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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
  Unbroken Dreams by Josefine and Trine Opsahl, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/15/2016
  Spiritus by David Wahler, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/10/2016
  Moon and Shadows by Barbara Hills, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/7/2016
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White Sun II
By White Sun
Label: Be Why
Released 8/26/2016
White Sun II tracks
1. Gobinday Mukunday
2. Ajai Alai
3. Chattra Chakkra Varti
4. Simro Gobind
5. Suniai
6. Aap Sahaee Hoa Har Har Har
7. Dhan Dhan Ram Das Gur
8. Akal Instrumental
9. Akal
10. Hummee Hum
11. Ik Ardas Wahe Guru
White Sun II
I don't review many chant albums here at Zone Music Reporter (compared to my Retailing Insight column), but the excellence of White Sun's second release, White Sun II, offered me too many compelling reasons to include it for this website. From the album cover (so gorgeous that I imagine many folks would love a large print of it to hang on their walls…hint hint!) to the beguiling music on the CD's eleven tracks to the crystal clear production and engineering, this a chant recording that novices/neophytes/the uninitiated will learn to love (if they have any solid appreciation of music, that is).

Anchoring this sublime album is the considerable talent of lead vocalist Gurujas (she also plays harmomium). There are many great chant vocalists in the kirtan and Sanskrit genres and she surely sits near the top of the list (if you know little about the genre, trust me that if you enjoy female vocals, you need to check the genre out). Whether the chant calls for power and drama, as it does on the opening "Gobinday Mukunday" (and what an atypical – and stunning – opening chant it is!) or the more serene offerings here, such as "Chattra Chakkra Varti" or "Akal," she is more than up to the task (that's a huge understatement). Matching her step-for-step are Adam Berry (who produced and mixed the album) on guitar, keyboard and bass and the other core member of White Sun, Harijiwan on gong. The three artists navigate the listener through a unique assortment of musical styles that blend traditional elements of chant while bringing a contemporary feel to the selections as well. Unlike some chant recordings I have heard through the years, White Sun doesn't accomplish this via infusing what some others do, i.e. applying beats or electronica elements. It's difficult to categorize how the trio creates this amalgam, but it's there, which is why I recommend this album as an introduction to the chant genre for newbies. Yes, there is an obvious Indian music influence owing to the presence of guest artists Mamadou Diabate on kora and Abhiman Kaushal on tabla (Gabe Witcher also appears on fiddle and he figures prominently on a track to be described below). . Whether it's how Gurujas approaches her vocals (going from a soft breathy whisper to passionate shout-outs) or the compositions' melodies themselves (the music was co-authored by Gurujas, Berry and Harijiwan), this recording is an example of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Another aspect worth mentioning is the subtle use of reverb for vocals and some instruments which gives the entire album a "big" sound of sorts, especially on those tracks where the chant calls for a more upfront production and more oomph, e.g. the aforementioned "Gobinday Mukunday" or "Aap Sahee Hoa Har Har Har."

One more track worth singling out is "Hummee Hum" on which Gurujas is joined by a group of gospel singers. Like a traditional spiritual, the number builds slowly and eventually becomes a rapturous affair with various members of the "choir" steeping into the spotlight and letting it rip (vocally speaking). Witcher's fiddle on this track lends a distinct Appalachian feel to the backing music which fits in perfectly with the gospel singers' voices. It may seem odd to have a traditional chant wedded to a gospel-tent spiritual, but trust me, it works!

At various times on the album, I also detected some other subtle influences, including early music (e.g. baroque or medieval touches), some jazziness, and soft pop music flourishes. All of these various flavors coalesce yielding a delicious auditory feast the same way that an assortment of spices can create a memorable meal (e.g. in Indian food, one uses cumin, cardamom, coriander, cilantro, turmeric, and saffron – and yes, I am showing off my culinary side here!). Much like the memory of a fantastic meal, your enjoyment of White Sun II will linger long after you hear it for the first time and you will yearn for your next playing of this excellent recording.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 10/10/2016
 
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