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Mixed Media: Music


Sainkho – accessing sonic places most people can’t reach.

Like a Bird or a Spirit, not a Face

by Sainkho Namtchylak (Ponderosa 131 CD + download)

Sainkho Namtchlyak is such an artist that she is always able to pull surprises out of her bag. The big one for Like a Bird or Spirit, not a Face, the Tuvan throat-singer’s first album for several years, is its collaboration with the Tinariwen beat-masters, Eyadou Ag Leche and Said Ag Ayad.

Recorded in France in 48 hours, this beautiful 10-track album imparts a vision of space – both the Mongolian steppes of Namtchlyak’s childhood and the Malian musicians’ Saharan sweeps. A subdued instrumentation and, from producer Ian Brennan, a loose electronic wash, makes this a generously expansive album.

This breadth of vision is conjured, best of all, through Namtchlyak’s expanded vocals. There is a shamanic component to the way her voice can change registers and timbres so quickly, accessing sonic places most people can’t go. These, along with some marked changes in pace between the songs, add to the drama; but the overall impression of Like a Bird is one of reminiscence. The sparse poetry of ‘The Road Back’ is hugely tender in its reach, while there is a toughness to the swinging rhythm of ‘Nostalgia to’. ‘I am doing fine,’ Namtchlyak, sings, but ‘I would like to taste Tuvan tea with milk.’ All power to her.

Star Rating: ★★★★

De Montevert

by De Montevert (No Method 114 CD + download)

De Montevert – consummate control.

This eponymously titled debut from the Swedish singer-songwriter Ellinor Nilsson is a tantalizing prospect of things yet to come. Coming after the very low-key 2012 release of Friends & Enemies, described as a collection of ‘audio sketches’, De Montevert is being touted as an album that will whet the appetites of fans of PJ Harvey and Cat Power. While there is something of an overlap, not least in its central presence of a strong female singer in consummate control of a stripped-down music, the similarities end there. What makes De Montevert interesting on its own terms is how Nilsson navigates a path between musical content, texture and expression.

There are nine confident songs here, all bound within a simple guitar and keyboard provided by Nilsson’s co-producers Kalle Johansson and Magnus Öberg. Some folk-inspired electronica on, for example, ‘Summer Heart’, contributes a wafty mood where needed and to good effect. Nilsson’s songs are reflective and there is a real immediacy in them, unhampered by unnecessary production or studio fiddling.

Star Rating: ★★★

New Internationalist issue 490 magazine cover This article is from the March 2016 issue of New Internationalist.
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