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Loren Nerell / Mark Seelig: Tree of Life

$16 $14

Tracks

1. Wacah Chan
2. Cintamani
3. Yggdrasil
4. Kayon
5. Acacia
6. Arbor Vitae

Limited edition of 500

Loren and Mark’s electro-acoustic debut merges the ambient soundworlds of Southeast Asia, North & South America with the spiritual influences of Bali and India. One part droney soundscape, one part tribal deliberation, and one part ethnological exploration, Tree of Life expands into a transformative experience. Loren’s deep understanding of Balinese music, coupled with his expertise in sound engineering, effortlessly complements Mark’s Bansuri flutes and harmonic overtone vocals and chants. Supported by Sarangi maestro Pankaj Mishra from India, and up-and-coming percussionist Max Link from Germany, the release follows up on ideas sparked during Loren and Mark’s first time on stage together at the 2010 SoundQuest Fest in Tucson, Arizona.

“The Tree of Life is a nearly universal symbol found in many different spiritual and mythological traditions around the world,” Loren explains. “It symbolizes the interconnection of all life to our planet. From these many different traditions the names for each song were taken, many of which literally mean the Tree of Life.”

Tree of Life is a mesmerizing blend of ancient instruments, haunting voices, and whispers of Balinese and Indian wisdom traditions woven together with ambient field recordings; it takes the listener on a journey of life and its endless interconnections of this planet.

Reviews

  1. :

    From Sequenzer Welten

    Unter dem amerikanischem Label Projekt, welches von Sam Rosenthal geführt wird, erschien vor kurzem die sehr spirituelle Tree Of Life von Loren Nerell & Mark Seelig. Diese Musik hat es wirklich in sich, gibt man sich der Musik intensiv hin, hat sie schon eine recht tiefenpsychologische Wirkung.

    Tiefgründige Klänge aus dem asiatischem Raum, sowie aus Nord- und Mittelamerika, führen den Hörer durch viele spirituelle Kulturen. Eine sehr interessante Kombination aus elektronischer Musik, akustischen Instrumenten und Obertongesängen entführen den Hörer durch fremde Welten und zeigen uns, wie verschieden man den “Baum des Lebens” auf eine sehr mystische Art und Weise, musikalisch darstellt.

    Tree Of Life setzt schon eine gewisse innerliche Ruhe voraus. So fällt es leichter, sich fallenlassen zu können…für mich eine der besten CD diese Genres. Spirituell, mystisch und sehr meditativ. -Uwe Sasse

  2. :

    From Music TAP

    Ambient music is a style that knows few boundaries. It can be as unnerving as a walk in a strange place, as therapeutic as a full body rub, and as ancient as time itself. Unfortunately, there are few labels that provide fans with such music. Projekt Records is one of those that not only provide us with an excellent array of ambient music, the label does it on a consistent basis.

    Recently released is the combined efforts of Loren Nerell, and Mark Seelig, called Tree Of Life. Loren Nerell is a composer with an astonishing resume of music. With music written for film and theater, Nerell has had his interests based in the arts of electronic music. With his skills, he is able to bring a high level of sound and composition, as Tree of Life will demonstrate, to the skills of others. Mark Seelig is a musician with his roots deep in his ability to explore and reproduce the ancient music of the Bansuri flute, a specific and haunting bamboo instrument.

    As a collaborative effort, Tree Of Life is many things. Not only an exploration of ancient time, the album also dips into the spiritual aspects of a world that is not often visited by many. Using chants, and the rarely heard effects of the instruments found on the album, Tree Of Life goes on a journey of its own. What is important is that you thumb a ride with Nerell and Seelig on their way to the mythical Tree of Life.

