Meditation on the 4 Elements
Wendy Rule, 2008
Wendy Rule’s voice is enchanting, a smoky drift from the shadows of consciousness. That voice can salvage lyrics that might sound ridiculous otherwise, as they did on her 2005 collaboration with Gary Stadler, Deep Within a Faerie Forest. On Wendy’s newest album, Meditations on the 4 Elements, it sweeps across dark soundscapes of droning synthesizers. As its title suggests, this album is more guided meditation than musical endeavor. While this sort of thing isn’t my cup of tea, that hypnotic voice kept me listening.
Accented by cello currents from longtime collaborator Rachel Samuel and vibraphone washes from Elissa Goodrich, Rule evokes a series of elemental free-associations. Over a thick synth pulse that hardly changes throughout the album’s 54-minute length, her voice echoes through mystic cadences dedicated to the qualities of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Invocations of deep breathing (“Breathe”) and magic (“Magic”) begin and end this album, setting space for the elements and preparing a trance-like state for the listener that ideally guides you in and out of a meditative space. The four key tracks hover around ten minutes each, with five-minute bookends to open and close the album.
Does it work? That depends on how receptive a listener you are and how conducive your environment is to getting lost in the album. A dark room, lit by candles or dim moonlight, provides the perfect space for these Meditations. By full daylight, the album wouldn’t work at all. The meditations themselves border on banal: “Earth of food/ of grain and bread and honey/ of leaf and root that feeds a hunger/ of ripe summer fruits and crisp apples/ of pomegranate/ Earth/ Earth of bounty/ of plenty/ of prosperity/ delicious Earth/ sumptuous Earth…” The whole album sounds pretty much like this, and its appeal depends on your threshold for New Age invocations.
Meditations of the 4 Elements is not for everyone. Musically, it’s one long drone; magically, it depends on a suspension of the critical monkey-mind. Under the wrong circumstances, or spoken by someone without Rule’s rich, sensuous voice, the album’s recitations would seem absurd. Occasionally, I think, they still do. Even so, that voice, that silky compelling voice, renders the whole thing mystical. Rule’s commitment to these Meditations makes this risky project seem sublime.
RATING: 3½ Broomsticks
This review first appeared in newWitch #18