History has shown that mixing music and spirituality rarely pays off. The results are largely shallow, new age kitsch at best or stiff necked, pompous Bible bashing at worst. It takes a deft musical hand, a sincere heart and clear mind to combine these factors with any real success. Thankfully Mantrasphere ticks all of these boxes.
Although born of a place where western singer-songwriter tradition meets Buddhist chant, it manages to move both genres into new and unexpected realms. Hughie Carroll, the man behind this clash of orient and occident, tells me that the music has its birth in the meditation practices he is so fond of. In those quiet insular moments he hears otherworldly sounds that he then tries to capture and set down in music. Though he claims to be only partially successful at doing this, what he has managed to create is a magical dovetailing of ethereal sounds that are both accessible to the western ear and built around very authentic eastern traditions.
Although led by an acoustic guitar that wanders between laid back, folk vibes, flamenco flourishes and classical dexterity, the rhythmic heartbeat of the music lies in the layers of mantras and tranquil vocalisation that form its bulk. And although wonderfully structured, there is a seductive, clean-limbed beauty to it all. As you would expect there is an appealing calm to these works, the perfect antidote to the stresses of the modern world, just let it wash over you in the knowledge that it has the power to still even the most unquiet of minds.
The songs themselves speak from quite personal inspirations; dreams, travel, personal beliefs and events, all of which moves these creations beyond the fairly meaningless term of world music and into a much more apt description – worldly music.
Unlike most of the albums that this will probably get compared to, the ones you find in the racks of Glastonbury gift shops next to CD’s of whale song, the sound of trees growing or yogurt fermenting, this is no throwaway mood music, there is so much more depth to it and inspiration to be gleaned from it than that.
The real beauty of the album is that whilst being spiritual it doesn’t aim to preach yet is still able to speak to everyone. And speak it does, seemingly in a language that is both personal yet universal, minimal yet comprehensive. It is at once music to chill out to yet energizing, music of the here and now yet timeless. You can’t ask a lot more from a musician can you?