Eagle was recorded in Urumqi and Beijing with Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci as producers, and a line-up of musicians including IZ's Meyrambek on kobyz and Haller himself on sherter. This is a seminal album, touched with the renegade spirit of everyone from the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Velvet Underground and Nick Cave.
Here are traditional Kazak folk songs and Mamer's own compositions, and guests including Grammy winner Bela Fleck (on a Chinagrass duelling-banjos-style duet) and the late, great French producer Hector Zazou.
Eagle's eponymous opener starts with a recording of short-wave radio from Urumqi: a random clash of influences that introduce us, metaphorically, to Mamer. Ambient sounds - a trotting horse, a call to prayer from an Urumqi mosque - place the listener in Xianjiang; drones, loops and feedback effects maintain the natural, magical feel that prevails there. Mamer's voice soars and soothes: the aural equivalent, if you like, of watching a great bird fly.
Eagles soar in the slipstreams of Xinjiang province, a windblown place way out in western China. A place where forests of stone jut from land carved by restless tectonic plates; where glacial waters flow into melon fields then disappear into deserts. A place where nomads herd sheep across grasslands and spirits dwell in rocks and trees, take shape of birds and animals. A place where everything - eagles, horses, wind, spirits - is represented in music.
The singer/songwriter Mamer was raised in Xinjiang, one of ten children for whom singing and playing the two-string dombra lute was as much a part of life as sunrise. Out here - in this land of Turkic tongues and ethnic minorities - traditional music flows from yurts and across the sparsely inhabited steppes. And Mamer's voice, a low, resonant, magical thing, still joins it.
"The great old Kazak folk songs were born when people were shepherding," says the boyish thirty-something. "Living in cities we are often too busy to allow this sort of tranquillity to enter our lives. I have to return to the grasslands once or twice a year. That is where I get my inspiration, my creativity."
He pauses, smiles. "I always stay awhile with the old people in the mountains, learning their songs and traditions," he continues in his native Kazakh. "Without this a whole way of life will be lost to the young generation. I want to breathe new life into the poems and songs I grew up with. "
Mamer's stunning debut album Eagle does precisely that, revitalising the ancient songs and instruments of his heritage with an alt-country aesthetic that's part Townes Van Zandt, part Huun Huur Tu. This is Chinagrass: simple, honest, direct music with one foot in the past and another in the future. Folk (not folkloric) music with punk's do-it-yourself ethos. Folk (not folkloric) music with a kick and a twist.