James Asher,
Lotus Path
(New Earth, 2004)

James Asher's multi-cultural meditative album, Lotus Path, aims to "stimulate the spirit and soothe the mind." I don't know about that. Asher certainly provides the requisite mysterious tones and unique instruments to qualify as a new-age artist, but his inability to blend them all smoothly left me more irritated than soul-inspired.

The main problem with Lotus Path is the album's overreaching ambitions. Asher tries to marry two folk instruments -- the bazouki and the hammered dulcimer -- with keyboards, and throws some Indian chanting in for extra spice. The result, too often, is an unappealing mish-mash that made me hyperaware of each instrument's flaws. This is especially apparent in the title piece: here, Asher should lay off the strings mode on his keyboard, because the two folk instruments make his keyboarding sound cheap and phony.

There is some good in Lotus Path. Madeleine Doherty provides some beautiful harpistry in "Violet" and "Green," and both these songs successfully blend their sounds enough to produce the altered-state feeling of ambient music. Nigel Shaw adds an earthy touch with his Native American-style flute playing on "Cedar." Just be prepared to press the skip button on your CD player a lot on this album, because you won't achieve the drifting peace you listen to new age music for if you don't.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 31 July 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.