Album Reviews and Artist Reflections

Review and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2000
Last Updated 16 May 2000

Light Of Refinement
Image © Apsis Music 1997

Image © Apsis Music 1998
click on a cover image to access the artist's website
Language of the Soul
Image © Apsis Music 2000

With two highly successful new age albums establishing her in the heavenly vocals ranks of Enya and Maire Brennan, Canadian recording artist Anael has recently released her third album, Language of the Soul (Apsis Music (Canada) APS 2000CD, 2000). The album is recognised as the most significant accomplishment to date, evolving her ethereal sound to new levels. Anael's earlier albums, Light of Refinement (Apsis Music (Canada) APS 9709CD, 1997) and Unconditional (Apsis Music (Canada APS 9710CD), 1998) established her in a solid new age foundation and have received significant international acclaim. We had the opportunity to interview Anael during the preparation of these reviews and her comments have been incorporated in the text.

Possessed with a soft and pure singing tone, after her first public appearance as a teenager she was invited to perform her French songs on CBC radio, and subsequently went on to win several local competitions. Highly principled and unflinchingly true to her innermost feelings, it wasn't long before Anael's convictions would allow her path to shift in an exciting new direction.

In 1993, a "coincidental" meeting would introduce her to her future partner, and the creative spirit to perfectly echo her innermost ideals. Presented with the opportunity to revamp some of her own songs without compromise and true to their inspiration, she began collaborating with composer/poet/producer Bradfield.

We asked Anael about her background and she told us, "I come from Saguenay,in the northern region of Quebec." She continued, "At 12, I took some piano lessons; at 16, I learned to play guitar and composed my first songs. I did some competitions and later on, radio and TV shows, in my native region. I had put my musical career aside for a few years and then ... I met Bradfield."

The lyrical content of Anael's recordings is an essential component of the overall listening experience. We asked Bradfield about this and he told us, "In contrast to most artists, we place as much and often equal importance to what is being expressed through the written word." Bradfield's approach to the lyrics treats them as timeless powerful vehicles. He told us, "they must stand on their own as sheer poetry, even without accompaniment."

Bradfield further commented on the lyrical content of the music, "There is often an interplay between verse and chorus, juxtaposing the before and after, the here and there and other elements. Anael's lyrical message is one of constant resiliance, overcoming, celebration and a testament to the human spirit in all stages of evolution." He concluded, "My lyrics also seek constantly to avoid repetition, and we take great lengths to find new methods of expression to portray similar ideas. This is very important to me, and part of our quest for unequivocal expression." Readers interested in further insights from Bradfield are encouraged to explore this area of the artists' website.

Image © 2000 Apsis Music


Light Of Refinement. Anael's debut album has a new age sound with its eleven tracks spanning ballads, gentle new age tracks and some uptempo songs with very catchy melodies. Her own very memorable interpretation of "Kyrie" opens the album. Lead and multi-tracked harmony backing vocals contrast each other effectively against a contemporary instrumental arrangement. "Alien Mind" is written and performed in a similar style that continues to build as the song develops.

The album's ballads are sensitively sung, often with crystalline lead vocal accompanied only by the lightest instrumentation. "One Brief Dream." "In Silence" has whispier vocals that are nicely constrasted by the string sounds included in the arrangement; it builds to orchestral proportions as the song builds. In "Upon A Restless Night" Anael's lead vocal is accompanied by a variety of contrasting keyboard sounds and is underscored in the chorus by layers of melodic backing vocals. "The Road (Send Some Love)" is sung sweetly solo featuring Anael's clear vocals, soaring at times, and is only lightly accompanied by strings and crisp percussion. A stunning ballad entitled "The Road (Send Some Love)" features a symphonic arrangement, lovely vocal lead and harmonious backing vocals to support it.

We were interested to learn how Anael developed her soft and sensual vocal style. She told us, "I sang all my life and this is the only way for me to sing—with my heart and soul. I didn't develop it, I just live it." As far as Anael's musical training, "I studied piano for 3 years, played guitar since I was 16, and still play today. I studied flute for 2 years and took some singing lessons for a few years. Currently, I sing classical music with a choir and this has improuved my technique a lot."

Anael writes her own music and told us about her influences, "I was raised around classical music and some well known French singers." She told us about her favourite artists, "I like many different styles of music: classical, light rock, pop, new age. It goes from Chris de Burgh, to U2, Enya, Ricky Martin, Liquid Mind, Mozart etc ... depending on how I feel that day." She continued, "It depends how I feel, I don't have a favorite."

Image © 2000 Apsis Music

"My Lifetime" is slightly more Enya-like with layers of instrumental and vocal working together in a lush new age arrangement. A certain favourite for heavenly vocals enthusiasts, layers of vocalise embrace "Birthing Clouds," underscored by rich new age string-like keyboard arrangements. Further reflections of the style are certainly present in "To Lift You" where plucky string sounds and vocal layers are also reminscent of Enya's sound to a degree.

Highly memorable in both its lead vocal melody and instrumental arrangement is "Dona Noblis Pacem." This upbeat new age style track has lush orchestrally symphonic instrumentation and a very catchy lead vocal with additional harmony layers contributing to the accessibility of the arrangement. Interestingly, one track on each of Anael's albums has similar construction as our reviews of her other albums will reveal below.

Anael's first album, like those that follow is nicely packaged. Silk screening on the CD itself is lovely and the foldout artwork accompanying it has several nice images of the artist and complete lyrics of the works included.

