Friday, November 7, 2008

Soundtrack Friday :: The Ursine Calamity

I don't actually have too many soundtracks; but I realized, as I was looking at the ones in my music collection in preparation for this, that they betray me as a geek. Conan the Barbarian, Six String Samurai, Bladerunner, Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon, Akira... these are the things that I tend to own. The music of films much loved and watched many times, so well known that just listening to the soundtrack is enough to let me watch the story play out on the inside of my head.

There are two exceptions to this in my collection. One, A Slipping Down Life, is from a film by the same name that I have never seen, and never will. I have my own ideas, now, about the story that the music on this album frames, and I have no desire to watch the film and find it tells a story I don't like as much. Narrow and closed-minded? Maybe. But I'm okay with that.

I can't recall, now, how I stumbled across it, but it is a fantastic, soulful, mournful bit of genius. The songs are written by, in no particular order, Ron Sexsmith, Robyn Hitchcock, Joe Henry, and Vic Chesnutt; they are performed by Guy Pearce (yes, the weaselly, mostly bad actor), and let me tell you, they have achieved a rare thing with this album; this music cuts.

But A Slipping Down Life, as fantastic as it is, is not what I wanted to talk about when I started writing. I want to talk about the other soundtrack that defies my pattern of buying the music of best loved films.

I saw the film Mongol just once, and I had to have the soundtrack. If you haven't seen the film, it's worth a look. Basically, it is a sensationalized, semi-historical, almost mythological look at the early life and rise to power of Ghengis Kahn by Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov. It's full of action, beautiful to look at, and lots of fun.

The soundtrack, by Altan Urag, is all those things, and on top of that possesses a weight and complexity that the film, for all its enjoyableness, lacks. These guys are really serious about their music. From their MySpace page:
Centuries ago our great ancestors had conquered half the globe and amazed the world with our tradition thus we the young generation gave the blessed name “ALTAN URAG” to our band. ALTAN URAG means next generation of the king’s (Khan’s) throne. We play folk rock music and our band was formed in May, 2002. That same year we performed our first time gig at the “Roaring Hooves” international ethnic, contemporary music festival in Mongolia. Our music is collaboration between traditional based modern influenced. The goal and future of band and music is to promote our Mongolian culture and introduce traditional music to youngsters all over the nation.

Of course, I didn't know any of that at the time; I just knew that it was like nothing I have ever heard. I mean, it's not like they are playing Mongolian Folk Rock bands on the radio. At least, not the stations that I have been listening to. Maybe I am just listening to the wrong stations...

In any case, the album is excellent, and Altan Urag make the blending of traditional Mongolian music and contemporary rock seem effortless. The selections below are all from the soundtrack, and I think give a good sense of what I am talking about. You should definitely take the time to give them a listen.

Altan Urag :: Ijii Mongol

Altan Urag :: Requiem

Altan Urag :: Davalgaa


kelsi said...

1) six string samurai doesn't betray geekery. it's in a category all its own. seriously, red elvises? so awesome.

2) love, love, love ijii mongol. but really, this is probably my favorite musical encounter of the last year. so! cool!

Boo said...

wow, i haven't thought about this movie since i saw it, but you are right; that music is absolutely amazing. LOVES. BUYING.

Jez said...

Wow, it's pretty cool when you come to a website that introduces you to new music. That mongol stuff was cool. There was a documentary about an American blind singer that heard that Tuva singing (from the Siberia/Mongolia region), learned how to do it, and actually went over there and performed. The sound this dude gets from his throat is amazing.