    Tree of Life is a small collection of sonic beauty worthy of your time. It promises much in return. –Matt Rowe

  3. :

    From Synth & Sequences

    “The music of Tree of Life is like a seed of life which inexorably makes its path up to the cradle of our needs of contemplativity”

    There are some who like that, others don’t. There are some who float and meditate profoundly, others remain totally indifferent. The ambient music. Music of ambiences. Those who are familiar with the rather introspective universe of Loren Nerell know how much the synthesist and the musician disciple of the Balinese Gamelans (Indonesian traditional musical instruments) likes to plunge into the esoteric zones of a music immersive as abstract as very spiritual. The adventure can turn out to be difficult for somebody who seeks more for rhythms than for latent hypnotic structures. Because beyond the ambient music, Tree of Life remains a solid monument of soft hypnotic trance on a musical pattern strongly filled by a meditative music at times rather dark but always very near a kind of postcard poetry. For his last album, and to better paint his soundscapes of a charming color, the American musician asked Mark Seelig to play his famous Jawbone style flute which inevitably is going to make lift up the hair of your back bone. Music of ambiences? Of course it is and it’s not that bad, far from it. Just needs to give ourselves the time to be carried away by some very suave ethereal moments of Tree of Life.

    “Wacah Chan” begins this Loren Nerell’s 10th opus with long incantatory shamanic breaths which float on a discreet organic sound fauna. Lines of synth draw grey clouds, uniting a musical peace of mind with timbres of voices from which the hoarse breaths seem to give birth to whispers of wizards hidden in the shadow. And Loren Nerell unveils little by little his sonic arsenal with bells which ring in a disordered way, sounding the awakening of flutes and percussions. On a deep structure of ambiences; flutes, percussions and bells sow a wind of discord which alters not at all the placidity of the spiritual singings. “Wacah Chan” continues to look deep into the passive dark territories, forging so a black ambient music which quietly unties our soul from our body. The experience remains rather fascinating. It’s like to listen some Dead Can Dance in its most abstract forms without the singings of Lisa Gerrard. Singings which are replaced here by the very beautiful flute of Mark Seelig from which the intonations are the charm of this very long prelude that is “Wacah Chan.” Slowly, and I have to say a little long by moments, we go adrift towards the splendid “Cintamani” and its soft rhythm which structures an attractive morphic dance. The percussions are of a surprising seduction and the flute of Seelig floats as by magic on strikes which forge a slow hypnotic rhythm. I was hooked straight from the first listening.

    “Yggdrasil” escapes with the violent winds that were roaring on the rhythmic structure of “Cintamani” and of its mesmerizing clanic percussions. We are literally in the heart of the rhythmic storm of “Tree of Life” which seduces from minute till minute. The winds roar with a mixture of frightened voices and the percussions thunder a rhythm of war against the elements of nature. The effect is striking and the moods are magic. One would say a big psychedelic ambient rock which is hiding its violence in a passive, suggestive rhythm. And these winds … They sing as much than they roar. These two tracks are of an incredible auditive efficiency. “Kayon”! It’s the calm after the storm. It’s an immersion in the Tibetan plains with young girls’ choruses who adore a strange concert of carillons. These bells, of which the multicolored ringings criss-cross their harmonies, are shaping subtly an upward rhythm, a little as a procession with blazing colors which climb some celestial mounts in a mesmerizing symphony of carillons. I liked it and if we listen carefully we hear quite well a melody forged a subliminal air that still haunts the ears many hours later. On a structure a little more contemplative, one would imagine to be on the top of a mountain observing a sunset while thinking of a 1001 souvenirs, “Acacia” floats and cries of its Chinese violin tears which are as much intense as melancholic. A track quite poignant at times that leads us to the sweeter tears of Mark Seelig’s flutes which sing over the micro-organic fauna of “Arbor Vitae”.

