Cathartes, the latest album by internationally acclaimed throat singer and ritual artist Soriah in September 2021, is an evocative, exhilarating listening experience that invites its audience on a sonic journey to the distant steppes of Siberia (and beyond, into the celestial realm). At the same time, his music is firmly rooted in relevant and timely topics facing humanity as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and socio-political unrest.
Conceived and written by Soriah, who also did all the vocals and played most of the instruments, Cathartes also features notable guest musicians. Drummer Mark Slutsky, who has toured with Peter Murphy and Kylie Minogue, played on “Axca” and ЖЖЖ” (pronounced “zhê zhê zhê). The latter track also features Arrington de Dionyso, who previously founded the K Records band Old Time Relijun, on the Indonesian Suling LaLove flute. The album was mixed by renown musician and producer, Jeff Thall, who has done work for Roxy Music, as well as numerous TV and film soundtracks.
Soriah – who grew up in California, but who has long divided his time between Portland, Oregon and Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva (which is part of Siberia) – has become renowned around the world for his unique blend of traditional Tuvan throat singing and modern experimental elements, resulting in a sound that is at once otherworldly and grounding. His thematic narrative on Cathartes is “the journey from life and its sacredness, passing through the terror of the death experience, which relinquishes to a transcendent existence beyond. No angels or devils or gods, just energetic flow, just being,” he says.
At the same time, Cathartes offers a reflection on very tangible and topical modern-day issues that have had a direct impact on Soriah’s life, especially as he has been living through the unrest and climate crisis that gripped Portland this past year. These are issues that are relatable to anyone living through these current uncertain times, however. “Red Sky” is about climate change and what can be achieved in managing the forests as the natives did for millennia, while “Axca” is a call to action against systemic racism and police brutality. The title track, “Cathartes,” is meant as a light to shine for those who have passed because of COVID.
Cathartes came about all of Soriah’s many plans for 2020 were cancelled – he had been set to perform at SXSW, on NPR, and in Patagonia for the total solar eclipse last December, and he was also going to open slot with Bauhaus in Mexico City. Plans to visit his family and further his studies were also scrapped. Instead of dwelling on this derailment of what seemed likely to become the most successful year of his two decade career so far, Soriah instead shifted all of his time and energy into writing and recording this album.
Soriah’s vocals—or, rather, his seemingly supernatural ability to coax an astonishing array of sounds out of his mouth and vocal chords, from the harsh to the sublime—is a remarkable presence throughout Cathartes, serving as a reminder of the extraordinary skills that made him a celebrated Tuvan throat singer – even within Tuva itself (the first foreigner to do so, and the only one to repeatedly win the most prestigious throat singing competitions there).
His astonishing range is especially clear on “Gnosis,” the only track that was recorded pre-pandemic. It is made up entirely of vocal and mouth sounds – no instruments. “It was meant as an homage to the spirit of Ayahuasca that I had the privilege of communing with in Peru a few months before recording this track,” Soriah says, and the evocative effects he creates are nothing short of mind-bending.
At once timeless, transcendent, and contemporary, Soriah encompasses these seemingly disparate elements with ease. His music is a powerful reminder of humanity’s origins, a reflection on our current conflicts – and a hopefulness for our collective future that we can choose to fill with spirituality, equality, and beauty.
