Mantras by SourdureRelease date: July 12, 2017
As an unrepentant fan of old school minimalism (Terry Riley and La Monte Young are some of my favorite musicians of all time), it’s been great to see the upswing in interest in New Age music. New Age could not have existed without the influence of La Monte Young, who Brian Eno referred to as “the great granddaddy of us all,” with regards to minimalist composers. To put it another way, New Age music has strong experimental credentials. All too often, however, it ignores its history in order to noodle around on some synths or take empty stabs at some form of “contemplation” or, even more perniciously in the modern era, “mindfulness.” Yuck.
Of course, as with any movement, there’s good and bad. And then there’s the truly transcendent. Sourdure’s opus MANTRAS falls into that very last category. This is truly a symphony for patience. It won’t hold your hand or soundtrack your yoga studio (unless you have a really cool instructor, I guess), and it doesn’t have any patience for your impatience. This is slow and long and methodical and beautiful. In the glorious ebb and flow of its synths, it is, in a way, just as punishing as any metal album. If the modern era is easily described by its relentlessness, this album will try your sanity, and that’s precisely what makes it so excellent.
It could, perhaps, be easy to write this album off as some sort of bizarre orientalist outing, like so many other New Age recordings, that take Carnatic and Hindustani music and warp them into low-budget wallpaper for white yuppies in search of inner peace, but I think a better frame of reference would be the Gamelan, Son Of Lion collective, which was spawned in that supremely fertile late ‘60’s New York scene. It takes a lot of “Eastern” sounds and filters them through electronics and reduces them to their pure sounds, such as the strings on the second track, ‘Formules (Émeraude)’, which mingle with subtle synth soundscapes.
Further in the album, ‘À l’Embellie Solaire (Or)’ threatens, with its rising tones, to lapse into the sort of pop-infused dreck that I so wanted this album to avoid. There’s a moment where the melody almost seems to resolve very, very early on, and, I’ll admit to being worried. But I shouldn’t have been. While that moment was certainly a high, it also then almost instantaneously began to deconstruct itself, flying off into many different possible melodic lines, forming a beautiful, dissonant harmonic whole.
This album is probably a front-runner in my “albums of the year” list for precisely this sort of thoughtful, yet improvisatory, song construction. Broken down into 3 song cycles (Emerald, Obsidian, and Gold), I advise that you sit down and let this album take you. Any act of refusing the world is, after all, a small act of rebellion.