Karsh Kale

Broken English

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Percussionist Karsh Kale has done some fine solo work in his career, but this album finds him jumping to a new level. While his South Asian heritage continues to be a major element of his sound (he plays dhol and tabla as well as drum set and various computer rhythm programs), his New York upbringing plays an even more important role. When he combines hip-hop with electric guitars and Asian percussion on the title track, it sounds natural and organic -- not like a self-conscious exercise in electro-exotica. When he moves into pop song territory, as on the lovely "Dancing at Midnight," the result is every bit as natural-sounding even though it's a completely different approach. And the aptly titled "Beautiful" is almost impossible to pigeonhole; it wears a deep rhythmic complexity very lightly and charmingly, and is almost as much fun to sit and listen to closely as it is to dance to. "Drive" is curiously lacking in energy, and "Some Things Are O.K." is just OK, but overall this is one of those rare albums that combines deep musical intelligence with seemingly effortless pop appeal. It's difficult to imagine anyone not falling under its spell.

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