Season of Awakening neatly demonstrates that When Mountains Speak is both the “immovable object” and the “irresistible force” of the famous analogy. The former comes from those familiar tabla beats that anchor the music, the psychedelic washes that colour it, the ambient sounds which add deft and delicate layers of tone and texture and the often ornate proggy-ness that informs much of the soundscapes that are being conjured. But if that all makes for an element of familiarity, it is the latter which is the opposite which attracts so brilliantly.
The aforementioned “irresistible force” comes from the feeling of restless adventure, the exploratory nature and the progressive spirit that really brings the music to life. And here, a new dimension is added to that sonic quest, not only the sound of the soprano sax but one which forms the voice of the record.
Without vocals to guide those who need to be taken gently by the hand, the soaring and swooning, soothing and serenading of the instrument takes the voice’s place. Sometimes as challenging as the soundscapes that it flows through, at others charming and accessible. But such has always been the changeable nature of When Mountains Speak.
On tracks such as the opener, Lucid Velocity, the sax swirls and spirals around the strings, rises high above the beat and serenades the listener with lovely and loving sounds. By the time we get to Insight, it has adopted a more free-jazz meander, adding strange musical motifs and perplexing punctuation to an already brooding soundscape. And between these two songs you get a picture of the changeable nature of When Mountains Speak and why people revel in its glorious unpredictability and fantastic flights of fancy.
Brilliance is spacious and spaced out, evoking strange meditative trips and gentle freakouts, the sound of the psychedelic, tripped out west exploring the mystical and mercurial musical traditions of the east, the occidental meeting the oriental in an otherworldly dance. Awakening is challenging and chaotic but by now you are getting attuned to the singular musical journey, one that wanders between harmony and adventure, that marks the album and indeed all the albums made under this moniker and things end with the most songlike of tracks (although all things are relative) Her Beauty Transcends, a folk-raga fusion that is both odd yet accessible, though perhaps that should be the quote that accompanies all WMS music.
As always, the music found here is challenging but then this isn’t a pop record, or indeed a conventional record of any kind and it is purposefully designed to be that way. It may not find a massive audience but it will find a discerning one. It might not sell in vast quantities but to those who “get it” this, and indeed all of this artist’s albums, will become treasured possessions, good sonic friends even…and there is nothing better than being blessed with good friends, musical or otherwise.