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Stepmother City by Sainkho Namtchylak

Sainkho Namtchylak is a singer from Tuva, a country near Mongolia. She’s one of the masters of the art of throat singing, which is where a singer can produce several notes at once, one note being dominant and the others being harmonics. Ms. SN has amazing range, even when she doesn’t employ that throat thang - she can wail like the gals from the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, cluck, sigh and whisper like Yoko Ono and Cathy Berberian, coo with wonder like Bjork and Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser and sound as demonically possessed as Diamanda Galas, but can also sing as sweet as an early Autumn breeze wafting through the Japanese Garden in Portland and croon as bluesy as Billie Holliday, often all within the same song. Sainkho N has sung in free improvisational contexts with multi-windperson Ned Rothenberg and in pop-tinged folk contexts, but here on Stepmother City she combines the avant/free, pop and ethnic approaches in a sleek, pulsing and melodic context. Acoustic instruments flute, slide guitar and double bass are layered with samples and tape loops intertwining over skittering drum & bass rhythms, similar to the ethno-fusions of Jon Hassell (but not as "spooky"), Transglobal Underground (though not nearly as dance-floor oriented) and Hector Zazou (albeit with a lot more warmth). Ms. SN’s kaleidoscopic approach is not for the faint-hearted (stick with Norah J) or those who like their cross-cultural fusions to compulsively "soothe" and/or hug the background (as in bookstores & cafes), but on the other hand, this is not overly "forbidding" music, either - the melodies are engaging and the universality and humanity at the heart of her singing has a virtually elemental allure. Highly and heartily recommended!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Sainkho Namtchylak
  • CD Title: Stepmother City
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Ponderosa
  • Musicians: Sainkho Namtchylak: vocals; Ned Rothenberg: bass clarinet, shakuhachi, saxophone, flute; German Popov: doshpulur, igil, overtone singing, kurai; Paolino della Porta: double bass; others.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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