made a splash after its release, reaching number one on ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) Top 100 chart for international radio airplay. And at the time, it was the highest-ranking debut album in the history of those charts. Topping it off, he also won the award for Best New Artist that year. His next recording, A Star Danced, which also charted well, was nominated for consideration in numerous categories, and earned him the award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
Although David won the title of Best New Artist, he is certainly not new to the world of music. From the tender age of 7, he began playing piano by ear, followed by years of study at summer music clinics and academies. He eventually went on to study piano performance at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and Mannes College of Music in New York. According to his bio: “David then began serving as a musical director off Broadway. In the Chicago area, he played with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra as well as teaching music appreciation to disadvantaged and handicapped children.”
After taking an extended break from music to pursue other interests, David enrolled in the Berklee College of Music’s Electronic Music Production program. Becoming immersed in the world of synthesizers, David’s musical direction evolved, influenced by the likes of Vangelis, Brian Eno, and Kitaro, but also by classical composers such as Satie and Stravinsky. In an interview, David spoke about his musical evolution: “It’s been an easy transition from my classical music background to the music I produce now. With all the wonderful virtual instrumental sounds available now I’m able to incorporate many of the orchestral instruments into my music, from flutes to oboe, harp, strings, and on and on. I also love to design new synthesized sounds to compliment these traditional elements. The term New Age conjures up different interpretations with people and it covers such a very wide spectrum so I refer to my music and genre as ‘Contemporary Electronic Instrumental.’”
In addition to musical influences, another element of David’s life and music is spirituality, which is particularly reflected in his latest release. As he describes: “My new album is centered round spiritual realities and how they relate to everyone. I think people today are searching for deeper meanings and inspirations. I am hoping to provide some musical inspiration in that respect.” And judging from my experience in listening to the album, I would say that he has definitely achieved his goal.
From the opening notes, the listener is enveloped in a soft warm cocoon of heavenly choir sounds on the album’s title track. It’s a wonderful welcome that prepares you for the serene listening experience that is about to unfold. As the piece develops, light percussive touches are added. What is interesting, however, is that in a lot of music the beat or percussion is much more prominent in the mix driving the song, while the more atmospheric elements are in the background. Here it is the opposite, and the percussion adds a subtle sense of forward motion without overpowering the ambience. It’s a lovely balance that brought to mind the music of English recording artist Medwyn Goodall, as a reference point. While the next track, “Mystic Voyage” doesn’t have percussion a gently percolating sequencer provides momentum.
In Hinduism, the term “bhakti” refers to devotion and the path of love. Track 3, “Bhakti Heart” conveys this feeling in its peaceful flow. The keyboard melodies that David plays over his ethereal backgrounds are often understated and serve to maintain the meditative air. Also reflective of its title, on “Whispers from Eternity,” wind and sparkling harp glissandos create a timeless soundscape to drift away on. One of my favorite tunes was “Metamorphose,” which evolves from a dreamy formless state to a more upbeat, motion-driven composition. I particularly liked all the little spacey electronic sounds that weave in and out of the sonic tapestry. Another sound that added a refreshing new voice was the airy flute melody that graces a track called “Devi.” The term “Devi” refers to a mother goddess in Hinduism. A number of terms from Eastern religion appear in David’s titles, reflecting the inspiration of his music. Also along these lines are “Veil of Maya” which refers to the illusory nature of this world, and “Chela” which means disciple or devotee.
In the liner notes, the album and its title are described in this way: “Spiritus, meaning spirit or breath is a musical antidote possessing the hauntingly sweet power and sounds to transport us beyond our restlessness and turmoil.” David’s commitment to creating music that fosters inner peace is part of what appeals to me about the album and gives the music its lofty ambience. While David is classically trained on piano, he is quite adept in the ambient electronic realms and has an excellent sense of the kind of sounds, and their arrangement, that will enhance the ethereal nature of his compositions. The fact that he worked with award-winning producer/engineer Bryan Carrigan in the production and mastering stages insures that the sound quality is superb, with no detail overlooked. While each song is distinctive, they flow together in a beautifully cohesive listening experience that allows the listener to remain immersed in the soothing vibe they create from beginning to end. In addition to enjoying it for active listening, it also makes a perfect backdrop for meditation, yoga, massage, or just relaxing after a long day. With his latest release, David Wahler has crafted a spirit-filled soundtrack to serenity that could appeal to a wide audience.