Suite Journey – TIBET Land Of My Tears

 Suite Journey – TIBET Land Of My Tears

Suite Journey – TIBET Land Of My Tears – Album Review

Alright Suite Journey…I’ll be upfront and honest…I’m in a good mood & headspace writing this review…so I kinda figured I might have an easier time sliding into the fusion-music you make potentially as I started to listen…but I have to admit that the smile that came to my face soon afterwards was placed there solely by you and your music! There is not much about TIBET Land Of My Tears that is typically like much of anything I normally listen to…not out of any kind of objection…it’s just that music like this made in Suite Journey is a lot harder to find in our world. There’s not a single radio-hit on this entire album Suite Journey – are you trying to convince us all that maybe, just maybe, there might be several reasons we’d want to make, create and write music other than to become rich & famous?

Don’t get me wrong…that’s not an insult and I’m certainly not telling the members of the band anything they don’t already know. The purpose here is one of passion and genuine communication…to connect to you through their love of their craft and share their beautiful experiences and life-stories through songs both with & without lyrics. The instrumentation flexes its uniqueness straight-away with “Qomolangma (Everest)” and its exotic-sounds and textures creating an entire atmosphere that immediately takes you away from the hustle & grind of your busy work-week into somewhere entirely beautiful. Well…okay…not just somewhere…Everest presumably from the title…you get what I mean…

The album gets pretty specific, very quickly – but this is also where the smile instantly came to my face. Listening to “Yak Butter Blues” I was grinning from ear to ear…because of:

  1. The concept alone…”Yak Butter” made me chuckle…and then the idea of it being paired with the “Blues” made me chuckle more. I was trying to picture any other mood that Yak Butter might be able to come along with…from the outside perspective, any day with Yak Butter on my toast might be a day full of the blues…or at least I would have assumed!
  2. Where is our Best New Sound of 2014, West My Friend? That indie-folk band that you voted-in as your favourite sound of last year would ABSOLUTELY LOVE this band…especially this song in particular! Known for their own quirky tunes & lyrical-twists like on “The Cat Lady Song” – this playful tune of “Yak Butter Blues” completely reminded me of the Vancouver Island-based band – and that always makes me smile.

So…I mean…it’s not what you might expect…but we all have to write about something right? I keep saying we’ve all had enough of chicks & cars – and well, Suite Journey definitely understand that apparently…it has been over twenty years since I heard a brand-new song dedicated to Yaks you know…not since “The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen” – so I’m with this duo…it’s high-time we brought the Yak BACK! Oh! And it also has great harmonies on “Yak Butter Blues” and solid musicianship once again…sorry…I got caught-up in being a yakass and forgot to comment on the groove & rhythm in this song almost entirely!

What’s also really cool about Suite Journey is that the album itself can be interacted with in many ways aside from simply listening to it. On their official site you’ll often find the lyrics…you’ll find the stories behind the beautiful songs like “Terdan Nunnery” and what inspires them. You can find out all the different flutes, harps and various instrumentation they incorporate into their sound…they’ve really made it all into one sweet Suite Journey. “Terdan Nunnery” is a solid-example of a story that’s worth the reading…as much of this music is based on real-life experiences and the way they’ve described these events on the page gives a real authentic-feel to their music when you listen. Loved the flute in “Terdan Nunnery” – it might not be a mainstream-radio thing happening here, but you can’t deny a strong hook when you hear one.

“Land Of My Tears” is another song that really communicates the genuine emotions felt on their trip to Tibet. Led with a forlorn & melancholy sound to the piano…this song reflects the struggle between embracing the surrounding beauty in the atmosphere versus the brutal state of the social-climate in one of the world’s most gorgeous environments that has been consistently oppressed for decades. Billie sings sweetly over the piano and the harmonies laid underneath are equally fantastic…great melody to the song and it’s certainly convincing through the performance…you can hear she’s very connected to the emotion in these words.

