You can set aside an hour, can’t you? Even in today’s hectic world? NO? You should… when you can fill it with Compassion. Not just a way of life, now a wonderful album of meditative beauty…
I begin to listen with a sense of dread, as I feel I may have to employ oxymorons in my appreciation of the scale of what’s been created here. They are confusing things. For instance, a couple of minutes into Om Tare Tuttare Sure Soha and the phrase ‘complex simplicity’ has leapt into my fingers, and I’ve just watched it appear on the screen in front of me. But this is the thing, you see. This opening cut on the album begins like the mantra that it is – a huge swell of anticipatory atmosphere, with the title of the piece repeated over and over… and looking at the shape of the waveform on Soundcloud, you can see that it swells evenly from start to finish, and that’s no coincidence. What starts as quite a simple melody, with a hypnotic simplicity, builds and builds until the track suddenly blossoms into something much sweeter – leading to a resolution of the tension that is sweeter still… The meaning of the title phrase is roughly that of dedicating oneself, irrespective of personal circumstances. Not a bad place to start…. well, anything, really!
Rise Up, with English lyrics, brings more focus to bear on Sangeeta’s vocal, which is one of those rare instruments which sounds like it has naturally-occurring reverb organically built into it. It’s a beautiful piece (note to self – find more adjectives to describe this album, quick!) that adheres to a more conventional song structure. Beginning with ‘crystal singing bowls’, plucked strings and a heavenly choir, we’re soon being gently cajoled to ‘make a brand new start’. A two note phrase tinkles out time in the background, creating a delicate heartbeat for the rhythm to latch on to. There are swells of strings and voices and a genuine expression of musical wonderment, which, if you have given yourself time to appreciate, is a thing of wonder indeed. After three-and-a-half minutes, a rich bottom end is introduced and triplets appear on strings to drive a little faster… We nudge imperceptibly past the 5 minute mark, and percussion happens. It’s tribal, exultant and a true surprise. And over the whole, soars Sangeeta’s effortless lead vocal…
The third piece, Transcendence, does some of my work for me, as it is transcendent – a cornucopia of counterpoint vocals of different shapes and colours, and a chance for the arpeggiating piano work to take centre stage. Sangeeta’s vibrato and vocal control gets far more free rein here, too, and is mixed louder. Just as it’s truly soaring, a plaintive and mournful ‘cello solo arrives to soothe us. It’s 5 gloriously-filled minutes of loveliness. No lyrics, just exploration of vocal melody and harmony with a sympathetic and, ultimately, pulsing musical backdrop. I’m put in mind of Enya and Clannad’s use of voices.
May The Long Time Sun is immediately reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells with its opening piano motif. A lot of the choices in terms of arrangement and instruments also owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Oldfield’s magnum opus. But then the vocals grab hold of the piece and lead it to pastures new. Mixing throughout is tremendously well-judged – and never more so than here, where moments of dynamics allow different instruments and parts to shine through the pads of voices and strings.
The meditative and highly emotional Song of Compassion is very different from what’s come before, and features different vocalists and a more masculine feel to some of the backing – as well as the crystal singing bowls being given more of a leading role. The arrangement allows the piece fabulous space to breathe, and the ambient sound of the recording space and the singers’ in-breaths all add to its organic heart. It’s wonderful, dynamic and unique.
We stay pensive and revisit mantra territory on Om Vajra Sattva Hum. It’s a mantra designed for purification. It’s lovely. It becomes very tempting to join in, if only within your own head…
We Are One is the most similar in feel to Karl Jenkins’ world-conquering Adiemus works. By this point in the album, you begin to feel like you might have a handle on it. But just as I expected this tune to become embellished and to continue its exploration, it breaks down to a pensive and abrupt ending – relative to the other pieces. I’m disappointed, but in a good way – I wanted it to continue… It’s redundant to say it, maybe, but this one feels like the single!
Sa Re Sa Sa harks back to Transcendence’s tropes. It’s a contemplation of infinity, this mantra. And the music does its 7 minute job perfectly.
Voices and Crystals does what it says on the tin. It appears to be quite sombre, especially as the quietest track on offer here, but this is beautifully undercut by the laughter captured right at the end. From here we plunge into the choral-only Voices Of Compassion. I’m running out of superlatives at this point. Sublime! There, I haven’t used that one yet… You need to listen to this closing track.
In fact, you need to listen to all of it. For the songwriting, for the vocals, for the skill, for the magic… I don’t do politics, but in an age of Brexit and Trump, I find myself running towards Compassion with open arms. It’s worth it.