Strange Mono releases the new album Dāna by DC based solo instrumentalist Sutras. Proceeds are being donated to Bread For The City a mutual aid organization providing food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to reduce the burden of poverty for residents of D.C.
An intense spate of personal turmoil led Tristan Welch to Buddhism. In 2020 and 2021, the veteran musician was navigating a recovery from addiction and going through a painful divorce. He found solace in two things: Buddhist teachings and creating music.
With his new solo project, Sutras, Tristan brings these two interests together, crafting gripping instrumental compositions that ripple with emotional catharsis and bridge the gap between post-rock and ambient. Heavily influenced by the widescreen sensibilities of post-rock staples like Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Bowery Electric, the artist aims to create music that brings the peace he’s found to anyone who takes a listen.
“I’ve found refuge in the teachings of Buddha and shelter in Bhakti,” Tristan explains. “I feel at peace when art is a gift and nothing more. I’ve created Sutras to help myself and others refrain from the attachment that creates our suffering.”
Much like his home base of Washington, D.C., Tristan has always straddled between different cultural worlds. A lifelong punk kid, he grew up listening to the Specials and Rancid but has more recently become known for a string of acclaimed ambient/drone releases. As a denizen of the D.C. musical scene—both as a solo musician and member of acclaimed groups like the post-rock multimedia outfit Requiem—he has often felt like a perennial outsider: able to hang with the harsh noise people, the ambient world, and the punk scene without fully fitting in anywhere.
With Sutras, Tristan embraces these contradictions in full. He muses that he’s playing a kind of ambient-punk hybrid: “If you boiled down the songs and took away the effects, they would just be hardcore songs, just super slowed down.”
The four compositions that comprise Dāna are hypnotic, textured slow-burners that reflect the musician’s deep interest in minimalism and repetition. On standouts like the post-punk-flavored “Rosa Lila Dance” and the Jesu-inspired “Seven Suns,” molten waves of guitar build to stirring climaxes buoyed by heavily treated drums. The most intense number, “Spiritual Bypassing,” shudders and shakes with psychic unease, harnessing the pounding tumult of a trip-hop drum loop.
While this is an instrumental EP, Tristan sometimes calls it devotional music, and his abiding interest in Buddhism is reflected in the spirit of the work and the track titles themselves. “Seven Suns,” for instance, refers to a legendary sermon in Buddhist eschatology which holds that the apocalypse will be followed by seven suns appearing in the sky—an aggressive title for an aggressive song. “Rosa Lila Dance” is a play on the Sanskrit dance raslila, which appears in major Hindu historical texts. And Dāna, the title of the EP, comes from the Sanskrit word for “generosity.”