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Huun Huur Tu Altai Sayan Tandy-Uula Review

Album. Released 20 December 2004.  

BBC Review

'..this is a record that mixes some truly astounding, primeval Tuvan throat-singing...

John Armstrong 2004

If I tell you that the main instruments used on this recording of traditional Southern Siberian music are igil, doshpuluur, xomus, tungur, xapchyk and byzaanchi, you'll probably guess that Huun Huur Tu are hardly prime contenders for the next series of 'Pop Idol'...

Facetitious comments aside, though, this is a record that mixes some truly astounding, primeval Tuvan throat-singing and jew's-harp/didgeridoo timbres produced by the traditional instrumentation with - unfortunately - some of the most bone-crushingly dullpercussion and rhythm patterns you'll hear this side of a faulty tap-drip.

In Tuvan throat-singing, '..a single vocalist selectively amplifies harmonics naturally present in the voice by...manipulation...' So far, so good, and indeed, the four members of Huun Huur are acknowledged masters of such. The Tuva live in yurts (tents) and herd cattle, and the sleevenotes point out that on the Siberian plains the sounds of wind, water, etc, inevitably have a deep effect on artistic creation, be it music, painting, or whatever other medium. But the same could be said of (say) Canadian farmers in Alberta or Columbia, where the North Pole winds sweep down over the mountains and the Northern Lights shimmer in the night sky - or many other varieties of country music from around the world. None of this, however, is an excuse for the monotonous drumming in "Keyamyle", for instance (and in our Canadian example, would be an excuse for asking the drummer to leave the rostrum in no uncertain terms).

"Tandyin" plays much more effectively to the strengths of this undoubtedly powerful and evocative folklore, with its awe-inspiring use of single-note forms, both vocal and instrumental. All this is fine in short doses, but for seven songs over about forty minutes, it was a case of 'a little goes a long way' for this reviewer, at least.

One for the ethnographers and budding throat-singers, certainly, but those who prefer at least some rhythm and tempo in music will be hard-put to find much of interest here.

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