Russian group Nytt Land’s body of work tends to evoke frozen images of their Siberian home. Songs echo the icy landscapes of the tundra while vocals from Natalya Pakhalenko mirror the howling wind of a blizzard. Guitars and synths only add to the cold and empty feeling of their songs. Desolate is a word that frequently comes to mind listening to their music. On their new EP Ritual: Blood of the West though, the band changes their sound to visit a different barren landscape, the desert. On this EP, Nytt Land transform a few songs from their album Ritual into more traditional Western European and American song structures without losing their shamanic power.
Shamanic is a word that frequently comes to mind listening to this music. Even turned into Western European folk music, these songs sound like invocations or prayers. Natalya and her husband Anatoly translate their brand of Nordic folk into more recognizable US/European folk and blues song structures. In this context, the songs sound like a journey through a desert landscape, thawed from the tundra of their origin. Natalya’s voice, even on their regular output, possesses a quality akin to that of Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny. It serves the reworked material well here becoming a siren call on this journey through warmer climates.
What may take some adjustment, and is the lone carry over from the original songs, is the use of throat singing. Nytt Land uses this technique on albums like Ritual where it creates an eerie juxtaposition with the ambient and Nordic elements. Played with the twang of acoustic guitars and Natalya’s delicate voice, this sounds a little jarring. Still the Pakhalenkos understand this is all traditional music of a sort. This EP seems like an experiment to marry two wildly different forms of “traditional” music. If you’re willing to accept that, then you’re in for a pretty unique listen.
Ritual: Blood of the West defrosts Nytt Land’s wintery songs of Ritual for warmer sounds of folk and blues. They also attempt to marry their use of throat singing to those sounds more familiar to American and Western European listeners. It’s a unique experiment that rewards listeners ready to take the journey with the band.