Basically, we're dealing with two opposed forms of ecstasy'

ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS; Divine Works Divine Works Virgin VTCD 119
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The Independent Culture
After the various monks, Native Americans, Bulgarian choirs and sundry African tribes, it was only a matter of time before the music of the 12th-century abbess, poet and visionary (and, some say, migraine sufferer) Hildegard von Bingen, was dragooned into use as the "soul" of another New Age ambient-techno project. Less time than might be imagined, in fact: in 1995, EMI released Visions, a sort of ecumenical trance album in which Hildegard's music served alongside those of other faiths in the great millennial task of chilling out the stressed.

It was a sizeable success in New Age terms, selling over 200,000 in America, which may be why Virgin are reputed to be pumping pounds 250,000 into the promotion of Divine Works, the latest offering from Claus Zundel, aka "The Brave", the man behind the Sacred Spirit albums which blended Native American chants with soothing keyboard textures. The formula here is identical, attempting to transplant an ancient heart into a modern body, or, some would say, introduce a ghost into his machine-music.

The results are by no means unpleasant, but then inoffensiveness has always been at the core of New Age music anyway. What's less easy to accept is the blissed-out, hedonistic undertow to the music, which finds corporeal pleasure colonising even the solitary recesses of meditation. There's something about Hildegard von Bingen's work that is essentially incongruent with the body-cult of the dancefloor, and there are only a few moments when the beats aren't fundamentally at odds with the reflective stillness of the vocal lines. Basically, we're dealing with two opposed forms of ecstasy.

Not that such concerns will affect most purchasers of Divine Works, even those of an overtly religious outlook - I'm sure it would have gone down a storm, for instance, at the Reverend Chris Brain's services in Sheffield. Those with slightly longer memories may find the layered arpeggios and counter-melodies a little too reminiscent for comfort of Tubular Bells. Which is one thing Virgin certainly knew how to sell.

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