Karsh Kale

Cinema

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If you're familiar at all with the terms "Asian Underground" or "Asian Massive," then you've been touched by the influence of multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale, a British-born son of Indian parents who has lived in the United States since the age of three. Although he initially made a splash as a drummer and tabla player, his work as a producer, remixer, and now a film composer has broadened both his stylistic range and his musical impact, and Cinema serves as a sort of summary of his work up to 2011. Its title is apt; throughout the album his approach is explicitly cinematic (especially so on the Bollywood-flavored "Turnpike") even as he weaves together multiple threads from the ever-expanding tapestry of both modern Indian and Western pop music. When a project is this ambitious, you have to expect that some tracks might fail to cohere completely, and indeed "Avalanche" is a bit boring and "Peekaboo" offers lots of cabaret-ish mood without providing much in the way of rhythm or melody. But just about everything else on the program is brilliant, from the dream-funk opener "Island" to the equally fine "Sunbeam," which ends the album on a quietly intense note. In between are such gems as the utterly thrilling title track, with its Hindi vocals (courtesy of the flute-voiced Vidhi Sharma), orchestral strings, and pulse-quickening drum patterns, and "Ma," the album's masterpiece, with its spare but intense dubstep rhythm, dubwise insertions of vocal and sarod, and the least embarrassing use of a child's voice to be heard on a pop song in years. This track alone is worth the price of the album, and most of the rest of it is very nearly as good.

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