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Album Review

Sainkho Namchylak's career encompasses both world music and experimental free improvisation, but her activity in one field tends to be separated from the other. Exceptionally, In Trance offers a synthesis of sorts. Here, the great Tuvan singer performs with Jarrod Cagwin, a virtuoso percussionist with in-depth experience in North African and Turkish drumming. Cagwin's playing, as resourceful and imaginative as it is, remains rhythmical for the most part, which lends an easier than usual feel to Namchylak's extended-technique-based vocal improvisations. In other words, the music definitely belongs to the realm of free improvisation, but it retains a strong world music flavor. Recorded live over two days at Vienna's In Trance festival in October 2006, In Trance features four pieces inspired by the paintings of the Dunhuang caves in China. In the liner notes, each track title is accompanied by a short traditional tale, but the music is not actually that programmatic. Of course, listeners are free to let their imaginations run along the lines suggested in these presentations, but Namchylak's throaty grunts and overtone singing can evoke hundreds of different narratives. The chemistry between the two musicians is exemplary. Their responsiveness to each other gives way to spontaneous tunes that often sound like traditional anthems going back to the Stone Age. The 17-minute "Human Mother's Song" is particularly rich in that respect, although the nine-minute overture "Darkness, Tender Wind, Silence..." is the strongest piece of the set: moving and extremely well developed. Fans of Namchylak interested in following her out of the traditional Tuvan music scene will find in In Trance an entry point that is much gentler than her work with more difficult improvisers like Evan Parker, for example. ~ François Couture, Rovi

In Trance, Jarrod Cagwin
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