I have been meaning to write this review for quite some time now. Unfortunately, each time I press play, I get caught in the music and completely forget about writing. This in itself should tell you how engaging and engrossing To Where Tengger Leads Me is. Film composer and songwriter for the Mongolian folk metal band Tengger Cavalry, Nature Ganganbaigal, has recently put out this solo effort which he defines as new age Mongolian folk music. Released last September, it will please avid listeners of soundtracks by the likes of Hans Zimmer.
The album begins, quite aptly, with “The Expedition”, a powerful and captivating kick start, a track that typically launches a grandiose adventure in an epic historic movie. Up-tempo and drum-driven, it introduces listeners to the horse-head fiddle. Other distinguishing features include different drum layers regularly colliding together to create a stirring heartbeat and the introduction, near the end of the track, of an electric guitar, which comes as a bit of a surprise but works quite well.
Similarly, the electronic, distorted hip-hop beats appearing around the halfway mark in “Legend on Horseback” are a bit of a surprise in a tune mainly composed of strings, but it works. Yet again, one can imagine a movie scene in which the hero rides his horse through wide open spaces in order to complete his mission.
The tempo increases even more in “Galloping Steeds”, giving it a more intense and aggressive feeling, making traditional instruments and other elements composing this track even more poignant. After the equally as intense “From Far Away”, “The Ritual” takes the album in another direction. The tempo and intensity significantly decrease and a certain darkness, to the point of ominousness, is allowed in. This is where the hero encounters an internal obstacle which requires him to battle with himself to do the right thing.
The brief, yet thickly layered “The Gobi Road” gives a sense that our hero made it through the test bruised but stronger and more powerful. In “Golden Horde”, Ganganbaigal blends traditional Mongolian music with other world music; I didn’t think the album could become even more epic after the first two opening tracks, but this is where it did just that.
Then, in a surprising twist, “Symphony of Steel, Pt. 1” took everything that made the previous songs grandiose and chucked it out of the window. The visuals related to the music went from epic landscapes and vast expanses of nature through which majestic horses gallop to an urban landscape of concrete and steel. “My Horse, Far in the Distance” and “Hymn of the Earth” return to the sounds that defined the rest of the album, only to return to the same type of urban landscape in “Symphony of Steel, Pt. 2”.
It might seem like a random and jarring switch, but instead the extreme changes between these two types of sounds—one reminiscent of nature and the other of urban living—reemphasize the “soundtrack” quality of this album. It works because we can imagine the story taking our hero from the familiar (nature) to the downright frightening (urban) and back.
Just like any good soundtrack, this one finishes with a track both familiar and different, one that takes the rules from the rest of the songs and blends them together, reflecting the growth the hero has gone through and the lessons he or she has absorbed. “Homeland Song” is also the only track on this album with vocals; if you are only going to have one track with vocals, you might as well make them memorable, and this is what NanDin did here.
You will have to excuse me, I have to go explain to my boss why I’ll be working today in a mood of epic proportions. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information is available on both Nature Ganganbaigal’s official website and Facebook page.