Unconditional. Anael's second album clearly builds on the successful formula of the first with ten sensitive tracks, each constructed with careful instrumental and vocal arrangements. The overall sound is very orchestral, symphonic at times. Vocally lush, with lots of multi-tracking, the songs range from misty new age dreamy compositions through ballads to uplifting and highly accessible rock-like numbers. As with her debut album, all voices are by Anael and all instrumentals are performed by Bradfield. The opening track, "Sanctus," features a symphonic keyboard-based introduction and consists of spiritually-motivated multi-tracked vocals.

Image © 2000 Apsis Music

The moving new age or light rock numbers are technically superb in their instrumental arrangements and contain soaring vocal excursions. "Listen to Your Heart" and "All That's Going On Around You" are examples of the sound, the latter having a highly notable instrumental arrangement.

Vocal textures are again similar to Enya but instrumental themes are generally more contemporary, leaving Celtic influences behind. Anael and Bradfield have used multi-tracking to great effect but have done less of it than Enya and her production team. The album's ballads include "Ask Me Like a Song," and "Come Again, I Believe" sung primarily solo, "Don't Trade In Your Dreams" and "The Age of Reason."

Certainily the most accessible track on the album is "Aeterna," a moving new age track with a lovely vocal melody and a memorable instrumental arrangement, reminiscent of "Dona Noblis Pacem" from Anael's first album. Also jazz-edged, "Willow," has extremly clear vocal passages making it one of the album's treasures. The title track closes the album. A soft ballad sung solo over the lightest instrumentation, it is completely illustrative of the sweet texture of Anael's voice.

Anael's three albums all have a slightly different texture, clearly illustrating development of her style. We asked her about this and she told us, "When we record an album we are not thinking in terms of style. We go along with the music. But I could say that the style is the blend of Bradfield magical lyrics and music plus my voice and some of my music—one cannot live without the other." Specifically commenting on the latest album, Anael said, "For me it is always an evolution, each time it is as much a discovery as it is a spiritual experience. Each time it is magical when we do the final mix and after when we have the final product in our hands." Anael's second album is again nicely packaged by Apsis music; the booklet accompanying the CD contains a full set of lyrics and lovely images of the artist.

Language Of The Soul. The third album by Anael continues in the style of the artist's former work but is more adventuresome in the treatment of the ten tracks that comprise it. She has continued to expand her vocal and stylistic boundaries, and this latest project finds her singing in her native French tongue, exploring the sanctity of various Hebrew texts and cleverly adaptating a classic Italian aria, all while maintaining her usual English and Latin performances. Spiritual themes remain paramount in her work, and the merging of cultural, religious and linguistic boundaries would seem to grace her quite becomingly. The album's richly produced packaging perfectly compliments the artist's musical development.

"Come Raggio di Soleil" and "Who Made Thee Flesh" are a sensitively sung whispy Anael-style ballads. In the soft ballad, "Chir Haschirim," Anael's lead vocal is accompanied by acoustic Spanish-sounding guitar and light sounding coffee house style keyboards. "Part Of Our Essence" and "In The Key Of Wisdom" are produced in a similar vein with lighter, but equally interesting, instrumentation. Soaring lead vocals dominate the ballad "Hymne à la Paix" which exhibits sounds from a French café at times. Anael told us, "this song talks about the most important topic for me which is "Peace on earth" and it was composed for the children of the world." A similar style also dominates "A Kindred Light" which also features wonderful layers of harmony backing vocals.

The world sounds of "Lingering Stratus" are achieved from lush orchestral instrumentation, a male choir and are joined with Anael's bright lead vocal. Rich symphonic instrumentation and layers of vocals create a lush texture for "The Tower Of Babel," a stunning track, epic in every one of its proportions. The lush instrumentation and male choir backing vocal within "Crastina Die" adds lots of texture and dimension to this stunning and highly memorabl track that closes the album.

Aside from music, Anael is presently studying for her doctorate in Homeopathic medicine. Other interests include anything out of the ordinary, especially the supernatural and other unexplained phenomena. She told us, "Right now I'm at the final stage of a four year course in Homeopathy. I always had an interest in soft medecine. I love to help others as much as I can. I looked into different religions and philosophies. The one that fits the most with me is Buddism. My conclusion is simple compassion, forgiveness, be kind to others, respect every living thing and I try to apply that in my every day life." It is clear in her music.

Through her music and lyrics Anael aspires to raise global consciousness and promote the concept of caring more for others than for ourselves. She believes that when we can all apply this, no one will lack for anything. Even in times of hardship, Anael has truly lived and breathed this philosophy. She cannot bear or even tolerate injustice, and will fight vigorously to resolve it. In her friendships, encounters and especially when she sings, the loving warmth she radiates is like a breath of fresh air in these tumultuous times. Anael continued, "I also have an interest in the paranormal, like UFOs and other phenemena. I don't think that we have all the answers and the search is what interests me the most."

Anael also told us her impressions about the web, "I think it's one of the greatest inventions since TV appeared in our lives. It made the world smaller and communications way faster than ever before. With the internet we could reach companies in other contries and deal with them the same day. In that sense it really helped us. And because of that, yes we got new fans and develop new markets for our music."

You can find all of Anael's albums online at at a nice discount. There her visitors can read further reviews, hear soundbites and order the compact discs. Order Light Of Refinement here. Order Unconditional here. Order Language of the Soul here. You can also find complete song samples at her website. Anael's first three albums are each artistic triumphs in their own right and as a set the three work quite well together. Vocal work varies between crystialline and whispy and is supported by excellent instrumental work be it complex or simple. Several of the most accessible songs are highly memorable and will therefore carry the strongest support of a growing listener base. These albums are well produced, performed with stunning perfection and deserve significant exploration by female vocal enthusiasts. Certainly worthy of a cross country journey, these three albums are a must listen!

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