Wachuma’s Wave

Byron Metcalf / Mark Seelig / Steve Roach

Wachuma’s Wave


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About Wachuma’s Wave


1   Wachuma's Wave

2   Gone... Beyond

3   Deep Time Dreaming

4   Last Remnants of Reality

5   Dance of the Heart Voyagers

6   Across the Waters

“WACHUMA’S WAVE is sacred music in the truest sense. It is a portal of travel, a soul retrieval, a ritual of deep time dreaming. Veteran trance percussionist Byron Metcalf teams up with German-based musician and shamanic practitioner Mark Seelig to bring forth a multi-textural blend of Bonsuri flutes, sacred chants and overtone singing, simmering percussion and other hybrid grooves, augmented by rich offerings of deep drift ambient synthesizer and didgeridoo from special guest, soundscape maestro Steve Roach.” — Frank MacEowen


Percussionist Metcalf, overtone vocalist and flute player Seelig, and synthesist Roach combine here to produce a ‘deep listening’ event that has given me much pleasure. Metcalf is highly skilled at providing the right percussion backdrop to fit the mood of the pieces here. Seelig's singing is multifaceted (and multitracked) here to great advantage and his wood flute playing sounds full and sweet, and Roach provides sympathetic synth drone backgrounds that are sometimes so sympathetic that it is difficult to tell where voice ends and synth begins. When I was asked to review this, I already had it in my collection but had not given it the kind of ‘in-depth’ listening it deserved. I was rewarded beyond my expectations and I highly recommend this recording to fans of ambient, world music, space music, and to anyone who wants to engage in meditation through immersing themselves in careful listening.

Someone who is not familiar with overtone singing may not be aware that the particular drone they are hearing is partly or entirely a creation of one singer. Overtone singing has existed in many cultures but the primary awareness of it in the west stems from field recordings of then-isolated Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting and the subsequent use of these techniques by David Hykes. By emphasizing the overtones inherent in a sung tone, the singer creates the impression that he or she is singing several notes simultaneously. The singer can also produce ‘filtersweep’ like effects by varying the shape of his or her mouth and vocal cavity. If multitracking is used, entire orchestral or otherworldly timbres can be built from one person's voice. But this is merely technique and what makes Seelig stand out is what he does with the technique.

The first track, ‘Wachuma's Wave’ opens with a very nice deep atmosphere, drones from the singer and synth, suffused with a light almost airy sound. The deep overtone vocals in the first track are a good example of Seelig's ability to sing in an interesting way and both he and Metcalf are very sympathetic to each other. Many of the passages have a relaxed, improvisational feel to them . Roach complements this perfectly, sounding as though he is in the room reacting in ‘real time’ to the other players, although the cover notes indicate his parts were added later. The basic sound is earthy acoustic percussion, played with a ‘swing’ feel and hitting a relaxed slow groove, layered, harmonic drones provided by voice and synth, and modal flute improvisations that fit the backdrop atmosphere perfectly. If this sounds appealing to you, you should definitely seek this one out. ‘Gone…Beyond’ continues in this vein, with Metcalf switching to clay pot drums and providing another laid back groove. Here the percussion sounds tabla-like in spots with well-timed starts and stops. In addition to the melodic flute passages, Seelig also sings melodies over the layered drones, making for a pleasing sound. ‘Deep Time Dreaming’ introduces Roach's synth pad sounds into the mix to great advantage as the timbre of the music is varied for the listener. Metcalf also switches gears, bringing the drumming up front and beginning to propel the pieces in the fashion of his other recordings. In addition to some very fine overtone singing, Seelig here plays the flute expressively, using a lot of slurs and vibrato. The players succeed in blending themselves into a unity that creates a shimmering, floating landscape. ‘Last Remnants of Reality,’ the recording's spaciest piece, opens with slow undulating synth waves and a shot of overtone harmonics that could be coming from Seelig, Roach, or both. The mood here is one of losing the familiar and venturing into the unknown. To this end, Metcalf does not lay down an ambient groove or keep time but uses rattles and other acoustic devices to keep the listener off balance.. The result is a slow, arrhythmic cascade of rising choir sounding material, emanating from Seelig and Roach that piques the listener's curiosity and pulls him or her in deeper. The drones are gradually stripped of recognizable pitch and harmonic content and become more otherworldly sounding. This furthers the sense of transition to a different state and the entire piece is very effective. ‘Dance of the Heart Voyager’ is indeed a dance, and finds Seelig improvising on the flute with abandon and Metcalf cooking up a motoric rhythm that drives the piece into an excited, ‘trance ritual’ space. This is another in a series of very effective mood changes that keeps the listener fully engaged. The final piece ‘Across the Water,’ is a duet between Seelig and Roach, with Seelig chanting in a more traditional manner over a backdrop of overtone drones. Roach provides some gorgeous accompaniment here, and Seelig uses the ‘Om Shanti’ chant very effectively. I listen to this track repeatedly and find it is a great mood enhancer and a terrific way to calm down.

