The Woman's Touch (order)
Image © 1999 Aeone
The Womans Touch
Aeone (pronouned "ay-own") is an Englishwoman now living in Los Angeles, California. Originally from Emsworth, Hampshire—her family still runs an antique shop in Petworth, Sussex—this self-confessed Renaissance woman calls herself a quintessential artiste/songwriter/composer. After hearing her latest album The Woman's Touch, her self-titled digital audio music CD from mp3.com and a sampler with examples of other work, we could not agree more. Ethereal solo and multi-tracked vocals are joined with progressive Celtic and contemporary dance rhythms to produce beautiful music certain to attract the broadest of audiences.
Some very early success in the Eurovision Song Contest—winning fourth place in Gothenberg, Sweden performing the 1985 UK entry "Love Is" written with Jimmy Kaleth—sent her packing to the United States and full circle returning to her Celtic roots. She did very well in terms of touring, television shows and live work, yet a difficult lifestyle coupled with the commercial direction of the material drove her to emigrate to the United States.
Initially teamed with writer/producer/engineer Jeff Silverman, she released an 11-track debut album entitled Window to a World (Rincon Recordings (USA) R2 70482, 1991) that pioneered a blend of Celtic sounding music with a pop feel combining fiddle, banjo and mandolin. She has certainly moved on significantly since then. Although her first album has been deleted, "The Face Of Africa" and other tracks from it can be heard at on her self-titled album and heard within her mp3.com webspace. Second hand copies of Window to a World can occasionally be found online (visit GEMM and search on the album title).
Today Aeone is moving in a different, self-created and original direction with seemingly limitless creative talent and musical passion. Aeone told Musical Discoveries that her career is "a very personal odyssey of a woman's journey back to herself on every level." The images within this review also show that the artiste is a very attractive and sensual woman.
Aeone continued to develop musically as her work expanded into film where she did songs for a number of television series, such as Santa Barbara, and provided vocals on soundtracks including the voice of Tanya on the album An American Tail—Feivil and Friends. Her songs have been recorded by Rick Springfield and Shari Belafonte amongst others. More recently she has moved further into scoring and has a unique style using layered vocals to evoke emotion behind the picture. She scored the pilot and trailer for the Team Knight Rider spin-off Spy Girls for Universal/USA and has had music in a number of trailers including more recently the track "Deliverance" (available at mp3.com for download) for The Messenger, Luc Bresson's highly acclaimed film about Joan of Arc.
Aeone draws inspiration from Celtic roots and finds that she is not influenced by other musicians. She told us, "Writing music for me is often an incredibly creative experience. I don't sit down with a piece of music by somebody else in mind. I might have a melody in my head, or start with a groove of simply just the burning desire to write." She is often inspired by books she has read or films seen. She continues, "Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes inspired me to go on my female journey and definitely inspired the song "Aeone" on the album. There's a section in the Jane Hamilton book Map Of The World with a description of a man being absolutely drawn to a woman to him and how that energy feels. I remember reading it just before doing the vocal on "The Woman's Touch." She added, "I would say also that "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley almost changed my life!" Her style combines the best of Enya, Kate Bush and Capercaillie's Karen Matheson, yet she has a significantly sharper edge.
Aeone finds herself listening to a broad range of music, but doesn't listen to the same people all the time. She told us, "I do enjoy Enigma, Deep Forest, Peter Gabriel, Bjork, Loreena McKennett, Afro Celt Sound System, Moby, Goo Goo Dolls, Joni Mitchell as well as some classical stuff." The Woman's Touch clearly reflects the combination of these influences. The album contains a broad range of song styles, each with clear ethereal vocals, at times rising above full ambient grooves. Ballads are offset by strong dance rhythms as well as several highly accessible tunes. Samples of her scoring work are equally enticing with music varying from Enya-like vocalisations to the heavily layered and highly moving worldly dance tunes found within her soundtrack compositions. Aeone plays keyboards, writes, records and produces most of her work. Uillean pipes, hammer dulcimer, Bohran drums, koto, guitars, viola and other real live musicians were used in the making of her album - along with the occasional great loop!
