Four new titles are imminent on Ideologic Organ. Stephen O’Malley’s ‘Géante 4’, performed by avant-garde collective Eye Music, was released alongside ‘Hymns of Gyer’, by Phurpa, on April 17. On April 24, Susan Alcorn will release ‘works arranged by Janel Leppin’, along with Eyvind Kang’s ‘ensemble works’. In these difficult and disrupted times, the four releases will be available digitally, but a potential physical release is possible later on down the road. Most of the income generated from sales will go directly to support the artists, while the rest will go to Editions Mego to support the label.
Composed by Stephen O’Malley for ‘Sound Gatherer’ Stuart Dempster in 2010, ‘Géante 4’ is a sustained, graphically-scored piece featuring ‘3-7 voicings per section…around 10-12 minutes’ in length. A specific set of detailed instructions comes with the performing of the piece, but there’s room and scope for the artist to incorporate their own working of the music. The hypnotic and slightly dark drones allow the music a certain level of freedom, loosened from their bars of music, providing the piece with some additional flexibility. Instead of being caged or restricted, drones can actually be freeing, escaping from the shackled measures of music and burning on and on. The slim but muscular texture is capable of moving and bending, but it does so on its own terms.
The drones and their long sustains are capable of leaving listeners on the edge or sending them into a hypnotic trance where the world falls away. Reality disappears. The two pieces seem to do both, like an injection of venom as a cobra looks on, waiting, biding its time. It doesn’t seem to be interested in soothing the listener like much of ambient/drone, because it comes from a different place. Instead, the piece feels immediate and pressing. The music has the sense of forward momentum, pushing and pushing into the gloom, even with the gentle, diving glissando. The music succumbs to a growing tension as it dips, swells, and rises, but it seems to encourage this, its uninterrupted flow coming together in accordance with the instructions given. Musicians leave their own artistic fingerprints on individual performances and recordings, especially when they’ve been composed by other musicians. Interpretations differ. No performance ever sounds alike.
Phurpa’s Hymns of Gyer ushers in an ancient sound. Dedicated to ‘the space of primordial being’, Phurpa pull listeners into a mist-shrouded shrine. With Tibetan throat singing and singing bowls, the Russian ensemble’s music manages to be full, dense, and extremely powerful.
The technique of throat singing requires extensive study and training in order for it to be effective, and Phurpa are dedicated to their craft, giving the music on Hymns of Gyer a vital authenticity. Overlapping voices and vocal strands slither in the low register. Slowly, and with great reverence, they begin to intertwine and ascend. Phurpa’s incantations run deep. Hymns of Gyer explores an old Buddhist tradition from Tibet, and its sound has travelled well. What’s more, this release arrives at a good time; 2020 is struggling and stumbling on, and it’s in need of a reboot.
Whether it’s a detox, a reset, or a cleansing (or perhaps all three), Phurpa’s pure tones fulfil the need for renewal and refreshment. The minutes keep on rolling by, but there are subtle changes that keep the music fresh; it never goes stale, which is impressive as some of the pieces go beyond fifteen minutes. The chant may diminish in volume (very slightly), or continue on with subtle variations. Whatever the change, the continuous sound is a resonant one, drawing you into an ancient sanctuary, an immersive inner and outer temple obscured by tendrils of vocal-smoke.