The Nebulae, The Path of White Clouds

Although the writeup at Hypnos for the re-release of this 2003 effort refers to the collection of artists here as an “ambient supergroup,” The Path of White Clouds is more accurately a release from Oophoi and Friends. Mind you, he’s got some impressive friends gathered here: Tau Ceti, Mattias Grassow, Klaus Weise, Luna, Lorenzo Pierobon and Mauro Malgrande. But they never all appear together. Instead, Oophoi heads up a variety of duos, trios and more that coalesce into a drifting, meditative disc of  layered electronics and organics. Flutes, voices and temple bowls are among the organic instruments, and I must admit that the ringing of the bowls in the first track, “The Quest” (with Tau Ceti), almost put me off the disc. The sound borders on a feedback whine at times, and I thought the disc would be taking off into an abstract noise territory. All worries faded with the next track, “Ascension,” where Oophoi’s wide synth washes bolster harmonic chanting from Pierobon. This is a big, droning work with bass-heavy layers bringing a feel of reverence that carries into “Devotion,” my favorite track. Here, Pierobon joins vocal forces with Luna against a soft wall set up by Oophoi, Tau Ceti and Grassow. Geert Verbeke brings in tones from Himalayan bowls–a more subtle sound than their earlier counterpart. This is a hypnotic track that makes full use of its 13 and a half minutes. The next two tracks feature Malgrande’s Japanese shakuhachi flute. In “The Living Mandala” it is processed to an unrecognizable element mixed in with synth from Oophoi and Grassow; in “Enlightenment” it appears in a more natural state, whispering its song over airy washes from Oophoi and Weise. This is the longest track on the disc, a 16-minute excursion that changes gear midway through, becoming somewhat more dynamic, bolder in tone. The title track closes the disc and features Oophoi and Pierobon back to provide vocals to the mix along with Weise, playing one of ambient music’s most overlooked sound sources, the zither. This is a very gentle drift, lyrically true to its title.

The Path of White Clouds is a very rich ambient disc, and it owes its strength to its blend of instruments and talents. While the tracks remain on the calm and quiet side, there is a subtle energy to the disc, but never enough to break the calm surface. Relaxing yet thought-provoking. A wise choice by Hypnos to try to bring this disc back to a broader audience.

Available from Hypnos.

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