Aeone had voice training from a very early age and studied singing for a while at the Guildhall of Music and Drama in London. She told us, "I have always been a rebel at heart and I began to find all the 'rules' that apply in classical music education very restrictive to the way I wanted to sing. The same applied to my music in terms of playing piano. I think that you have to have a particular talent and skill to rise above all the 'rules' and sound exceptional. So I stopped doing that and went on my own path." Her journey has indeed been very successful. She mused further about her vocal style for us, "I think your vocal develops over a long period of time once you start understanding your voice and where it can go. I definitely started to take some risks as time went on. By risks I mean not being afraid for things to sound strange, make weird noises, etc. in order to try an idea out. I began to discover these different areas of my voice that I hadn't used and that gave different tones, or emotion to the work."
The Woman's Touch. This newly released full length album opens with the track "Aeone." Acoustic string instruments, woodwinds, powerful percussion and highly textured multilayered vocals support the artiste's soaring lead vocals in this grooving contemporary Celtic crossover. The rhythmic sound of "The Woman's Touch" builds on the groove theme of "Aeone" with more pronounced traditional instrumentation combining with modern bass and contemporary percussion parts. Evocative vocals soar during the verses and meld with rich backing vocals in the choruses.
Aeone told us, "I do a lot of layering of my voice in my work - which requires hours of concentrated singing - I often use a very breathy tone that sounds like water to the ear when the chords are built up. It takes hours but it is a very Zen-like process. I have really got into doing vocalised singing over the past couple of years—this is more in the scoring side of my work—using voice as an emotion without words. It really is a very freeing and interesting creative experience in many ways as you can let the voice carry you where it wants to go. I've certainly done some very beautiful work this way and also some very unusual 'warrior woman' type of work that I don't know if I would have done or gone there if 'words' had been present to sing."
"Body In Mind" is a highly varied track with sensual and ambient instrumentals and a dynamically varying lead vocal—almost spoken in spots—sung over heavy bass and percussion and rich backing vocals. Reminscent of some of Aeone's soundtrack scoring work and building on the groove of the earlier tracks is the worldly track "Indira." Layer upon layer of vocalise is extensively combined with rhythmic sampling and dreamy instrumentation.The first of the album's more accessible tracks is the ballad "Hands Of Love." With its Celtic foundation, sensitive lead vocals clearly carry the song. Backing vocals contribute to the deep texture of the track. "Men-An-Tol," with its Celtic dance orientation and stunning lead vocal is reminscent of Capercaillie (album review) and Aeone even sounds like their lead singer Karen Matheson in spots. With lighter instrumentation, Aeone's singing in the sensitive ballads "Message In My Heart" and "Take The Boat Out" (especially) are also reminscent of Karen Matheson (concert review), however the instrumentation is perhaps more reminiscent of that found on Clannad's or Máire Brennen's solo recordings.
Aeone takes command of the writing, performing and engineering in many of her projects, but also works at times with others. She told us, "I worked with Jeff Silverman (songwriter, guitar player, producer, engineer, mixer) on many of the tracks for The Woman's Touch album, cowriting "Body in Mind" and "Men-an-Tol" and producing. It was such an inspirational collaboration in so many ways, challenging and interesting—as all the best creative experiences are. I definitely learnt a lot from him—he's a very creative and multi-talented person, has an absolutely fabulous ear and is probably the best mixer in the business!"
Aeone added, "The Koto on "Take The Boat Out" was played by June Kuramoto from the band Hiroshima. The bass on "Prayer for the Angels was played by Hiroshima's Kimo Cornwell. Uillean pipes on "Men-an-Tol were played by Eric Rigler who also played all the lead pipes for Braveheart. These contributions were made by really talented musicians."
We asked Aeone to explain to us us about how she writes her music. "When writing a new piece of music, I often begin with a groove that I like. I use a lot of loops in my work and have developed that process over the last few years. I get lots of different drum loops together and chop them up and move them around in my computer and create what I consider to be an inspirational groove. Sometimes I go to a chord progression—they are an absolutely integral part of my songwriting and general writing process. However, I use very unusual inversions of chords, lots of clusters, adding different notes in the bass to change the feel and sound of a chord." She is a consummate professional: "I could spend a whole day just getting the sound of one chord right." She continues, "I am also very into sound, so I might start to layer sounds up to make one particular sound for say a pad part. I absolutely love and adore and am inspired by great pad sound and often it is hearing a great sound or belnd of sounds that I am inspired to write."