    Each time that Sam Rosenthal sends me albums of his ambient / meditative / tribal collection, I look at those with a slight feeling of resentment in the ears. And each time, I eventually fall for it. I eventually get even subjugated. Like with this last album from Loren Nerell. In a superb digipack artwork and a very worked musical production, the music of Tree of Life is as a seed of life which inexorably makes its path up to the cradle of our needs of contemplativity. Am I a victim of the syndrome: “the more we listen to, the more we become used and the more we eventually liked”? I don’t think so, because I fell rather fast with the portion of “Cintamani,” “Yggdrasil” and “Kayon.” The rest gets grafted quite slowly. A little as when we are bewildered by the magical beauties of the immense landscapes filled with oriental mysticism. -Sylvain Lupari

  4. :

    From Expose

    The ancient and the mystical, the ethnic and the spiritual. They all come together at this tribal / ambient meeting place where the two principals bring together their concept, a logical follow-on to the duo’s first appearance together at the 2010 SoundQuest festival in Tucson. Nerell has a long resume working in trance/drone worlds where he has coupled those ideas with a deep knowledge and understanding of Balinese gamelan music, and is a superb sound engineer to boot. Seelig is a master of the bansuri flute and overtone singing, with several collaborative releases to his credit. Joining the duo is German world percussionist Max Link, and track depending, Indian sarangi master Pankaj Mishra, wordless vocalist Katherine Wright, Gabi Link on saron, and Steve Roach on Ocarina.

    As one might expect, Tree of Life brings forth a transcendant, floating style that unfolds slowly and evolves thematically across the album’s six lengthy tracks, which all flow together. The sound varies from sparse to dense, where Nerell takes the lead with gamelan instruments in some passages, and Seelig drives with bansuri in others, with the other players integrated organically in this seamless fabric of shimmering and mesmerizing pan-cultural stylings. Here, electronic sounds play a more minor supportive role, this is primarily an acoustic driven concept moving from one idea to the next, bringing in the subtle and overt influences from India, Southeast Asia, North and South America, point in time depending. To underscore, this is not your standard floating ambient music borne of synthesizers and samples, but something far more organic and down-to-earth, but equally beautiful, haunting and compelling. -Peter Thelen

  5. :

    From Textura

    [This review is for both Intention and Tree of Life]

    Both of these recordings take the listener on wide-ranging journeys through Southeast Asia, North and South America, Bali, and India. With vocalist Mark Seelig the common factor, the discs’ ambient-tribal soundworlds blend the modern and the ancient. Simply identifying him as a singer could be misconstrued to suggest singing of the conventional, lyrics-based sort; more correctly, Seelig’s vocalizing in these contexts is wordless chanting similar to the kind of singing one imagines has been with us since the dawn of humanity.

    Intention pairs Seelig’s Tuvan-style throat singing and Bansuri flutes with Byron Metcalf’s percussion arsenal: frame and ceremonial drums, hybrid toms, udu, and rattles. That statement alone goes a long way to conveying the particular soundworld presented on the five-track release, even if the duo welcomes guests into the fold, too. In that regard, Rob Thomas and Dashmesh Khalsa (didgeridoo), Daniel Hirtz (tabla), and Max Link (water pot udu) amplify the fundamental character of the terrain sketched by Seelig and Metcalf. This isn’t the first time the two have joined forces, by the way, with Intention preceded by Wachuma’s Wave (2003), Mantram (2004), and Nada Terma (2008), all of them created in collaboration with Steve Roach.

    The opening title track is representative of the tone and style of the whole, with Seelig’s deep-throated voice and aromatic flute interweaving with the low-pitched moan of Khalsa’s aboriginal didgeridoo and the insistent tribal rhythms of Metcalf’s hand drumming. Eschewing the conventions of songform, the settings present themselves as consciousness-altering dronescapes; adding to the recording’s hypnotic effect, each track flows into the next without pause, a move that creates the impression of the recording as a single, seventy-minute entity. The indexing isn’t handled randomly, however, as there are distinct changes in arrangement and tone that occur at the transition points; the onset of “Focus,” for instance, is clearly signified by the sudden appearance of percussive rattles. In contrast to the laconic pace of the opening piece and the closing “Vision,” “Surrender” is more rhythmically charged, powered as it is by energized percussive attack, while “Encounter” gradually escalates to a state of near-ecstasy. Seelig and Metcalf also hold the listener’s attention by making constant adjustments to the scenery, with the drums at certain moments either the only sound present or absent altogether and the spotlight alternating between Seelig’s voice and haunting flute playing.

