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Phurpa - Gyer Ro [Cyclic Law - 2017]

Phurpa is a prolific Russian group that plays ancient Tibetan spiritual music from the Bon religion.  They have existed since 2003.  This music is characterized by gutteral resonant throat singing in unbelievable low registers,  mesmerizing single note chanting separated into odd, asymmetrical phrases.  This new double album "Gyer Ro" on dark ambient label Cyclic Law is one of several releases in 2017. 

This music apparently takes extensive breathing exercises and vocal practice to perform.  It is quite monotonous but deeply entrancing, producing a noticable muscle relaxation after a few minutes.  Like listening to the wind, there is a pattern to be discerned, though it is not regular.  its shape seems to possess a meaning, to function as some kind of profound philosophical statement, yet it is abstract and difficult to clarify or paraphrase.  The effect of the music stems partly from the palpability of the group's deep concentration.

I've also heard a previous album from 2009, "Trowo Phurnag Ceremony".  Both are immediately identifiable as the same group, but "Gyer Ro" is more nebulous and sparse, unattached to rhythmic structure and patiently immersive.  Both albums proceed at a very slow, measured pace, but "Gyer Ro" charts an even deeper vastness with mammoth tracks like "Laughter Of To-Nag-Ma", the 78 minute piece which solely occupies the first disk.

Unlike "Trowo Phurnag", this album includes several passages in which the voices are absent in favor of a wailing horn.  Its sound is wavering, rough and dissonant, but haunting in its strange rough-hewn way.

The album sounds like it was recorded in a cave, a thick natural reverbation shrouding the voices and instruments.  This proves a perfect vehicle for amplifying the psychic force of the vibrating throats.  The sound is physically pleasurable and inviting.

In the sense that they create acoustic ritual ambient music, this group could be compared to the likes of Arktau Eos.  However, Phurpa seems to possess a greater authenticity and focus, clearly highly invested in the precise recreation of powerfully psychoactive ancient sounds.  Their approach contains no excess, using the voice as a direct conduit to the otherworldly and the beyond.

This album and other works by Phurpa are highly recommended for those looking for mind altering drone sounds, as well as those fascinated by throat singing techniques.  Those looking for music with progressions and cohesive rhythms will be disappointed, but I deeply appreciate this group for their dedicated preservation of primal methods of reaching altered states.

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

Josh Landry
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