Stomp and Stammer Magazine
At its core, Eztica is a disc about power. Primarily, the power of the voice. Throughout the disc, Soriah alternately shouts invocations to the heavens (“Iix”), shakes the pillars of the earth with the soul-resonating guttural beauty of Tuvan throat singing (“Eztica”), tells cautionary tales by the fire on a moonless night (“Ticochitlehua”) and intimately whispers long-hidden secrets to us (“Temicteopan”). Each carries its own potency, its own sense of ritualistic intent conveyed through the mystic, primitive cadence of the Aztec language of Nuahtl. You don’t need to know the language to feel the effect, which runs deep and pings something primal inside. Eztica is also about the power of music and its effect on the spirit. From the stirring pulse of drums and hand percussion to the electric urgency of Ashkelon Sain’s guitar as it tears through tracks like “Iix,” stirring up a heady brew of equal parts then and now, the music on Eztica is an elemental force of its own. Flutes, zither, and Tuvan guitar all add their own signatures to the sound. The energy here is perfectly modulated between high and low as the disc moves along–the aggressive “Iix” drops down into the hush of “Ticochitlehua,” then rises in the ecstatic dance of the title track, which is absolutely the highlight of the disc. It begins with soft synth chords, Soriah’s voice in an ululating prayer-call rising behind it. Drums move in, and then the throat singing enters. Once this hits, the track will simply own you. This is a perfect future-primitive kind of track, the beats sliding toward an almost club-like tempo, the rich bass of the singing melting across the low end and texturing the flow. “Ximehua” has that same kind of blend, with the added attraction of Soriah hitting the high-register throat sounds, that signature whistle-like tone arcing upwards. And thus it goes, taking the listener from exhilarating dances to spaces of simple beauty like “Chocatiuh.” Here Sain’s guitar pairs with some sort of bowed instrument as natural sounds–flowing water and the chitter of birds–frame the scene. “Omeyocan” features Soriah on flute, placed over quiet washes and a soft, echo-filled guitar line. Eztica is one of the discs that just takes you in by making you think it’s one thing–a potent, tribal-driven work–and then showing you all the sides of a wonderfully talented and thought-provoking artist. The ride is engaging, exciting and empowering. At the same time it can be calming and cleansing. And it does these things in perfectly balanced measure.
A Review of “ATLAN” by Thomas Jones
A secret truth revealed: Beauty and the Beast are the same
thing. Soriah’s chimera fusion with Ashkelon Sain has
produced a sprawling entity, darkly cloaked in groaning
atmospheres, yet emanating an ascending light of inestimable
beauty. Atlan is a deeply organic experience. Crisp hand
percussion palpitates rising drones in a cellular blood-rush
of life. Long, open expanses of slowly shifting tones hang
like low clouds in a frosted mountain range. And when the
Quetzalcoatl Kundalini of Soriah’s lyrical throat singing
fires down the spine, everything goes astral. Quivering
strings and chimes offer allusions to Arabo-Andaleusian
textures which run rivulet alongside Tuvan strains
throughout the dreamscape. Dead CAN dance to such music,
because this is the music of the underworld; the music of
hidden places visited by beings beyond the corporeal. Both
artists have long pedigrees; some 40 years of live and
recorded musical experience between them. Soriah has existed
under that name for over a decade, having released several
albums and known for performing all places mystical,
including trees, churches, caves. He has also been
recognized, through international competition, as one of the
top 5 throat singers in the world. Ashkelon Sain’s Trance
To The Sun project is legendary. And his composition skills
have been honed razor sharp with his more recent Submarine
Fleet. The collaboration is a match made in Omeyocan (the
highest Aztec Heaven). Each of Atlan’s 11 tracks is a
unique, carefully carved sound-mosque. Like minded soul
miners Terry Riley, Huun Huur Tu, SPK’(Zamia Lehmanni)and
Robert Rich are good touchstones for what’s in store, but
trying to aptly describe the sonic majesty of Atlan may
require divine intervention.
