In my earlier review of multi-flutist Monica Williams’ stirring debut album Journey of Tears, I complimented her for blissfully blending “her gorgeous flute melodies and deeply textured production with compelling storytelling throughout.”
I referred to her narrative style for the simple reason that quite often with new age instrumental music, the artist leaves all interpretive activity to the heart and soul of the listener, leaving minimal clues as to the inspiration for the journey they’re taking us on, or what sparked it.” On that album – her first solo work after five dual projects with pianist Wendy Loomis under the name Phoenix Rising – she perfectly matched her titles to the vibe and energies of the individual pieces to create a fascinating arc from “Raining Tears” to “The Great Beyond.”
From a purely musical standpoint, Williams’ new album Within Us All weaves another dynamic globally conscious blend of her multitude of flutes (a dreamy arsenal including the C-flute, bamboo, Native American, pan, alto and bass), and colorful melodic and harmonic textures created in ensemble with pianist Lynn Trudeau, bass flutist Sherry Finzer, guitarist Michael Kent Smith, percussionist Will Clipman and synthesist and creative director John Herrera. A listener with no insight into Williams’ soul intentions here could still enjoy a blissful immersion into pieces that are alternately, or all at once, lush, ambient, seductive, visceral and exotic.
Yet while Journey of Tears could be interpreted as literal or metaphorical, inward our outer adventure, Within Us All comes from a very different place – one of deeper affirmations for herself and for all those who listen. Collectively, these serve to create a rich tapestry of inviting melodies around the concept of an uplifting sense of community. The quest this time is all inner workings – but once taken to heart, those qualities will manifest in ways that will impact each human being we encounter and thus the planet in general.
Most albums of this nature are best experienced in meditative silence, but for these affirmations to take root, it might be best to fill your subconscious mind with a repetition of her titles as you listen. Over the mystical, easily grooving ambient flow she creates with Herrera, for instance, try saying out loud, “I am Compassionate.” Take to heart the fact that “You are Forgiving” as Williams weaves her soft spellbinding swirls around Finzer’s rich bass flute and Tredeau’s eloquent piano. With the echoing ambiences and haunting heartbeat percussion, you might feel an earthen native vibe as you proclaim to yourself, “You Are Memorable.”
A folksy joy may overcome you while declaring “You are Happiness” over the intricately soulful interactions between Williams’ higher octave excitement and the tender acoustic guitar of Michael Kent Smith. And the mystical, desert-y mood she and Clipman will make you feel like you’re tracking some amazing miles across the spiritual sand as you declare and embody the reality that “You are Adventure.”
Another interesting title concept not usually part of typical spiritual affirmations to the universe is “You Are Free as a Child,” which features whimsical flute textures floating carefree above Tredeau’s hypnotic, introspective piano. Williams goes on to encourage even more positive thinking via the hypno-synth tribal “You Are Determined” (think graceful music for the warrior soul), “You Are Integrity” (a sweeping, symphonic piano-flute duet) and two gems that will make us feel that all is well and we are of divine nature despite the human created chaos constantly swirling around us: “You Are Not Alone” and “You Are Enough.”