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Phurpa – Chöd


Phurpa - ChödAt high volume this album is an immersive experience, throat-sung waves of wordless drone washing over you. A raspy, sinking sand that has a succulent SunnO))) depth to it. Full of rhythmic intones and surfacing undercurrents, half-formed vowels floundering in the slow friction, a slight bounce of drum skin barely detectable, a few padded percussives creeping its corners.

Then trumpets herald and some nice reedy insanity ensues, like flies banqueting on a corpse, a light chant mid-lining the flow. Harmonised fruit before you, starring back into abyss-like tectonics. Turn the lights off and increase the volume — it’s a cosy complement to these goods, as vocal waves duet with flagellated tin and light patterings of skull drums. Those wasping Sanskrits’ spine-tingling in subliminal whispers, eerie ebbs in the monastic hum.

For those unfamiliar with Phurpa, they are a Russian-based musical collective that play ritual music of ancient Tibet, an authentic sensibility that encompasses their instrumentation, skull drums, thighbone trumpets and the like, all held in check by a meaty tantric moan.

The tile Chöd means “to sever” or “cutting through”, and this particular ritual is meant to sever your consciousness from your ego, to bathe you in a universal emptiness where you can feast on your fears and obstacles. Whether this is the case for the listener is another matter, but I’m really digging the spiritual intensity of this regardless. Its stark and powerful verve is more than a touch overpowering, and as the second disc whirs into action, the heralding trumpets really do a great job of channelling something other.

The super-slowed vibrato that follows, the “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa / Uuuurrs/ Orrrrrrrrrrrr” elongations shiver-frosting your head bathed in the odd clash of metallics. Didgeridoo-like tapers dragging you further into the flux. A fraught drone that seems to be levitating, focus-popping the foreground in apparitional strands, bubbling dimensionally in growling sub-textures that catch you unawares. Odd sensations that are more than a little bit unnerving.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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