The Sounding Board Review: 'Soothe'
As the World turns, but slower.
Like a balm upon a wounded spirit, the music of Soothe does its magic. It is a somewhat solitary journey through a world that has decelerated so that every musical nuance can be experienced. Shambhu, whose name is often maligned by baristas worldwide, is a New Age/contemporary guitarist of the first ilk. His talents are equal whether on acoustic or electric guitars and his composition skills are second to none. Soothe, his third album to date, is another example of the natural fusion between spirit and music. Shambhu's music always seems to achieve that delicate balance necessary to experience the world with clarity and openness. The opening cut on the nine track album is called Knowingness. The first thing that struck me about this wraithlike tune was that the guitar is not as prominent as I would have expected, but that Premik Russell Tubb's soprano sax seems to secure the lead. This is not a bad thing as it allows the music to flow in a path that comes naturally. Shambhu's electric guitar, subdued as it is, is more of a companion than a follower. Days Like Falling Stars is certainly an "end of the day" tune. With the guitar melody strong, pure, and elegant, one can almost feel the approach of twilight upon the land. It is a time when Mother Nature tucks in the sun and allows her night time vigil to begin, quietly, softly, lovingly. Take in a breath, close your eyes and you will feel the power of the stars. One of my favorites on Soothe is called Prelude 2. It has a flowing, Brubeckian refrain that seemed to me to be anachronistic. Luckily, it was from a time that I lived through, so it was also familiar. The imperturbable track is sinuous and sculptural, shaping up a time where day dreaming is encouraged and memories are as fluid as a river. With a lead-in of sweet bansuri flute, Through New Eyes is a remarkable cut. I have noticed in Indian singing there is this warble, an accent so to speak in the music. Surprisingly, this wonderful accent is evident in the tune as well thanks to flute player Ravichandra Kulur in where the flute becomes the voice of this song. When one is struck strong with emotion, one becomes "new". That experience allows you to see the world in a new light. This is the specific music for when that particular thing happens. It took modern scientists until 1970 to understand what woman and man have known for millennia. Gaia is Mother Earth. The tender voice of the planet is represented in the singing of Kristin Hoffmann on the song Gaia Sweet Divine. Gentle tabla, guitar and flute conjoin in a harmonious tune that sways and swirls around the body and enters the soul. The music is a prayer of gratitude to our Goddess of this earth. With just a whisper of sound waves in the background and an adulatory addition of Michael Manring's legendary bass guitar, the title tune, Soothe unfolds like a new lotus blossom on a still pond. Like some benign atomic reaction, it releases its energy on an unseen level. The music is contemplative and energizing at the same time. A balance is attained. Producing this noteworthy album is quite an achievement for both Shambhu and Todd Boston. Production quality is excellent as is a continuous theme, things I respect on a recording. Shambhu has achieved his goal on Soothe, which is to offer a transcendent respite in the world of absurdity. His music allows us to step back, take a breath and relax in a world of our own making, if only for a while.