Ancient Future; www.ancient-future.com.
Opening with the bright ring of a single bell that quickly merges into the hypnotic drone of tambouras, Anjali was designed by guitarist Michael Mandrell and multi-instrumentalist Benjy Wertheimer as a sound track for yoga and meditation. Wertheimer, a founding member of the world music ensemble Ancient Future, provides the requisite Indian flavors with the percolating percussion of his tabla and the ardent weeping of his esraj (a bowed, sitarlike instrument). Mandrell, a Texas folk instrumentalist transplanted to Portland, Oregon, globalizes the Hindustani inspirations with suggestions of Celtic melodies and blues feeling in his sparkling acoustic six- and 12-string fingerpicking.
The album’s 10 pieces progress logically from “Awakening” through “Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation),” “The Breath Inside the Breath,” “Chandrika (Moonlight),” and “The Mystery” to “Santosa (Contentment).” Most move at a leisurely pace, like a deep and slowly winding river, but in several passages, notably in “Satya (Truthfulness)” and “Eye of the Tiger,” the tempo really picks up, quickening the listener’s pulse and allowing Mandrell and Wertheimer to put a bit more fire in their playing. In projects like this, the notion of sustaining genuine musical interest is often eschewed, as if melodic and harmonic elaboration would distract from the contemplative temperament. But Anjali opens up a wondrous space in which you can let your imagination run free or let go of it altogether.
Derk Richardson is a YJ contributing editor who also writes about popular culture for SFGate (www.sfgate.com) and Acoustic Guitar magazine.