Album Review by Mark Bayross
Following the last collaboration between keyboard maestro Jean-Phillippe Rykiel and Tibetan Lama Gyurme, THE LAMA’S CHANT – SONGS OF AWAKENING, here is another remarkable musical journey to a far away land. As one has come to expect from Peter Gabriel’s Real World stable, it has that mixture of modern accessibility and outlandish exoticism to captivate and stimulate.
Virtually all the tracks here are chants of Tibetan prayer rituals, to which Rykiel has added some quite breaktaking ambience. The opener, RAIN OF BLESSINGS is stunning, a seven-minute slow-motion soundtrack to a glide across the peaks of the Himalyas. It is followed by OFFERING CHANT, which has a suitably hymnal quality, with a bit of “Brothers In Arms”-style electric guitar noodling towards the end.
SACRED WORDS OF LIBERATION and THE SIX SYLLABLE MANTRA OF THE WHITE LOTUS LORD have a ghostly beauty, nudging towards avant-garde isolationism, while the drum-led PRAYER TO SANGYE MENLA is lighter and adds a more upbeat contribution to the overall mood.
Occasionally, it gets a bit too sonambulant: MEDICINE BUDDHA MANTRA seems to go on forever, as a lone piano accompanies Lama Gyurme’s repeated chant, while by the penultimate REFUGE & SEVENFOLD OFFERING, chant-fatigue really starts to set in. Fortunately, the album finishes gracefully, with an “Unplugged” version of OFFERING CHANT, the deep washes of ambience replaced by Rykiel’s piano.
This album is typical of the high quality of Real World’s output. We are fortunate that there is a record company out there that still seeks to provide us with a musical experience quite unlike any other: I doubt there are many other ways to hear traditional Tibetan prayer music on record. It is a shame that this is possibly the closest many of us will ever come to seeing that fascinating and troubled country at first hand.