a brilliant little EP that's the greatest thing they've done so far! The sound is sublimely righteous – set to some soaring jazzy backdrops that make the vocals sound really wonderful, and which really help get across the message in the music – a blend that's maybe the best approach to this sort of groove we've heard since vintage work from Fertile Ground! The set's only an EP, but it's got a very powerful feel
– put together perfectly, with vocals that are right on the money, especially in the harmony passages – and timeless instrumentation that will have us coming back to this one again and again over the years. (Dustygroove.com
ILLUMINATE: to enlighten, as with knowledge; to brighten with light; to make clearer
ASCENDANT's 2nd studio album, Illuminate, is broken into four parts just as light is refracted into various colors by a prism. It takes you through the band's growing stages. BLUE conveys wisdom from their mistakes. GREEN traces their rebirth from faith. YELLOW expresses joy from their creativity. RED shares their love of life.
On the 1st disc Illuminate:BLUE, the band starts this chapter with an uptempo chant/meditation/dance, “Gye Nyame,” whose translation from the Adinkra culture of Ghana basically means "God IS / except God." This Adinkra symbol has had special meaning for bandleader Kael Mboya. "It's a source of strength and a reminder of where the blessings come from for me. There is an old African proverb that states - any matter of importance begun without first the mention of God is maimed. This song had to start the CD.”
From there, life imitates art as they explore a break up in the song “Darkest Shade Of Blue,” with a slow winding bass groove as the backbeat and a scintillating guitar solo. Originally written in 1996 for Michael Lockett's former vocal group, Truce, this song signifies the changing of the roster for the band and sets the theme for Illuminate:BLUE.
On the other side of tragedy and loss is a new cycle, and the path to it is through appreciation of what you have.
The next track, “This Life,” lightens the mood and reminds us to make the most of life with playful rhythm sections and vocal harmonies swelling throughout.
The fourth track, “All You Need,” is a throwback to the timeless old school slow jams featuring crooning lead vocals by Michael Lockett. With earnest and heartfelt lyrics, this surprising waltz form achieves a sincere declaration of love.
The track “Nothing To Prove” follows (with lead vocals by Kael Mboya and guest vocalist Tina M. Howell) and serves as an anthem for knowing yourself and rising above life's daily challenges. Nodding to traditional African call and response patterns, this song transforms into a gospel-inflected house music vamp.
Rounding out Illuminate:BLUE is “Back Into the World,” showcasing the newest member of ASCENDANT, Donica Lynn, and offering a promise of brighter things to come. In a duet with Michael Lockett, Donica's soulful, expressive soprano encourages us to let down our guard and welcome love back into our lives.
Illuminate:BLUE by ASCENDANT. It's time to RISE and SHINE
released December 11, 2012
All songs Arranged, Produced and Mixed by Kael Mboya for Ascendant Music Inc.
DARKEST SHADE OF BLUE Recorded by Michael Kolar at Soundscape Studios
Mastered at Fragile Music Group by Slavic Livins
All photos: Stephen K. Simmons Front Cover artwork: Aum Mu Ra Inside cover and back cover designs: Michael Lockett, Kimberly Malone-Lockett & Kael Mboya
All songs © 2012 Ascendant Music Inc. / Ascendant Sounds ASCAP