Yat-Kha We Will Never Die
Review by Chris Nickson
For the eight albums and 30 years of its existence, Tuvan band Yat-Kha has basically been singer/guitarist Albert Kuvezin and an assortment of other people. They found their first small measure of fame in 1995 with the album Yensei Punk, then a slightly broader audience a decade later with Re-Covers, throat-singing versions of classic rock songs (including a take on “Inna Gadda Da Vida” that makes the original seem anaemic) made while Kuvezin was recuperating from illness.
The thread that’s wound through the music is the man’s kargyraa overtone singing style, the sound mostly associated with Tuva. In his case though, it’s more of an undertone, so deep it’s in the sub-sub-basement and still falling towards the center of the earth.
This disc, partly made before the pandemic and completed in isolation, is just Kuvezin and Sholban Mongush on igil (two-strong horsehair cello). It offers plenty of space for the voice, and also Kuvezin’s effective guitar work, while the cello fills out the music in a very satisfying way.
There are plenty of surprises, not least “Shartylaam,” a sweet, gently driving acoustic blues showing an unexpected link between Tuva and Mississippi. The big astonishment, however, is how laid-back everything is. The opener, “Kongurgai,” might come out of the gate with a subterranean growl, but it turns into a haunting lament.
"Umyvalsya Nochyu..." (exceprt)
“Umyvalsya Nochyu Na Dvore…” sets to music the Osip Mandelstam poem “In The Yard, I Was Washing, At Night…” with such yearning, that the aching igil line rips at the heartstrings with its beauty. Follow that with “Al-Oruk,” an instrumental that showcases the melodic gift of Kuvezin’s guitar work on a piece that echoes the gliding mood of Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross.”
And there are covers. A pair of them. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is largely forgettable, but Black Sabbath’s “Solitude” works perfectly here. It’s a rare ballad from the Ozzy days (mk. 1), and he gives it a fairly straightforward reading, although the singing burrows naturally deeps into the earth. It’s fine, far from the highlight of a very good album. But it’s the kind of piece that could bring some real, justified attention.