New Zealander Rhian Sheehan, who I imagine looks like a cross between Rhianna and Cindy Sheehan, does not play around with these fragile instrumental compositions; he plays beautifully. Allegedly created in a glass forest with crystal pools, Stories From Elsewhere tells the voiceless narrative of a musician's struggle to make an album full of gorgeous music and succeeds on every track. Sheehan's musical background includes scoring film series, and his dramatic flair shows in tracks like "The Upper Sky,” a string-dominated piece that rises higher and higher with piano and drums. Sheehan has a multitude of talent backing him on Stories (including players from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra), and yet the music sounds so deeply personal and sincere that it's hard to believe this wasn't the work of one man.
The rich production does a great service to Sheehan's angelic compositions. "La Boîte à Musique" is especially striking with its militant beat created by musical toy instruments. These moments of childlike experimentation juxtaposed with neoclassical orchestration run free with emotion though the music rarely enters a histrionic state. Some tracks bounce with a sense of celebration while others calmly feel their way around notes like vines on a trellis. "Somnus,” the longest song on the album, uses faraway guitars and oceanic percussion to usher in the heartbreaking dawn after a night of unwanted epiphanies. Even when the soft stuff gives way to the heavy, the music is so graciously textured I swear I had moments of synesthesia when I saw bright comforting lights during listening. And yes, there are songs where style takes over the driver's side for substance, but Stories From Elsewhere still stands as an excellent musical journey through a talented musician's heart. All in all, this is beautiful.
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