"Beyond the sky: Legends of the starry night"

Wind and Wire review

"Very few artists can successfully navigate the straits that separate the ambient and new age music landscapes. After hearing this CD, I’d have to put Conni St. Pierre into that small group of musicians. The concluding album of her”Legends” trilogy, Beyond the Sky: Legends of the starry night, melds the delicate “pretty” side of new age music with the sparse, non-structured aspects of ambient music, yielding an alloy that successfully fuses the two disparate genres into a whole that should appeal to open-minded listeners in both camps.

Performing on assorted flutes and keyboards, St. Pierre crafts a sound that is both haunting and
soothing. Her use of bell tones, in particular, is astoundingly evocative. I listened to this album a
number of times at dusk as I walked my dog, Onyx, and the feeling of symmetry with the fading light
was eerie yet rewarding. For example, “Message in a Dream” juxtaposes her flute work with sparse
synth strings and warm rich bells, sometimes played as solo notes, other times as broken chords or
note combinations. The effect is mesmerizing - the flute hovers in the air, as if suspended, while the
bell tones seem to twinkle like sonic fireflies. I know this makes her music sound overtly new agey;
and, admittedly, since flute (alto, wooden, and shakuhachi) playsa big part in her sound, there is a
certain new age element to the music. However, it’s no more “pure” new age than are the recordings
of Coyote Oldman. “Daughter of the Winds,” (where Conni is accompanied by a wood thrush, since
she recorded the song outside), definitely carries that same mystical ambience that Michael Graham
Allen and Barry Stramp convey in their recordings.

What struck me strongest about Beyond the sky is how skillfully St. Pierre applies her various synth-
esizers and keyboards. “Eternal Valley” (the piece after “Daughter...”) offers up flute and somber
dronish style keyboards. The song is almost dark in nature; certainly, this is not your garden-variety
“new age” music. Another commonly used keyboard effect by the artist is one that seems to combine
harp-like notes that reverberate like bell tones. These sounds are similar to those that were common
in new age music in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (on recordings such as Philip Elcano’s RainDance),but
St. Pierre puts her unique stamp on the track by giving it a more free-wheeling, almost proggish feel.
In fact, more than once while listening to this album, I was reminded of the song “Moonchild” from
King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King. Some tracks on Beyond the sky carry that same sense
of spaciousness and improvisational feel, yet here the sound is less free-form and more accessible
(the notes are played with less silence between them). From an ambient standpoint, there is little
use denying that a song like “Over Night’s Sea” is a distant relative of Budd’s and Eno’s The Pearl,
albeit a cousin who is somewhat cheerier and less somber. Although, St. Pierre is not all sweetness
and light. “Darkness Before Creation” opens with reverberating drone-tones and lower register flute
notes and feels like a pre-dawn shadowy piece.

I admired how, ultimately, unconventional this recording is. Instead of playing it safe and following
a more clear-cut new age blueprint (featuring major key tonalities and structured melodies),
St. Pierre walked off into relatively uncharted waters. Bell tone keyboards sometimes sound almost
like jazz minimalism (and, in fact, if the synths were sampling a Fender Rhodes instead of bells, you’d
draw that comparison even faster). It’s the overall warmth of the artist’s compositions that won me
over completely. Her flute playing is a model of efficiency melded with muted passion. I can’t re-
member the last album I played that was so effortless to enjoy - the music is soothing, yet not
numbing or boring. The songs are not at all repetitious, yet a distinct continuity exists throughout
the thirteen tracks. I have both of the previous recordings (parts one and two) of the Legends
trilogy but have not sampled them yet. However, if Beyond the sky is any indication, I expect to be
equally enthralled with them. I sincerely urge ambient fans who enjoy the flute as an instrument to
give this album a listen; and, of course, new age music lovers should consider my review as solid an
endoresement of a recording as is possible. Unless you abhor flute music, I can’t imagine you not
falling in love with Conni St. Pierre’s unqiue and beautiful tone poems.

Here is a recording that resonates at a deep level. The liner notes relate a mystical tale (relayed via
the song titles) and, for once, the music and the “tale” go hand in hand. This is no schmaltz or
cookie-cutter new age music. It is inspired and genuine and I cannot rave enough about it. I love
this album, pure and simple"

- Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire

"Beyond the sky: Legends of the starry night" by Conni St.Pierre was named the #1 New Age
Instrumental album for 2003 by Wind and Wire.

Back to Conni St.Pierre's albums page

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