    For Tree of Life, Seelig, this time credited with chants, flutes, and demung, teams up with Loren Nerell, who contributes samples, synths, and gamelan instruments to the project. Compared to Intention, the guests’ contributions are even more pivotal to Tree of Life as each of its six indexed tracks assumes a slightly different character due to the involvement of a particular guest (or two). German percussionist Max Link plays claypot and demung throughout, while Gabi Link (saron), Pankaj Mishra (sarangi), Kathrine Wright (voice), and Steve Roach (ocarina) appear on individual settings. Understandably, the presence of Balinese percussion and instruments associated with Indian music gives the recording a distinctive and defining character, and once again the indexing is effective in identifying significant changes in sound design that occur as the recording progresses.

    “Wacah Chan” begins with field recordings sounds suggestive of exotic forests or jungles, after which Seelig’s chanting voice and flute musings and Roach’s softly whistling ocarina appear. With regulated rhythms absent, the material takes on a sleepy quality, as if the elements are only beginning to awake from a trance, until “Cintamani” arrives to augment Seelig’s ruminative flute playing with lilting percussive patterns that, in turn, grow more robust, funkier even, within “Yggdrasil.” Details and layers are added incrementally, and the music unfolds patiently until a brief arrestation announces the arrival of the dream-like “Kayon” featuring Wright’s vocalizing, both ethereal and supplicating, and the chiming see-saw patterns of Link’s saron, an Indonesian gamelan instrument. The recording’s arguable highlight emerges when Indian maestro Pankaj Mishra elevates “Acacia” with the human-like cry of his sarangi playing. Though both recordings amply repay one’s time and attention, Tree of Life generates to a slightly greater degree than Intention the impression of a long journey filled with divergent episodes and scenery changes.

  6. :

    From Ondarock

    Eravamo a parlarvi giusto qualche giorno fa del primo passo lontano da Steve Roach di Byron Metcalf e Mark Seelig, bell’esperimento di world music al servizio dell’ambient. Fra i tanti storici amici del genio californiano c’è anche uno dei più interessanti protagonisti del sottobosco ambientale più oscuro, ovvero il conterraneo Loren Nerell, etnomusicologo appassionatosi al gamelan che qualche anno fa aveva sposato la causa di uno dei più belli fra gli infiniti viaggi del maestro. C’è da scommettere sul fatto che sia stato proprio Roach a fargli incontrare e conoscere il fido Seelig, durante l’edizione 2010 del SoundQuest, dopo la quale i due sono rimasti a stretto contatto e hanno condiviso varie ricerche sonore, parte delle quali finisce oggi sul loro primo parto congiunto.

    Il fatto che Projekt decida di pubblicare Tree Of Life a pochi giorni di distanza da quest’ultimo non può certo essere interpretato come mera coincidenza. I due lavori possono tranquillamente essere letti come risultati diversi di una medesima ricerca, volta a provare quanto il concetto di musica d’ambiente possa essere fatto risalire alla tradizione, laddove la musica era effettivamente componente fondamentale e spontanea della vita quotidiana (e dunque dell’ambiente stesso dove quest’ultima si svolgeva). Ma se nella direzione di Intention l’accento era posto sulla linea trasversale che collega il bagaglio tribale delle civiltà dell’Africa e dell’Asia Minore, questa volta la strada porta al cuore rituale ed esoterico dell’Oriente (Bali e India) e del Sudamerica.

