Album Review: AnDa Union – Homeland [Proper Music Distribution, 9th September 2016]

Homeland is the new album from Anda Union, who for 12 years have steadily developed a profile on the global music scene as the foremost exponents of traditional musical forms from across Mongolia. This, their second album, is a tribute to the landscapes, people and ways of life they hold dear at home, which have inspired their music. The lyrics range from mournful songs of familial separation (‘Mother Song’), through to poetic musings on the relationship between man and nature (‘Buriat Song’), to the bubbly merriment of ‘Drinking Song’ that rounds off the 13 tracks in a suitably jolly manner.

The instrumentation and vocal styles of this group are now so iconic, the unearthly resonance of the throat-singers, and the goose-bump inducing combination of deep bass drums and soaring Morin Khuur (horse-head fiddle), that they instantly evoke the landscape associated with them, the Steppes and grasslands so dear to the performers.

There is an unmistakeable sense of scale running throughout this album that steadily builds and grows on the listener, and gives the music the feeling of the soundtrack to an epic adventure movie. The filmic quality of Homeland is no surprise considering that Richard King was involved in the production, a sound engineer whose numerous film credits include the classic wuxia adventure Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. And for me, with those intrinsic equine rhythms, the sound also has echoes of a Morricone score transplanted from Mexico to the Mongolian Steppes, Listen to track five ‘The Herdsman’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Overall, this album presents a broad soundscape of interconnected lore and emotion tied together with great musicianship and performance. Homeland is well worth a listen, both for existing fans of the group, and for listeners totally new to Mongolian music.