Hanggai — He Who Travels Far
(World Connection WC 039, 2010, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
Since their 2008 debut CD, this band from Inner Mongolia (currently resident in Beijing) has become a world music festival favorite, playing WOMAD, among others. That release blended the earthy sounds of throat singing and morin khuur (horsehead cello) with a bit of electric guitar, varied percussion, and some electronics (which of course offended many purists). Their second effort continues in the same vein, with even more electric guitar. I find that the impact of the music is greatly enhanced by this departure from traditional sound — "Uruumdush" builds to rock intensity, with thunderous drums and power chords, though no one would mistake it for Linkin Park or AC/DC. Other songs tip the modern/traditional balance the other way, sticking to banjo-like string sounds and the morin khurr. While throat-singing may be most arresting when done in a rather sparse setting (I can attest to the spine-tingling brought on when two of these guys get going full bore on the mics), the eerie tones blend remarkably well with Hanggai's instrumental backing. I was lucky enough to encounter the band busking at a shopping center in Beijing in October 2010 (quite a change from playing for thousands at a festival!) and was able to pick up their second album nearly a month before its proper release; I was happy to pay the inflated price to support these great creative musicians, and luckily the CD is well worth the money spent.
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.