Electroshock Records: Review:  
Oophoi: "Bardo"
(Electroshock Records 2002, ELCD 024)
04 tracks. Total time - 74:23.

"Bardo" is the first non-Russian album released on the electronic music label "Electroshock Records". Oophoi is Italy?s Gianluigi Gasparetti who had already provided a track for the compilation "Electroshock Presents: "Electroacoustic Music. Vol. VII". "Bardo" came out shortly after the release of "Athlit" on the label "Hypnos" and forays deeper into ambient spiritual electronics. There are six states of consciousness in the Tibetan bardo, a meditative rite of passage from Life to Death. Oophoi retains four of them expressed in lengthy tracks (12 to 29 minutes). Integrated to the vaporous layers of synthesizers and electronics we find flutes, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, light percussion, and voices droning incantations. Oophoi's intention is clearly not to indulge in exotic flavors, although a sense of sacred Tibetan music is integrated to the work. The key word is dissolution: reference points, memories of daily life, recognizable rhythms and sounds all fade away in the course of the four pieces, replaced by ethereal synth washes. It is very well done, albeit a little on the long side. "Chikai Bardo: Dissolution" reaches an interesting point of balance between treated concrete sounds (a train or subway in particular, evoking movement, transition) and synthesis. The closer "Sipai Bardo: Crossing the Bridge of Existence - The Eternal Cycle" feels like a series of deep after-death breaths, all electronic except for vocal droning, but with a very organic touch. Recommended to the contemplative type.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

"Bardo" consists of four lengthy tracks, each one a sequence of electronic drones overlaid with Tibetan percussion and other sounds, though these are mixed so low down that you almost hear them by inference rather than by definition. From the sleevenotes I assume that Bardo is a type of eastern meditation, and each of these tracks is designed to help one meditate to a specific goal. These tracks aren't really music as we know it, the drones lock onto a pitch and don't vary, only the overlaid tracks slowly evolve. As a sound installation it works well, creating barriers around the listener that block out distractions and help one focus on meditating or just the task at hand. I think Oophoi is an Italian and this doesn't surprise me - for all of its "musique concrete" feel these four tracks have a baroque ornateness to them. I'm still not sure whether I like this album as it tends to defy categorisation.

John Peters ("The Borderland")

Funny coincidence, I am in Italy while reviewing this 74 minute long CD by an Italian sound sculptor/manipulator (whose name is Gianluigi Gasparetti), released on the Russian label Electroshock; not only that, but in a shameless display of my ignorance I will admit you that I had never before heard about this man and his project, even though I lived in Italy for over 15 years and I started Chain D.L.K. in Italy, in the mid nineties. Oophoi is the first non-Russian project to see the light (in this case maybe the blue light) on "Electroshock Records". Anyway, once I got over my shame, I dove into the deep surrounding drones of "Bardo", a concept album about the six states of Bardo, which, from what I understand from the liner notes of the inside cover, is related to the Tibetan meditation and the Buddhist beliefs about transitory states of body and mind. The four tracks illustrate the first four of these intermediate states (Meditation, Course of Death, After-Death and Rebirth within Samsara) and original language was used to name the tracks as well. "Bardo's" long masterpieces of rapturing spirituality can easily get you really close to meditation with its deep roaring sounds and the sombre yet peaceful soundscapes made of low-end choruses sounding like Tibetan choirs one or two octave down, eternal electronics, infinite synth pads, treated percussions, sporadic calm gongs and more. Tibetan singing bowls and flutes are to be heard, but everything, like Bardo itself, is in a state of passage, like not delineated, airy, far, slightly but never fully perceivable. The essence of the beauty of the things that are by you, around you, in you, but you can never see or touch until you reach that point in time and space where everything receives new meaning under a different light. Oophoi's "Bardo" is a first-rate soundtrack for this, a fully deserving and remarkable plate of truly inspiring and immersive experiences, where the incantation of a sacred temple in the middle of the mountains is right in front of your closed eyes, and where the senses receive new food for the soul. Beautiful and charming may not be the most appropriate terms when describing a record of intimate relaxation, but this distant trance-ambient ritualistic outer-body experience really is. "Bardo ends where illumination begins".

Mark Urselli-Scharer ("Chain D.L.K.")

