The Hang Drum is a beautiful instrument. It’s similar to a steel drum however it’s tones are more hushed and mellow, less metallic and more Eastern in flavour. I’ve yet to hear the instrument played and not be entranced by its sound. Enter James Hood whose album “Ceremony” is almost single-handedly made using the instrument.
Across the eleven tracks, James layers and plays up to ten hang drums at one time. As each one is usually tuned to a set scale, you aren’t initially aware of the complex nature of the layers. Similarly almost all the tracks are over ten minutes long and go for a more hypnotic, meditative vibe. Very simple riffs are used on repeat for minutes at end with little or no progression. As such, it’s nigh on impossible to review the album track by track because they almost all do the exact same thing. Occasionally like on “Sweet Acceptance” some gentle synth work creeps into the track to give a more ethereal vibe but aside from that, it’s the drum and only the drum.
This brings me to the only downside. In an album that showcasing such a fantastic instrument, “Ceremony” is very much a one note deal. Each track deals with the gentle and beautiful sound but there’s little tempo variation, no solo melodies to speak of and aside from perhaps “Fey Bedouin” which breaks out the mould and tries some more abstract tech work, it feels entirely new age.
That will essentially decide the purchase for you. James Hood has created some gorgeous movements here. They aren’t tracks, it’s more like meditative movements. It’s a great entry point for the Hang Drum and great to relax to. If you are looking for a hook or a chorus though, you will be very, very disappointed.