Blackasia, Vol. 1

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In 2005, there's no longer anything particularly special or innovative about combining the sounds of traditional Asian music with hip-hop, breakbeat, jungle, and jazz rhythms. But Rajesh Hardwani (aka r-H) can reasonably claim to have been in on the experiment from the beginning, when he was working as a DJ and rapper in the late '80s and early '90s. Now his interests have drifted to production and remixing, and Blackasia, Vol. 1 is the result of his newfound love of found sound and digital editing. The tracks on this CD consist of musical and other material collected by r-H on a handheld digital recorder during his travels around the world -- religious chants, insect buzzes, noises that sound like they might be derived from thunder and other weather-related sounds -- and then manipulated on a computer workstation and bolstered with beats and other textural elaborations. The result isn't especially unique, but it's consistently enjoyable and sometimes brilliant. High points include the gently jungly "Liquid," with its combination of bubbling synths, skittery breakbeats, and what sounds like a qawwali singer, "Lemon Grass," with its Thai singing and exotic sound effects, and especially "Tim Sum Vindaloo," which features a stark but funky drum loop overlaid with some kind of plucked instrument, some kind of flute, and some kind of lovely female vocalist. A must for fans of modern worldbeat.

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