What I really liked about this record was that the instrumentals were equally powerful and interesting to listen to. “Trekking” comes out sounding bold & bright with a flute-led song from Billie Woods sounding fantastic and the classical-guitar from Deborah perfectly complimenting the lead melody. Additional smooth-bass from the fretless coming courtesy of Jeff Stocki and truly inventive percussion via Jeffrey Glenn Tveraas all rounded this instrumental out to becoming one of my favourite tunes on this record. Overall, this entire album has really been an adventure and unique experience; one that really reflects the memories of the journeys, adventures and experiences that they’ve actually had in vivid detail, with or without words. The following tune, “INS (Inion Ni Scannlain)” is more than the proof you need of that statement – written from the perspective of soaring high above the clouds and seeing the peaks of the Himalayan mountains poke through in their majestic and awe-inspiring view. Another of my favourites from this record, providing a really strong mid-section to TIBET Land Of My Tears by coming directly after “Trekking.” The core-duo of Suite Journey in Deborah Schmidt and Billie Woods stand out beautifully here on “INS (Inion Ni Scannlain)” with a combination of guitar and piano that perfectly mirrors the view they describe in their story behind the song on their website.

“Will There Really Be A Morning?” definitely puts the harp in the spotlight for a moment as this sweet, longing-tune works its magic. This song deals with the difficult emotions in feeling the distance between being wanted and unwanted upon their journey as Westerners well-outside of their region. Places as sacred as Tibet aren’t exactly easy places for North Americans to just walk-around as you would at home – and I think they did a great job of translating that feeling of isolation in a beautiful place on “Will There Really Be A Morning?” It feels a little theatrical…a little more dramatic in the performance…but still completely heartfelt & sincere…and I dig that.

For myself personally…”Unknown Blessings” allowed us to hear the most confident-version of Deborah in her vocals – she is bold, bright and beautiful on this song. When she hits the top of her register, it sounds magical…she never misses and stays in perfect pitch and angelic-tones all throughout this song. I liked how when she’d drift-off from the chorus that Billie would take over with the Native American Flute sounding equally gorgeous as it takes on the main melody-line instrumentally. A song built on the best of intentions – Suite Journey sparkles with beauty & brilliance on “Unknown Blessings.”

Paying homage to their guide through Tibet, “SamTen” sounds as respectful as it’s intended to be. The story describes the tale of their stoic guide having a moment of sad-reflection as he watched the ignorance of their culture being flaunted before him. You can definitely tell from the tale just how much Suite Journey respected “SamTen” and how they felt what he felt that day…and through the music you can feel them communicating what they saw and felt through the emotion in the music. I gotta admit…I’m loving reading about these songs almost as much as hearing them – it really does put a sound/song like this into context for you and helps the brain understand the underlying subtext within the instrumentals.

“The Water Is Wide” takes the music back to a more serene, gentle-nature. Truly tender in its melody, vocal-flow and harp…the singing takes the spotlight throughout this sweet song. With both Billie and Deborah taking solid turns on the lead vocals of this traditional English folk-tune, it comes out sounding really unified as it builds upon itself to the end. It’s again, sincere, honestly-approached and innocent-sounding – they’ve nailed their harmonies and sound fantastic together.

Returning to the instrumental-side of Suite Journey for “Windhorse” – this track is completely groovy in its simplistic flute/guitar led melody. Great rhythm to it and a subtle-switch in the latter half that creates a smoothness to the sound – excellent progressions, instincts and choices in the last instrumental on the album before it heads into the final song “Peace Peace Peace.” And with grace, beauty and a summation of their experience and life-statement on display, Suite Journey put their most harmonious sound right here at the album’s end. The guitar is wonderfully-played…but the vocals truly step further and further into the light as the track plays on, gaining a more confident, rich & beautiful tone right to its final moments. TIBET Land Of My Tears was a beautifully unique and captivating experience, pleasant and inviting all the way through.

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