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TriO & Sainkho: Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg

John Eyles By

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More than fifteen years have passed since Sainkho Namchylak first toured with TriO and started to cause a stir. Fifteen years also since Leo Records released her first recordings. Back then, her Tuvan vocals sounded extraordinary, alien, and strange. In the intervening years, Namchylak has played all over the world in a wide variety of contexts with an ever-expanding group of collaborators.

But one thing has not changed; her vocals still sound as extraordinary, alien, and strange as ever—in fact, more than ever, as she has expanded her range of techniques. She is a vocalist of great range and great extremes; she frequently produces sounds that suggest she is experiencing demonic possession, torture, or orgasm, sometimes all three simultaneously. But such extreme vocal effects alternate with soaring pure tones that deliver the most beautiful of melodies. On "Seven Corners Wind she demonstrates her full range, switching from throat-aching guttural sounds to soaring soprano and back again in an instant.

TriO is an almost perfect setting for Namchylak's voice. The group's music is full of drama, tension, and atmosphere which complement and offset the drama of her vocals. The soloing on a variety of wind instruments is beguilingly melodic, with Sergey Letov's baritone repeatedly grabbing attention. Namchylak takes the role of soloist alongside the other members of the trio, but her contributions are so dramatic (and extreme) that she never fails to steal the limelight.

This album takes the prize for the most dully depressing cover photo of the year so far—a muddy, rutted back street without any human presence (presumably one of the forgotten streets of the title). Do not be deterred by it; the music within is joyful and quite extraordinary.

Track Listing: Buddhist Temple in Primorsky Prospect; Seven Corners Wind; Pretenders; Singing from the Open Window; Prostakovich Ballet; Through the Courtyards; The Ethnography Museum; Northern Ghosts; Singing Sphinx; Old Boat; Transformation of Matter; Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg; The Legend; Urban Birds; Mikhailovsky Castle at Night.

Personnel: Sainkho Namchylak: voice; Sergey Letov: baritone & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, flute, Chinese flute, piccolo, swanee whistle; Alexandr Alexandrov: bassoon, swanee whistle; Yury Parfenov: trumpet, althorn.

Title: Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Leo Records

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