Jaya Lakshmi

Ocean of Mercy

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Love Sheila Chandra's albums fusing Indian and European musical forms on Peter Gabriel's RealWorld label but miss the slightly poppier sound of her early-'80s albums with the synth pop trio Monsoon? Then Jaya Lakshmi's Ocean of Mercy is the perfect midpoint. This is not fluffy crossover pop; the eight-lengthy songs are all sung in Sanskrit and feature devotional lyrics. Yet Lakshmi (who also sings with the more pan-global band Lost at Last) subtly updates the arrangements with synthesizers and worldbeat touches that are well integrated into the rich, billowing sound. Unlike many albums that sound tacky and somehow off when exploring similar cross-cultural areas, Ocean of Mercy has a unified and powerful sound. Songs like the hypnotic, largely acoustic ten-minute chant "Gypsy Krsna" are perfect for those newcomers to South Asian music who find the Nonesuch Explorer series too forbidding. Purists may well find it far too pop, and an argument could be made for that belief, but Ocean of Mercy is a quite enjoyable listen.

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