Dear reader, constant musical traveller and avid listener of great cosmic tunes, today we are about to take a journey that is for me, totally unique and perhaps may well be for you as well. Our sojourn will take us on a spiritual trek of musical bliss, but so deeply respectful and harmonic, it will be a breath-taking experience. The Gyuto Monks are no strangers to releasing music to the world and have done so for decades, now they have teamed up with Australian duo Kim Cunio and Heather Lee and have produced a release that is not only deeply powerful, but quite beautiful.
The opening piece is a real scene setter; the extremely resonating backdrop of the Harmonium creates a sonic backdrop to the opening song, the title track called of course Beyond Karma. Heather Lee again creates a lush uniqueness with her vocals that will inspire you at every twist and turn of this musical journey.
The Monks chant begins track two, Karma Burning and is soon joined by an extremely moving Digeridoo, played by the talented Ash Dargan. The total balance here is something to behold and of course thoroughly enjoy.
A little known fact is that I have been taught to chant and as such totally appreciated this album and it is very possible I may well use this release in my meditations. But for a total change in direction and one that is simply beyond beauty, take a listen to O Pastor Animarum, written in Germany in the 1050s by Hildegard of Bingen. Lee’s operatic qualities create something transcendent here.
Tantric Grace starts with a purposeful piano and the monks with their secret chants create an entirely different realm, I found Cunio’s piano here manifested a real sense of ambience within the dimensional awareness of the chanting. This is what is so special about this album, there are so many different facets to it and so many borders crossed along the way; this was one of my favourites off the release.
The longest piece of the album is a track called Unity of Life; once more the balance is spiritual bliss. The vocals of Lee are absolutely unique and her range and pitch are sublime. The varied instrumentation used on this opus of grandeur is staggeringly brilliant and totally encapsulates the listener. Lee is also joined by a full ensemble in this live recording and includes flautist and singer Anne Hildyard, Kim Cunio singing and playing harmonium and Tanpura, his voice is a journey all of his own and so mesmerizingly emotive. Unity of Life is a track that spreads the good vibe of a long form composition and I actually had to start this one again and listen twice as I completely lost myself in this arrangement. The constant unwavering Gyuto Monks were the foundations to this masterpiece as they chanted Sh’mah Yisrael, a deeply personal prayer.
Mahakala once more contained the Digeridoo of Ash Dargen, and a wonderful hand held drum, a real heartbeat performance from Lobsang Tsetan. This track had a real ethnic feel to it, and resonated with me on a personal level as I too have a drum of spiritual significance that I should collaborate with more.
Something deeply emotional and very moving is up next and called Lament for a Lost Land. You may note dear reader we have travelled to Iraq now, this piece includes string supremo Nawres Al-Freh. The symbolism of this song is so very moving and illustrated the parity of Tibet and Iraq, as lands now lost to occupation, you will find it hard not to feel a tear forming in the eye whist listening to this piece.
I loved this one, it’s called On the Path the sullen and ponderous build up reminded me of the 70’s film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, also Australian! The monks chanting seemed far away, but always constant, a true grounding force. But dear listener the violin created a narrative so exquisite, its music like this that makes you realise how wonderfully varied and eclectic this world truly is on a musical level.
Now it’s time to take in our amazing journey for a while and let’s listen to Kim Cunio perform a delightful solo piano piece called As the Sun Sets, as we rest perhaps this is a moment reflection for this multitalented musician?
There is always time for something a little special and again unique, on vocals for the penultimate track is 9 year old Samarai (Babu) Cunio on, The Suffering of the World. This is a well performed piece and based on a favourite prayer of the Dali Lama, a deeply expressive and very poignant composition indeed and leads us gently into the open arms of the last track called Dedication, a solo chant from the Gyuto Monks to round of a superb release.
Beyond Karma has to be one of the most original releases I have heard for eons; however this album is so well produced that each one of you should allow you hearts and minds to be open and offer up an opportunity to hear some of the most amazing and spiritually moving music that has been released for some time.
There seems to be a real symbiosis of intent between The Gyuto Monks and Kim Cunio and Heather Lee, one that perhaps will bear further fruit in the fullness of time, but for now I recommend a listen to this release, allow it to stretch your mind and enrich your souls, this is an album that at times is beyond beautiful, sad, emotional, but resonates a musical aura of positivity and respect with each note played and each word sung.