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Howie Lee presents 8 reconstructed, IDM-warped Vajrayana mantras

‘At The Drolma Wesel-Ling Monastery’ chronicles the Beijing-based artist's dive into Buddhism

  • Amira Waworuntu
  • 27 April 2024
Howie Lee presents 8 reconstructed, IDM-warped Vajrayana mantras

Howie Lee takes a bold step with his latest release—a unique fusion of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist chants and contemporary club beats.

Recorded over two weeks at the Drolma Wesel-Ling Monastery in north-eastern Tibet, the album blends traditional Buddhist singing with pulsing bass, footwork beats, and experimental sounds, ushering listeners into a world where ancient spirituality meets pure rave energy.

The Beijing-based producer was invited to work with chant recordings from the archive of monastery founder Tuga Rinpoche's studio, which opened up new possibilities for his music.

At first, he felt like a "Buddhist outsider" at the monastery, unable to grasp the deeper meanings of the practice. But after spending time with the monks and nuns, everything changed. "I realised I wasn't touching the core," he says. "Working with these great masters, it forces you to think deeper and see the world from a different perspective. I learnt to become fearless."

Opening is the 155 bpm 'Mantra of Guru Rinpoche 莲师心咒' — a high-energy explosion of synths, dagu war drums, and distorted guitars. The vocals add a deeply resonant layer that complements the intense rhythms.

'Mantra of Vajra Armour 防瘟疫咒', features unique male and female voices with yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) trills and pulsing beats. The sequence is meant to protect from outside distractions and disease, a theme that resonates with the challenges of the pandemic era.

Each track has a distinct sonic trademark; from hyperpop and industrial footwork to Brazilian funk and celestial ambient, Lee’s amalgamation of transcendental mantras and club-ready beats reaches a point of harmonious balance.

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Reflecting on the album's creation and his future direction, Lee says, “For the last 20 years, I have made music in almost the exact same way but this will be a completely new era for me. I have made so many albums, they represent me, but I look back and hear a lot of uncertainty.”

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He concludes by mentioning: "This is why I wanted to work with mantras, I wanted to make very simple modest dance music. I feel this is a very certain album."

Purchase ‘At The Drolma Wesel-Ling Monastery’ here.

Amira Waworuntu is Mixmag Asia’s Managing Editor, follow her on Instagram.

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