Oophoi's album, "Bardo" (ELCD 024) isn't about Brigette, okay? "Bardo", in laymen's terms, are various states of consciousness. There are six states, but this project deals with four... You really need to read the sleevenotes, it's a bit deep! As you might be beginning to realise, this album is probably an aid to relaxation, awareness and all things new agey. However, Electroshock isn't a new age label, and as such, this really isn't a new age record. It's just that the inspiration (and the instruments used, flutes, gongs, and Tibetan singing bowls) obviously is. To be fair, the first two tracks are long drones, and I don't mean this to sound derogatory. They, I guess, help 'focus'? Track three, again, is drone, but punctuated with the gongs, and enhanced by the singing bowls. Track four consists of different collages built up around huge gongs as they rumble in and out. Not exactly the most outstanding of "Electroshock Record's" releases, but all credit to the label. The album's more of a meditative oasis from the regular, more experimental side of the label.

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

Of all the discs I've been tasked to review this issue, this is perhaps the one of all that has grown on me the most, to the point that I don't want to take it out of the player - ever; it's been nothing less than completely addictive. Yet it may also be the one that will prove to be the most difficult to review, simply because as music it is essentially formless and beyond description; a 75 minute drone in four parts, none of which have any defineable structure. Oophoi is Gianluigi Gasparetti, Italian composer and musician working in floating ambient realms, using synths, gongs, percussion, winds, tibetan bowls, voices and electronics. The undercurrents are electronic based, elastic and heavily treated, with floating sounds derived from flutes, gongs, bowls and subtle voices in the background providing the only punctuation to the hypnotic dream-like trance. The four pieces drift along like wind on the wind, while subtle currents float within it, evoking a calm peaceful inner state, where warmth, light, darkness and cold engulf the listener along the journey to subconscious states. The pieces end as they begin, and when joined form a never-ending continuum that leads the listener deeper into it with each repeating phase. If the program stops, the stark silence is unbearable. Press the repeat button and let this one play forever.

Peter Thelen ("Expose")

Oophoi is the moniker used by Italian composer Gianluigi Gasparetti who is also the editor of "Deep Listenings", an Italian language magazine dedicated to electroacoustic music. The Bardo of the title is a Buddhist term referring to a meditative rite of passage from Life to Death. Over 74 minutes Gasparetti covers four of the six Bardos, the main musical theme consisting of wind tunnel drones that weave a slow but determined path that hums and pulsates like a mantra in the listeners head. Electronics, bells, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, various percussion, and ghostly voices provide color and embellishment though the mantric drones and their gradual evolution are the primary focus. The music is highly meditative but the drones create an intense sonic landscape that gave me the sensation of being in a deep sleep but ready to spring into action at the first ring of the phone or the morning blare of the morning alarm clock. The album covers four of the six Bardos starting with "Samten Bardo - Contemplation", on to "Chikai Bardo - Dissolution", to "Chonyi Bardo - a Path of the Lights", and finishing with "Sipai Bardo - Crossing the Bridge of Existence the Eternal Cycle". My favorite is the nearly 30 minute "Chonyi Bardo" which opens with a call-to-prayer sound that has a didgeridoo effect along with sparse but well placed percussion. Drones still form the structural foundation of the piece, but siren-like synths combine with the drones giving the soundscape an almost melodic feel. Soon an ethereal howl starts to "sing", blowing over the rumbling droneswept landscape, followed by a male choir chanting in a style that again has the effect of a droning didgeridoo. Standard percussion and bells and are more in evidence that the previous tracks and the music begins to reach almost symphonic levels while still retaining it's meditative (though intense) quality. And for those who enjoy the symphonics of "Chonyi Bardo", "Sipai Bardo" reaches even higher levels of volume and intensity. In summary, "Bardo" is a work of both subtlety and majesty that succeeds in creating variety within the scope of a single sound theme. Fans of soundscape music will find lots to discover over repeated listens.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

In Tibetan Buddhism, there exist states of consciousness, or "bardos", possible to be attained by the enlightened, four of which are explored by Italian sound artist Oophoi on his latest CD release. All his previous output has inclined toward the slowly-shifting and meditative, and "Bardo" no less so. This is the sound of the universe, or the soul, or the universal soul, breathing in, breathing out. What is daunting about Oophoi is how, always mustering roughly the same arsenal of instruments (synthesizers, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, wind instruments and electronic effects), his every release seems so fresh and varied. As do each of the four tracks on this CD on Artemiy Artemiev's Moscow-based "Electroshock Records". Each track is accompanied by a short note describing the state of consciousness being conjured up ("contemplation", "dissolution (of the mental and physical self)"). Exquisite throughout, it concludes beautifully with the simulation of a slow, growling Buddhist chant.

Stephen Fruitman


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