Review: Neil Spencer, Mojo Nov 1998

Considering a tricky hybrid of Indian classical music and cutting-edge dance? Keep taking the tables, advises NEIL SPENCER.

Debut from Hackney’s tabla-toting trailblazer: definitely not our usual drummer’s album.

If there’s anyone out there still unaware of Talvin Singh, he’ll be wanting to know why. Over the last decade his tables have been hammered in the service of musicians from Bjork to Bim Sherman to Future Sound Of London. He even played with Sun Ra, who named a tune after him. As mover and shaker on London’s Anglo-Asian scene, he fired up the Anokha, Sounds Of The Asian Underground, whose fusion of sub-continental flavours and East London drum’n’bass served notice to the world of a fresh musical hybrid.

Those expecting the man’s solo record to be a reprise of Anokha’s clubland groove will be confounded by OK, an album which makes clear that multi-culturalism means a deal more than peppering a techno tape loop with borrowed Brazilian batacuda or sampled sitar. Recorded in Madras, New York, Bombay, London and Okinawa, the record is nonetheless rooted in India; in the classical tradition which Talvin studied for four years, in Punjabi folk melodies, and Bollywood romances.

To India ancient and modern, OK brings its own pan-global agenda. Sputtering tablas blur seamlessly into whirring drum’n’bass over which an Eastern flute (Ryuichi Sakamoto) or Miles-ish horn (Byron Wallace) entwine in stately dance. There are chanting female choruses (including a guest showing from Japanese troupe Nenes), swaying strings, layers of percussion and odd interjections of humour (eg actor Ajay Naidoo declaiming the ‘true history of ecstasy’ in best Sayeed Jaffrey accent). By turn the music is textured and dense, or sparse and breezy.

The result is a record into whose often sumptuous embrace one readily sinks, but which defies easy decoding. Upfront hooks and gut-grabbing grooves are conspicuously absent. Instead, like a jazz album, OK reveals its subtleties and marvels with repeated listenings. What emerges is a boundary-melting record made with what its creator calls ‘serious science’; a compound of past and future which is not just OK but stunning

Neil Spencer, Mojo Nov 1998
Considering a tricky hybrid of Indian classical music and cutting-edge dance? Keep taking the tables, advises NEIL SPENCER.

Debut from Hackney’s tabla-toting trailblazer: definitely not our usual drummer’s album.

If there’s anyone out there still unaware of Talvin Singh, he’ll be wanting to know why. Over the last decade his tables have been hammered in the service of musicians from Bjork to Bim Sherman to Future Sound Of London. He even played with Sun Ra, who named a tune after him. As mover and shaker on London’s Anglo-Asian scene, he fired up the Anokha, Sounds Of The Asian Underground, whose fusion of sub-continental flavours and East London drum’n’bass served notice to the world of a fresh musical hybrid.

Those expecting the man’s solo record to be a reprise of Anokha’s clubland groove will be confounded by OK, an album which makes clear that multi-culturalism means a deal more than peppering a techno tape loop with borrowed Brazilian batacuda or sampled sitar. Recorded in Madras, New York, Bombay, London and Okinawa, the record is nonetheless rooted in India; in the classical tradition which Talvin studied for four years, in Punjabi folk melodies, and Bollywood romances.

To India ancient and modern, OK brings its own pan-global agenda. Sputtering tablas blur seamlessly into whirring drum’n’bass over which an Eastern flute (Ryuichi Sakamoto) or Miles-ish horn (Byron Wallace) entwine in stately dance. There are chanting female choruses (including a guest showing from Japanese troupe Nenes), swaying strings, layers of percussion and odd interjections of humour (eg actor Ajay Naidoo declaiming the ‘true history of ecstasy’ in best Sayeed Jaffrey accent). By turn the music is textured and dense, or sparse and breezy.

The result is a record into whose often sumptuous embrace one readily sinks, but which defies easy decoding. Upfront hooks and gut-grabbing grooves are conspicuously absent. Instead, like a jazz album, OK reveals its subtleties and marvels with repeated listenings. What emerges is a boundary-melting record made with what its creator calls ‘serious science’; a compound of past and future which is not just OK but stunning