Sunday, 28 July 2019

Various - Modern Bön Volume II: Kumbhaka

Album: Modern Bön Volume II: Kumbhaka
Artist:  Various
Label: Modern Bön
Catalogue no: N/A


     1.      Phurpa – Live at Modern Bön Tour 1 [excerpt]
     2.      Treha Sektori – Summon
     3.      Djinn – The Cycle of Death Chapter 2
     4.      A-Sun-Amissa – The Thaw
     5.      Dolpo – Sounds of Impermanence
     6.      Bedouine Drone – Bayt Lahm
     7.      Lamia Vox – Dozing Citadels of Kadath
     8.      Sa Bruxa – Il Rito del Passaggio
     9.      VoxAxoV – Et qui servant iram meam
    10.  Cristopher Sky – Now I Sleep Alone
    11.  AB uno – Tanais
    12.  Anemone Tube – Dark Accomplishment [Live]

Recently, I reviewed the first of the four volumes comprising this series for this blog and I thought it a wonderful selection of drone pieces, very much in the vein of what I conceive of what the core philosophy of the ancient Tibetan religion of Bön is all about. That first volume was subtitled Puraka [Inhalation], and this follow-on is Kumbhaka [Contemplation]. This is reflected by the fact that the overall feel of the selection here is more focused, and more inward-looking than the Puraka volume. It’s also quieter, but no less intense, and as such, is an invitation to direct ourselves to contemplate the much richer inner world.

As per my previous review, I’ll limit my observations to a few standout tracks (otherwise the review would go on too long), with the understanding that all the tracks are of equal quality and that the album as a whole is very much worth listening to. 

Of course, you can’t have an album of ritual and occult ambient without the inclusion of Phurpa, especially if it’s a volume of deeply sacred Eastern-flavoured ambiences, and whilst I am not particularly fond of live recordings this one still manages to convey a sense of the preternatural and recondite. Sparse instrumentation and the human voice are the only ingredients here but, as Mozart said “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between”,  making the power here as much to do with what we can’t hear as it is with what we can.

A-Sun-Amissa’s ‘The Thaw’ washes in on a gentle tide, and its waters beckon us to partake of its cool, cleansing balms. We are wrapped fully in its soothing unction, and all negativity and disequilibrium wicks by osmosis out of our bodies. This is floaty music at its best, undulating and shimmering, but nevertheless layered with subtle nuances. By contrast, Dolpo’s ‘Sounds of Impermanence’, the next track after A-Sun-Amissa, is a back-to-basics piece, chanting voices against a quiet subtle resonance of singing bowls, culminating in a sustained plateau of plangence supported by slow rhythmic percussion. Superficially sounding like a primitive evocation perhaps, but losing none of its fundamental power for all that.

And then we come the deep vibrations of Lamia Vox’s ‘Dozing Citadels of Kadath’, a straight up Lovecraftian reference which nevertheless sits right at home here, those resonating notes acting like carrier waves on which the dreams of mystics ride. VovAxoV’s ‘Et qui servant iram meam’ (And to keep my anger) is the worthy inner struggle to let go of the demons of anger, imbalance, antagonism, negativity, and disapprobation, so that we may pass into the realms of tranquillity and serenity. And that’s what we find in the gracefully swelling organ chords of Cristopher Sky’s ‘Now I Sleep Alone’ – perhaps a way of saying that one has come to terms with oneself or, to put it another way, ‘I have found myself’’. This piece fades into silence, where we are left entirely with ourselves.

My particular favourite on here is the final track, Anemone Tube’s ‘Dark Accomplishment’, which brings us back into the here and now, where the forces of darkness and despair continually assail us. A cyclical bass note weaves its way around a shimmering drone and the sound of wailing, punctuated occasionally by what appear to be the high-pitched distress calls of birds. It all eventually builds into a crescendo, dissolving into grainy particulate matter, and dissipating into a questioning, breathless voice.

In sum, the selection here ranges widely, evoking the quest of finding the answer to the central mystery of one’s self and our meaning and relationship to our environment. It’s focused, and erudite in its conjuration of moods and the stages of the inner journey. I hope I don’t have to wait too long before I get to experience Volume III: Rechaka [Exhalation].

Psymon Marshall 2019

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