Following a series of experimental cds featuring a more modern, synth-laden approach, the leading Tuvan ensemble returns to a sound closer to their Siberian roots. Ancestors Call is a definitive recording of a collection of songs the group has honed over years of live touring, with their current and best lineup of musicians.
Beautifully recorded, this cd will thrill fans of Tuvan music, which goes far deeper and wider than the typically recognized throat-singing for which Huun-Huur-Tu is justifiably famous. Now, in this more traditional acoustic framework, the instrumental prowess that sets HHT apart from most other throat-singing bands is found here in full bloom.
There are far too many splendid performances and sonic gems to list here, but some deserve special mention: Radik Tülüsh's beautiful, breathy shoor (an end-blown flute, until recently having disappeared from Tuvan music, and now revived by Tülüsh), along with his beautiful sygyt singing (the highest, flute-like Tuvan throat-singing style); the unparalleled and exciting doshpuluur (a plucked, fretless Tuvan lute) of Sayan Bapa, the great unsung hero of Tuvan music, who also provides gorgeous nylon-string guitar, and deep kargyraa, the lowest Tuvan singing style which is presented here better than ever before; the economic clarity and colors of drummer Alexei Saryglar; and the shining, emotional singing of the great Tuvan maestro, Kaigal-ool Khovalyg.
The songs included here, like all great music, bear repeated listenings well, with new details to be found with every sitting. The opening song, Mazhalyk-Ta, a sparse duet by Tülüsh and Khovalyg on shoor and vocals, respectively, sets the tone and direction for the project, evoking the stark and beautiful setting of the Tuvan steppe.
Some of the highlights include the breathtaking Ekii Att'ar (Good Horses), driven hard by Bapa's torrid doshpuluur plucking and exciting sygyt tradeoffs by Tülüsh and Khovalyg; Saryglarlar, which has become a signature piece for Tülüsh's plaintive vocals and the lovely igil accompaniment; and one of the group's most famous pieces, the absolutely stunning Odugen Taiga. This piece, a concert centerpiece for many years, takes on a different feel due to the lovely mix, which recreates the feeling and ambience of the Tuvan taiga. The combination of Khovalyg's startlingly real bird and cricket sounds and amyrgaa (a Tuvan hunter's horn, played by inhaling to mimic the sound of a rutting elk), the thunder of Saryglar's large frame drum, and Bapa's gentle guitar sets the tone. And with Khovalyg and the others trading off verses as well as in unison, this piece strikes me as not just the most gorgeous piece of Tuvan music I've ever heard, but also one of the best, period.
I get the sense that this fine recording summarizes the long history of Huun-Huur-Tu, and look forward with great curiosity and high expectations for their next project.
Ancestors Call is a must have not only for fans of throat-singing and Tuva music, but should be a welcome addition to the collection of all music lovers.