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Huun Huur Tu: Ancestors Call


Huun Huur Tu

Album: Ancestors Call
Label: World Village

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The ostensible angle of Ancestors Call—re-casting previous Huun Huur Tu songs to reflect the group’s exposure to other sounds as it played indigenous Tuvan music around the world—is a bigger factor on paper than on record. The band’s native heart always feels greater than its outside influences and collaborators (from Frank Zappa to electronic musician Carmen Rizzo), like an old mountain welcoming a few new trees to its slopes. After all, this is a form of music that developed in relative isolation, like the platypus, but far more awe-inspiring. Ancestors Call isn’t defined by a wildly eclectic feel, but by the sharp focus of its arrangements. Each track isolates and savors different cross-sections of Huun Huur Tu's musical anatomy: The baritone and whistle-warbles issuing from a single throat on “Remembering Ulaatai River,” the speedy gallop of “Eki Attar” (much more lusty and fun than the version on 1994’s The Orphan’s Lament), the igil (two-stringed fiddle) drones and vocal crescendos that slowly fill the eight-minute “Sarygarlar” with mesmerizing warmth. It’s rare that the whole ensemble seems to let loose at once, but the group a cappella on “Prayer” and the startling rhythms of “Ancestors” more than make up for that. Ancestors Call makes one thing clear: Even without the benefit of hindsight and international exposure, Huun Huur Tu would still sound regally, ruggedly like itself.