Birkitshi – Eagle Hunters in a New World is not only a great new film score from William Ryan Fritch, but the first installment of a brand new subscription series from Lost Tribe Sound. The film bemoans the decline of a once-prosperous way of life, while the subscription series makes a statement of hope “in these uncertain times” ~ the decision to go ahead with a physical set flies in the face of the dominant streaming trend.
Nobility is involved in all three of these ventures: the teaching of the old ways to the new generation of eagle hunters (important note: this does not mean hunting eagles, but using eagles for hunting); the decision to celebrate the old ways of music production; and the defiant, complex music of the score.
Fritch has often veered into the vocal arena, but apart from some appropriate throat singing, Birkitshi is all-instrumental. The ethnic richness of this release hearkens back to his albums as Vieo Abiungo, as well as his Death Blues collaboration with Jon Mueller. Once again, the sound is incredibly mastered and nuanced; the sounds virtually leap from the speakers. The music bleeds an intermingled sense of hope and sadness from every pore, eventually reaching a state of transcendence. The cello is the most melancholic instrument here, but it provides only one color in a much larger palette. The racing drums imply tribal life, while the bells and soft choirs imply a deep-seated spirituality. Permanence resides where memory thrives, and Birkitshi is a work of shared memory, a hard copy in an ephemeral world.
While the uninitiated might call this “world music” (a descriptively poor and ironically noninclusive term), Birkitshi might more properly be called music of conversation. It zeroes in on a specific region, honors its residents, and adds commentary from another sphere. The soundtrack is both reflection and reaction, a demonstration of empathy and support, a statement underlining the importance of this particular old way, and by extension, all crafts in danger of disappearing. Just as vanishing languages rob humankind of the ability to define specific objects and feelings, vanishing crafts diminish global understandings of history. The press release engages in a bit of anthropomorphism, imagining the golden eagles feeling “a melancholy of knowing the world they fly over is changing so fast”, but the bonus behind this thought is that it honors the eagles as much as the trainers. Vanishing habitats affect the local species, no matter what phylum.
The title of the subscription series possesses its own seemingly incongruous nature: Prelude to the Decline. It’s more of a shout against a potential decline, although the words seem whisper that the battle has already been lost. There are many subscription options in all manner of formats, but the meat of the series is the talent on display. The series will include even more music from Fritch, along with a new album from Seabuckthorn, whose last release made our Top Ten in Rock and Post-Rock; a new album from Alder & Ash, along with a reissue of an album we reviewed only a few months ago, lamenting that no physical copy was available; the long-anticipated new set by From the Mouth of the Sun; an acoustic album from The Green Kingdom; and the label’s first ambient album, from kj. Forget the murmurings about 2017 being a horrible year; when we look at this lineup, we start to think that this might be a great year, and we couldn’t be more excited! (Richard Allen)