The artists are to be commended for producing music that speaks forcefully to the call of deep meditation and brain adventure. The empathy the artists have for each and this music is superb and harkens to a new collaborative age in the ongoing development of improvisatory ambient tribal music.

- Mark Morton, Wind and Wire

The sacred meets the profane - well, Steve Roach's electronics aren't exactly profane(!), but Byron Metcalf's various frame drums and clay pots, and Mark Seelig's delicate Bansuri flutes and haunting overtone singing certainly approach a sacred space. The inclusion of sacred chants and whispered prayers enhance the spiritual ambience of this collaborative work.

Actually, Roach limits himself to mostly warm pads and drones as an underpinning for Metcalf and Seeling's extrapolations. The trio are augmented the track ‘Deep Time Dreaming’ by a multi-voice harmonic choir that evokes David Hyke's ethereal vocalizations. Nan Henderson contributes icy singing bowl timbres to ‘Last Remants of Reality’ and ‘Gone...Beyond’, while the ever-prolific Roach adds a bit of didgeridoo to ‘Dance of the Heart Voyagers’.

All of these tones and timbres sort of meld into one lush wall of ambience. It's hard to tell at times where the electronics leave off and the reverb-laced overtone choirs begin. There is a certain darkness to the whole project, emphasized by lots of low frequencies and throbbing percussion, but then the flutes emerge from the ether with a plaintive, hopeful vibe and the demons are exorcized.

If you're a fan of overtone singing, then this is a good disk to check out. Likewise if you are a fan of dark, yet hopeful ambience.

- Allen Welty-Green, Ambient Visions

Tribal/Trance percussionist Metcalf joins forces with German flautist and harmonic overtone singer Seelig, accompanied by Steve Roach (amongst others), who contributed ingenious deep background soundscapes to some of the tracks.
These six long pieces on this 75+ minutes disc all convey a dreamy, very relaxed trance-like atmosphere (only track 3 features more lively percussion), in which a lot of pleasant ethnic influences appear. Apart from this the harmonic overtone singing has been integrated into the aural spectrum much more effectively and with greater variety (as compared to Jim Cole for instance).
Production and mastering quality are excellent, especially the low frequencies of the percussion and ‘hybrid grooves’ carry a lot of weight.
Those of you who are into ‘deep’ atmospherics or enjoy Roach’s tribal excursions should certainly give this CD a try.

- Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion

Far-reaching (and darkly billowing) streams of overtone singing, drones and more extend upon the meditative currents of Wachuma's Wave (14:46); gradually, the hypnotic flows begin to throb with tribalesque frame-drumming and softly twisting flutestrands, all very patiently emitted. Even more slowly-brooding Gone... Beyond is a similarly constructed vortex, laced with a gauze of deep-voiced chanting.

Deep Time Dreaming (10:34) unfurls on featherlight drifts of flute and synth; a rising tide of energetic drumbeats empowers the piece, which contains a distant chorus of processed voices. Dreamdrum expanses spread beneath the Last Remnants of Reality making a fertile bed for sprouting woodwinds and twinkling bowl chimes.

Across The Waters makes a final (beatless) voyage into a sonic aurora-sea, whose etheral vapors are heavy with mysticism; whispering entities will enhance or distract from your trip, depending on how you feel about breathily-intoning spiritvoices... I find the robotic chants somewhat more palatable, but prefer the simple ebb-and-flow of weightless tonewashes.

When ear-surfing Wachuma's Wave, even the most ‘musical’ moments are rather like shapes spotted in the clouds... Byron Metcalf & Mark Seelig weave a skein where timeless reverence and unknown cultures merge in a simmering placidity of noplace and notime.

- Ambientrance

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