Saturday, 21 September 2019
Bön - Fill
Label: Hamfuggi Records
Catalogue no: N/A
Let me start out by putting my cards on the table here – this is one of the most incredibly restful, uplifting, and gorgeous pieces of meditative ritual drone ambient I have heard in a very long time. As I explained in my review of Modern Bön’s Rechaka compilation, Bön is the indigenous religion of Tibet, predating the introduction of Buddhism from India and, although the latter philosophy supplanted the earlier beliefs (and even absorbed some of its practises into its own framework) it’s never quite managed to supersede it entirely, and it’s still prevalent in the northern and eastern parts of the Himalayan country. A single track lasting just over 23 minutes, it’s a glacially-slow, incrementally evolving piece, consisting entirely of a drone that is simultaneously resonating from the depths and the heights, interspersed with resonating timbres of shimmering bells.
Imagine, then, finding yourself in some hidden monastery deep in the heart of Tibet, in a quiet temple, with silent monks sitting in the lotus position in dim light, wordlessly contemplating the inner mysteries, incense burning and giving off sweet clouds of smoke, while occasionally a priest strikes a singing bowl. At some point your body separates into two components – your physical body which remains in this world, and your astral body which floats above it. Now you are free to roam wherever you will, whether it’s somewhere a mere continent away, or to the farthest edges of the known universe. More than that, you are witness to something which is denied to your normal senses – the true spirit behind reality, the essence that drives existence and life itself. You can see the dance of atoms and molecules, observe the formation (and death) of stars, the birth (and destruction) of solar systems, and the moment when the hunger of black holes is satiated by the swallowing of a smaller star that’s swung too close. The flowering of nebulae bloom right before your inner eye, the catastrophic detonation of a supernova pops off soundlessly in the vacuum of deep space. Galaxies revolve endlessly, and sometimes crash into each other with astonishing results. You can also feel life forming on distant planets, or going extinct, with civilisations rising and waning in an eternal cycle.
Yes, all this and more is contained within just 23 minutes of drone. I felt every note, every subtle inflection, being absorbed into every cell of my body, generating tingles and shivers. This is one of those rare moments when music really does speak to some deep part of one’s being, sparking off feelings and emotions that one has no words for, where you seem to be on the verge of understanding the very foundations of existence itself, but it’s just out of reach of one’s comprehension. This flows in one seamless stream, the bells small emphases and highlights, perhaps meant to draw one’s attention to something that one might miss. In all, Bön is a slow unfolding of beautiful mysteries, of secrets that are not only contained in the macrocosm but also buried within the microscosm.
Of all the Hamfuggi releases I’ve heard so far, this has affected me the most, and on a fundamental level at that. Highly recommended appears to be such a lame phrase in the context of this magnificent piece of ritual drone ambient: it is so much more than just the sounds created by the musician – it feels like the key to everything is contained within each subtle vibration and resonance.
Available from the Hamfuggi Records Bandcamp page as a download:
Psymon Marshall 2019.