I first became aware of Phurpa when I saw them as support for Sunn O))) in London last year, but hadn’t before listened to any of their studio output until this collaboration with Deathstench, another artist who are new to me. Phurpa’s throat-singing fuelled ritual ambient is interesting but did feel it dragged on a bit with the hour set they had at that show, but with a relatively short album length at just 26 minutes, and with Deathstench adding touches of industrial noise and drone to the mix they’ve released an excellent collaborative album.
As previously mentioned, the album is only 26 minutes long, made up of two untitled tracks almost equal in length. The most adequate comparison is dark and darker. The first track begins with a low sheet of distorted noise, with occasional wails of dissonant guitar and the low humming drone of Phurpa’s traditional instruments. The throat singing from Phurpa is high in the mix, the low, cavernous vocals being the only part that really changes in dynamics throughout the first ten minutes with the varied pitch and intonations being the focal point of the track and creating a warm organic drone and completing what ends up as a dark atmosphere, but not a particularly dense and unforgiving one in what’s a rather hypnotic and hazy ten minutes. The noise and industrial elements ramp up in the last few minutes to awaken one’s mind from the fog and prepare you for the next piece.
As previously mentioned the second track is darker, with the noisy side amped up a lot more after an eerie ambient introduction mostly made up of a low distorted drone. After the vocals come in softly and airily after a few minutes they’re followed by a thunder strike of distorted guitar dissonance with punchy chords taking the foreground in a reversal of roles from the first piece. It carries on in much the same way towards the end, and eventually the chords do lose their punchiness and it again becomes hypnotic. It’s heavier hitting than the first piece, and with a bit more input from Phurpa’s side it could’ve been something special.
The first piece is an excellent piece of hypnotic ritual ambient and the way the second track builds up in the first half is perfect. A bit more variation in the second half would;ve made it even better, but despite this the collaboration overall is still an interesting one and a mostly enthralling listen.