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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Chöying Drolma & Steve Tibbetts ‎– Chö (Hannibal)

Drolma is a Buddhist nun who sings devotional melodies over Tibbetts's guitar ambience, and it's occasionally mesmerising; 'Kyamdro Semkye', for example, has her voice shimmying in every direction and threatening to pull itself apart, while a plaintive, plucking melody of strings rotates underneath. Throughout the numerous short pieces on this disc, the duo keeps establishing an unreliable sense of stability; with the language impenetrable to me, I can only focus on the abstract qualities, which is what we like music for anyway. I guess this is really experimental for a Buddhist singer; though it's mostly an organic core, there are accents, such as backwards skipping studio trickery and searing, post-newage guitar melancholia which would surely be out of place in a traditional setting. Without any real background in whatever traditions are being dismantled here, I'm unable to say much of value. But with a background in the 80's 4AD label, I can hear a lot of similarities; 'Ngani Tröma' is basically an early His Name is Alive cut with a Tibetan vocalist instead of a Michiganite. I put this on every once in awhile without really knowing how to feel about it. I'm not so interested in it from an ethnomusicological standpoint, so it becomes ear candy to me. It's delicious ear candy, but ear candy nonetheless; I try not to approach this intrigued by the exotic 'other', but it's a presence I can't escape from. Tibbetts is clearly in the driver's seat and his textures run the gamut from pedestrian to curiosity-inducing. He doesn't overdo anything, but I don't know why he would, except that I have a bias against these hybrid "world music" projects, so I'm always on guard in defense of good taste.

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