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Review: Sherpa – ‘Tigris & Euphrates’ (released September 29, 2018)

Sherpa are a band from Italy who are not only versed in the wide range of styles that encompass psychedelic music but steeped in the traditions of mysticism, history and mythology as well. Tigris & Euphrates is their second release, following 2016’s excellent Tanzlinde.

Tanzlinde was comprised of largely shorter tracks, with complex textures and bright melodies. On Tigris & Euphrates, the band strips back their sound for a more minimalist, but nonetheless, equally compelling work with tones of light and darkness mingling with gentle noise balanced out by quieter moments. The band also stretches out a little more, with 4 of the 6 tracks over 7 minutes in length, allowing the pieces to evolve at a slower pace. It works well with the heady subject matter of the album: the evolution of human language through time and how it has deeply changed the relationship between people, for better or for worse. It’s deep stuff, and though the music may be more understated, it nonetheless has a likewise mysterious and hazy depth to it, like something that emerges slowly from the mists of time, a dawning sonic understanding.

The album opens with the dreamy, almost incantatory vocals of Kim (((o))) as they drift over hypnotic rhythms and sublime chord changes, slowly becoming immersed in a strange chorus of ancient noise, like the voices of the long dead clamouring to be heard. Despite being almost whispered, the vocals in Creatures of Ur are upfront and centre, buoyed by otherworldly folk music, melodic drones, deep washes of spacey sound, and the ever so subtlest touch of haunting country twang. Beautiful. The journey continues, upon a travelling bassline that lopes gently across the soundscape as the soft notes and pensive vocals of Equiseto ride across vast plains towards an unknown destination.

The latter half of the album amps up the ambient atmospherics but throws in a few surprises along the way. Absent to the Mother of Language has beautiful melodic touches with some darkly spectral bass and ultimately a heartbreakingly beautiful chorus that resonates deeply within. It leads into a twilight passage of distant, snarling guitars before returning gently to where it began. Overwhelmed (Def Version) is simply drenched in shadowy atmospherics but suddenly the sunlight bursts through the dark clouds as halfway through, the band breaks out into a folksy, East Indian influenced trek, bringing shimmering soul to a weary landscape. And finally, Descent of Inanna to the Underworld borrows an ancient allegory from Sumerian myth and weaves it into a tapestry of spacey textures, soft and heavy guitars and spellbinding vocals to end the album.

Tigris & Euphrates is the musical version of chiaroscuro, an art term from the Italian Renaissance used to describe art with strong contrasts between light and dark. Like dappled sunlight through the leaves of a tree waving in the breeze, the light and shadows of the music flow back and forth in beautifully mellow, psychedelic sonic dreamscapes.

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