Aeone arranges her songs by gradually adding more sounds and different parts. "Sometimes I'll add live instruments. My friend Annie Turbin played viola on "Message In My Heart" although a lot of the time I play all the stuff myself. These days I also do all the producing, recording and engineering myself. I record into my computer and can sing a bunch of stuff and then move the parts about all over the place and see if an idea is working or not. It really is a fantastic way of doing things as it tends to open you up creatively and you thnk of things that you would never even dream of doing if you had sung stuff on tape."
"Prayer For The Angels" and "What You Want" continue in the vein of "Body In Mind" with a thick rhythm section but are vocally richer with a more dramatic lead and dense backing vocal elements. As with "Aeone," "The Women's Touch" and "Body In Mind," you'll feel compelled to tap your feet to the groove of these songs.
The complexity of Aeone's music may not easily lend itself to live performances. She's done a lot of live work and told us, "It tends to go in flows—sort of like writing. A few years ago I was out there performing a lot and rushing around all these clubs, coffee houses, etc. However, I do so much writing and recording these days that I haven't been doing much live work. The other part of that is that I have to present my work in a certain way and that takes a lot of time and energy. I have to choose how much time and energy I give to each area of my work." She continues, "I do love performing live - it's been so much a part of my musical journey. So I am planning on doing something this year; I'm just waiting for the right thing. Performance art is where I want to go so watch this space!"
One of the two most accessible songs on the album, and certainly one of our favourites, is the rocking "The Lost Art Of Crying." Celtic rhythms, electric guitars and traditional instrumentation underscore a highly dramatic and soaring lead vocal part. Backing vocals perfectly compliment the instrumentals in the choruses. "Voice Of America" is another highly accessible track, much in the style of "The Lost Art Of Crying" but it has a more worldly texture with both male and female backing vocals, some almost spoken at times. Both of these tracks would make excellent singles and are timed properly for radio airplay. The album closes with "Anam Cara," a soft vocalise ballad performed with piano very much in an Enyaesque style.
Aeone's album is wonderfully produced with technically superb recording quality thanks to her collaboration with Jeff Silverman. The booklet contains lovely black and white photographs, complete lyrics and artistic credits. When asked about the artwork she told us about the entire process. "The artwork for the album came from some incredible photographic work done by Sonia Kesheshian, a wonderful photographer and great friend. I had seen some of this process she had done in the past called 'light painting' and was fascinated by it. It has a very 'otherworldly' feel, which I think is in line with my work." Indeed, some of these photographs are reproduced within this article. She continues, "We put together a shoot, which had to be done at night, as everything has to be pitch black and a group of us had a really extraordinary creative experience. The process takes a long time and is somewhat of an endurance test for subject and photographer. Two manual shuttered cameras are used, one Poloroid. They are stationary on tripods as the process requires absolute stillness. You set the picture up, decide on the pose, then hold it completely still, no movement at all." It obviously made quite an impression on Aeone!
She continued, "The lights are turned off, the shutters of the cameras are opened, you are in complete blackness. She uses flashlights with cones of paper attached and literally paints you in with light. Where the light falls is where the picture comes out or is taken. Any movement causes a blur in the photo. Once she has done a particular part of your body you can move it again. The most difficult part is the face since you have to try not to blink when she is waving a flashlight at your face. When all is done, background painted in, body painted in, etc, she closes the shutters of the camera and turns the lights on. The Polariod gives an idea of how the picture turns out, but the angle is slightly different so there is an element of surprice and a definite element of magic involved."
In line with the overall direction of her work, Aeone wanted the images to illustrate the different sides of a woman. She told us, "The main cover photo is the woman with all her hair falling all around her almost floating in the picture, totally accessible, beautiful, delicate, soft and feminine, yet still sensual." The back of the album is the angel picture used above. "It is the ethereal part of us, feet hardly touching the ground, slightly otherworldly quality, maigcal, almost as if there is light all around the body. Is she returning or leaving? You don't know! The wood floor and grate in the photo give her grounding. So although magical, she is still of this world and in this world. Shoes in symbolic terms mean that in leaving them behind with someone you will always return and therefore a symbol of her faithfulness."
