Eight years and numerous prestigious awards and nominations (including ones from Zone Music Reporter and One World Music) into her extraordinary career as a new age recording artist, acoustic guitarist and composer Michelle Qureshi breaks fresh ground on the next phase of her multi-faceted career on Within, her extraordinary debut album for myndstream.
Acclaimed worldwide for the compellingly melodic, ultra-contemporary yet timeless aesthetic of her music, the award winning, classically trained performer has been on a particularly exciting roll creatively since 2018, when she debuted her Harmonic Sound Immersion™, a transformative sound meditation created by the healing vibrations of ancient and modern instruments, which she uniquely describes as a “horizontal concert.” After years of mostly incorporating outside ambiences and other production textures into her music, the solo guitar driven Within is an extension and expansion of the organic stripped-down vibe that was her focus on her beautiful and inviting 2019 album Sage.
Perfectly timed for release the first official week of fall, the generous and heartfelt collection of 24 tracks of Within breeze into our consciousness like a new but somehow familiar friend, opening the doors through all its exquisite melodies and gentle rhythmic variations to a time of blissful relaxation, soul searching and, for those so inclined, deeper meditation. This kind of musical invitation would be welcome in any given year, but because 2020 has been and continues to be fraught with fear, uncertainty and anxiety like no other we’ve collectively faced, Michelle’s latest compositions wash over us like a desperately needed miraculous healing.
Whatever way you choose to experience the album – a few tracks at a time, or, my suggestion, as a single sitting flow with eyes closed, heart and soul open – you’ll find yourself engaged, soothed and uplifted. Uniquely for this kind of project, each piece is crisp and melodically to the point, with most tunes clocking in under three minutes. While it’s probably best to let the music touch your soul the way you need it to, Michelle offers a few words of insight that may spark some interesting directions of thought. “With this album, my process evolved from one of painting different timbres on a sound canvas to being more of a sculptor, shaping music with only my guitar. Carving some from marble, some from the ethers, the shape of each piece revealed something special I found from within. This was my journey for Within.”
From the start, Michelle’s tender, easily rhythmic approach to her strings and the space surrounding them reminded me of the grand blend of eloquence and sparseness of genre legend Will Ackerman. She modulates frequently so the timbre of her strings can vary in brightness and intensity, like sunlight moving through shadows throughout the day.
Wonderfully typical of this spacious vibe are the thoughtful yet cautiously whimsical opening track “Above Us” (which begins in a quietly meditative state before picking up rhythmic momentum), the lilting, soul seductive “Afternoon in May,” the hypnotic, slowly evolving “Beneath” and the stark, moody “Half This Sky.” A few tunes, like “With Anticipation” and “With Hope” (which are part of a thematic suite scattered throughout that includes allusions to Courage, Joy, Hesitation, Langour, Resolve, Doubt, Thoughtfulness and Tenderness) have a sparkling, quick-paced quality whose movement and action complements the quieter contemplations perfectly.