Seoul based, Pan Asian new-age travelling band TENGGER gloriously float around the edges of the sonic world, beyond the usual concepts, processes and mechanics. Musical couple Itta and Marqido first performed as the duo ‘10’ but with the birth of their son RAAI in 2012 they became TENGGER. Meaning ‘unlimited expanse of sky’ in Mongolian, the name change referred to more than the expansion of the family, it recognised that their music making would from that point exist as a trio. So, over the last ten years, RAAI’s contributions on voice, synth and toy instruments have blended alongside Itta’s Indian harmonium and pure toned voice as well as Marqido’s enveloping electronics.
TENGGER sound seeks the ethereal and calm, the ambient and slow in what they identify as their own ‘psychedelic new-age drone magic’. Sounds neo-hippy, well TENGGER are genuine alternative thinkers. Self-sufficient and contained, like Gong or The Incredible String Band, they lead a semi-nomadic life, travelling the world to experience the natural first hand.
Their recorded music has seemed to appear by osmosis, twelve (or maybe seven) releases to date on a hotchpotch of labels and formats, but now there’s a hint of maybe temporary anchorage. A new self -titled album ‘TENGGER’ is available on the shelves via We Are Busy Bodies, a release which finds TENGGER turning back to their homeland traditions and wading into the wonders of the close at hand. In their own words the album’s sound source ‘starts from the breaking dawn and circulates around until the night sky and the milky way’. That doesn’t signal the abstract or illusive. Listening to the hyper-melodic, delicate web of lush synth songs and, whatever your own take on the cosmology, the effect is physically tangible. Here we have an album that can bring a level of peace, comfort and calm.
TWILIGHT introduces the album with a delicate shimmer, all zithering synths and Itta’s choral bright soprano before easing into a jaunty, electro skip. The rhythm glides, the dripping loops descend and the vocals call wistfully over the easy-going momentum. It’s a piece of pop-pure minimalism that gives you the gentlest of shakes. That unassuming immediacy may be a surprise but it sets TENGGER music apart from being aimlessly floaty or self-consciously on the dream-wave. The kosmische scented VORTEX shows that this focus is an intentional dimension of the new recording. It’s a song made to revolve, the simple piano repeat, the soft circulating beats and whisps of percussion all stirring the tune hypnotically. There’s a clarity and economy here, close to that heard on the recent ‘Habitat’ albums by Berlin partnership of J. Foerster and N. Kramer.
Even the more ‘ambient’ tracks on this TENGGER album keep themselves compact. STARDUST may hinge drone-like on single tone reverberations which cascade into a bloom of notes but there is a careful sequence organising these peeling oscillations. Like bell ringing or gamelan the tune has structure, a beginning, mid-point and close which keeps you wrapped up closely in its progress. The joyful AQUARIUS unwinds to a similar song form with echoes of the glacial melodies and soaring tune-lines of Sigur Ros, but roots itself in TENGGER territory with earnest human touch of Itta’s harmonium in the song’s coda.
It’s these delicate touches that give TENGGER’S new album an identity of its own. Even the more complex multi-part compositions on the recording succeed because of the sensitive way that they are pieced together. The stunning EUNHASU floats from detached sonar atmospherics to the bobbing throb of eighties electro pop then onto an edgy close of staccato keys and an airy harmonium drone. Similarly PANAPTU unrolls frictionless and smooth. From soft padding synths and folky warmth to an expanse fizzing with locomotive beats and vocal operatics, it’s a tune that travels, gently.
On this new album it feels like TENGGER have looked to refine their cosmic electronica, to make it more transparent and immediate. By becoming more focused it could seem that some of their giddy spontaneity has drained away. That may be but in place of the unpredictability comes a greater sense of time and space, an appreciation that echoes the seminal new age works of Hiroshi Yoshimura or Midori Takada. Nothing is rushed or out of place, there’s a real intuitive finesse at work between this family of musicians, the sounds are carefully polished and everything glows that much brighter.
Get your copy of ‘TENGGER‘ by TENGGER from your local record store or direct from We Are Busy Bodies HERE