One of the advantages of reviewing music in the rudderless way that I do, not fixed to a magazine or website, trend, genre or even brief, is that I am truly at the mercy of the Gods of Fate and the prevailing winds as to what comes my way. And whilst half of the resulting influx is, to be polite, a bit same old, same old, people adhering to tried and tested templates in an effort to be the new Oasis/Green Day/Ed Sheeran/Taylor Swift (delete as applicable) the other half is where the magic is found.
The latest slice of magic comes in guise of Shambhu, a West Coast guitarist and composer who creates ambient instrumental pieces, gentle and meditative soundscapes that provide the bridge between silence and music. Now that is a description which may already have people mentally earmarking this as just some new age, knit your own tantric yogurt nonsense, but if you think that Soothe, his third and latest album, deserves to be found in a hippy head shop rubbing shoulders with Gregorian chant and whale song, then think again.
As you would expect from someone who has recorded or performed with the likes of Whitney Houston, guitarist Carlos Santana and even the big man himself, Clarence Clemons, there is much more going on here than that. More depth, more intricacy, more deftness and more beauty.
Acoustic and electric guitars, pastoral folksiness, eastern esoteric vibes, sonorous jazz and much more besides go into the mix but it is the arrangements and texturing that really marks the work out as being head and shoulders above most of its generic rivals. Space, atmosphere and anticipation are blended with the more tangible elements and it is this room to breathe, this lack of urgency and this dreamlike quality that are its real charm.
This really is mood music, the sort of thing to put on when you need to free your mind of the stresses of the day, need to zone out, need to spend some time detached from the slings and arrows of everyday life. Certainly it’s otherworldly, ethereal qualities and enchanting sounds are the perfect conduit to achieving such a state and its unobtrusiveness also lends itself to being the perfect soundtrack for meditation, yoga or any number of activities that require you to look inside rather than out into the world.
But as I said before there are those who scoff at the idea of such an approach claiming music should have something to say, should be about storming barricades and changing the world. They are totally missing the point and should consider this. What if the message is unspoken, what if you can pass through the barricades without breaking them what if you don’t need to change the world, just your attitude towards it? I’m not claiming that Soothe can do that for you, what I am saying is that it is the perfect soundtrack to have playing whilst you work out how you do!