Arman Ray + Hyon Gak – The Formless Track | Aural Koan
The Formless Track is the latest spoken verse electronic album based on Zen Buddhism by Arman Ray + Hyon Gak. The album consists of twelve tracks and runs for about forty minutes.
UK fine artist, music producer, and Soto Zen exponent Chris Taylor aka Arman Ray joins forces with popular Buddhist monk Hyon Gak Sunim to craft a Zen album that would introduce the philosophy and practice to a newer audience.
Arman Ray has been an art and design teacher and researcher with long involvement in Zen Buddhism. He became a music producer in 2014, getting signed to WEATNU Records in 2021 and releasing several EPs. Ray came across Hyon Gak Sunim’s “What is Zen” Youtube video and asked him if it could be turned into a music video.
American-born Hyon Gak Sunim has studied literature, literary theory, philosophy, and theology at Harvard and Yale Universities. He was the first westerner to be ordained in the People’s Republic of China since the Communist Revolution. He had been involved in Korean Buddhism for 24 years having sold a bestselling book and reviving interest in Korean Zen or Seon among the youth. He is currently based out of Germany.
The first song track is Mind Habit. The song features a retro electronic sound. Over this, the spoken word verse ruminates philosophically on causality and the feedback loop it induces. Dreaming With Eyes Wide Open, the second track picks up on the song of the last track. Here the instrumentation is more intense and energetic with respect to beats and music. We get a change in energy with the fourth track, This Infinity of Now. Here the arrangement is calm and serene while spinning the philosophical and spiritual theory. Some really imaginative music by Arman Ray + Hyon Gak!
The narrative flow hits a plateau and sonic break with the fifth track, Stop and Go. Dust Thinking makes great use of twangy guitars and sirens with an apt balance of spoken word. The title track encapsulated the vibe and aural form of the album itself. Right Here Right Now begins with a New jack swing-type beat. The synth spins the arrangement in this song. Just An Echo then establishes a dance groove in this form. The penultimate track Keep Us In Moment establishes the limits of the senses and withering away our attention and consciousness due to modern technology. The album concludes with Bone Of Space with its quiet silence and other calming sounds. The vocal parts and the silence work well off each other.
This spoken-word electronic album is a thought-provoking and introspective collection of tracks that explore the mysteries of the universe and the nature of existence. It features a diverse range of electronic music styles, from ambient to breakbeat, and seamlessly integrates philosophical and metaphysical themes into the lyrics and spoken word segments. It delves into the concept of interconnectedness and the idea that everything in the universe is connected on a deeper level.
The record speaks to the idea that we are all part of a larger whole, and that our actions and choices have a ripple effect on the world around us. Throughout the album, the artist combines their electronic music production skills with philosophical and spiritual insights, creating a listening experience that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant. Beyond all of these, it talks of the idea of Shunyata, that is, the non-existence of the ego and the importance of non-dualist thinking and philosophy. Of course, as anyone familiar with Zen might know attempting to put zen in words is futile.
That being said, The Formless Track by Arman Ray + Hyon Gak is an album that will leave you questioning the world around you and considering the deeper mysteries of life. Like an aural koan, riddles without solutions, used in Zen to show the limitations of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment.