You ever get sucked down a weird rabbit hole on YouTube? There was a point not too long ago where all YouTube recommended to me was videos of Mongolian throat singing. I have no idea why, but I was curious, so I followed it down and immediately got sucked in by how cool the music sounded. That same rabbit hole was also how I discovered the first single from Thy Catafalque’s new album, which I was also enamored with. Put them together and what do you get? Pirkan’s debut album, Pirkan, which sounds exactly like a weird, cool YouTube rabbit hole.
Formed in Budapest by ex-members of Scivias, this project attempts to put together the seemingly disparate styles of Hungarian and Mongolian folk, ambient noise, electronic and world music. If it seems like that might be a daunting challenge, that’s because it is, but Pirkan do a good job of marrying it all together. While pretty heavily skewed to the folk side because of the extensive use of traditional Hungarian folk instruments like the double bass, zither and kobza (think lute), there are also analog and digital synths adding layers of ambience and droning in the background. To double down on the ambient drone, the band also makes use of traditional Mongolian throat singing, hurdy gurdy and overtone flutes, because why not, you know? There is an awful lot going on in each track, but trust that it all serves a purpose. It’s hard to blend that many instruments and sounds together without triggering sensory overload. Here, Pirkan not only manages to do it well, but they actually manage to make something relatively soothing and peaceful out of it.
Pirkan’s songs are a mix of original music, covers of classic songs and modern musical interpretations of Hungarian poetry, as if this wasn’t an artsy enough project. There’s no sense of pretense about this though. It’s much more a celebration of different cultures and musical ideas coming together in harmony, even when no one expected them to. Opener “Kismadár” is a good example of what the band’s sound is all about. There’s a little bit of everything going on, from gentle strummed kobza and zither to percussion that builds in intensity all the way to the end of the song to throat singing, all set over synth washes and ambient samples. The synthesizers are prominent on this track, which unfortunately isn’t the case across the whole album. I feel like they’re the one piece that gets consistently lost, and it’s the piece I was most excited to see fit. Maybe on future releases they’ll bring technology more towards the front of the sound. Still, the folk side of the project definitely appeals to me too, and on tracks like “Van Li” and “Pirkan” (yes, it’s a song called “Pirkan” on an album called Pirkan by a band called Pirkan), the traditional instruments play off of each other in layers that build in long crescendos, finally erupting in wailed and bellowed vocals, furious strumming and pounding percussion.
Far be it from me to judge your taste in music. Maybe you listen to throat singing and Hungarian folk music all the time. That’s cool. You do you. In that case, this is an album that is seemingly made for you, reader. You’re really going to dig it. If you’re like me and this is something a little outside your expertise, that’s cool too. It might not click right away, but give it a chance to work its magic. If you’re looking for something unique and different to check out, and you’re not afraid of stretching your comfort zone, then this will open up a lot of horizons for you.