03 August 2009

Monday's mp3: Tasty TuvTronica

Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo: Eternal
(Electrofone/GreenWave Music)

If you're paying attention, you'll have noticed that I have a certain fondness for the unique sounds of Tuvan throat singing. It's a fascinating musical tradition on its own in traditional songs, or blended with modern instruments or electronic beats and samples as a number of bands have done (Ondar, James Whetzel, Guy Mendilow). Huun Huur Tu have largely stayed on the traditional side of things, releasing some dozen albums that are much loved by world music fans. The one fusion project they did undertake was recording two albums (Fly, Fly My Sadness in 1996 and Mountain Tale in 1998) with the fabulous women's vocal group The Bulgarian Voices: Angelite.

So the group is breaking new ground in this recording, a collaboration with electronicist/producer Carmen Rizzo. Rizzo was initially asked to mix a set of audiophile-quality recordings Huun Huur Tu had made, but he found more in the project.
Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo-Eternal - on SoundRoots.org
"As I listened more in depth and studied the tracks, I knew I could mix it, but it lent itself to a lot more," Rizzo says. "As I began to mix I inched myself into doing more and more and taking different liberties. And as it went on they liked more of what I did. ... It evolved into a natural collaboration... ."

Rizzo's impact on the album is clear, but respectful. This isn't a brash, bouncy fusion in the spirit of Ondar's Back Tuva Future, as Rizzo eases in his own electronics along with additional violin, cello, trumpet, bass, and cümbüş (a Turkish banjo-oud ... hmmm a banjoud?). The songs are technically remixes, but they're meant for listening more than for cranking up at the club. The most insistent (and perhaps therefore least effective) drum track comes on "Saryglarlar Maidens," though even that sounds like something you might hear on a Putumayo compilation called Tuvan Lounge. The best tracks might be the swirling disorientation of "Orphaned Child" and the darkly roiling "Ancestors Call."

Overall the album has more than a passing similarity to modern Sami music from the likes of Ulla Pirtijarvi and Wimme Saari. And if some songs ("Dogee Mountain" ) sound a bit like a soundtrack, that might be the influence of producer Mark Governor, who has worked on a lot of film music.

Eternal weighs in at eight songs and just over 40 minutes, but within those eight songs there's a wonderful new world for Tuvan/overtone singing fans, and a more accessible entry for those who may just be discovering the tradition.

[mp3] Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo: Saryglarlar Maidens
from the album Eternal

Want more? Buy the album, or you can download the song "Tuvan Prayer" for free on the Huun Huur Tu website

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