"Flowering Mountain Earth" is the latest CD from Ishq (aka Matt Hillier), released on his Virtual label out the UK. Limited to just 200 copies, this is a pressed CD in a very attractive digipak with artwork complementing the album's theme of some earthy mountainous paradise (Bali comes to mind) inhabited by indigenous tribes. Hillier's done other music like this (most notably his Elve project) but this is perhaps his most "active" sounding tribal ambient to date.
The album opens with the 22-minute epic "Mountain." If I had listened to this without knowing who it was, I would have guessed Mathias Grassow straight away, without question. It is a dead-ringer for Grassow's work. This cinematic piece sets the stage with rain, bird, and animal sounds and slowly brings in a heavenly drone which increases in volume and intensity, as if the listener is slowly waking up from a dream and finding himself in a rainforest paradise. Towards the end of the track we hear zither sounds, again very Grassow-like.
Next piece "Jatoba" reminds me of Bill Laswell's "Possession: African Dub" project with Foday Musa Susso, where it sounds like the rains have ceased and the drones are now replaced with hypnotic, gentle African percussion, as birdsong echoes gently in the background. "Rainmaking" brings in samples of native chanting, drums, flutes, and subtle electronic effects. This is nothing groundbreaking but it is nevertheless so well done and effective. "Myst" brings the electronics back to the fore with sweeping blankets of ethereal floating sounds, as if the listener is surveying a mountain from above. Album closer "Cloud Forest" combines echoing birdsong, a calming stream, native cries, and more floating electronics for a perfect ending to this journey, reminding me a bit of David Parsons' "Yatra" album.
Nothing groundbreaking about this CD (some might even call it "new age"), but it is done extremely effectively and is a journey well worth taking!!