Aeone also told us about the image on the back of the booklet accompanying the CD, "[it] the powerful, sensual, warrior woman—not afraid of anything. There is also a very otherworldy feel to this photo. Sonia painted in red light all around me and so there is a feeling of something of the ancient and something of the modern." She also told us about the black and white photos used inside the booklet. "They were taken on another day at my home. Sonia loves to work in black and white and the concept was the day of a woman, caught in repose, in laughter, in prayer, in silence, all dressed up, in play, etc." Further examples are available at Aeone's website.
Aeone concluded her explanation of the booklet's photographs. "The kettle at the end is symbolic of the 'cauldron' synonimous with the woman who has always been boiled and brewed. Now it is mostly tea but it used to be different. The artwork on the CD itself is a Celtic wheel, symbolic of things always turning and moving on; a woman always like that in the ebb and flow of life, releasing and receiving."
Aeone reminded us that all the artwork on the album is very much tied in with her website: Aeone's Secret Life (www.aeone.com). "It is an experimental place and very interactive, definitely magical—journey of a woman seen through different portals symbolic of the different sides of her—done with music, pictures, words and mystery." Aeone is the creative inspiration behind the scenes and art director. The website was put together with Aeone's friend, "an extremely talented web designer and official webmaster extraordinaire," Paca Thomas. She believes that he has brought all her ideas to life and they both feel that it pushes the boundaries of what's available on the internet today.
Aeone. Aeone's mp3.com digitial audio music CD contains eight tracks that can be played on a computer using the Macromedia player provided with it or on a standard CD player. A short (0:47) segment of "Window to a World" provides an introduction to the CD and provides a glimpse, with "The Face Of Africa" and "Ophelia" into the artiste's earlier work. "The Woman's Touch" and "Body In Mind" from her latest album follow.
"50 Secrets" draws upon the groove of the earlier tracks and those on The Woman's Touch but does so by crossing over between Celtic and Reggae! A very interesting track in all regards, Aeone's vocal work is especially notable in its difference to her other songs.
The Celtic ballad "Make Me A Dream" is a stunning track with sensitively soaring vocals and an almost pop hook line. Electric and acoustic instrumentals, dynamic percussion and everso sensual backing vocals contribute to the high accessibility of this lovely track certain to please the broadest range of audiences. "The Face Of Africa," from the artist's debut album, has somewhat less of a world beat than the title would otherwise suggest, and in fact is a highly accessible rocking number with tribal sounds included during the instrumental bridge. The chorus, with its multi-tracked backing vocal, has a distinct hook and the lead vocal, as with "Make Me A Dream" is simply stunning.
The acoustic guitar accompaniment perfectly suits the sensitive lead vocal track of "Ophelia." Lush multi-tracking vocals contribute to the texture of the song in the choruses. Critical listening to the track reveals an underlying melody, albeit substantially lighter, that is similar to the Rolling Stones' "Painted Black." Co-written and produced by Jeff Silverman, the tracks "Ophelia" and "The Face Of Africa" are taken from the Window to a World album. The title track of that album as well as "Make me a Dream" are also produced by Jeff Silverman. Aeone's trailer score for The Messenger entitled "Deliverance" concludes the CD. The track includes many layers of worldly instrumentals and tribal vocalise.
Other Work. Aeone provided Musical Discoveries with some examples of additional singing, songwriting and recording work she has done. These fourteen shorter tracks are sensually ambient tracks laced extensively with vocalise and light instrumentation. Within the set list are "Anam Cara" and "Deliverance" which also conclude the recordings reviewed above respectively.
Our sampler opened with "In The Time Of Longing," a dreamy Enya-like track with rich multi-tracked vocals similar in some ways to "Anam Cara" from The Woman's Touch. The recording continues in a similar vein is "I Lament For You," a slow and sensitive vocalise ballad performed with keyboards developed when Aeone was up for composer for an NBC series by Zolman King. The drama of "Paris" from Aeone's musical library builds significantly on sound of the earlier vocalise with additional dramatic dimensions and effects. "Deliverance," the trailer to the Joan Of Arc movie The Messenger was perfectly placed on our CD after "Paris."
