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Phurpa - Trowo Phurnag Ceremony [Soma - 2011]

Russian group Phurpa practices a traditional form of Tibetan throat singing called Bon,  characterized by lethargic pacing and intensely deep octaves.  "Trowo Phurnag Ceremony" is the 2nd of 3 albums, originally released in 2008.  In his blurb about the album, Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))) refers to Bon as a 'polyphonic style', but really it's more like a rough unison between several singers.

The album opens with a few chimes from a bell, then moves immediately into rich, resonant singing so full of overtones an entire chord is formed by each single voice.  I can immediately feel that this recording is nothing but pure, distilled ritual essence - absolutely beatific, truly psychedelic...  A tool of transcendence, timeless and ageless, nothing more nothing less than the vibrating throat, a sound open to infinite reinterpretation.

There are no changes in pitch to speak of, and only the most basic rhythmic progressions to distract from total immersion in timbre.  The singers invariably sing long tones in unintelligible syllables, and all take breaths together with a percussive 'huh' at the end of each 'sentence' or phrase, which makes the slow, monotonous pulse of the utterances feel like a kind of sluggish, otherworldly morse code.

Conceivably, this is something of a time suspension exercise, promoting mental focus in both performers and listeners.  There may be tracks with different names, but they all consist of the same elongated reedy tones with ascending resonances, at roughly the same pacing.  Some begin with 20 second incantations from bells or horns, but always settle into the same vocal drone.  One tends not to notice the separation between songs, though certainly time never feels more distorted than during the two movements of "Conferring Empowerment and Self-Transformation", which, when put together, are a massive 32 minutes.

This may be hard to listen to, but it is full of worth.  "Trowo Phurnag Ceremony" is not much of a 'musical piece' in the typically understood sense, and some will find themselves unable to engage with the unchanging sound, but fans of the 'ritual ambient' genre should immediately see this recording as the genuine article, free of the posturing that permeates the scene.  There is something primal here typically not experienced in such potent form.  It's perfect for the right evening when one has the time and mental discipline required.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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