CD review: Ayurveda's 'H. Luminous'

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Friday, December 10, 2010

In 2012, the Mayan calendar ends a "great cycle," a completion that some believe will mark the end of the world. Ayurveda, a prog-rock quintet, offers a more optimistic forecast. "H. Luminous," the Ithaca, N.Y., band's eight-song cycle, supposes that 2012 will bring a spiritual breakthrough. Homosapiens will become homoluminous, and thus - as frontman Tom Burchinal sings in "Rebirth" - "overcome."

The quintet is clearly attracted to exotic spiritual wisdom (Ayurveda is Sanskrit for "science of life"), and Burchinal has given Mayan lore a lot of thought. But what distinguishes "H. Luminous" is its musical range and finesse. The group switches fluidly from thrashing rock to bleary electronica to delicate madrigals, and Burchinal's tenor is as versatile as the guitars of Nepal-born band members Diwas Gurung and Shikhar Bajracharya. To enjoy this inventive music, you needn't know that Quetzalcoatl is the Mayans' feathered-serpent god of knowledge. (But you did, right?)

Mesoamerican myth aside, the album extends such widely applicable advice as "learn to love" and "reconnect to spirit." Maybe that's too much to ask. But any band that wants listeners to simultaneously bang their heads and evolve into higher life forms is unafraid to make major demands.

- Mark Jenkins

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