Tengger Cavalry | Subterranean | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Tengger Cavalry Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Wed., May 18, 9 p.m. 2016

The last time I wrote about Mongolian folk-metal band Tengger Cavalry, in May 2015, they’d yet to play a show in the States. Founder and front man Nature Ganganbaigal, an ethnic Mongolian born in Beijing, had recently moved to New York to pursue a master’s in music at NYU, leaving his band behind in China—he made Blood Sacrifice Shaman (Metal Hell), released that month, by overdubbing all the parts himself. Since assembling an American lineup, though, Ganganbaigal and Tengger Cavalry have played at Carnegie Hall, and now they’re making their Chicago debut as part of their first U.S. tour. Their newest release, last month’s the Mountain Side EP, follows the trail Ganganbaigal blazed with his earliest demos in 2009: hammering, energetic riffs, drawn mostly from death metal and hard rock, topped by swirling, stately melodies rendered with traditional instruments (including morin khuur, aka horse-head fiddle, and amaan khuur or mouth harp) and in the Mongolian throat-singing style called khoomei (I hear the rumbling kargyraa and whistling sygyt variants, among others). Ganganbaigal’s florid guitar solos contrast with the rhythmic and harmonic austerity of the songs, which borrow the galloping feel of Mongolian folk—they evoke the bittersweet solitude of a lone rider on horseback, the sounds of the unceasing wind, and the unforgiving grandeur of the landscape. Tengger Cavalry’s music has a taut, inexorable heartbeat—at every layer of the arrangements, something is chugging, sawing, pulsing, or quavering—and though the band’s studio output can feel top-heavy with acoustic ornamentation, onstage they’re athletic, even rowdy. On this tour Ganganbaigal is joined by Alex Abayev (bass), Josh Schifris (drums), Uljmuren (morin khuur), and Robert McLaughlin (throat singing and igil, a Tuvan version of the horse-head fiddle).

Philip Montoro

Price: $12

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