Asana

Asana OHM Shanti

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AllMusic Review by

Bassist and producer Bill Laswell's 30-year musical journey has taken him through the wilds of rock, hip-hop, funk, electronica, ethnic fusion, and hellacious noise, but in recent years it seems like he keeps gravitating back to the ethno realm. There's always been a thick vein of dark mysticism winding like a black rope through his various musical projects. The degree to which he buys into the reality of any of the transcendence he peddles is an open question, but one thing is certain: no one writes a prettier bassline, or delivers it with more elephantine authority, or brings together more beautifully matched singers and players. His latest under the group moniker Asana (the core of which is a duo consisting of Laswell and percussionist Karsh Kale, joined by a variety of South Asian collaborators) finds him exploring Indian classical and devotional themes as expressed by singers Kiran Ahluwalia, Ustad Sultan Khan, Asha Puthli, and others. The pattern is set early on: Kale builds a tasteful but generally restrained rhythmic bed on which Laswell lays down a bassline of dark, rich suppleness, and then someone starts singing. When that someone is Ahluwalia, the resulting sound is joyful and soaring; when it's Khan, the sound is grittier and more earthbound. And when it's Vidya Shah, it's a sharp, keening wail offset brilliantly by Laswell's meaty bass and a juddering jungle breakbeat. Every track is brilliant, each one in a different way. Highly recommended.

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