Monday, 22 July 2019

Various - Modern Bön 1 - Puraka

Artist: Various
Catalogue no: N/A


     1.      Visions – Emanate
     2.      Leftina Osha – Perverse is Normal
     3.      Good Luck in Death – On the Night of, We Spoke in Empty Whispers
     4.      Uruk – “Munkh Khukh Tengri”
     5.      Naresh Ran – Rehte Evil
     6.      Saahiya – Kuberekwa
     7.      ContemplaTRON – Böö
     8.      Izumi Yamamoto & Andy Hafner – Rhizom
     9.      Dead Space Chamber Music – Siren Chant
    10.  Eye Spirit – Fragile X
    11.  Thisquietarmy – Toujours ce rappel de l’éphémère

Compilation albums can be the devil’s own arse to review, if only because of the fact that in a short(ish) review one can only give a brief overview of the delights on offer. This particular release is based around a concept, that of a modern interpretation of the ancient Tibetan folk religion of Bön, whose origins lie in a mix of shamanism, animism, and ancestor worship. Indeed, one could say that this record’s heart lies deep within the Himalayan mountain fastnesses – the secret core of Bön being as mysterious and inaccessible as the Tibetan plateau itself.

This overarching concept on this, the first of four volumes delineating the stages of ritual and belief (Puraka [Inhalation], Kumbhaka [Contemplation], Rechaka [Exhalation], and Nirvana [Eternal Grace]) may suggest a plethora of ritualistic bells, gongs, thighbone trumpets, and throat-singing aplenty here but, while there are indeed some aspects of stereotypical uninitiated Western ideas contained within, what we actually get are moods and atmospherics infested with the spirit of the old ways, and the interpretations are as varied as the people who participated in this project. It’s about reaching back and reconnecting with those who have gone before us, the ones who laid the foundations so to speak, and those whose voices are still able to teach us wisdom. This is no different to those people in the West who are endeavouring to return to pre-Christian belief systems in order to realign themselves with their ancestors, and to rectify what adherents see as the imbalance of today’s world.

There’s no doubt that every piece here conjures up images of dimly-lit, smoky temples standing precipitously on the very top of vertical pinnacles of rock amidst the snowbound Himalayan peaks. The essence of the ancient past as well as the people, spirits and devils that inhabit it, are a constant thread running through every one of these tracks. And that, to me, is what this album is about: those deep lines connecting the present and the future to the past, and reminding us that the past is important, and that it can still teach us a lot.

Standouts for me are Vision’s swirling opener ‘Emanate’, Good Luck in Death’s mysterious ‘On the Night of, We Spoke in Empty Whispers’, the lilting and uplifting drone of ‘Siren Chant’ by Dead Space Chamber Music (great name!), the equally drone-worthy and ghostly ‘Fragile X’ of Eye Spirit, and Thisquietarmy’s gloriously blissful drone-fuzz tsunami of ‘Toujours ce rappel de l’éphémère’ (Always this Reminder of the Ephemeral). These are just the ones that connected with me on a level deep within – all are worthy in their own ways (although, to be honest, I didn’t get on with Izumi Yamamoto & Andy Hafner’s jazz inflections on their contribution ‘Rhizom’, but that’s purely a personal thing and no reflection on them).

If you’re looking for some deeply soulful drone, packed with some depth and dimension, then as an introduction to these artists this is as good a place to start as anything you could want. Available (alongside Volume 2 – look out for review soon) via Bandcamp only at:

Psymon Marshall 2019

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