6.08.2006

Nath Family - Sounds of the Indian Snake Charmer, Vol. 2 (Hanson Records CS)


In 2005, Wolf Eyes member Aaron Dilloway headed over to Nepal with his wife, and befriended a local snake charmer/hustler family the Naths while she was off studying. Dilloway released the first fruits culled from his recordings of the family later in 2005, on the sleeper hit LP (and later CD) "Sounds of the Indian Snake Charmer". This year he follows it up with what didn't make the cut of the first volume, although that shouldn't suggest that these aren't as of a lesser quality. If you heard the first volume, you pretty much know what you're getting into with this one. The four members of this family bringing forth pure psychotropic snake- and human-charming drones straight from the source. I always feel like some sort of filthy Western interloper when I dub the music native to a region in a far-off land "psychedelic", but I truly think it fits the bill to a T here. Although it's still difficult to be critical of it just because I'm ignorant of the music - is this "good" or "bad" snake charming? Ah who cares. I know what I like.
The first side (I guess) opens with a thick blast of drugged-out drones from the pungi, a bamboo reed instrument, and never lets up. The pungis are quickly accompanied by the premtal, which is a stringed percussion instrument that sounds not entirely unlike a tabla. I'm definitely picking up a raga vibe here, with the family working within a certain framework, pushing and exploring every single corner of it. There's a clearly defined rhythm and melody but couple those with the droning sounds from the pungi and it's a totally intoxicating combination. There's really an amazing, contradictory relationship between the two. The hypnotic premtal only adds to the sheer zonked-out-ness of it all. There's also some delightful bells being jingled in time to the jams, like a smooth coating of whipped cream. It eventually breaks off into another track, the pungis scraping up even higher on the register.
Side two starts with a brief head-to-head pungi grapplefest between the brothers of the family before the rest of the family comes in and things move along in a fashion similar to the first side. This one however is a side-long jam that seems a bit noisier and freer than the other side. There's a nice bit where the pungis start to "break up" (well it's really just the players starting and stopping) and it sounds like some kind of wild static from the outside set. A truly headswirling experience.
Like I said before...I don't know what makes good snake charming "good snake charming", but I know both volumes of the Nath Family recordings rule hard. There's some kind of ancient yet modern, traditional yet psychedelic marriage going on here that I'm so ignorant of I'm not even going to bother getting into. It's like some kind of brilliantly uninformed Young/Zazeela/Nath (Pandit Pran, that is) head trip. Volume one is sold out on vinyl but still available on CD while this cassette is still in print...but not for long once the Aquarius Records guys get a hold of it I'll bet. If you do miss out, don't fret - the Hanson Records website bears four beautiful words that fill my loins with excitement - "more volumes to come".

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