Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pitchfork: Hanggai - Introducing Hanggai (2008/World Music Network)

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Pitchfork Rating: 8.0
Cue Pitchfork's departure from reviewing more mainstream music genres, and enter Hanggai. This Mongolian sextet combines throat singing and modernized folk-story telling on their experimental LP to be released July 28. Hanggai hails from Beijing with roots to China's Mongolian provinces. Pitchfork's Joe Tangari writes:
"It is rare that such attempts to modernize (read: Westernize) traditional folk forms actually enhance the power of the music, but that is the case here. Producers Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci's very subtle additions of electric guitar, bass, and electronic textural elements nicely complement the traditional instrumentation-- the fiddles can produce long drones or billowing melodic figures, and the tobshuur is often used to give the songs a heart-racing rhythmic underpinning, with the help of some hand percussion.

The album's stunning centerpiece, "Five Heroes", opens with a long passage of throat-singing, with one member producing a steady, low drone while another manipulates the high, whistling overtones produced by it. The minimal guitar part has elements of surf, and is later used to inject a long, descending phrase between the verses. It's stunningly dramatic, and on hearing it my wife remarked that, even though they were singing in Mongol, she could feel the storytelling taking place in the lyrics. I have to agree."

Listen to full tracks here...

After the jump.

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