Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Folk and Great Tunes From Siberia and Far East [CPL Music, 2022]
How to describe this arresting array of 34 songs spread over two CDs from Russian "republics" I've never heard of, the first 10 Sakha/Takutia, Tuva, Altai, Mal'chik: Novosiborsk Region, Altay, Khakassia, Volge: Omsk Region, Kamchaika, Buryatia, and Sakha/Yakutia again? Granted, Tuva many of us know, the throat-singing capital of the world and the homeland of Huun-Huur-Tu, who I greatly enjoyed at Symphony Space in 1994 after ranking their Sixty Horses in My Head 20th on my 1993 Dean's List and happened to be playing shortly before this came in the mail; three of the four consecutive Tuva selections on what is designated CD1 work recognizable variations on that minor vocal miracle. But though compiler Daryana Antipova has made the dozen or two regional/national styles she's brought together abut each other pleasingly enough, their multiplicity remains a wonder less daunting than purely remarkable. Vocals tend more guttural than in Latinate tongues, and though many songs ride rousing beats, not a hint of Africa is to be heard. That's hardly to say, however, that her selections come up short on melody or drive. If only because largish rhythms have become an international sonic truism over the past half century, a few even rock in their way. But what's had me enjoying this project well beyond the call of duty is the sheer variety of the thing: the unmistakable sound of human beings who are nothing like you culturally having a good time you're lucky to partake of. A-