Exposé Online banner

Exposé Online

Not just outside the box, but denying the existence of boxes.
Covering music from the fringes since 1993.


Serena Gabriel — The Saffron Sky
(Bandcamp Soundquest no#, 2024, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2024-06-23

The Saffron Sky Cover art

With The Saffron Sky, composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer Serena Gabriel has created a powerfully mystical and meditative collection of introspective elements in seven tracks ranging from eight minutes out to around twelve. This is Gabriel’s sixth full length release in nine years; here she plays almost every instrument, offering a mastery of both the electronic and acoustic, sings, chants, vocalizes, and harmonizes with herself. There are also field recordings that figure into the mix on several of the pieces, perhaps informed by her practice of Nada Yoga as well as a recent extended trips to India and beyond. She is credited with harmonium, lyre, tanpura, flute, various hardware synthesizers, and “a lot more,” plus of course many layers of vocals, mostly wordless or chanting. The production is by Steve Roach, who adds additional synthesizers on three tracks, and Linda Kohanov adds viola to three. The overall feeling throughout is dreamy and gentle, yet majestic, radiant, and expressive, full of emotion and beauty at every turn. There are hand drums on some of the cuts, most notably behind the chanting on “In the All,” where the piece cycles back and forth between vocal and instrumental sections which feature Kohanov’s viola and harmonium. “For the Fire” opens the set at nearly twelve minutes, with Gabriel’s angelic vocals energizing the piece against a dreamy backdrop of synthesizers and studio effects. Other standouts include “Seeds of Potential” where a droning harmonium shimmers behind Gabriel’s vocals, the rhythm of hand drums, and children’s voices, and “Air of Amrita,” where a droning tanpura breathes in the background, alternating with wordless vocals, echoes, and dreamy electronics. Many of the chants throughout feature lyrics, though not in English, perhaps in Sanskrit I’m guessing, given Gabriel’s time in India. The opening minutes of “High Sun, River Blessings” feature a koto (or biwa), and more children’s voices, this time a bit more distant, against the sound of a waterfall; later the harmonium makes its appearance and carries the listener through the closing minutes. The mastering was done by Howard Givens at Spotted Peccary Studios, so every sonic detail, however quiet, can be heard clearly.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Steve Roach, Serena Gabriel

More info


What's new

These are the most recent changes made to artists, releases, and articles.