Whispers of Arias Volume Two2012
“Whispers of Arias”, Volume Two, picks up the Ariadne thread of Volume One to bring the listener further through a compelling musical maze. Indeed, conceptually, the two CDs could easily be combined as a double-set. Again there are voices both historic (Eva Braun), and from legend (Cassandra), while the themes of love, loss, war, and perseverance remain Universal. Again Kevin MacLeod’s instrumentation provides a haunting display of colors, ranging through a palette which could come from both Weimar Republic cabarets (Liebestraum), to Gregorian choral chants, (Rites). Whether exploring the legacy of 911 (“Rings”), or the passing of his own mother (“now, in this stillness”), a sense of human frailty and struggle for dignity remains vibrant in Stephen Mead’s explorations, and, although defined as whispers, perhaps ultimately something of spiritual truth will come through for the listener in these esoteric songs. In addition to instruments played around the house, Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech.com provided royalty-free samples to tweak and use as brush strokes. Jonathan Penton from Unlikely Stories has written: It's appropriate that Stephen Mead has named this double-album "Whispers of Arias", because despite the layered, operatic music and big dramatic themes, these recordings, ultimately, sound very little like arias: The vocals are so tortured and quiet that one can't help but think of a ghost in a symphony hall, desperately trying to impress something upon the listeners, something dire, something unbelievably tragic. Stephen Mead sings his poems over Kevin MacLeod's complex and sophisticated classical intepretations, and the effect is transformative—on the rhythm of the poems, on the meaning of MacLeod's recordings, and ultimately, on the listener. radiowildfire.com writes: Stephen's work with voice and soundscape continues to intrigue us and, we think, set a benchmark for recording spoken word.