10 Songs, 50 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

Ten years in the making, "Sacred Spaces" is an epic electronic album by Michael Whalen, an award-winning composer who has released 33 solo and soundtrack albums since his 1984 debut. In addition to his work as a sound designer, Whalen has composed more than 800 TV and film scores as well as thousands of commercials, TV themes and video games. Aside from the stunning sound quality and the beauty of the music, "Sacred Spaces" is very different from 2019’s "Cupid Blindfolded," Whalen’s first solo piano album in twenty years. Obviously not content to find a groove that works and then stay there, Whalen’s drive to keep venturing into new musical territory is part of what keeps his music so fresh and creative. In short, "Sacred Spaces" is one amazing album that will undoubtedly put Michael Whalen back on the top of the charts and earn him a slew of new awards.

"Sacred Spaces" began as an idea to create an orchestral album about Whalen’s personal search for a higher power. “There was a point where I ran out of gas, maybe because part of me didn’t really want an answer. A couple of years ago, I revisited some themes I’d written and thought that maybe I should do this as an electronic project…. Sacred Spaces is the expression of something that is impossible to say. Music can go to a lot of places words can’t. This is that record.” The creator of countless sounds for TV and films, Whalen was passionate about building Sacred Spaces on a foundation of new sounds, and for four months, he worked exclusively on creating more than 800 of them. Once that was done, the album came together in about six weeks. Every sound on the album is original.

"Sacred Spaces" opens with “A Metaphysical Morning,” a piece that begins with the sound of birds and then a mix of electronic effects before adding a catchy rhythm and ambient music that seems to blend city noises with a more peaceful natural setting. The layers of sound are hypnotic and keep the music constantly evolving. The title track draws you in with a quiet energy and fascinating instrumentation that ranges from obviously electronic to penny whistle to piano to ethnic vocals - very compelling and cinematic. “Ordinary Miracles” was the first track with a video, and that video is amazing - as is the music itself. The visuals really bring the meaning of the piece to life. “1000 Paper Cranes” is a tribute to Hiroshima victim Sadako Sasaki, a very young girl who died of radiation sickness after the blast. Whalen explains: “There’s a Japanese legend that if you create a thousand origami cranes, you’ll be granted a wish. Sadako’s wish was a world without nuclear weapons.” The music is a very effective blend of light, breezy instrumentation, ocean sounds, and a cinematic sweep. “An Ocean of Candlelight” is one of my favorites. Very peaceful and soothing, it has a very magical quality to it. Slow and atmospheric, “The Inbetween” expresses a range of emotions and feelings from peacefully floating to deep sadness. Gentle melodies weave in and out of the piece and some passages are fully ambient - I really like this one, too! (Actually, I love the whole album!) Appropriately, the album closes with “The Afterlife,” one of the most joyful and “fun” portrayals of life after death I’ve heard. Don’t miss "Sacred Spaces"!

Christian Celebration ,

Album Review by Dyan Garris, New Age CD

“Sacred Spaces” is an ultra-hypnotic gateway to another time and place, and a fantastic escape from the ordinary world. – Dyan Garris
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Grammy® nominated producer and a two-time Emmy® Award winning composer, Michael Whalen is also a music supervisor with 8 nominations. Michael has also scored hundreds of film and television soundtracks, as well as thousands of commercials. He has worked in advertising, television, film, and video games for over 30 years. That said, he is also undeniably a true master of his craft.
His newest album, “Sacred Spaces,” is 10 wonderful tracks of scintillating, percolating electronica; a treasure trove of intricate sounds, layers, and textures. “Sacred Spaces” is an ultra-hypnotic gateway to another time and place, and a fantastic escape from the ordinary world.

The album opens with “Metaphysical Morning.” This features a sensational build followed by exciting electronica, all perfectly capturing the feeling of a metaphysical morning in a special, sacred space. Brilliant.

This is followed by the title track, which is dazzling and reverent at the same time. Here we are effortlessly transported to ancient places. Through perfectly crafted melody and ethereal sound, we are right there, soaking up the majestic magnificence of all that came before us, yet that which is still etched into our souls for eternity.

“Ordinary Miracles” comes next. Now, what is ordinary about a miracle, you may ask? Well, if you’re awake and aware, everything, really. This is extraordinarily beautiful. This is spacious and light, as one might expect a miracle to be. Here, we can feel an energy shift that is quite palatable. Voices of the ancients echo ethereally through our spirit. Whether intentional or not, there are certain notes used here that correspond perfectly to the chakra system. So, we can literally feel our chakras opening and undulating in harmony. This is a favorite on the album, and one to play again and again.

I believe that “1000 Paper Cranes” is inspired by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would be granted a wish, and also then on the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In her remaining lifetime, it was her goal to create 1000 paper cranes. There is an upcoming movie that began production in 2019, “One Thousand Paper Cranes.” Will be sure to catch this when it comes out. Perhaps this song will be in the movie. It’s exquisite. An excellent standout on “Sacred Spaces.”

“The Pure and the Calm” reminds me of being inside an ancient temple or other dwelling where one might purify oneself in order to gain calmness, serenity, or enlightenment. Kind of spooky and “transportive,” in a way, but in a very good way. This easily awakens something ancient, deep, and sacred within our soul. Love it.

My favorite on the album is “An Ocean of Candlelight.” This is soft, romantic, cinematic, and lovely. Here, we are peacefully floating on a bed of tranquility and at the same time bathed in a golden sea of calming, flowing light. Really beautiful.

Somewhere, in places we can’t see from where we are, there are dimensional spaces existing between this earthly world and the other worlds. This “in between” is perfectly captured here in “The Inbetween.” This is again cinematic, as well as wonderfully spacious and flowing. This is masterful electronica.

