"Emotionally charged, meditative and just beautiful. Also the pace of the album is just perfect, moving from dense to open space with just the right amount of beauty, tension and emotion."
"Rippling waves of harmonics inducing blissful trance."
~ Larry Derdeyn
"Every remarkable sound on the 70+ minute continuous piece is sourced by his voice. Quiet, calming, and meditative; deeply textured and sublime. Achingly poignant. I'm thinking that some of us will be talking about Jim Cole's brand-new release, The Way Beyond, for a very long time.
I can recall only one other spacemusic release effecting upon me such a profound misty-eyed reaction during my first hearing.
And now that the CD has here been thrice journeyed through, it can be told. I never dreamed "Coalescence" would ever be surpassed as this artist's masterstroke, but in my opinion, it just has."
~ Bill Beck, Spacemusic group list
"In 2002, I wrote about harmonic overtone singer Jim Cole's previous solo work Godspace stating that it was ". . . some of the most superlative ambient music I've ever heard. Surely it will rate in my top three best of the year. It is a work of staggering beauty and nuance, at once improvisational and composed. This disc has such an emotional and spiritual resonance for me; it is as if Cole had tapped into my biorhythms for 74 minutes, occupying my thoughts, and impregnating all activity around me with meaning where before there seemed to be none. This is timeless, important music, and I give it my highest recommendation." It did make it on to my top three list of that year, and I do give it my highest recommendation as one of the finest examples of modern ambient done simply and beautifully, without pretense.
Now I have the opportunity to describe Cole's newest release, The Way Beyond, and I find myself scrabbling at the same phrases I'd written two years ago. I want to warn the reader in advance that I am going to get a little "out there" in this review, but it's the only thing keeping me from gushing uncontrollably about the music. Firstly, this is a vaster work than Cole's previous solo CD--it's comprised of twelve tracks, but each track melds into its successor seamlessly, creating a wavering tapestry of sonic perfumes and impressions. While each cut on the disc has a separate mood or tone, The Way Beyond must be considered as a massive, undulating, living, breathing ambient zone of stillness and, unusually, simultaneous constant change and transition. While the basis of this recording is layered drones comprised solely from Cole's harmonic singing, these layers are overlapped with constantly changing sonic waves and patterns which create the feeling of watching a rushing brook; all motion and churning fluid on top, but a deep, peaceful stillness beneath.
It would be pointless to describe this work on a track by track basis as I do on many reviews. I'm more comfortable attempting to communicate impressions I have while listening; by reading this review, you may in some way have an idea of the places music of this nature can take the willing listener. At around track nine, for example, the deep tones of Cole's voice expand and contract in an almost psychedelic flux, as if one is buffeted upon solar winds. Sometimes while writing reviews of music of this nature, I feel as if I'm the narrator in an Edgar Allan Poe story--swept away describing the effects of his own madness, and leaving no lasting impression on the reader about what he is trying to communicate. This is the difficulty in reviewing The Way Beyond--it calls to mind so many powerful and inexplicably spiritual thoughts, impressions, feelings, that to attempt to put it down on paper is to cheat it of its power in the first place. I'm reminded of the Zen koan (which I will paraphrase poorly) where the student comments to the Zen master: "Master, look at the trees, listen to the birds, watch the sunset dipping below the horizon! It's all so beautiful!" To which the master replies wryly: "Yes, but it's such a shame for you to say so." By the end of track nine, I've thought of this koan and much, much more--a continuous daisy-chain of relationships and correlations within my own conscious (and unconscious) mind. This is inner space music in the highest sense of the term. Cole's seemingly plaintive cries strike as melancholy in track ten, but they are at the same time hopeful. A living embodiment of the pains and pleasures of existence? See? I can't help but get introspective--it's in the very core of this music, which brings one within his or her self to a point of absolute attention to minute thoughts, however ephemeral they may be.
And this is the crux of the matter--at the very core of things, Jim Cole, armed with only looped drones created from his own voice, has somehow unlocked a secret place within just by creating music. Here, as if conjuring a primordial state from the trappings of modernity, we have the ultimate power of ambient music, perhaps (in my opinion) above many, if not most, other types of music. This wordless music, without connotation, has the power to unearth nameless spiritual delight within. There is no question--The Way Beyond is holy music, no matter what your persuasion--it is ageless, and always a valid and enriching experience. As with Godspace (and I believe that The Way Beyond surpasses its predecessor in terms of breadth and sonic diversity from the same essential sound sources), I find the music herein to be unquestionably one of the finest ambient/atmospheric releases of 2003. This is the kind of music that reminds of why one became an appreciator of the genre in the first place--it makes you feel good, larger than yourself, and, most of all, connected to the artist and music in some way that is difficult to describe with words that always seem clumsy by comparison. This disc goes â€œway beyondâ€ Godspace, and that's really saying something. The Way Beyond gets my highest recommendation: it's paradigm shattering work by one of the brightest lights in today's ambient scene."
