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  • Jonathan Widran

ANN LICATER, Between the Stars

Perhaps we thought once the pandemic era passed, at least officially, the world would be a less, collectively fraught and anxious place. Yet current international events and ongoing sociopolitical tensions remind us that as long as we’re on this planet, limited to human form and its inherent ego, hope for a truly joyful, peaceful world will always be a bit elusive. All of which makes a tension- soothing, soul-transportive epic sonic experience like Ann Licater’s Between the Stars more essential. For if we can’t have literal peace on earth, at least individually, we all have access to divinely-inspired inner peace that recordings like this are artfully fashioned to inspire.

When life seems particularly difficult, a certain Scripture (Isaiah 40:26) always echoes in my mind: “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens/Who created all these?/He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.” In my earlier review of Ann's inspiring, meditational piece “Divine Skies” – the lead single from Between the Stars and also its inviting opening track – I wrote, “(Ann) casts her musical heart and soul to the expansive worlds above via the soothing melodic, transcendent beauty of her Native American flute and an ancient vessel flute known as the ocarina.”

From “Divine Skies,” which grounds her flute and the exciting, echoing bird-like calls of the ocarina in the subtle beat of Ivar Lunde, Jr.’s frame drum, through the dreamy mystical closing “Starlight Lullaby,” the award-winning flutist’s mission – so beautifully expressed over the course of the seamless flow 14 pieces as an ongoing prayer – is to help us lift our eyes towards a contemplation of the great mystery. Drawing on and creating subtle sonic variety via the unique timbres of the Native American, Native American style, Mayan-style Drone, folk, silver, C-flute and silver alto, she creates perfect and pure, in the moment improvisational compositions, intuitively channeling an otherworldly combination of her inner divinity and messages from the higher divine mind of the universe.

While recordings, like everything in this life, are limited to time and space, Ann creates an immersive feeling that feels evergreen and eternal, as if long after the 45-minute runtime, it can run in our minds, hearts and souls on a loop that constantly helps us, in the midst of our day-to-day triumphs and struggles, lift our physical and spiritual eyes upward. Along that line, as with her previous six acclaimed releases – including 2022’s Whispers from Earth, which explored the divine connections and possibilities on the planet itself – it’s most inspiring to listen to her free-flowing melodies, breaths and pauses as a non-stop flow.

Still, there are many places along the journey worth highlighting, or perhaps even using as unique entry points if starting with the artist’s chosen opener seems too easy. A few obvious, dynamic choices would be three songs featuring perfectly placed extra instrumentation. These are the gently lyrical “Luminous Waters,” which pairs the flute with her graceful, spacious piano notes that seem designed as musical representations of sunlight sparkling on the water; the darker, haunting “Moon Garden,” featuring Ann’s hypnotic piano harmony; and the trance-inducing “Distant Realm,” created via a gossamer swirl of low-toned flute notes and very subtle bell-like sounds coming from underlying singing bowls and synth.

The way Ann structures the tracking of the songs, it’s clear that she is intent on weaving a unique narrative for her explorations. Once she takes stock of those aforementioned “Divine Skies,” she casts herself as an “Ancient Traveler” searching for hope and divine existence “Between The Stars.” Along the way, she encounters “Sunbirds” flying on the wings of the ocarina echoes above the “Luminous Waters.” While some artists in the new age/ambient realm choose generic titles for even the most compelling pieces, everything Ann does is clearly divinely inspired as she experiences “Dream Passages,” “Shades of Stillness,” “Angelic Echoes,” “Whispering Light” and “Timeless Voices” and a vision of a “Circling Star” – of which speak love to our hearts, lifting us from the darkness into the eternal light as we journey along.

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