“Devotion” features a cornucopia of exciting sounds, electronic voices, and percolating electronica. Very engaging. It’s another one to love on this album.

If you’ve ever visited a sacred space, you are aware of that special, unmistakable feeling of walking exactly where many have walked before you. You know, it’s that feeling that gives you chills. This reverence, along with the distinct feeling of walking, is perfectly conveyed here in “In the Footsteps of the Blessed.” How does he do that? Ah, yes. A true master of his craft.

The album closes out with “The After Life.” This is such an interesting song. It feels like we have a very rich and busy life after this one.

In this life, I would say Michael Whalen has done it again with this superb album which takes us upon an invigorating, yet peaceful and restorative journey. But you will be able to say that as well when you hear it for yourself. “Sacred Spaces” is a must have album.

BT Fasmer ,

A winner from start to finish

“Sacred Spaces” is the title of Michael Whalen’s new album. Michael is known for many things – his two Emmy awards, Grammy nomination, the song “I Have Loved You For A Thousand Lifetimes”, which has been streamed 37 million times on Spotify – and also for creating and programming his synths. His ability to produce new and groundbreaking sounds is a significant part of “Sacred Spaces”. The album is also profoundly existential in nature, dealing with the search for a higher power. It is only March, but given the quality of this album, it is safe to say that “Sacred Spaces” will be on many “Best of 2020” lists. It’s a winner from start to finish.

Last year Michael Whalen released the solo piano album “Cupid Blindfolded“, to high acclaim and great reviews. About this year’s album, Michael says: “Over the past decade, I realized I am 100 percent responsible for whatever my relationship with a higher being might be. When I first had the idea to do an album about the search for a higher power, I was imagining an orchestral project — a symphony. There was a point where I ran out of gas, maybe because part of me didn’t really want an answer. A couple of years ago, I revisited some themes I’d written and thought that maybe I should do this as an electronic project.” The result is “Sacred Spaces”.

A Metaphysical Morning
Working with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWS), artists today have a myriad of instruments available. But for some reason, synth-based albums often sound almost the same. The reason is simple; When artists use the same soundbanks, presets, and samples, the result will have much of the same expression and atmosphere. This is perhaps why the album opener on “Sacred Spaces” feels like a breath of fresh air. It is radically different and fresh.

“A Metaphysical Morning” starts with birds singing. Then suddenly, the picturesque image is replaced by sharp metallic sounds. Are we witnessing a UFO landing? Or is it a symbol of a transition? Your guesses are as good as mine. One thing is sure, though; The next segment is ultra-light with a fast rhythm. The ambient melody has many nice twists and turns before the metallic sounds return with a vengeance. In short, world-class audio design, 2020 style.

Sacred Spaces
The title track is a positive, warm, and upbeat piece. Notice the highly creative use of lead synths. It is part EDM, part Jean Michel Jarre – from flute and piano, via ethnic samples to hyper-modern voice synths. It is a very complex soundscape, but then again, capturing something sacred in art has never been an easy task. I’m sure Michelangelo would agree to that.

Talking about the divine; In his search for a higher power, Whalen is focusing on the here and now, on “Ordinary Miracles”, which is the name of the next song. I love the piano, the reverb, and the rich, well-crafted textures. This is what heaven on earth sounds like.

1000 Paper Cranes
“1000 Paper Cranes” is a tribute Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who – according to Wikipedia – became a victim of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima when she was two years old and one of the most widely known hibakusha – a Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person. “There’s a Japanese legend that if you create a thousand origami cranes, you’ll be granted a wish,” says Whalen in the album’s one sheet. “Sadako’s wish was a world without nuclear weapons.” The song has a beautiful touch of chill out and a long build-up. The conclusion is breathtakingly beautiful. If world leaders listened to this, world peace would follow.

“The Pure and the Calm” is meditative and dreamy. The soundscape is ultra-modern, crisp, and clear. In the background (around 1 minute 35 seconds and onwards) is a sound that might be a Gregorian chant. It is a lovely effect. The song connects the here-and-now with the past, which is an essential aspect of any search for a higher power. “The Pure and the Calm” fades into “An Ocean of Candlelight”. It is a stunning piece with flute, strings and heavenly voices, backed by soothing synths.

The Inbetween
This album is not just about sacred spaces. It tells the story of a spiritual journey. “The Inbetween” is a fascinating account of feelings of doubt and wariness. The atmosphere is quite dark, even sad. But it is not without hope, and when the upbeat “Devotion” comes on, we know that it was only a phase, a necessary step towards enlightenment. “Devotion” contains an imaginative and refreshing selection of synths, from Vangelis to experimental electronica.

Nearer the end, “In the Footsteps of the Blessed” takes the listener for a memorable walk. The ambient melody seems to underline that we have reached our destination and that everything is going to be ok. Then it is all over, and “The After Life” begins. Whalen’s vision of heaven is very cool! The carefree melody, light rhythm, and minimalistic arrangement show that life after death is nothing to fear. Indeed, it is laid-back and fun! The image of an angry, vengeful God was all wrong. It is a comforting, almost lifechanging, thought.

In conclusion: The French expression tour de force comes to mind many times while listening to “Sacred Spaces” – partly because of the highly creative soundscapes and partly thanks to Whalen’s exceptional melodic talent. “Sacred Spaces” is about the search for a higher power, yet it is still easy listening and unpretentious. That is a significant accomplishment. I guess we all could need some “Sacred Spaces” in our lives. Put it on, and see where the album will take you.

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