Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vijaya Anand: Dance, Raja, Dance

Okay, I have a weakness for Bollywood, but I am in no way an afficianando. When I lived in Brooklyn, and had cable for the only time in my life, I would watch Bollywood films in rapt fascination -- often having little idea of what was going on, but just as often fairly able to follow the archetypal and cliched storylines. What I LOVED, was the crazy, frenzied dancing and singing -- again, often in the most ludicrous narrative situations. "Dad died; let's dance!"

Vijaya Anand's contribution to Bollywood music is his use of everything except the kitchen sink (and I think I hear THAT in one of these cuts!). Don't like what you're hearing? Stick around for about 4 or 6 bars and it will change! I mean, his music changes more than mountain weather! In "Naane Maharaja" (I Am The Emperor), there's some calypso rhythms, jazz horns, old-timey banjos, dance-hall dub effects, a bit of techno-pop, violins scratching away like fiddles and weird sound effects, not to mention the South Indian drums! In about four minutes of madness!

I mean it, when I need to make a visitor smile, I put this cd on and it never fails. You cannot be sad and listen to this music. On the other hand, if you are not into it; if you do not just give yourself over to it, you will be sooooo irritated by this music!

This was one of the first releases on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, and after 17 years, it still works its crazy rhythm charms!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The American Analog Set: set free

Formed in 1995, based in Austin, AmAnSet, as they are frequently referred to, has been called a 'drone-pop' band. There early sound was highly influenced by krautrock and post-rock and British shoe-gazer bands like Cocteau Twins, often featuring long instrumental passages. Over time, their songs became shorter and more pop-influenced. The band has released six full-length albums, four EPs, and several vinyl singles.

The group is led by singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Andrew Kenny. Additional members include, or have included, Lee Gillespie, Mark Smith, Craig McCaffrey, Tom Hoff, Lisa Roschmann, and Sean Ripple. Founding member Roschmann left the band in late 1999; Hoff and Ripple joined in early 2000 and McCaffery replaced Hoff in 2003.

In October 2005, rumors began spreading across the Internet that the group was on the verge of disbanding. The band quickly refuted such rumors, but added that they may not tour again due to their obligations with other projects. I've not heard anything about them since the release of Set Free in 2005. It was released in North America by Canadian label Arts & Crafts, and -- as you might expect -- I discovered it at Soundscapes, my favorite cd store in North America, on Bloor in Toronto.

This cd is perfect for sipping whiskey and hanging out as well as for driving (please, NOT at the same time!). The crisp percussive production, and the drone and soft whispery vocals get you to a good cruising speed and never lets up. There's a frisson that is caused by a lyric like:

"The boys are in a band together
the girls all fuckin' stand together"

from "Cook Kids Keep" made especially so by that soft, warm whisper of a voice!

Because of the drony quality of the music, we're not even looking for 'stand-outs' but with this cd, a full aural environment is created that soaks into you and you simply float in it. I LOVE this cd, but I can't tell you anything more specific about why. It's one of those cds with sounds that take you away, becoming a soundtrack to reveries and daydreams -- of things that happened long ago or maybe never. The Brazilians have a word for it; a kind of sweetbitter sadness.

The instrumental, "(Theme From) Everything Ends" features a melodica playing its melodic line over throbbing bass and that crisp drumming. An old Buddhist like me can take that title and run with it! Especially sweet is how it cuts right into "Sharp Briar." The last cut, "Fuck This.... I'm Leaving" reminds me of Brian Eno Before And After Science era. Despite it's title, it's sound and atmospheric influence continues long after the cd ends.