11 Songs, 50 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

4.7 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

MDiamond ,

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus

Its’ been exactly a year since I wrote about Holland’s wonderful previous album “Daydream Alley,” so I was happy to receive his latest recording with the interesting title “Circles of 8.” So lets enter the circle and explore the many spaces and emotions of this intriguing album. The opening track, entitled “Starting Over,” is bookended by a simple yet elegant solo piano motif. However it is not long before Holland’s trademark rich orchestration imbues the track with a dramatic flair. One of the things I appreciate about Holland’s music is that although it is instrumental, many of his compositions have a story-telling quality about them. One in particular is a sentimental piece called “Stephanie’s Song.” There is a dreamy air about it and in places the chord changes reminded me just a bit of Pink Floyd, although without guitar. There are however some evocative solos played on sax by Paul Christiansen, whose work has been heard with Todd Rundgren, the Michael Stanley Band, and others.

One of the most different tracks on the album is “Strains of an Ancient Path.” While Holland’s music in general has a very contemporary feel, this song goes in an opposite direction. Although synthesizers are used to create many of the sounds, the song does indeed evoke the music of a bygone era. Holland’s background in classical music blends with contemporary instrumental elements in the beautifully orchestrated title track which projects a ambiance that is both stately and uplifting. This feeling extends into the next song as well, entitled “The Moment.” Holland puts the album to bed with an appropriately peaceful piano-based track entitled “Lullabye For Us.” While much of Holland’s music is lavishly orchestrated, this piece shows his talent for spinning a lovely melody on piano with relatively minimal accompaniment. However, in addition to the piano, a lovely flute-like sound glides gracefully over the musical landscape adding a gentle touch and providing the perfect ending to this inspired album.

In addition to being a fine multi-instrumentalist and composer, Holland’s skill as an arranger is exceptional. He has a knack for knowing exactly what kind of sounds to bring in and out at exactly the right points. Holland’s orchestration is often opulent, but never overdone, adding dimension and sense of drama to his imaginative music. “Circles of 8“ provides an immersive listening experience as stimulating to the mind’s eye as to the ear in its blend of expressive melodies and visionary soundscapes.

To read a full-length feature article about this album, as well as others, please visit: MichaelDiamondMusic.com

CandiceMichelle1 ,

Review from Journeyscapes Radio

Holland Phillips is a keyboardist and composer whose fifth album, “Circles of 8” is inspired by the resonances from the circles of life and vibrational building blocks of creation. Comprised of eleven compositions spanning fifty-one minutes, Holland demonstrates mostly dynamic and melodically straightforward motifs on this recording, which have been rendered on both new and vintage keyboards and synthesizers. He likewise plays acoustic and electric guitar on a couple of tracks while incorporating additional sounds of strings, woodwinds, harpsichord, percussion and bass, which are provided on various compositions throughout.

“Starting Over” is a spirited composition that opens with melodic piano and keyboards. Characteristic of both new age synthesizer and contemporary instrumental music, it sets the mood for the rest of the album, which mostly exudes a dynamic serenity. “Night Tracks” follows next and is easily my favorite piece on the album. Beginning with tapping percussion, it soon leads into a fantasy-like arrangement of synthesized chords, strings and reed instruments that underscore a lead piano melody. A subtle drumbeat guides “The Journey”, a similarly whimsical piece that is likewise accompanied by a melodic arrangement of sparkling synthetic textures. “Marking Time” is another engaging example that follows in a similar vein, where a synthetic fog permeates a repeating harpsichord melody along with dynamic vintage keyboard motifs. Additionally, Holland’s longtime friend Paul Christensen lends saxophone on two of the album’s jazzier numbers, including “Stephanie’s Song” and “Classic by Design”, both of which are sentimentally buoyant and bright.

Notably characteristic of both new age synthesizer and electronic-based contemporary instrumental music, the album’s specific kinds of melodic arrangements, as well as its utilization of both older and vintage-style electronic instruments, imbue the music with a distinctive 80’s-era panache. The compositions are in constant motion with hardly a moment free of overt melodic movement, while additionally touching upon elements of neoclassical and symphonic-style orchestration in a decidedly simplistic and uncomplicated fashion. Those who are particularly fond of such motifs will likely find “Circles of 8” to be an overall gently uplifting and peacefully pleasant listening experience.

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

"Circles of 8" is the fifth album from composer/keyboardist/synthesist Holland Phillips, following his very successful 2015 release, "Daydream Alley." The eleven original pieces are performed mostly on an array of digital keyboards and synths. Phillips also plays piano and guitars and Paul Christensen appears on sax on several tracks. In the liner notes, Phillips explains the title of the album: “Circles of 8 is not a concept album; it’s a set of songs that came together over a relatively short period of time, in concert with an idea and a search for the resonances of life. In more concrete terms, there’s a theory that eight might be one of the base vibrations of life itself - as measured by scientists. Some say that it’s one of the resonances that completes the circles of life, and makes us who we are. I concentrated on that concept and those resonances through the creative period that would eventually fill this album.”

Although Holland Phillips’ music is usually categorized as “new age,” he is classically-trained and has a degree in Music Composition. He has been producing and recording new age music since the mid-1990’s, and his first album, "Flight of the Windmill," was released in 1994. He has also focused on music therapy and how sounds affect the human body. While in school, he learned learned to play most of the orchestral instruments to better understand their characteristics. After college, he spent a number of years touring with rock and show bands throughout the Midwest and Canada and did studio work in a number of genres. It is no wonder that his original music is so varied!

"Circles of 8" opens with “Starting Over,” a haunting minor key piece that is fully-orchestrated and has some strong rock elements - an intriguing start! “Night Tracks” follows with a catchy rhythm and cinematic orchestration that is moody but very beautiful - a favorite. “Stephanie’s Song” introduces Paul Christensen and his soulful sax - the perfect addition to this passionate slow dance (it would also be excellent behind the closing credits of an emotional movie!). “Save the Dance” has a gentle swaying motion that is both soothing and relaxing. The title track begins with slow, mysterious vocals, piano, and strings gradually adding more instrumentation and emotional expression as it evolves. Serene and sensual, “The Moment” is a breath of fresh air. “Lullabye For Us” brings the album to a warm and cozy close, refreshed and ready to move forward.

Recommended - especially for fans of electronic music that is melodic rather than ambient!