Words. Anton Batagov
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Anton BATAGOV: Bodhicharyavatara

Another gorgeous collection of Buddhist based modern minimalist compositions from one of our favorite contemporary classical composers/performers. We recently made another Batagov release our Record Of The Week (Music For The 35 Buddhas), and we sold tons of Batagov's sprawling three disc minimalist masterpiece The Wheel Of The Law, which ranks as one of our all time favorites, classical or otherwise!

Bodhicharyavatara is breathtakingly beautiful, and once again demonstrates Batagov's ability to fuse his Buddhist practice with his unique compositional style, informed by so much of what came before (Glass, Feldman, etc.) but definitely something wholly original, especially here, where the sound takes on something more akin to post rock, incorporating warm smoldering guitars, even some actual drumming, into his already achingly lush palette of piano, bells and percussion.

All of the tracks here are tranced out and hypnotic: delicate slow building swirls of sound, constructed from lush resonant piano, wistful woodwinds, chiming bells, the guitars more like swirls of smokey shimmer, the tones stretched out into warm, chordal streaks, with Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the Supreme Lama of Kalmykia, reciting ancient Buddhist texts over the top. It's very reminiscent Of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, especially in the way Godspeed used to employ samples of spoken word, but here, that same effect becomes something much more spiritual, haunting and heady. While it's definitely more droney and dirgey than other Batagov recordings we've listed, it's still quite meditative. The lush backdrop of sound, broods and pulses, tones moan and soar, the piano alternates between low end flurries and pointillist crystalline melodies, and then part way through the second track, in come the drums, and the song blossoms into full on post rock: pounding drums, wailing guitars, all over that darkly swirling bed of bells and piano. Super intense, and the sort of thing Godspeed freaks will flip over.

The third and fourth movements return to a sound much more restrained, but like the first few tracks, continue to explore a brooding, post rock flecked modern minimalism. The sung/spoken texts are truly mesmerizing, woodwinds drifting in, bleating horns, blurred into softly churning backdrop, all of this adding a haunting melancholy to the already moody minor key sound, and while the drums are still present, their presence is much more abstract, their rhythmic colorations more spare, skittery for the most part, but with brief moments of bombast. Batagov has always professed a love of collaborating with rock musicians, and many of his records display the fruit of these collaborations, but few reveal his mysterious musical mastery, better than this one. Stunning.

Andrew Connors, Aquarius Records (San Francisco)
November 2012