Lots of multi-tracked vocals and the lightest of keyboard instrumentation, albeit substantially in the bass range, form the backing for the world sound in a sample of "Future Voices." It was originally used for the Spy Girls project on Universal Television. The track starts with a single tribal vocal and goes into a heavy sensual groove with a lot of sexy breathing, heavy guitar distortion sounds and weird crashes. There is a lovely yet sparse lead vocal part within the track. "Dominus Madre," co-composed with Cato, is a richly orchestrated soundtrack reminscent of "Carpe Diem" from Robert Prizeman's Libera written for the Anna And The King trailer.
Six of the tracks on our sampler are classified "Audio Poetry"; they are from a project Aeone composed with Starr Parodi and Jeff Fair. The first of them, entitled "Wings Of Mine," with its extensive vocal multi-tracking and stunning solo lead vocal began with an Adiemus texture and built into an orchestral Enya-like style in the chorus. It is is accompanied primarily by piano and keyboard—a wonderful track that we hope Aeone will expand and introduce to a broader audience.
"Long Ago" is a lovely Enya-like solo vocalise accompanied by keyboard. It was used in the trailer for indie film "Lovers of the Arctic Circle" and also in a whole promo for the Discovery Channel. "Back To You " is a very moving song with lyrics; everso short, it is a "Storms In Africa" track that we'd love to hear Aeone do more with in the future. It was used in the At First Sight and Meet Joe Black trailers.
Soaring Celtic vocalise—like Loreena McKennitt—and only the lightest keyboard accompaniment comprise the track "End Of The Beginning," until the song concludes in a great percussive crescendo. "Gloria Elektra" is a much more contemporary, almost dance number, with a soaring lead vocal part. The longest track of the "samples"—and similar in its groove to elements of Lord Of The Dance—it is a trailer that was used for a promo on the Discovery Channel and another that we'd like Aeone introduce to broader audiences. "Chambers Of My Heart" combines a light and sensitive solo vocalise with a percussive heartbeat. Lovely backing vocals underscore the melody as the percussion expands. Our CD concludes with an Aeone piece entitled "The Trance Teller," a dance-oriented soundtrack number reminiscent of "Dominus Madre" but with more effects and substantially lusher vocals; it is currently being considered for a movie trailer.
Clearly the internet has influenced Aeone's music. She told us, "I haven't been up on it for very long. I released the album [The Woman's Touch] mid-November. My website went up at the same time. But the song "The Woman's Touch" did very well at mp3.com reaching #3 in the overall charts and staying at #1 in Alternative AAA from September through January along with other songs reaching #2, #3 and #4. "Message In My Heart" reached #1 in the Pop charts. I have had over 100,000 downloads of my music since going up in August and it has indeed been an interesting experience." Aeone told us that she is in the process of joining other sites and that she has had an amazing response from the world at large. Her song "Anam Cara" has been selected for a forthcoming compilation album entitled Celtic Fantasy (Earthtone/Universal) with other marjor artists that include Mary Black, Acoustic Alchemy, Miriam Stockley and others.
Aeone told us, "I think the internet allows an artiste to promote her music in the way that she sees it; it allows an an audience to find her and her them and it allows for its own momentum to build. It allows for a lot of freedom of expression and for any idea that you have musically or otherwise to be put up there for the world to see and hear, as you do it. It doesn't have to go through any other channel. This way you can see what works and what doesn't almost instantaneously. It is a no holds barred approach. If you think it, do it! Very creative, very lateral thinking ... I like that."
Further commenting on the internet, Aeone said, "I think that there are no boundaries of what can be achieved and it will be very interesting to see where this all goes. I have always thought of myself as a pioneer so this is the perfect atmostphere for me to work in. I think that the beauty of the internet is that those who are on it are 'seekers' by nature and are out there looking for you or looking for something different. I am definitely building a very strong fan base. The website seems to be a place that people bookmark and return to for another experience so people are staying with it.
Clearly one of the most promising artists we've found this year and one that is also charting great success at mp3.com, this adult alternative singer / songwriter / composer is producing great music. The Woman's Touch has a highly varied selection of vocally intensive music based on Celtic themes and some of the songs have a very definite edge. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Her self-titled CD available from mp3.com provides a peek into the artist's history and includes several stunning tracks not available elsewhere. Certainly worthy of detailed exploration, Aeone's music is worth a cross country journey—in all respects it isa must listen!
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