[Reviewed by stark]
The Swedish label gterma continues its musical exploration of mystical secrets hidden in the Far East, focusing primarily on the Himalayan region. This time, thanks to these two artists, one from Russia, one from Ukraine, we discover the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung, located in present-day Tibet. The region was closely associated with the Bon religion, the spirit of which has already been present on other publications issued by gterma – surely you remember Parikrama.
Sergey Gabbasov has previously released one album for the great Faria Records, which to my great regret is currently inactive. It seems to be the last album ever under the Faria flag. The other electronic wizard, Vlad Sikach, hiding under SiJ moniker has issued like, a hundred albums, and was present on another two hundred compilations. No no, I’m exaggerating, but seriously, when I explore the ambient underground every once in a while, checking what’s up, I come across this name again and again, surprising me with another activity. I envy his creativity.
As in the case of most of the materials let into the world by Johan Rehn, “Zhang Zhung” as well is stuffed with music to the brim. Thirty seconds more, and the CD would have probably burst. Yet there are only two tracks, one a little less, the other a little more than forty minutes long. So it doesn’t suit a radio or a disco. Especially since Tibetan aliquot chants serve as the vocals, and when it comes to the beat there’s some gongs straight out of some ritual performed on top of the world, with the clouds on the doorstep.
On “Zhang Zhung” Sergey uses a whole bunch of original instruments, such as Kaval [Armenian Blul, Moldavian Caval], Flute [Kyrgyz Sybyzgy, Tuvan Shoor, Bashkir Quray], Jew’s Harp [Temir Khomus, Tatar Kubyz] – yes, I copy-pasted it from Discogs – while Vlad is primarily responsible for electronics, field recordings and singing bowls. Both gentlemen shared the sounds equitably, a fact that can be heard very well in these two long compositions.
The drones generated by Vlad, similarly to the latest Mathias Grassow offerings, are hard to describe in simple terms of “light” and “darkness”. They serve meditation, but in my opinion meditation doesn’t lead so much to enlightenment as, however beautiful the word may be, from a semantic point of view it doesn’t entirely reflect the essence of the matter, but to the insights into one’s own soul and its primordial matter. Entering within, not outside. Understanding the self, not the world. Unless one is equal to the other, then perhaps it is some kind of “enlightenment”. I see the understanding of this matter among the majority of the artists recording for gterma, but at the same time I have the impression that much of the credit should also go to the sound engineer, the grey eminence of the label, Anders Peterson, who is often responsible for mastering. Sergey while playing on his strange instruments suggestively intensifies the atmosphere of this, still mysterious, part of the world, while both men deftly forge the Tibetan throat singing.
The album continues the gterma program line and maintains the equally high level of Johan Rehn’s venture. This is no shallow new age preying on the legacy of spiritual beliefs and traditions. Sergey Gabbasov and Sij feel it and understand it. I invite you on a journey through this fascinating world, so very far from Western culture.