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Visions Of Vespertina CD Cover
Image © 1999 Celsius Records & Hyperium Records 

The first release by International and award winning illustrators Michelle Barnes and Greg Spalinka is available in two formats. The artists are based in New York. Accompanied with artwork by the duo, the compact disc is available alone with very simple artwork in a jewel case or in a cardboard sleeve with full colour 32-page booklet from Hyperium Records as The Visions Of Vespertina (Hyperium (Germany) RTD 39102002). Alternatively, a full color hardbound volume featuring the artists' illustrations accompanied by the original score on compact disc pressed by Celsius Records (Finer Arts Records (USA) 9830) is available either from the artists, the label or at amazon.com. The Celsius Records version of the album comes with a 24-page illustrated booklet. Visit their sites for soundbites and further ordering details.

The album is comprised of nine gothic-oriented tracks that swim with Michelle's heavenly vocals. Dominated by vocal textures across the album, Michelle is is accompanied by April Allen, John Bagdasarian, Carolyn Sachs and Maurice Welsh. Jill Soubule, Virginia Haigh, Michelle Gold, Zuriani, Lorraine Joy, Isabel Vansamson, Tom Ang, John Breakstone, Jeff Lipton, Tim Butler, Jeremy Kidd, Dan Leuck, Mario Romano and Greg Spalenka are credited with additional vocal contributions as well. The album's producer is Erik Moon; his keyboard work dominates the dreamy instrumental foundation of the album's music.

Meant to accompany the book of illustrations, the album's tracks flow from one to another. Aside from the tracks "De Profundis (Out Of The Depths)" and "Carpe Diem" which both stand on their own, the individual songs work best within the context of the album as a whole. The memorable "De Profundis" is a highly dramatic and stunning song combining gothic and Middle Eastern textures. "Carpe Diem" is highly orchestral and the choral effect created in the song's crescendos is extremely memorable. Effects used in some of the album's other tracks improve the visual experience created by the music. The vocal work on the album is superb with Michelle's lead being everso sweet and inspiring.

From Hyperium's website, "Vespertina will guide you to a place that borders on the unconscious, a multi-coloured landscape of sound and image which serve as a personal diary and travelogue of her medieval excursions." Commenting on the music and illustration, Hyperium add, "with this unique piece of art they reflect a transcendal journey into unknown worlds, mystical and magical. The music, rich and haunting, is complimented by an additional beautifully illustrated 32-page full colour booklet of verse and reflection. The CD and extra booklet come in an attractive cardboard slipcase in the same finely-fashioned design." With two versions of the album available from Hyperium, enthusiasts are encouraged to get the one with the 32-page booklet as the illustrations likely improve the listening experience.

A lovely album with delightful music for heavenly vocal enthusiasts and certainly recommended for those that enjoy Stella Maris, Love Is Colder Than Death and Hyperium's Heavenly Voices series (review), the album is worth further exploration—a nice listen!

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