    La variazione climatica è dunque notevole, considerata anche la passione di Nerell – resa meravigliosamente, due anni fa, in Slow Dream – per l’esplorazione dei lati più tenebrosi e meditativi della musica etnica. “Wacah Chan” contempla per venti minuti a notte fonda l’Albero della Vita, avvicinandosi timidamente fra i rintocchi del claypoti di Max Link e i richiami dello stesso Roach “relegato” in un cameo all’ocarina, per poi allontanarsi e lasciare ampio spazio ai sussurri della foresta. Su “Cintamani” l’ipnosi a lungo cercata prende forma, il battito vitale si fa costante e la voce sciamanica di Seelig si sovrappone al suo stesso bansuri, prima che il rituale oltrepassi la frontiera del terreno scendendo in “Yggdrasil” in un humus di droni fangosi.

    “Kayon” è una terra di mezzo, Nerell per la prima e unica volta rimette il gamelan al centro della scena per un caleidoscopio di tocchi magici che avrebbe fatto innamorare anche Robert Rich. Una cripta di vetro che conduce dritta alla giungla umida di “Acacia”, dipinta alla perfezione da Pankaj Mishra al sarangi: il guru indiano sembra lì apposta per guidare all’interno dell’Albero stesso, rivelando i passaggi segreti per entrarvi. “Arbor Vitae” è la fine del viaggio, dieci minuti di quiete paradisiaca in cui Seelig segue alla lettera gli insegnamenti di Mishra, mentre il suo compagno d’avventura dialoga via sample con la natura circostante. Un’avventura dipinta alla perfezione che consolida ulteriormente e in maniera definitiva il filo che lega tradizione, natura e ambient music. Rating: 7 (very good) -Matteo Meda

  7. :

    From Darkroom

    Primo lavoro in coppia per i due musicisti americani, entrambi non nuovi ad esperienze in casa Projekt: Loren nel 2012, con l’album Slow Dream, e Mark da più tempo, grazie a produzioni in collaborazione con Steve Roach e Byron Metcalf sin dal 2004. Una comunione d’intenti che incarna il lato più orientato verso l’ambient (Nerell) e la new age (Seelig) dell’etichetta americana, e d’altro canto le note interne dell’essenziale digipack non lasciano dubbi riguardo a come le sonorità esplorate rimandino direttamente al Sud-Est asiatico, al Nord e al Sud America, “…con l’influenza spirituale di Bali e dell’India…”. L’impiego di strumenti acustici tradizionali (quelli della scuola Gamelan, ibo drum, sarangi, ocarina, flauti, saron…), combinato con le tessiture elettroniche di Loren e più sporadicamente col canto di Mark (a tratti memore della scuola tuvana), si traduce in un lungo viaggio dove i brani formano un unico flusso magnetico e notturno, dalle atmosfere dilatate dell’iniziale “Wacah Chan” al suadente ritmo ipnotico di “Cintamani”, che si intensifica – al pari dell’oscurità dei suoni e dell’aura di mistero – in “Yggdrasil”; rarefatta e sospesa, “Kayon” procede cupa fra rintocchi scampanellanti verso un finale sempre più soffuso, dapprima con la dilatata ed esotica “Acacia”, e infine con la placida “Arbor Vitae”.

    Se la professionalità di questi due navigati conoscitori delle scuole musicali di cui sopra è fuori discussione, altrettanto si deve dire della realizzazione dell’opera, formalmente impeccabile ed impreziosita dai fondamentali contributi di ben cinque ospiti (fra cui il già citato Steve Roach). Ancor più di questo, va sottolineata l’efficacia delle composizioni del duo nel trasportare l’ascoltatore verso mondi lontani, oltre il concetto di tempo, sostando almeno per 74 minuti ad un piano spirituale infinitamente superiore e quanto mai distante dalle storture del mondo moderno. Se questo è ciò che stavate cercando, Tree Of Life è la sorgente giusta a cui abbeverarsi. Rating: 7.5 -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi

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