[27 June 2011]
A new digital and double-LP reissue of an album that originally appeared on one of those old-fashioned aluminium compact discs back in 2008, Phurpa’s Trowo Phurnag Ceremony is a collection of sparse, meditative, mostly-unaccompanied plainchants billed as “sacred music in the Bön tradition”—that is, the ancient, indigenous, pre-Buddhist culture of Tibet. Sort of like Gregorian chant for heathens, then, except with one key difference: Bön chant apparently sounds exactly like a didgeridoo.
It’s true. If Trowo Phurnag Ceremony had come with a sticker on the front declaring that it was sacred music in the Australian Aboriginal tradition, no one but Tibetans, Aborigines and new agers would have noticed the difference. In fact, it’s entirely possible that it is, and that these five cheeky Russians are simply having us geographically-challenged non-Tibetans/Aborigines/hippies on as part of one massive (albeit subtle) sacred music joke. But we won’t dwell on that just now.
It’s hard to pick out any of Trowo Phurnag Ceremony‘s key moments, as it’s nigh-on impossible to tell when one song (performance? movement?) ends and another begins; it all sounds essentially the same. But there’s also a special kind of pure, spiritual, back-to-the-soil beauty here, of the variety you can only find when exploring an alien, forgotten culture that, according to its adherents, is 18,000 years old.
It’s a real trip, but definitely not for the casual listener.