Phurpa - Rituals of Bön II [Zoharum - 2017]I think Niklas Göransson said it best in his 2016 article for Bardo Methodology when he described Phurpa as being like a Tibetan monastic choir that use a “specific kind of overtone chanting […] based on the principle of the singer’s transmogrification during the chanting meditation”. Hailing from that great Eastern European superpower Russia, little is known of the origins of Phurpa other than they are based Moscow and record and perform under the leadership of artist Alexei Tegin. The band have developed a fascinating contemporary take on the art of throat singing. Doing for this style of music, what Sunn 0))) have done for doom metal. They take it, strip it back to its base form and rebuild it with minimal instrumentation and use immense amounts of atmosphere and ambience to create something that at times sounds menacing and yet is beautiful.
This album, their follow up to the original Rituals of Bön features two long twenty plus minute tracks of shamanic throat singing. The Bön of the title references the shamanic spirituality that was prevalent in Tibet prior to that nation’s adoption of Buddhism. Ritualistic and atmospheric, Phurpa create incredible soundscapes using nothing but their voices and traditional Tibetan instruments.
The opening track Yan-Drub II is typical Phurpa, over 20 minutes of the most powerful and astounding music known to man. If you’ve already heard Phurpa then you already know what this sounds like, for those who have not had the pleasure, it is like an ambient invocation of a long lost shamanic spirit, hypnotising you with it’s recurrent themes. Repetitive and yet never really outstaying its welcome, Yan-Drub II finds a sweet spot and just keeps hitting it. Long Life II is up next and follows suit for the first half of the track, however around twelve minutes in the track fades right down to a crawl before picking back up again for the last eight minutes or so.
Overall this is a remarkable album, despite the fact it doesn’t do very much at all it works beautifully to create mood, and the hypnotic quality that is present throughout really does give the whole thing the feel of a piece of music used for ritual purposes. One cannot help but draw comparisons to Sunn 0))) as both have an esoteric, hypnotic vibe that sets them apart from others. Rituals of Bön II is a triumph for simplicity in music, something that is refreshing in these days of overcomplicated lives.Darren Charles