“OFRENDAS DE LUZ A LOS MUERTOS” A review by Kieth Boyd…I recently read a line of truth that hit me like a pile of bricks. I can’t remember if it was an album title, a chapter in a Buddhist book or what but given that truisms can come from the mouths of saints as well as scoundrels I suppose it hardly matters. The line that affected me so was this, “Bliss and Void Inseparable”.I read these words and at first blush dismissed them. At a distance they don’t appear to have much to do with each other. But still the phrase stuck in my mind and didn’t seem to want to let go. Bliss and void, bliss and void. It cycled through my thoughts at odd moments. I’d be watching ocean waves ebbing and flowing across golden flecked sand and after trancing on the beauty of this for awhile I’d flash on that phrase. It revealed itself to me slowly and made me see both its surface and hidden face. This slow unfolding now gave way and the weight of truth flooded in rapidly. We experience bliss in a fairly specific manner. Bliss is not necessarily pleasure. It is the charge we experience when our nervous system is firing off on all cylinders. It’s the end-point of all fiery extremes and at its heart lies the self-consuming void. From deep in the midst of bliss all identity is cancelled out. Every boundary of body and mind gives way and we connect with interbeing. I suppose sexual ecstasy is one of the more frequent times we experience the Bliss/Void state. Other instances might include deep meditation or exhaustion or the effects of certain drugs. The ultimate meeting place of Bliss and Void however id death. Religion has always held to this as a part of its final mystery. Soriah, Portland-Oregon musician, performance artist, shaman, understands this well. He’s reaching out to wrap his fingers around Death’s ribcage and give it a shake. On his new disc, “Offrendas De Luz A Los Muertos” (Bllr-Records) he’s using his art as a bridge towards understanding. We are all going to die. Death is our home. It is the ultimate end road of all “selfness” and as such is perhaps not to be feared but rather embraced. So what does it sound like? Well if you are familiar with Soriah’s last album, ‘Chaos Organica in A Minor” you are in for some surprises. Whereas that album used layers of church organ as a sonic bed, this time out it is primarily a blend of voice, ritualistic percussion and long haunted tones of synthesizers that create the sound. One thing remains a constant from the last disc and that is atmosphere. This is some heady sound here. You emerge from a listen with your head swaddled in a pre-linguistic fever dream. Hoots and whispers collide and chase each other through the mix and just when you start to feel comfortable or certain of the terrain another movement begins and you’re back in the mist. Comprised of two longish tracks, “Offrenda.” is a wonderful and moving piece of ritualistic sound adventure. There is plenty of room within this music for your own visions and dreams. I find it even more pleasing than Soriah’s last disc and that pleasure extends to the packaging. Wonderful Dias de Los Muertos designs festoon the heavy stock board cover. Inside are hand drawn sigils and signs of indeterminate meaning. The care that went into the look and sound of this disc is impressive. Several times during any listen as you are swept away in the clanking and organic soundscapes you will hear a small voice at the back of your awareness whispering, “Bliss and Void Inseparable”.
“CHAO ORGANICA IN A MINOR” A review by Aquarius Records…After numerous, super limited, self published and hand made art editions, this is Soriah’s first proper release, and it’s totally breathtaking. Two lengthy pieces, for vocals, pipe organ and effects, Soriah conjures up a haunting sonic otherworld, drifting, dreamy, menacing and malefic, a rumbling, whirring dark ambient dronescape, thick with the natural timbre of the wheezing pipe organ, and dense with subtle overtones from the various vocals. A deft mash up of ancient classical musicks and modern experimental drone based minimalism, a heady blend of Messiaen, Mirror, Coleclough, Dead Can Dance, Jacula, Niblock, and Eastern ragas. A dusty old pipe organ, built in 1881, lays the groundwork, a rich, thick, multilayered bed, subtle overtones, rich swirling drones, notes and melodies shimmer and beat against each other, creating strange movements, a thick wash of chordal whir that pulses and breathes like it was alive. The organ is intertwined with various vocals, sometimes crooning, alien and operatic, but more often an impossibly low-end rumble, a dense and deep Tuvan style throat singing, buzzing and multilayered, more like some strange long stringed instrument than a human voice. Crumbling and corrosive, but at the same time soothing and ethereal. The vocals drifting through various effects, become smears and stretches that blend and blur into the overall droneworld. Definitely one of the darkest and dreamiest drone records in recent memory, and all the more compelling in that this is not just a simple tone or set of tones, slowly shifting, know this is a rich and vibrant live ritual, you can feel the organ vibrate, the vocals curl around you like some ripe exotic smoke, this music is alive, soft and inviting, but dangerous and dreamlike. A bit like SUNNO))) armed only with church organs, and accompanied by Huun-Huur-Tu, a massive physical drone, a huge deliriously suffocating wall of rumble, like laying at the bottom of a pit, eyes closed, and being buried alive by soft sound. So good.