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Kambar Kalendarov and Kutman Sultanbekov

JAW

(Cantaloupe Music; US: 26 Apr 2011; UK: 28 Mar 2011)

“There are not enough Kyrgyz jaw harp albums” is a thought I often have. This is actually true—I’ve heard the temir komuz sharing albums with other instruments, and loved that combination of ticklish penetrating reverberation and the boing that goes off like a spring in a cartoon—but the drive to record an entire album dedicated to nothing but the jaw harp has been lacking. “In fact, an album like this has never been made,” affirms the publicity, perhaps truthfully. In JAW, the deeper reverb of the metal harp thrums through the music like a wall of noise, although the effect is probably less imposing in my headphones than it was live at the 2008 Bang on a Can Marathon in Massachusetts, where these two Kyrgyz men and their jaw harps became “runaway hit stars.” The Bang on a Can website emphasises their radical reshaping of the traditional temir komuz repertoire, but this is probably only noticeable if you know the traditional temir komuz repertoire to begin with. Myself, I listened and wondered if the neatness imposed on folk musicians by the Soviets across that region would ever wear off. But where else are you going to find this much jaw harp on a single album? If I didn’t have a review copy in front of me already, I’d buy it.

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