I have other albums on my list to review, but this one is weighing on my mind. This is the new collaborative album Pangaea from artists Wouter Kellerman and David Arkenstone. The album released on September 3rd, and recently garnered a Grammy nomination for Best New Age album.
Wouter Kellerman is a flautist hailing from South Africa. Winning multiple awards and topping charts at home and even in the US, his work is noticed around the world. His collaborator here is David Arkenstone, a musician with an eclectic palette. I reviewed his solo album Solitude earlier this year. These two musicians share a New Age perspective, at least musically, and they decided to combine efforts to see what might arise.
The music that resulted is New Age and “world” music in style. I’m not sure “world” music is even a real label any more, but I’m going to use it anyways. This album obviously contains tons of flute, but also acoustic guitar, lush keys, a wide array of stringed instruments and woodwinds, various vocalists, and plenty of instruments I’ve never heard of. It is truly a world-trotting sound: one that leans towards ambient, beautiful, and celebratory ideas.
And celebration is part of the point here, I think. The album is named after the fabled super continent Pangaea that existed before it broke apart into the continents we recognize today. The basic idea, then, is that we are all one, despite geographical boundaries. We were one in the beginning, and we still are. And this fact calls for unity and compassion.
I’ve really been appreciating this record. I understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but it has all the vitality, serenity, and imagination that I look for in an album of this style. It feels quite human, down to the very bone of our cultures, but also spiritual and harmonious in a way that seems transcendent and hopeful. Through and through, this is a gorgeous work.
The album has 9 tracks and is about 40 minutes long. It blows by quickly to the point that I felt the need to listen again immediately after it ended the first time. It doesn’t linger or indulge itself in pointless filler. Songs like “First Rain” and “Sunrise” are good examples of this. “First Rain” is a blistering, engaging song with all sorts of peculiar vocal accents and percussive rhythms. It begins and ends in what may seem a hasty fashion, but the interesting vocals, illustrious bandoneon, and welcome hammered dulcimer tones make for an exciting song that lasts exactly as long as it should. “Sunrise” is similar in that way, except this track is gradual and nostalgic and flush with emotional color. It doesn’t have the beats or rhythms, but finds itself in ambient space and time. As different as these tracks are, they both represent the skill and timing of these artists.
My favorite songs are “Desert Moon”, “A New World”, “The Sun’s Reflection”, and “Across Land and Sea”. “Desert Moon” opens the album with a crisp Middle Eastern vibe that includes gorgeous vocals and a Dead Can Dance sort of gothic shadowy character. “A New World” comes next and has some of the best melodies on the album. I love the spacey atmosphere and wonderful terrain this song covers. “The Sun’s Reflection” is an interesting track, one with slow burning ideas, but it almost reaches acoustic rock style in the middle as it builds up a rhythm to match its abstract vocal harmonies. Finally, “Across Land and Sea” closes the record, and it revels in the bandoneon sound with hammer dulcimer again creating a bright counterpoint. I love the feelings of history and earthly beauty that are felt.
Pangaea surprised me. I really like Arkenstone’s work in his solo career, and I confess that I hadn’t heard much from Kellerman. Still, this album is like a vivid and vital painting: a tapestry of art, light, and humanist wonder. It demands an appreciation for who we are and where we’ve been, with an eye on where we can hope to go in the future. I hope you will like what you hear.
Find Kellerman/Arkenstone online: