Over a decade ago Talvin Singh was tearing up the ‘Asian Underground’, with his breakneck tabla and frenetic electronics. By merging the traditional with the cutting edge, his music spearheaded a movement of Indian producers who similarly integrated classical music with modern styles like drum and bass. Since then he’s worked with everyone from Madonna to Massive Attack, won a Mercury Prize and blazed a path since followed by the likes of Nitin Sawhney, whilst he himself seems to have gone off the radar a little.
This album sees a mellowing of his approach. More in tune with classical traditions, his electronic treatments remaining sparse, subtle and tasteful, woven seamlessly into the fabric of the music, still there, but never calling undue attention to themselves. It’s a duo with sitar player Niladri Kumar renowned for his forward thinking fusion work and the creation of the zitar, a remarkable five stringed sitar/ guitar which he plays at times on this album, creating melodies never previously considered in Indian classical music. Which of course is the key to this album.
With ten instrumental tracks varying in length from a minute and a half to eleven minutes, the duo provides each other plenty of space. It feels composed, or at the very least highly organised. It’s also free from bluster and showmanship. There’s even handclaps in one piece, yet somehow even this feels classy and restrained. Such is the magic of this music. Both the tabla and the electric sitar are treated at times, Kumar in particular getting an amazing tone from his zitar and leapfrogging genres with ease. It’s an hypnotic album, beautifully sequenced, frequently surprising. It’s fusion music, a thoroughly modern and captivating take on Indian classical music, drawing as equally upon the last decade as centuries of tradition.
Bob Baker Fish