Folk Radio UK reviews "Kindred Souls"
ADRIAN FREEDMAN: KINDRED SOULS
by Glenn Kimpton18 June, 2021
"I recently reviewed a remarkable album called Mind Maintenance, essentially exploring the nature of music as a healing power, a project particularly relevant and important at the current time. Adrian Freedman, a Japanese shakuhachi flute devotee and explorer of the healing properties of music within different cultures, has also chosen an appropriate time to release his new project, Kindred Souls. The central theme to this series of online and live events and album is a variety of collaborations with musicians from five continents who are also drawn to the music and instruments of different cultures. The resulting album is a far more wide-reaching and broad sounding recording than Mind Maintenance, which doesn’t deviate from its two-instrument structure, but even across its seventy minutes run time (which flies by), Kindred Souls is careful to maintain its sense of space and its calm energy, which is the bedrock of its creation.
All that said, songs like Mystic Flight do strip the sound back to its fundamental elements and allow a clear and unadulterated beauty to shine through. For this piece, Adrian’s low shakuhachi notes combine with Czech musician Pavel Sedlacek‘s omana hand pan (also known as a hang drum) to create a quietly spellbinding soundscape. The audible sound of Pavel’s hands hitting the pan along with Adrian’s inhalations before playing his notes give this piece a certain purity that is hugely successful and quite soothing. Similar in spirit is Desert Dream, which brings in Brazilian musician Adriano Machado playing the North African bendir drum, an instrument with an almost metallic timbre and a more resonant sound than the hand pan. This edge to the sound at once gives the song a certain starkness and a more urgent feel that the players accentuate with a steadily increased tempo in the mid-section. An instrumental piece, it is beautiful in its simplicity and use of repetition, as is Alhuriya, another duet, this time with Adnan Agha‘s Syrian Buzak, a long-necked lute with two sets of double-tracked strings, played with a plectrum for more attack. These sharp notes again lend the song more drama, which is again helped along with a quick tempo in places and more abruptly played shakuhachi notes from Adrian.
More accompanied tracks include Peace Awakening, featuring violin (Elina Rodevic) and bass (Endre Hareidi) along with Sigmund Vatvedt‘s dilruba (an Indian classical stringed instrument) and Adrian and Darpan’s voice, along with opener Astral Dawn, with Adrian’s guitar and percussion (this is the only song without his shakuhachi), plus Ravi Freeman on the African kora, Arjun Magee on the Indian dholak drum and Misha Mullov Abbado playing the double bass. These may sound like tricky fusions, but the sound is at once rich and diverse without coming close to overdoing it, something I find most enjoyable about this music. Hijos Guerreros do Sol is another tune with a fuller arrangement, this one boasting Kuauhtli Vasquez and Tao Txana‘s guitar and vocal skills, along with Tavo Vazquez‘s high strung charango, an instrument similar in character to the cuatro or requinto jarocho and probably originating from what is now Bolivia. This South American tune uses chord refrains and instrumental flourishes along with dynamic vocals to allow its eleven minutes to slip by very pleasantly. Another long one is Om Tryambakam, a ten-minute trip using distant gongs, programmed echoes and drone notes to accompany a traditional piece sung by Maureenji. Similarly to Mystic Flight and Desert Dream, Om Tryambakam allows plenty of space into the song, with Nick Barber‘s keyboards and programming sitting behind Adrian’s eerie shakuhachi playing and Maureenji’s alluring vocal.
Elsewhere, our very own ornithological folk hero Sam Lee crops up with his wonderful eponymous supporting cast for Nightingale Soul Call, another song stripped to its barest elements and all the more powerful for it. Adrian’s shakuhachi here joins the nightingales in providing the higher notes, while Sam’s low droning shruti box underpins the piece and adds a broader tonal palette. It’s easy to say that Nightingale Soul Call is a lesson in patience and restraint and is a song that beautifully blends the purity of music with nature and the human spirit, but the same can be said of so many on this ten-strong set. Take April Fortune as an example; here Adrian’s shakuhachi plays more delicate and shorter notes without the deep muscular tones of some of the other songs, which serves to allow Yoshiyuki Matsumoto‘s balafon (a great sounding gourd powered xylophone) to create the bulk of the melody along with Hiroki Okano‘s kalimba (an instrument very similar to the mbira hand piano, one half of Mind Maintenance). There is a hypnotic steadiness to this piece that comes closest to the traditional type of healing music I have come across before and its bewitching qualities mean that it could continue on for many more minutes than its allotted six without the effect of wearing off. This one is a highlight among highlights. The didgeridoo of Esoh and erhu (a Chinese two-stringed spike fiddle) and voice of Ema finish the set with Deep Space Blue, a spooky crafted soundscape that Adrian’s shakuhachi deftly explores. The echoey notes of Ema’s vocals, both peaceful and raw in places, give this song an other-worldly, fantastical air that is a fitting end to an album so steeped in musical diversity and cultures that it often feels like nothing I have heard before.
Kindred Souls is a wonderful concept and the end product is quite tremendous; an immensely rich and engaging listening experience on record, I’m sure that the live events are also very special. This album is one to savour and enjoy multiple times and the delivery of such powerful and therapeutic music is beautifully timed".
Glenn Kimpton is a freelance music journalist and an instrumental finger-style player, specialising in minimalist tenor guitar and acoustic open-tuned lines and field recordings, mainly drawing influences from English folk music and the American Primitive genre of guitar playing. Having also a keen interest in instrument building and tone-woods, he resolutely refuses to have any electrics or pickups added to his instruments.