Bolot & Nohon

Uch Sumer

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This is another album in the vein of HuunHuur-Tu and Igor Koshkendey -- unearthly, overtone singing accompanied by minimal yet melodic folk instruments. The big difference is that where the other groups hail from Tuva, a part of Mongolia, Bolot and Nohon are from Altai, a mountainous region in central Asia bordering on China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. Altai is populated by the same Oriental stock from which the Turkish conquerors of the Muslim world sprang. Most of the songs are like the Tuvan ones -- pretty in an eerie way. They make heavy use of the jaw-harp and the local version of the lute, and employ horse-like rhythms. One distinction is that Bolot and Nohon make occasional use of harmony when they both sing; whether this is a custom of Altai or a borrowing from the West is difficult to determine. Just when things start getting a bit routine on the album, "Alatay" begins. In this piece for unaccompanied vocals, Bolot starts in a regular, cheery tenor and gradually builds to ever more strangled sounding overtones. Nohon does the singing in "Ak-Burkhan," a plea for the salvation of his beautiful Altai. There are hardly any overtones in this piece; instead it offers a touching rendition of a heartfelt sentiment. It may sound a little silly, but it is reminiscent of a George Harrison song. Unfortunately toward the end of the album a lot of time is wasted noodling around with the jaw-harp and flutes, a tendency shared by Huun-Huur-Tu, although not by Igor Koshkendey. Less well-produced than the more famous Tuvan albums, this is logically the next place to go if you've fallen for that form of music.

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