Here is a deep-breathing exercise in sonic form, and a firm reminder of why we enjoy meditative ambient. With calming, mantra-ready flows mixed with dancing bits of sequencer and hand percussion, Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi (Cheryl Gallagher) bring together an album that’s ready to be looped for blissful hours on end. More often than not over many listens, I have put Source of Compassion on quietly to play, then went about my business, letting it work its dream-inducing magic in the background, politely requesting my attention in various spots as it went along. However you choose to listen to it, there’s simply no escaping its embrace. The opener, “Intention,” gets the flow going with long pads and a slowly repeating melodic phrase. It rises into a pulse that softly massages your brain. Close your eyes and pay attention to how many layers are at work here, crossing and weaving. From there the album moves into what has become my favorite stretch, the combination of “Emergence” and “Omkara.” The first is a gliding, hushed ambient offering that unfolds itself over and over as you listen. A perfect 10-minute meditation, a butterfly wing of sound. The second carries that softness, then laces in a percolating sequencer line. Once again, the energy is subtle, more a suggestion of movement than an outright command to do so–but move, you will. The title track again immerses us in warm sound-clouds to accompany our deep breathing–which, by this point in the album, is pretty much unavoidable. “Pathless Passage” provides another nice dose of old-school thought, with a simple sequencer line going unobtrusively through its paces over a spacemusic framework. It picks up some vibrancy midway through the piece from a glistening arpeggio set just a bit to the back of the scene. “Connected Space” closes the album with the gentlest of hands at the controls. It comes on like dusk and fades gracefully into a quiet and reflective evening.
I am not usually prone to doing track-by-track reviews, but Source of Compassion is one of those albums that compels me to say something about everything on it. Truth be told, that could have been captured thus: Everything here is superb. Everything here is what you love in ambient music. Everything here is what you need to hear. Deeply beautiful, incredibly calming, and perfectly constructed, Source of Compassion is easily one of the best albums I’ve reviewed this year. Get this now.
- John Shanahan, Hypnagogue