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Thursday, January 23, 2003

Review - Stepmother City

Artist: Sainkho Namtchylak

Posted on Thu, Jan 23, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Women who explore the outer ranges of vocalese typically do so with an utterly reckless abandon of form. Whether it's Betty Carter, Yoko Ono, Diamanda Galas, Elizabeth Fraser or even Bjšrk, each conveys a tremendous sense of vocal freedom in their work. Tuvan singer Sainkho Namtchylak is no exception. Her exceptionally variable voice brings alive the musical history of her southern Siberia homeland, while alternately evoking ethereal pop and forceful jazz improvisations. Those familiar with Tuvan throat-singing may wonder how such an octaves-deep tradition would fare with a female singer, but Namtchylak is unconcerned with being a musical archivist. Her voice is utterly unshackled on this release, particularly on a track like "Ritual Virtuality," during which Namtchylak's vocal abandon ranges from big-throated freakout to glossolalia-drenched ethereality. Similarly, the music here ranges from beat-centric ambience and pulpy balladeering, to avant-garde raunch using instrumentation both modern and ancient. It's a fascinating mix from a truly unique performer.

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