Phurpa - Chöd [Zoharum - 2016]Chöd is latest audio ritual from Phurpa- the Russian collective who creating dark unearthly, trance inducing, and at times terrifying sonic fare with a mix of throat singing & traditional/ non-traditional Tibetan ritual instruments. This new work is their most epic yet, with the two part piece spread over two CDS, and coming in at around the 90 minutes mark.
I’ll have to admit that past work I’d heard by Phurpa rather left me in two minds. On the positive side; I could appreciate the distinctive, unequal & highly moody sound they created. But on the negative side; I often found it a little shape-less, gimmick-led, and really more suited to see to a live setting. So I was rather pleasantly surprised by Chöd, as I’ve found myself often returning to its darkly stern, deeply haunting, yet captivating whole. Which I guess is a little odd, as you’d expect with a longer work such as this the shape-less & better-in-a-live settings criticism would be even more telling, but really this on the whole feels a lot more structured, flowing, and planned out- where as the past work felt less so.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph the work is split up into two parts, and each cd offers up a single track. The first part opens with a distant ritual chimes, possible water sounds, and then a collection of deep, dark, and buzzing throat vocalising. As the work progresses on we get the addition of slow drum hits, & later moving onto simmering yet grim horn like drones. Along with a wider selection of vocalising, taut yet subtle ritual percussive additions, and blackly buzzing string reverberations. On a whole this part is more varied in it’s sound use, and it both nicely sucks you into the whole atmosphere of the work, and sets up the mood for the less active( though no less worthy) second part.
The second part is seemingly more set on this sort continual churning & deep throat singing mantra, which is focused into a fairly narrow & deep tonally range that collective plough again & again. I’m guessing there must be around three or four people doing the singing here, as physical one or two person couldn’t keep this up for such sustained time. From time to time you get additions of minimum ritual chimes, gong strikes, or breaks- but mostly it just keeps rolling on with this very brooding & amassed vocal like drone.
According to the release press release in Tibetan chöd roughly means “being cut off”. And the whole piece is so, so deep in both dread & doomy atmosphere, that you can almost imagine the dead rising to it.
In summing up I was most surprised by how many times I’ve played & enjoy Chöd over the last month or so. Sure it's still not an album I can see myself returning in multiple different situations/moods, as it really does not vary much in tone or sonic shade- but as dark meditative music & sounds to sinisterly lose ones self, it’s most worthy. Roger Batty