For a band forming in Los Angeles in the late ‘70s, and rising to prominence in the early ‘80’s, partaking in drugs and alcohol may well have been considered par for the course. Yet for the Go-Go’s front-woman, Belinda Carlisle, her drug habit would turn into an addiction that would dog her for half a lifetime. A particularly negative experience following a binge in 2005 prompted Carlisle to pursue sobriety.
In the early stages of her recovery, Carlisle found the chants from Kundalini Yoga – which she has practiced for twenty-five years – to be a valuable tool, and she has built a study routine around the mantras over the last twelve years. With her eighth solo-studio album, Wilder Shores, Carlisle brings seven of these chants and mantras – with a pop-twist – to her fans. With a few exceptions – Light of My Soul, Long Time Sun, and an acoustic version of her smash-hit Heaven Is a Place on Earth – the record is performed in Gurmukhi, the language of the gurus.
Despite the jovial and folkish acoustic performance on Adi Shakti and the electro-beat backing to Ek Ong Kar Sat Gur Prasad, these tracks feel slightly too long at seven-and-a-half and six-and-a-half minutes respectively. Given the repetitive nature of mantras and chanting, this overlong feeling may almost seem natural – at least to those not into chant or drone – but the judicious and respectful use of pop’s compositional tropes, such as the gentle acoustic guitar of Rakhe Rakhan Har and the insistent bassline of Har Gobinday, manage to prevent the record slipping into tedium.
Being an album of chant, Carlisle’s matured soprano is definitely the centre of attention, and it is certainly pleasing, displaying a rich, resonant timbre throughout. Wilder Shores proves to be an easy listen, lending itself to being a good choice if the listener is seeking background music, but unless they are engaging in meditation, chanting along, or are aficionados, it is hard to picture the record from working other contexts.