Friday, 22 February 2019

Baiju Bhatt - Eastern Sonata, album review

Beautiful Jazz

This is a beautiful album, especially the closing track Song for Little Shai: because it is, but also because it reminds me most of an album that has such an important place in my nostalgic musical recollection/likes which is the Music for Pleasure LP Curried Jazz by The Indo-British Ensemble, so named for that production, and released in 1969 when I was enjoying psychedelia and jazz, as well as, with like-minded listeners, Indian music exemplified by the sitar and primarily Ravi Shankar.  

Shankar had played the Monterey Pop Festival, and George Harrison had met him in 1966 and was one of the first ‘pop’ artists to introduce Indian music/sitar into western notice and recognition. Curried Jazz was probably one of the first well-known fusions of Eastern/Western music and I think was a genuine celebration of influence rather than a commercial enterprise, the likes of Kenny Wheeler involved on flugelhorn and the inclusion of Dev Kumar on sitar, Chris Karan on Tabla, and Siara Kumar on Tambura. It was a gentle amalgam of these styles and pretty listening.

We have come a long way since this ‘English’ appropriation, and ‘world’ music [for want of a better term?] is popular and known for its indigenous sound rather than any cross-referencing. I’ve made that quite simplistic, I’m sure, but I am no expert as a listener, though have my many likes, and I don’t want to get embroiled in exploration of access and production where I am again no expert.

I do want to celebrate this album by the violinist Baiju Bhatt, and others, which is an explicit fusion of east and west [thus the echo of Curried Jazz] and is a wonderful listen for that. The fact that guitarist Nguyên Lê* is also involved further demonstrates the prominence of global musicianship/performance/recording that is readily available and successful today.

Other musicians on the album are Prabhu Edouard on tablas and percussions, Valentin Conus on saxophones, Mark Priore on keyboards, Blaise Hommage on bass and Cyril Regamey on drums. These are joined by oudist player Amine M’Raihi and the flute playing of Jay Ghandi.

I’m not going to describe tracks having offered a touchstone in the opening paragraph. The title track is gorgeous – I will add that one further specific reference [BB on violin] – and so much else if simply full of energy and the virtuoso playing of the musicians.

[*] Listening currently to his latest Streams.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Hammock - Universalis, album review

I Hear Whales Singing

Hammock – Nashville duo Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson – present an ambient swathe on this album that bulges with serenity, a bit like a heavy frame that still sprawls full and gently content in an arc of the strung seat of this band’s name.

There, I’m not the first nor last I suspect to get that metaphor into a review, but it does beg for one. In many ways too, this says it all. I am no expert on the mechanisms of producing these beautiful sounds, but beautiful they are, and the prominent instrumentation is the effects of strings that billow in and out of many tracks, atmospherically across atmospheric titles like Universalis, Cliffside, We Are More Than We Are [this with guitar and a percussive slow beat], Tether of Yearning and Clothed with Sky.

Each builds and it is this endeavour to move and rise that prevails. It is essentially an emotive listen, and a soothing one. For Tether of Yearning, I imagine whales singing. It is as personally imaginary as this. Clothed with Sky is its symphonic pass-by.

Eye Music 36

The Sonic Dawn - Eclipse, album review

Yes, A State of Mind

The musical manifesto of opener Forever 1969 is fair enough both in intent and production, for example the ‘some say that we are out of our time’ and ‘times may change but the struggle remains the same’ as well as ‘’69 is another state of mind’, though this latter is exactly what all of what it is - yet having watched today a further episode from the new Star Trek where its ship Discovery has found itself in a parallel universe, we can all continue our hopeful imaginings.

I mention because on the band’s Bandcamp page it is stated,

Inspired by personal events and the current meltdown of the world as we know it, ‘Eclipse’ deals with a feeling of despair that many will recognize.

However, the music is more multicolored than ever, because the path to a better future starts out in the mind. Eclipse is a journey out of the darkness. Some might say a trip

and I am inclined to advise that they stick within the generally fine parameters of their authentic ’69 sounds, those of us who lived before and through 1969 knowing only too well where such social and political idealism got us.

That may sound quite pessimistic, and I am not inherently so, but I just think the musical nostalgia makes more sense than promoting a world-order long beyond recreating. Indeed, the overall range of songs are sweetly reminiscent of the sixties, in reverb and harmonies, and second Psychedelic Ranger hints at the rockier move at the turn of its original century.

I am inclined to such nostalgia and this record is an addition to that rather than a startling encapsulation. There is even a naïve pop-psyche sensibility to many of the songs, especially lyrics, suggesting earlier psychedelia pre-1969 – like Christiana that remind more of Clear Light than, say, a Jefferson Airplane – and taken with this expectation, it is an easy, pleasant listen.

Hands Music 47

David Bowie - The Dream Anthology 1966 1968


Enjoying this recent compilation, listening as I write, [itself a shortened version of the 1997 Deram one – note the ‘joke’], more novelty than anything else, though incipient musical roots so clear at times, especially in the clarity of Bowie’s distinctive vocals – so utterly twee English in these early 60s tunes: ‘while a little chappie’…!

Many are familiar, many are new to me. The pop narratives are redolent of their times, seemingly homespun – Uncle Arthur – but also teeming with comic eccentricity at times. Sell Me a Coat has a folk-esque sweetness to it, the orchestration of horns again so much an echo of the time. But the vocal is as it would be throughout his career.

Rubber Band
There's a rubber band that plays tunes out of tune
In the library garden Sunday afternoon
While a little chappie waves a golden wand

Rubber Band
In 1910 I was so handsome and so strong
My moustache was stiffly waxed and one foot long
And I loved a girl while you played teatime tunes

Dear Rubber Band, you're playing my tune out of tune, oh

Rubber Band
Won't you play your haunting theme again to me?
While I eat my scones and drink my cup of tea
The sun is warm but it's a lonely afternoon

Oh, play that theme

Rubber Band
How I wish that I could join your Rubber Band
We could play in library parks throughout the land
And one Sunday afternoon, I'd find my love

Rubber Band
In the '14-'18 war I went to sea
Thought my Sunday love was waiting home for me
And now she's married to the leader of the band, oh

Oh sob... I hope you break your baton

Songwriter: David Bowie
Rubber Band lyrics © Emi Al Gallico Music