Music Review: The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life
Loren Nerell and Mark Seelig
The Tree of Life is a new album that’s described by its creators as “one part droney soundscape, one part tribal deliberation, and one part ethnological exploration.” Musicians Loren Nerell and Mark Seelig have created a seamless audio journey/story that moves from a jungle teeming with life through a dark night of the soul and out again into energized strength. The journey is relaxing and innovative, and during its darker turns the album is reminiscent of something on the order of the ancient, poignant Buddhist practice of sitting alone in a cemetery, to face one’s fears of mortality by cutting through delusions with wisdom and compassion.
The Tree of Life is a shamanic blend of world instruments from Asia and South America, along with overtone vocalizations, chants, and smooth percussion. Nerell offers sounds, samples, synthesizers, and Indonesian gamelan orchestra, which is given full voice in the aural landscape during the final section of the journey. Seelig brings in chanting, flutes, and demung, one of many metal xylophone-like instruments of gamelan. German percussionist Max Link lays down the beat with the ibo drum (claypot), with Gabi Link on saron (another gamelan instrument), Pankaj Mishra on sarangi (a bowed violin-like instrument from India), and vocals by Kathrine Wright. Prolific composer and soundscape artist Steve Roach plays ocarina on “Wacah Chan” and initially brought Nerell and Seelig together. The ideas for Tree of Life were sparked during their first time on stage together, at the 2010 SoundQuest Fest in Tucson, Arizona. The liner notes point to the underlying motivation of Tree of Life, offering thanks to “the spiritual/cultural traditions of the world for having inspired our sounds.”