Christopher Tin – “The Drop That Contained the Sea” Review

Christopher Tin

Christopher Tin

Christopher Tin’s album Calling All Dawn’s simply took my breath away and after a few years the conceptual composer returns to simply wow us all again with a beautiful album that has to be heard to be believed.

A ten song cycle that focuses on a Sufi concept that likens the way every drop of water contains the essence of the sea, every human contains an essence of humanity. Each track also is sung in an entirely different language. The short “Water Prelude” that feels like the source of the river – a trickle so to speak – is sung in Proto-Indo-European. Featuring the Angel City Chorale the track is a rousing beginning of choir, strings and tuned percussion that sound like raindrops. There’s a distinct warmth to the sound and production as the chords and choir interact and swell as the scope grows and expands into a burst finale. The Turkish sung “The Drink From God” is mesmerising. Kardes Turkuler takes the lead vocals and is pushed forward with an almighty choir and a foreboding orchestra that flicks from Eastern flair to the quietest tremor in a heartbeat. The track is certainly dramatic especially in the final minute where it feels like you’ve been caught a massive tidal wave that is driving through the city and drenching everything in its path. It’s an instant favourite and stays in your head long after it’s finished.

Kades Turkuler

Kades Turkuler

“Temen Oblak” (Dark Clouds) is sung in Bulgarian and features the amazing Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares singing in a traditional Bulgarian chant fashion. Their opening minute sets the scene before they start breaking up into something far more sinister and dramatic. It feels like a storm is coming and the brass undertones and the huge timpani drums really set the scene of impending doom. The jagged delivery all sows itself together for a smooth but powerful climax as the brass, percussion and vocals all blast into unison making the long track well worth the wait. The Soweto Gospel Choir, from the Civilisation IV fame, return for “Iza Ngomso” and sing in Xhosa. Similar to their previous collaborations with Christopher Tin, it’s warm and joyous with their vocal delivery being the eargasm of joy you’ve come to expect. This time there’s a lot more variety in their vocals and there’s some lovely touches with the harp and xylophone adding an angelic spin in places. It’s like an onward march home with friends – you know the goodness is there and you get to hear all your friends sing a couple of lines with you on the way. Beautiful.

“Tsas Narand Uyarna” features Nominjin whose Mongolian singing has a beautiful otherworldly Asian tone. It’s free-spirited and flowing yet traditional at the same time. The string accompaniment shares the flowing spirit as it unfurls arpeggios at the rate of knots and the track becomes an icy opera in a way with its juxtaposition of lots of high notes in the strings and vocals and the low booms of bass brass notes echoing underneath. Dulce Pontes return for the Portuguese “Passou o Verao” which is the quieter more contemplative track on the album. It reminds me Italy strangely as the harp and strings carefully play underneath the magical voice of Dulce Pontes.

Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir

Sanskrit ” Devipravaha” initially continues the soulful section of the album with a gentle and peaceful woodwind and string section that feels like a melodic blessing before the more ethnic instrumentation pushes forward in a sheen of joy. Throughout the album, it’s as if the orchestra are playing in different moods. Some are precise and rigid, others a flowing and here there’s a bleeding fuzz to the production that makes you want to smile as it rises and rouses your spirit inside. Coupled with the tabla’s and Roopa Mahadevan’s pure and clean vocals, it’s like listening to a lyrical thank you for life. Anonymous 4, whom are sadly separating next year, also return for the Ancient Greek “Sirens”. The near nine minute epic begins with the eerie moans of the watery ladies before giving a chilling love song that seeps and intrigues with its discordant high-pitched strings gently backing the quartet of voices. After the two-thirds mark things begin to build into something akin to Austin Wintory’s Journey as the track continues to move up the octaves again and again until you feel overwhelmed. The transition from the quiet allure to the grandeur takes you by surprise almost like you’ve now been taken by the Sirens themselves. The last-minute is an eerie watery echo of voices overlapping each other and rounds off the epic track perfectly.



Old Norse is the next language to take to the stage in “The Storm-Driven Sea” that features Schola Contorium. Reminding me squarely of some of the great Final Fantasy orchestrated tracks, this piece has a choir that is absolutely hell-bent on singing their hearts out – and over a sharpened orchestra that is brass tinged and full of rolling timpani’s – it has all the drama and emotion you could want in a musical track. The technical mastery of the performers and the ability for Tin to write something so huge leaves me astounded. The best is saved until last however. The Soweto Gospel Choir lead for the twelve-minute finale “Waloyo Yamoni” – however all the guest artists return too. Sung in Lango, it has a deceptively simple initial melody that lets everyone absolute belt out the number before it shape shifts from one artist to another. I was blown away at how in turn all the artists perform their own little section and it flows together seamlessly. By the time you get to rousing final section, I was moved to want to clap and give a cheer in my own living room. It is simply an experience you need to feel.

This is an album you need to play loud with large speakers. It amplifies the feeling of every song tenfold. You really get the scope and power behind each chord, each note, each drop of water. Christopher Tin has frankly made a complete masterpiece. Hands down, I can say now this will be the Classical album of the year – nothing will touch it. This wave stands taller than the rest. Stunning.


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Categories: arrangements, classical, composer, music, orchestral, review, singer songwriter, strings, VGM, Vocal, world music


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