Lama Gyurme/Jean-Phillipe Rykiel: Rain of Blessings: Vajra Chants

One could rightly be skeptical of an album that deigns to mix up the ancient, spiritually charged sonorities of Tibetan chant with digital reverb-doused synth patches and retrofitted harmonic definitions. Something is wrong with the cultural picture. Still, some kind of ambient charm washes over the meeting of Lama Gyurme and Jean-Phillipe Rykiel’s Rain of Blessings: Vajra Chants (RealWorld 70876; 54:31), who previously collaborated on a successful project, The Lama’s Chant in 1994. Gyurme, who earned the title ouzme (master of music) while a young monk in his native Bhutan, sings a series of chants over and around which Rykiel slathers on the electronic washes, mixing in occasional violin and kora, for real time instrument’s sake. When, on the last track, Gyurme performs an unplugged “Offering Chant” with only piano and voice, we hear what the other tracks are lacking, but there is also an awkward West-trying-to-meet-East pact here. The intentions are good, even if the blend sometimes seems irrelevant, potentially cheapening the spiritual source of the chants.