Once in a while, an album comes along that is so meticulously detailed and composed that we, as an inferior species, don't know how to process the sheer brilliance of it. This kind of music tends to either climb to incomprehensible levels of popularity or fade into obscurity, lost to time.
"Snowfall" - a winter-themed 2010 release by New Age magician David Arkenstone - doesn't deserve anything close to such a sad fate.
Of course, given Arkenstone's uncanny ability to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece at a surprising rate, it's understandable that "Snowfall" isn't so well known. In fact, it can only be found via services such as iTunes or Amazon - a treasure buried under the mountain of New Age music pumped out annually by countless artists and composers.
Once you discover this hidden gem, however, you'll likely not regret it. A swirling, wintery soundscape calls to you like a siren in a muffled forest of virgin snow, presented in emotionally uplifting atmospheres over a svelte 8-track compilation. Opening with the appropriately titled "Autumn Is Waning", eerie yet inviting chimes echo before warm strings pull you in. The fifteen-minute-long track caresses and envelops the listener in luscious gooey warmth in the form of cascading strings and angelic synthesized harmonies. The album gently rolls on, with each track transitioning non-intrusively - likely to evoke a sense of peace and belonging.
While the album as a whole provides a transcendent music journey, there are definitely some standout tracks. "White Sentinels", accompanied with twinkling stars and shimmering string-laden crescendos, is a whimsical delight. "The Stillness", aptly named, is an ethereal injector of solace, reminiscent of the silence of heavy snowfall in a still grove. "Winter Dreams" is a touching ballad that could be easily mistaken for a track by Enya with its playfully plunking piano arrangement and cooing atmospheric vocals. In fact, that track in particular is one of the most identifiable of Arkenstone's repertoire due to the compelling, thoughtful piano arrangement alone. A personal favourite is the spellbinding "Midnight Snowfall", with a purely optimistic arrangement that, accompanied with twirling synths evoking the tweets of passing birds, brings about a feeling of complete and utter satisfaction, be it within the track, the emotions awakened by it or even the listener's outlook on life. The album acts like the complete spectrum of an otherwise depressing, dark and cold season. It awakens the opposite aspects of winter - the ones that so many enjoy. One can feel the warm fires, hot drinks, cozy homes, good company as well as the beautifully muffled world that can normally seem hectic and crazy.
That is the power of this album, and Arkenstone's other releases such as "The Healing Spa" and "Ocean Dreams" (other instant recommendations). It awakens the little things we enjoy. It serves me faithfully as the only Christmas music in the house even though it isn't designed to cater solely to that time of year. Still, gone are the cliché-addled cash-grab Christmas albums that are a dime a dozen nowadays. No regrets about it, either, as the album is a wholesome and comforting thing to put on.
"Snowfall" is one of those albums that can be difficult to describe; the English vocabulary does little to justify the sheer beauty and brilliance of this record. By including just a couple of tracks in this review as an example of the atmosphere it evokes, hopefully you might begrudge yourself to take a moment to immerse yourself in something truly extraordinary. In conclusion, if there's a go-to album for solace and escapism, then this is the one. You will do no wrong in experiencing one of the best albums made by this triple grammy nominee.