Art of Zen: Nat Evans rings a temple bell

A moving tribute to a lost master, and a new sonic adventure for Nat Evans

Nat Evans pays personal homage to a formative influence on his life and music through enchanting soundscapes with a new and unique instrumental work this week. The Seattle-area experimental composer’s new and transcendental endeavour Say Those Words is a vivid, deeply stirring sonic tribute, dedicated to Evans’ long time teacher in Zen Buddhism, Ryuzen Robby Pellett, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63 in August of last year. 

Ryuzen Robby Pellett (1956-2019) was a Soto Zen priest and teacher based in the Pacific Northwest. A student in the Suzuki Roshi lineage, he founded One Pine Hall in Seattle in 1994 and led the sangha until his death. At the time of Ryuzens passing he was compiling poems about his experience in Zen, to be published in the near future. Florida Cassette label Circuit Church, home to Model Plane (an artist we covered here at Revel a while back), has recently released these inspiring ambient works, beautifully pairing Pallett’s wisdom with Evans’ compositions. 

An accompanying chapbook, Moon Climbing The Temple Roof, is drawn from journals that span 40 years. Pellett’s haikus offer a compelling companion to Nat’s deeply personal, soulful soundscape. 

Say Those Words For Me is in two parts. Side A is a reverberating kaleidoscope of sound that slowly unfolds for the listener over time. Evans evokes a gorgeous bright, illuminated atmosphere, with the sound of temple bells he inherited from his teacher carried at the heart of the mix.

A long, stunningly composed improvisation with these bells forms the framework of the soundscape, and their presence in the recording is a theme Evans is passionate about, as he explains in this recent video. Side A ends with nine bells that represent the nine bows one makes to show respect for a deceased loved one. This sonic expression by Evans is a stunning appreciation, and no doubt cathartic for him to create. 

The first side is composed of vibrations, with sampled low frequencies that drift in out like ghostly apparitions. Echoes, pops and clicks, punctuated with the rattling of prayer beads. At other times, clusters of sounds enter; textures sampled from Evans’ archives of cassette tapes, flitting in between the tolling bells and whispering field recordings, as he describes in another recent video.

He conjures a mesmerizing atmosphere in such an accessible manner, enrapturing the listener as he draws on ethereal, otherworldly, yet always earthy and organic natural resonances. It’s a poignant piece of sonic exploration, and a moving evocation of a life lived by the Zen philosophy.    

Side B, entitled Hanamatsuri, is a field recording made on Hanamatsuri, a holiday celebrating the Buddha’s birth. Evans’ teacher would often have tea under a blooming cherry tree on this day to celebrate.

In his absence, Evans had tea under a blooming cherry tree in his stead, and made his recording. The natural sounds of birdsong, the breeze, and even distant traffic strongly evoke a vision of this heartfelt remembrance.

There is an absoluteness, a truth to these recordings, at once haunting, yet teeming with energy and life. These works are a fine representation of transformation and change, of how the process of death’s release carries energy forward. 

Even if a person is not spiritually inclined, it is difficult not to connect with the sonic content that Evans captures in his field recording. With hardly any interference, the purity of those moments captured are nothing short of magic. The consciousness-awakening chimes of those very special temple bells can’t help but strike true presence and alertness into the heart of anyone who listens.  


Say Those Words For Me is out 14 August on digital and limited edition cassette.

Highlight Feature- Modal Plane – An Intimate insight.

Artist – Modal Plane

Genre – Synthwave/Ambient/Experimental

Label – Circuit Church

Orlando Florida based; William Randall aka Modal Plane has been an electronic artist I have had the greatest of pleasures in following for about four/five years now. Most strikingly Williams originality permeates throughout his in-depth, nuanced soundscapes. He is ultimately a sound and visual designer, sonically conjuring the essence of the imagery he wishes to paint in an impressionistic way, that of which an artist would paint on canvas.

William typically generates his own nostalgic feel through visuals to accompany his music clips on social media, however, in the past he has collaborated with a couple of glitch artists like, Sara Goodman and Chromatic Artifacts in order to create full-length visual tracks, “Ninety_ Six_ Zeros”  and “At The Edge Of Everything”, for his 2019 album, ‘Terra Null’, both videos can be viewed on the, Circuit Church Bandcamp ‘Video’ link, an electronic cassette tape label which Modal Plane is an integral part of. Most excitingly, both William and Sara are currently working together on a full project which will be released on VHS cassette very soon!   

Sound sculpturist, william Randall aka Modal Plane / Illuminated Trip Mode

William is master of soul-stirring melodies and perfectly curated samples. He thrives through forming sonic and visual narratives and his musical distinctiveness is born through tapping into his authentic creative nature which rings true with fluidity throughout all of his creative works. His brilliance lays in projecting complex programmed, live recorded instrumental and modulated synth layer structures, in a simplistic, spacious sounding way. In the technical hardware sense, working closely with Sean Pendleton, owner of online shop, VOIDModular, selling  Eurorack and Synthesizer Do-It-Yourself (SDIY) products, no doubt, helps inspire and innovate Williams ideas in progressively pushing forward uniquely expressive synthscapes.

William & Co In their natural habitat.

In February of this year, Modal Plane released one of his most transcendent, nuanced works to date, ‘New Age Forestry’, a split album featuring, Jared Silvia aka Pressurewave, also the executive producer to Modal Plane’s ‘Terra Null’ album in which I mentioned above. This body of work provides stimulus and is both graceful and haunting, featuring gentle, sentimental ambient music exploring various visions of imaginary forest landscapes.

Both William and Jared provide a few words on how the idea of the album was born and what atmosphere both brought to the project.

William/ Modal Plane

“This split cassette w/ Jared Silvia revolves around our different interpretations of a sketch he did, and the idea of developing a sound based in/around nature, and our interactions with it. The cassette is completely DIY. Each cassette package is hand stamped, recorded, and labelled in house circuit church records. Also, an extremely limited release which is current sold out but is still available to download in digital format. I hope you enjoy this album.” – W.R

Jared/ Pressurewave

“I was drawing on my iPad one day and wrote the words “New Age Forestry” under this weird blocky thing I had sketched. I sent it to Will and said, “let’s do an album where we both interpret this theme.” This release is the result. MP’s side is a dark, foggy forest of inward journeying. My side is an ambient map of four locations in Japan that I find especially soulful and important. I hope you check this out, friends. It’s the first time I’ve officially released anything of my own in over 10 years. Here’s to it being the first of many.” – J.S

Please keep up-to-date with the creative endeavours of, Modal Plane and all the brilliant artists he collaborates with over on his social media platforms.