~Brian Bieniowski, The Ambient Review
"Jim Cole is an overtone singer, stylistically influenced by the chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks, the works of David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, and by singing to his daughters at bedtime. The main characteristic of overtone singing is multiphonics, the ability to emphasize the overtone series of a note so that it sounds like the singer is singing several notes at once. The Way Beyond consists of several pieces created by Cole acting essentially as his own orchestra through the miracle of another â€œmulti,â€ multitracking.
Cole's technique as a singer is solid enough that the reviewer can concentrate on the music he produces with it, which is uniformly excellent. The recording begins with some overdubbed Tamboura-like textures and simple, short melodies sung in a variety of registers. The recording is drenched in reverb, which adds to the sensation of vastness that the listener feels. As the music expands, Cole sustains tones longer and begins to slide around the notes to nice effect. Gradually, as the music continues, Cole takes us to spaces not normally visited by conventional means. He is able to produce fugal or contrapuntal improvisations that sound very modal and harmonious yet completely different from normal western harmony. As a result, the music seems to transport us to a shimmering, yet stable place. Meanwhile, the drones over which he is improvising continue to shift and build, a very orchestral effect. At times they fade or even disappear completely, always to return to great effect.
Like the Tibetan monks, the drones will, on rare occasion here sound as though they are being transmitted from another dimension. There is nothing familiar, including tonal familiarity, in these moments. But they are paced well, and always used in service of the ultimate goal. And Cole remembers to bring us back to earth, where we can relax and engage in some very profitable "deep listening."
The range of technique Cole uses on this release is quite admirable. From deep bass multiphonic drones that appear to go on endlessly, to whistling sounds, to sounds that seem like they are coming from an instrument, to high falsetto, it all springs forth in service of his creation. Improvisation appears to be the basis for many of the pieces, and Cole appears long practiced in this area as well. He can shape the improvisations to become a musical whole. This release is excellent and I recommend it to anyone interested in a deep listening experience that will take them places that I , for one, had never traversed."
~ Mark Morton, Ambient Visions
"This is the latest album by ambient vocal explorer Jim Cole. Jim employs a stunning array of sounds, such as walls of synthesizers, didgeridoo, flutes, accordion, cello, vocal choirs, and many heavenly sounds the listener has never heard before. The amazing thing is all of these sounds are performed...with only his voice, using reverb and looping, "live on the fly"! He has collaborated and worked with Alpha Wave Movement, Vidna Obmana, Steve Roach, Mathias Grassow and more, plus several solo albums and releases with groups Spectral Voices and Leland Burr. His signature sound uses harmonic overtone singing and subfundamental chant to create a distinctive and spiritual listening experience.
At almost 74 minutes duration this album is a long form work, with twelve movements that seamlessly integrate into the larger whole. There are deep drones and soaring, sustained notes that conjure up primal feelings of wonder and awe. Careful listening will reveal fascinating textures in these beatless landscapes. Tens of thousands of years of metaphysical experience are contained in this timeless work. There are no song titles, so the listener is free to invent his own. The parameters are limited only by the listener's imagination. Past, present, and future all meet here at the crossroads and no two journeys that depart from here will be the same.
Easily one of the best releases of the year, it's an incredible achievement. The performances are spellbinding and the sound quality is excellent. This is music that enriches and replenishes the spirit. A must for any ambient or space music collection, this is a great disc for meditation, contemplation, yoga or inner journeys! Don't miss it."
~ Dodds Wiley, Ambient.us
"Imagine a very beautiful and haunting sound, filled with voices and echoes overlaying and blending, bending, growing and decaying, drifting freely in some inner or outer space, and one might have some insight as to where Godspace and The Way Beyond are musically situated. This is spiritual ambient drone music of the highest order. Coleâ€™s specialty is harmonic overtone singing, where as vocalist he is able to sing two or more notes at once (thereâ€™s a whole lot more about this on his websiteâ€¦), and then combined with natural reverb, looping and processing done on the fly, he is able to create these intensely beautiful and mystifying sonic edifices that are at once hypnotic, soothing and transcendent. Coleâ€™s voice is the only sound source on either recording. Godspace contains three lengthy pieces (the shortest is 20 minutes, the longest is 30), whereas The Way Beyond contains one long piece of numerous subsections that blend together seamlessly. The real difference between the two discs lies more in the degree of processing involved; In Godspace, although the processing and looping is quite dense, the sound source of vocals is always to some degree recognizeable; on the other hand, with The Way Beyond, the processing, looping and effects are so complete that often the casual listener may not even recognize the vocal sound source at work behind it all."
~ Peter Thelen, ExposÃ©
Check out the artist's website:
1. The Way Beyond 1
2. The Way Beyond 2
3. The Way Beyond 3
4. The Way Beyond 4
5. The Way Beyond 5
6. The Way Beyond 6
7. The Way Beyond 7
8. The Way Beyond 8
9. The Way Beyond 9
10. The Way Beyond 10
11. The Way Beyond 11
12. The Way Beyond 12