This music is intended for yoga practice and inspired by prana, life energy absorbed and magnified through the breath during yoga exercises. In their first collaborative effort, Craig Kohland and electronic music producer Bluetech have endeavored to create a flowing musical landscape suitable for exercise and body movement.

The World music genre features an East-West fusion of instrumentation and drumming. Track 1 “Calling Spirits” begins with low-pitched gongs or singing bowls that are joined by chanting monks. Warm synthetic orchestral accompaniment adds a sense of space and grandeur, creating the ambiance of a massive temple. It's well-suited to yoga-warm-up routines with deep breathing and preparatory stretches with its slow, ponderous introduction. Delicate bird song creeps in from a distant forest. More insistent drumming adds a final dimension that mimics pulsing hearts and lung-cleansing deep breaths. The listener is ready for more challenging exertions.

In Track 2 “Into the Timeless”, the drums establish a settled, conservative walking pace. A slow synth melody entwined with the sinuous sounds of eastern wind instruments. The drumming yields to shimmering flute arpeggios enhanced with echo effects. All of the players join to reiterate the melodic theme embellished with flute riffs.

As Track 3 “Mother Water” begins, pizzicato strings establish the harmonic content. An eastern-style viola bows an oriental melody, although in western half-tone rather than eastern quarter-tone scales. The texture thins as an alto voice takes up the wordless melody. A rather jaunty rhythm picks up the pace with comedic drum rolls to accent the measures. The melody returns to the viola while the voice takes up a descant. The drums drop out and the vocal line repeats the melodic fragment until the song fades out.

The introduction to Track 4 “Submergence” features light, airy bell-like samples that lead into a slinky mix of synth samples, string riffs, and a funky bass track. The music makes you want to move your body, swaying back and forth through the complex east-west fusion. It's reminiscent of music from the sound track for “The Fifth Element,” with a touch of otherworldly, sci-fi instrumentation.

Track 5 “The Way Through” is a more stately groove. There's an impression of wispy spirits hovering in the background. A brass-like instrument fades in and out of the sustained tones. More layers of sound creep in to create greater density. At mid-song, instruments fade away to allow a drum riff to dominate and take over. The virtuoso drum solo winds in and out of the sampled groove. The textures build up again only to dwindle away as the song ends.

Track 6 “Giving Gifts” shifts to something more mysterious. The rhythms gain complexity and lead with a pulsing pace. The listener becomes a climber struggling up the side of a mountain where the air is thinner and breathing more labored. This would be an excellent track to use for a choreographed modern dance. Various instruments creep in and out of the texture. The contemporary yoga groove feels exotic because of the types of drums used to produce it. Solo instruments trade off playing the melody over the groove. 

Track 7 “Prana Pulse” shifts from the physical to the mental. The main beats of a complicated groove mimic the tempo of a human heart-beat. The samples are more synthetic and less eastern. Afro-Cubano style drumming keeps the track exotic and unique. In the middle of the track, a complicated synth melody cuts through the texture and dominates the drumming. Everything gives way to a funky clavichord sample, and then the original instrumental textures return with odd pacing as the drums start and stop. It feels like a song of hunting or pursuit, as though the hunter cannot give up the chase no matter how far and fast the prey runs to escape.

Track 8 “Breath of Ma” returns to a distinctly Eastern oriental ambiance with Chinese or Tibetan strings and winds unfolding a melody over a world-drumming groove. Once again, a bit of humor creeps in as a funky synth takes up a duet with the Chinese mandolin.

Track 9 “Nectar” is ponderous, and begins with an uneven beat and a Japanese wood flute. The effect is more etheric and elevated, and gives the feeling of spaciousness and weightlessness. The dreamer is soaring over a landscape, and rising into the clouds. By this point in the CD, any decent yogi should be high on breathing in the prana.

Track 10 “Letting Go” is the finale and the longest song at 9 minutes 17 seconds. The introduction returns to Track 1's ambiance of a worshiper praying in a massive, high-ceilinged temple. This is the cool-down after a strenuous work-out, suitable for relaxation and meditation. The instrumental layers are sparse and carefully controlled. A piano is included for the first time on the CD. This is odd so late in the work and feels a bit out of place in a collection so thoroughly dominated by eastern strings and wind instruments.  However, the piano follows the pattern of previous solo instruments and plucks out gently ascending and descending riffs which are perhaps a bit too fragmentary to be considered melodies. Nocturnal insect sounds give a glorious sense of utter relaxation and somnolent peace as the track ends.

“Shamans Dream” is the musical genre that I prefer for magical rituals. It features instrumental music in a lovely East-West fusion over contemporary yoga grooves, and is never dull or saccharine. It's appropriate for exercise, meditation, and ritual use. The absence of lyrics is providential for the practitioner who is chanting, praying, or conducting a ritual. Throughout the CD, the mix is kept under the masterful control of the artists on the mixing board, and supply a wide variety of tonal and rhythmic appeal without overwhelming the listener with too much sound or excessive textures.

The CD is a carefully planned musical journey, whether for an hour-long yoga workout, or for a mystical ritual or meditation. The pacing and contrasts between the tracks are intellectually stimulating and emotionally evocative. The developmental curve from the initial warm-up period to the peak action is thoughtfully timed, and gradually slows to the final cool-down or relaxation phase. Highly recommended.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Shamans Dream
Sounds True, 2013
1 hour 13 minutes; mp3 $9.49; CD $14.99

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