CD, URCK Records, 2008
Sikhara are by all accounts a prolific live act, and this album – inspired apparently by Armenian and Georgian culture – provided the material for their most recent tour. While the CD is certainly intense, it left me suspecting that their brand of percussive, sweaty modern-primitivism would work much more effectively on stage.
Most of the tracks on this album follow the same broad pattern – atmospheric sound effects, noise, and manipulated voices, layered densely over mostly-live tribal beats. They vary in tempo and expression, but all sound dreamlike and ritualistic, seeming designed to invoke an altered state of consciousness in the listener. Some are, inevitably, more successful than others in achieving this. In places the music seems rather clumsily assembled, with samples plastered on with little regard for the underlying rhythmic structure. Several tracks employ loops of ceremonial or shamanic singing of various kinds, which is a great idea on paper, but the snippets chosen are often rather dissonant and start to grate before they become hypnotic.
That aside, there are moments when the Sikhara formula works well, such as on “Morningstar”, where the ubiquitous voices are much better integrated into the musical fabric. The best track by far is “Tbilisi”, a frantic percussive onslaught with its own vocals in a language unknown to me. It dances through your head like a dervish before breaking out into a brutal climax that almost resembles the Swans, and is followed immediately by its own untitled ambient reworking, bringing the album to a close on a much more accomplished note.
— Andrew Clegg