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Christopher Tin – “Calling All Dawns” Review

christophertinChristopher Tin, well known VGM artist (“Baba Yetu” from Civ IV) and musical talent returns with his first solo album “Calling All Dawns” and its a cracker of a concept that you normally don’t come across unless you go into the alternative music world.

“Calling All Dawns” has 12 tracks in 12 languages and goes through a day cycle of day, night and dawn. The clever part which you might not notice is that each movement of songs flows straight into each other and when the final song finishes it actually serenades you straight into the opening track again if you play it on a loop. There’s a lot of hidden intricate details for you to discover with this album, but let’s get to the tracks!

“Baba Yetu” is a song any Civ IV fan will already be aware of although it’s been rerecorded and re-jigged. The Soweto Gospel Choir are simply magical with their tonal qualities and the way they can explode into joyous rapture only to give you a soft understated finale which really sets the mood for a new day. Coupled with the world music and track workings from Christopher Tin who builds the track up only to break it down gently again, for me personally its one of best examples of world music to have been made in years. Think Lion King and then some…

“Mado Kara Mieru” is adapted from haiku’s of the four seasons and is sung in Japanese. There is a certain richness to the string arrangements which is present throughout the whole album. There is something very familiar with the track that reminds me of what the film soundtrack of “Shawshank Redemption” would sound like Haiku’ed in Japanese! I love the grandness in this track, Christopher spares nothing for what is a track that almost has an impending doom to it.

“Doa Zai Dan Ye” is a delicate Mandarin piece that is as lyrical as it is operatic. Remember those British Airways ads? It has a similar feeling but with all the regal ladyship of the traditional Orient and holds a lot of graceful fragility to it. Jia Ruhan’s voice sounds so serene with Chris’ multitracking too.

“Se E Pra Vir Que Venha” is Portuguese and has a free flowing gallop to it. Christopher has a way of capturing different languages and their religious texts in a musical soundscape and although all the tracks are orchestrated each one has its own style and space.

“Rassemblons-Nous” is the French song and the first with a male lead and electronic percussion backing up the orchestra. This song features a lot of deep brass sounds and therefore reminds me a bit of Bjork’s “Selma Song’s” album. It’s very dramatic and filmic as it continues to its huge climax and with it ends the Day time section with a bang. Here you can really hear the 200 musicians put to their use with Tin’s magical scores.

Night time starts with “Lux Aeterna” which is of course Latin. This track is led by the harp and signals a pace change. Woodwind instruments float gracefully like night birds setting out for flight and this track which is largely instrumental really sweeps you off to another world. It also reminds me of “American Beauty” but I have no idea why!

“Caoineadh” harks back to old Irish language for a subtle string and vocal track that is almost like a eulogy for the day just gone. It’s downbeat and funeralesque in its tone even though the words talk of nobility. The string sections are particularly emotive in this track.

“Hymn Do Trojcy Swietej” is Polish and just like all the tracks, the words are from some kind of religious text of sorts. This track however is the most church styled track on the album. It almost sounds like you’re inside a huge Cathedral with atmosphere by the bucket load.

Dawn starts off with te Hebrew track “Hayom Kadosh” which sounds like something Lisa Gerrard would release with her otherworldly sound. The track is very short but packs its punch from the outset. It has a certain joy to it too and leads almost unnoticed into “Hamsafar” which is in Farsi and is in a similar vein – joyous and full of spirit and uplifting energy. I challenge you not to lift a smile for these types of songs.

“Sukla-Krsne” sung in Sanskrit is very much like waking up to a new sun rise. The warmth that comes through the speakers on these tracks is due to Christopher’s inspired decision to transfer the tracks from digital tapes to analogue tapes. It really pays off in the dawn section of tracks.

The closing track (or if you loop it the last of the dawn tracks before the day is back upon us again) is the Maori track “Kia Hora Te Marino” which is a traditional Maori blessing and its the perfect way to start a new day. The song is grand, the Maori chants and choirs go hand in hand and the world seems anew again and full of hope.

Quite frankly Christopher Tin’s album is a masterpiece. Every track is of such a high calibre and standard and there is so much unconditional love in each one for the cycle of life that you can’t help yourself but join the ride and the day through. It’s the first album for a while that works better played as an entirity than as individual tracks and the concept is both refreshing and fulfilled. Put simply “Calling All Dawns” is not just the best world music album of 2009, it’s one of the best world music albums of the decade. Pure and absolute musical hedonism.

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