Album Reviews Anderson, Choegyal & Paris Smith - Songs From The Bardo

Published on 2nd March 2020

Anderson, Choegyal & Paris Smith – Songs From The Bardo


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Left-field is indeed left-field and this album is the work of Laurie Anderson, Jessie Paris Smith and Tenzin Choegyal; Laurie first coming to the attention of me, via the single O Superman in 1981, a slow-burning piece that crept up the charts reaching number 2.

How to describe this? An ambient music album with spoken narrative for the purpose of meditation; best listened to alone, in the dark, with a beverage of your choice. But what of the Bardo, you may ask? The Bardo is one of six states of “consciousness”, according to Tibetan tradition, the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. After death and before one’s next birth, when one’s consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. Not unlike a beer festival then?

Listen Without Distraction and Dancing With the Crescent Knife are great representations of where the music can take you, best considered as a whole rather than as an album to dip into, a meditation guide. Musically, and this is my best shot at a description, it is a combination of the incidental and ambient music of the Sci-Fi series Firefly. I love it, it is different, challenging and relaxing, or at least I find it so. Others may find that by conventional thinking it lacks structure, to them I would suggest that the structure as it seeks to guide your maxitive time is more rigid.

Light amusement may be gained by some by reference to Tormato, a Yes album many struggle with, but aside from that, as a relaxing meditation guide, I cannot fault it. I have listed to the tracks, and as stated, because of its nature it is difficult to select specific passages. Anyone with Buddhist leanings may gather far more than I.

It would be easy to mock this with its Tormato references, naked yellow figures (Homer Simpson?) and names that you are unfamiliar with, but like Passion it sits with me as an introduction to interesting sounds even without the guide to meditation.

It’s not going to hit any progressive music chart, removing familiar names and sounds, but given the chance and an open mind it is a wonderful experience. Despite some of the gruesome, and rather violent imagery that is bought to mind, remember, awakened one, listen without distraction.

TRACK LISTING
01. Homage to the Gurus (3:31)
02. Heart Sutra Song- Gone Beyond (7:32)
03. Awakened One (5:28)
04. The Three Jewels (4:18)
05. Brilliant Lights (11:14)
06. Listen Without Distraction (5:37)
07. Gong (1:37)
08. Dancing with the Crescent Knife (4:26)
09. Jigten (6:04)
10. Natural Form of Emptiness (6:39)
11. Lotus Born, No Need to Fear (7:08)
12. Dividing Line (3:50)
13. Moon in the Water (5:15)
14. Awakened Heart (5:10)

Total Time – 77:33

MUSICIANS
Laurie Anderson – Vocals, Violin
Jesse Paris Smith – Piano, Gong, Singing Bowls
Tenzin Choegyal – Chanter, Singing Bowls
Shahzad Ismaily – Percussion
Rubin Kodheli – Cello

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Catalogue#: SFW LP 40583
Date of Release: 29th September 2019

LINKS
Laurie Anderson – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Jesse Paris Smith – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Tenzin Choegyal – Facebook | Twitter

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