When the Windham Hill record label started releasing records, I really had no idea what â€śnew ageâ€ť music was supposed to be. My only encounter with the form came from listening to some of Brian Enoâ€™s late seventies ambient work, like â€śMusic for Airportsâ€ť and â€śDiscreet Musicâ€ť, and his work with Harold Budd and Jon Hassell. So when the â€śoh soâ€ť arpeggiated, reductive pop of George Winston, Liz Story, and the group Shadowfax came out, I was not enamored with the genre.
Fortunately, new age turned a few corners through the years and actually led to some tremendous musical achievements through the work of guitarist Michael Hedges, and the ethereal 4AD band Dead Can Dance. For me, Dead Can Dance was a brilliant mixture of what new age always could have been and real world music. Peter Ulrich was the percussionist of Dead Can Dance, and along with vocalist, multi-instrumentalist Brendan Perry and coloratura Lisa Gerard explored thousands of uncharted musical frontiers.
For all of the tremendously satisfying work of Dead Can Dance, Ulrichâ€™s Enter the Mysterium is a disappointment. Perhaps it was lack of budget, or some personal need to separate himself from his work with DCD, but Ulrichâ€™s work here is a throwback to some of the less endearing Windham-Hill type recordings. Throughout, Ulrich works extremely simplistic rhythmic arpeggiations that support some very cheesy, pseudo-mystical, spiritual lyrics which sound like they were written by someone who ate a dose of bad mushrooms.
I kept expecting the central beat to weave into outstanding forays into multi-tracked rhythms meshing into one another into frenzy, a la Zakir Hussein. But this sadly never happens. Ulrichâ€™s emphasis throughout is on the ersatz magical journey of the lyrics. I hate to say this, because I admire Ulrichâ€™s work with DCD very much, but had he just shut up for a little bit and concentrated on the genius of his percussive work, this would have been a much finer album.