To appropriate the title of 2002’s sweeping, soul enveloping latest full length album, that year seemed A World Away when multi-instrumentalists Pamela and Randy Copus launched their incredible two and a half decade run as vocal and instrumental masters of the sweet crossroads where ambient/atmospheric/symphonic new age/neo-classical meets infectious exotic grooves.
And now of course, with the world more chaotic than ever – and every difficult twist and turn right at our fingertips, not always in a good way – 2002’s lush, ethereal soundscapes and floating, dreamy melodies seem more essential to our world than ever. During their 15 year run on Real Music and beyond, the seminal progressive group has never stopped ruling the new age charts, but their sonic possibilities have expanded exponentially during this current decade with the addition of their equally talented daughter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Copus.
It’s likely that if you’ve had any inkling to listen to new age over the past 25 years that you have heard something about 2002. But for those who have not, a review of the staggeringly expansive instrumentation is in order – and will give you an idea of just how many textures the Copuses incorporate into their multi-dimensional flow. Randy plays piano, electric cello, guitar, bass and keyboards. Pamela brings the flutes, harp, keyboards and a wind instrument called the WX5.
In addition to her beautiful and powerful vocals, Sarah adds a Celtic lilt to the trio with Celtic harp, baritone ukulele, piano and Irish whistle. If you start checking out their catalog and wonder why you can’t understand all they’re singing, it’s with good reason. As part of their global-minded exploration of sacred traditions, it’s not uncommon for them to sing or chant in Sanskrit, Spanish, Gaelic, Latin and Japanese. Sometimes, the specific message is beside the point, as when they texture their voices to create a virtual heavenly choir effect.
Thematically, there is a narrative driving the songs on A World Away. Not surprisingly, 2002 describes it as a “cosmic love story, of kindred spirits traveling together through many times and many worlds, becoming lost and separated from one another, and finally reunited.” It’s a splendid journey from start to finish, book-ended with two songs showcasing Sarah’s gossamer grace as a vocalist. She wafts, along with some choral magic, over the hypnotic piano on the elegant, classical influenced “Dream of Life” and leads the heavenly hosts through deep atmospheres while exploring “Strings of the Heart.” Likewise, she draws us into the yearning of her heart on “Butterfly,” about chasing an elusive being that simply longs to be free.
Hearing her vocals, and those of her father Randy as he taps into a Jon Anderson-like poetic majesty on “To Live Again,” helps transport our minds and souls. But sometimes the most effective legs of the journey are the ones without words to guide us, like the mystical, harp and piano laced “Finding You” and “We Are Always,” which features a colorful, lighthearted swirl of guitar, flutes and whistle.
As powerful as each track is individually, 2002’s A World Away demands – incredibly their 18th album overall - that we abandon our 2018 grounded short attention spans and listen to the 10 tracks in one stirring, meditational sitting. 2002 has been breaking ground in the new age genre since 1992’s Wings, and it’s wonderful to hear that they’re still so wildly engaged in the soul-transportation business so many years later.