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A little less than a year ago, I was nose-deep in Kerouac's Some of the Dharma at the Borders Books in Coral Springs when I heard someone playing a flute. A few minutes later, I also heard a synthesizer, and, as if hypnotized, I exited the "Literature" section and moved toward the music. Tucked neatly between the "U.S. History" and "Art" sections, I found the New-Age duo Forest playing before a handful of adult onlookers.

The duo was formed in 1992 by Vinny Monaco (synthesizer, vocals) and Jim Kovalcik (flute), two fortysomethings with a passion for music. "We basically got together because we love to play," says Kovalcik. "We just wanted to make original music."

Forest has since performed at many local bookstores. Upcoming gigs include Liberties Cafe in Boca Raton Thursday, February 12, and the Boca Raton Museum of Art Wednesday, February 18. With regard to how the duo sounds, imagine a much jazzier Yanni or John Tesh.

Forest released its first CD, The 8th Vortex, late last year, and for New-Agers it's a must-have. The mostly instrumental, eleven-song compilation features some of the most beautifully orchestrated and relaxing compositions to come along in a while.

"We like the term 'Newer Age' instead," Kovalcik says of the duo's sound. "Or 'The Next Age.'"

My personal favorite is track number four, "Dearest Child." Written and sung by Monaco, the song is a heartstring-pulling tune inspired by his daughter's recent move from the area. He sings of "the people that are left behind."

If you work in a busy office where a Discman and headphones are allowed, this is the music you want. Vortex will put you into the same kind of trance I experienced that day in the bookstore.

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Brian Hyman

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