Peter Kater is a well-known quantity in the New Age scene, a platinum-selling, multiply Grammy-nominated pianist and composer with a prolific output over the course of 30 years in the business. Surprisingly, his new release, Light Body, is my first exposure to his music, although I have long been aware of the name. Not surprisingly, this first exposure has granted me a hefty dose of “Look what I’ve been missing.” Light Body is a beautiful set of seven pieces, each based on one of the body’s chakras, creating a suite that is relaxing and enlightening, romantic and descriptive. Kater’s piano most often takes the role of laying down a rich rhythmic bed, accented with light synthesizer work, as an accompaniment to Paul McCandless’ flowing brass and woodwinds. They are joined on several tracks by Trish Bowden’s gossamer, wordless vocals, and all the elements are gently mixed into one deliciously laid-back hour of listening. Kater starts from the bottom of the energy chain and works his way up, opening with the earthy “Root Chakra.” Field recordings of rainfall or wind whisper in the background. Choral pads–I don’t believe this is yet Bowden’s voice; it sounds like the familiar synth effect–float up to harmonize with Kater’s piano. This leads into “Sacral Chakra,” one of my favorite songs here. This is the first place where McCandless joins in, his sweet saxophone melodies lending a soft voice and (to this listener’s ears) a smoothness reminiscent of the Windham Hill sound–particularly over Kater’s crisp keys repeating an easy arpeggio. Bowden’s voice coos quietly in the background. Field recordings of children fold in briefly, a nice touch. McCandless carves hawk circles in the air on “Solar Plexus Chakra,” a piece filled with a joyous, vibrant energy. The pace slows for “Heart Chakra” as Kater lays down patient piano lines, letting McCandless fill the spaces between phrases. This piece has a deeply romantic classical-music feel and the simple intimacy of chamber music. Bowden lends an angelic touch. That overall sense carries into the relative hush of “Throat Chakra.” The start of “Intuitive Chakra” borders on ambient, with Kater laying down rising pads over light chimes. This piece has a nice misty air to it, and the space between piano notes feels even more pronounced. Pennywhistle and flourishing glissandi from the piano fly in to add something of a faerie-inspired touch. This one swells with a little extra romance, nudging the edge of being a trifle too bombastic. But it works. The disc closes with “Crown Chakra.” A super-high note draws your attention (and later peeks through the music in spots) before Kater and company begin laying out another quiet and soothing story. McCandless’ work again is sublime in its emotional depth, long notes hanging like dream-dust in the air, his wonderfully descriptive phrasing keeping you close.
Light Body has already landed on a lot of “Best Of” Lists and is reaping its share of well-deserved notice and nominations. One can dispense with the healing-music trappings of having each track chakra-aligned–I know that can be off-putting to some. With or without that connotation, this album is a moving, straight-to-the-heart suite of absolutely beautiful songs. The minimal construction, with most tracks working in little more than piano, light synth backings, one or two instruments from McCandless, and Bowden’s almost imperceptible but quite palpable additions, give everything that distinctly intimate feel. This is a very personal album for any listener, nudging out soul-stirred responses. A lovely wind-down disc that has already gotten a lot of repeat play here at Hypnagogue. New Age fans need to hear this; people who think they aren’t New Age fans need to hear it more.
Available from Peter Kater’s web site.