Yat-Kha

Re-Covers

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As if Tuvan throat singing -- that ancient polytonal, guttural vocal style that originated in Central Asia and has found an increasing curiosity among Westerners -- wasn't otherworldly enough already, here is one of the leading practitioners of the subgenre doing "In A Gadda Da Vida." But not only does Yat-Kha -- Albert Kuvezin, Evgeniy Tkachev and Scipio comprise the stripped-down lineup this time -- take on heavy metal prototype Iron Butterfly's classic hit, they also apply their particular alchemy to Joy Division ("Love Will Tear Us Apart"), Bob Marley ("Exodus"), Kraftwerk ("Man Machine"), Hank Williams ("Ramblin' Man") and other icons of pop music. On paper the concept bleeds novelty: Kuvezin's voice is so coarse, deep and strangled as to make Tom Waits' sound pretty (well, not quite, but almost), and throat singing, by its very nature, is a difficult listen, an acquired taste even among those who readily take to the less accessible strands of world music. But it works, and it works well, because Kuvezin is not your run-of-the-mill Tuvan throat singer and Yat-Kha has never been bound by the form's traditions. Unlike the leading Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu, which plays fairly close to the rules, and of which Kuvezin was a founding member, Yat-Kha has, since its inception in 1991, shown a tendency toward experimentation. Kuvezin augments the traditional instrumentation with electric and acoustic guitars and synthesizers, and has always been as interested in mingling his ideas with Western ones as he is in drawing attention to the Tuvan style. When Yat-Kha covers Santana's "Black Magic Woman" or the Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" here, Kuvezin and producers Ben Mandelson and Justin Adams ensure that the songs' structures remain familiar enough for those who've heard them on the radio a thousand times. But nothing -- repeat, nothing -- can prepare for the primal interpretations of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," Captain Beefheart's "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles" (Beefheart may, in fact, be the closest approximation of Kuvezin in American music) or Motörhead's (really) "Orgasmatron," recast as a twirling, swirling trance dance. And the frighteningly stark a cappella reading of Francis McPeake's folk song "Wild Mountain Thyme" sure doesn't sound like it did when the Byrds or Joan Baez did it. If you want to make a bet with a friend that you can play music unlike anything else in the world, Re-Covers would be the place to begin.

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