The Truth of Being is, formally speaking, Cheryl Gallagher's first solo Madhavi Devi album on Spotted Peccary, but it isn't her first appearance on the label. In 2004, Gallagher collaborated with Deborah Martin on Tibet and two years ago as Madhavi Devi with Howard Givens on Source of Compassion. She thus brings a breadth of experience, musical, spiritual, and otherwise, to The Truth of Being, and such background goes a long way towards making this eloquent set of modern-day meditative ambient as rewarding as it is.
Gallagher's as much visual artist as sound painter, and consequently it doesn't surprise that her nuanced musical visions are not only evocative but also sensitive to tone colour and texture. The album's six settings blur the line between inner and outer realms, the journeys in this case arguably more focused on navigating inner states of being. To achieve such ends, Gallagher deploys synthesizers (digital, analog, modular, software), concert grand and electric harps, and Tibetan bowls, while guests Stephanie Britten Phillips (viola) and Givens (ambient electric guitar, modular synthesizers) assist her in realizing said goals.
That The Truth of Being is about journeys of self-discovery can be gleaned from the track titles, with ones such as “Breakthrough” and “Inner Vision – Cave of Light” hinting at the revelations that inward examination can bring. And sometimes that process is violent in nature, as intimated by the album's most aggressive piece, “Breakthrough,” though it also should be said that such a moment is rare on this largely soothing presentation.
Enveloped in gentle swathes of swirling winds and crashing waves, “Translucence Reflected” transports the listener to a deep ambient space of crystalline tones and hazy synthesizer washes, the sound mass assuming a vintage New Age character when a ceremonial, Far Eastern-styled theme intones emphatically against the dreamlike backdrop. Though The Truth of Being largely downplays rhythm structures, they do arise on occasion, during the second, comparatively more animated half of “Translucence Reflected,” for example. Such a dimension lends the album a feeling of motion, of journeys undertaken and destinations targeted.
Gallagher isn't averse to letting her material stretch out, with “Jade Breeze” and “Inner Vision – Cave of Light” weighing in at twelve and fifteen minutes, respectively. The extended running times allows her to explore even more fully transcendental realms and let the material blossom as slowly as it requires. The delicate blending of keyboards, harp, and percussion in the former lends the setting a quietly majestic air, whereas “Inner Vision – Cave of Light” plays like the experience of wide-eyed revelation rendered into sound form. Prepare in the latter to be mesmerized by deep swells of viola, harp, synths, siren swoops, and ethereal vocal exhalations that surface during the multi-scenic trip.
Phillips elevates the portentous ambient setting “Cloudbreak on Ilsa” with her graceful viola presence, but The Truth of Being is more New Age than ambient per se, even if the album transcends strict classification. Ultimately the detail is of minor importance, however, the thing that really matters being the material itself, whose incredibly poise is realized throughout by Gallagher with consummate skill and sensitivity. - Ron Schepper, Textura