CD: Dharma Rain
Artist: Chronotope Project

Dharma_Rain_COVERThe release of a new album by Jeffrey Ericson Allen, aka Chronotope Project is always a major musical event for me. I am a huge fan of his recordings and greatly enjoyed listening to and writing about his previous releases Chrysalis and Event Horizon, which I called: “a quietly masterful release that now occupies a place in the upper echelons of my all-time favorite ambient electronic music.” My writing about those albums contains a bit of background info on Jeffrey and Chronotope Project, so I will refer readers who may be interested to those articles. This latest release, Dharma Rain is the first issued under the artist’s own Udana Music label. The term “udana” means “inspired utterances” in Sanskrit, and the music on the album certainly lives up to that.


Although Dharma Rain is the fourth release by Chronotope Project, the number three plays prominently in it. According to Jeffrey: “The album’s three part construction also mirrors the great Buddhist Triple Treasure of Buddha, Dharma and Sanga. It is a view that honors the intimacy of teachers, truth and human relationships. It is also an acknowledgement that we are all integrally connected at every level, from macrocosm to microcosm.” The album is composed of three extended tracks that, like previous music from Chronotope Project, reflect seminal concepts in physics, cosmology, and spirituality. Noted new age music advocate, Lloyd Barde characterizes the album as “layering scintillating electronic sequences, lush atmospheric pads, gently percolating percussion and long lyrical melodic lines into an integral whole.” Incidentally, Jeffery has chosen to dedicate the album to Lloyd, who many may be familiar with as a highly regarded music journalist, concert and event promoter, DJ, and founder of the pioneering new age music distribution company, Backroads Music in 1981.


Unlike some recordings in this genre, which start off slow and evolve into a rhythmic pattern, the first track kicks things off with a burst of energy. Entitled “Dancing Wu Li Masters,” the composition, according to Jeffrey, “pays homage to Gary Zukav’s book of the same name. “Wu Li” is the Chinese term for physics, which may also be translated as “patterns of organic energy.” And there are definitely patterns to the energy on this track. A polyrhythmic ethnic groove lays down the foundation with hints of African and Indonesian influences as well as Berlin School electronic Haiken Continuumsequencing. Hovering over this is a dreamy drifting ambient soundscape, punctuated by airy flute passages. A most unusual and rare instrument featured on this track is the Haken Continuum Fingerboard, a music performance controller and synthesizer that has a touch sensitive neoprene playing surface that allows for unprecedented control of pitch, portamento, vibrato, amplitude, and more. It’s a fascinating space-age invention that anyone who might be interested can Google and find further info, videos, etc. The fact that Jeffrey has one and uses it in his music is quite unique.


I mentioned above about songs that start off slow and evolve into a rhythmic pattern, and track 2 is one of them. Fans of cosmology (like me) will appreciate the reference in the song’s title, “Oort Cloud.” But for those who may not be familiar, Jeffrey describes it in this way: “Oort Cloud” references the massive, slowly revolving gaseous cloud that surrounds our solar system, a cosmic mist that envelopes our star and its satellites. The Oort cloud is a phenomenon reminiscent of the medieval mystic’s “Cloud of Unknowing,” since it is not only ubiquitous, but cannot be directly observed. The piece emerges from its initial vaporous texture into an ever-turning sphere of sound. This evolves gradually into a rhythmically driven harmonic progression that finally dissipates back into the invisible dust from which it was born.” This may be hard to imagine musically, but after hearing the song, it is a perfect description. I had written in a previous article on Chronotope Project how incredibly original some of Jeffery’s sounds are, and this song, as well as the album in general, is no exception. I love the bouncy bubbly sequence that drives the middle section of this track and marvel at how he comes up with these innovative timbres. I’m also impressed with how Jeffrey is able to combine metronomic musical motion with totally amorphous clouds of sound so integrally.


At over 18 minutes in length, the album’s title track is a truly epic journey into sonic spirituality. According to Jeffrey:1 “Dharma rain, refers to a phrase often heard in Buddhist sutras. Zen teacher Sheng Yen explains it in this way: “Rain is vital for plants, which can’t survive without water. All sentient beings suffer from spiritual thirst and yearn for the soothing nectar of the Dharma rain. Above all, it is a song of gratitude for the shower of wisdom of great teachers and ancestors that rains down freely and equally on us all.”  An aqueous ambience pervades the track with swirling sounds that flow freely as well as electronic drips and drops providing mesmerizing textures. Ambient aural currents weave in and out, taking the listener deeper and deeper into the mystery.  Subtle sequenced watery bell sounds add to the momentum as the song evolves.


Dharma Rain is a treat for listeners who enjoy long-form electronic excursions that morph through gently unfolding soundscapes. I particularly appreciate the spiritual dimension that is added by Jeffrey’s own Buddhist focus. In describing what motivates him to create on this level, he shares: “Music is about creating and expressing, first and foremost, but also about radiating the fruits of the work outward to others, who may benefit in ways we cannot imagine. It is my hope that in the coming years I can sustain a high level of creative output, support others who are doing the same kind of work, and continue to grow a base of appreciate listeners.”


Jeffrey_Allen_StudioThere is no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more music from Chronotope Project, as Jeffrey has recently signed a multi-album contract with Spotted Peccary Music, one the premier labels in this genre. Each successive album I have had the pleasure of hearing by Chronotope Project has taken it to the next level, and Dharma Rain continues this evolution. In the realm of sensual ambient electronic music, Jeffrey Ericson Allen and Chronotope Project certainly rank with the best. I especially enjoy listening to this music with headphones to be fully immersed in the richness of the sound, as well as tuning into all the subtle nuances and ear candy that accentuate the recording. This is an album that bears repeated listening, revealing hitherto unheard treasures each time. If you find resonance with this kind of music, you definitely owe it to your self to check out Chronotope Project.




Music video from an earlier release: