Alien Chatter

Invasion

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The Six Degrees label's Emerging Artists series had been a fertile source of new sounds from up-and-coming world/electronica artists for a good year or two when this disc was issued in late 2007. It features Satnam Ramgotra on tabla and other percussion, and Rodney Lee on keyboards and electronics -- a promising pairing -- playing a style of music they classify as Indo-Jazztronica. Their sound is certainly attractive, and it's less aggressively electronic than what one hears from most of their labelmates. However, pleasant as it is, the music is also less consistently exciting than what one normally hears from the Six Degrees label. The problem is that whenever there's a struggle between the Indian and the jazz elements, jazz seems to win every time -- and then it seems to feel guilty and gets a bit soft and gushy in the middle. Thus you have a track like "Voyage of the 7th Chakra," on which the tabla plays with complex precision but without much purpose behind a vague, contemplative piano part, or "Last Ganesha on Earth," on which a sitar plays in unison with a piano -- effectively chaining its microtonal capabilities to the blockier half-tones of a Western keyboard and making it sound like it's on training wheels. And every track seems to go on for about three minutes longer than it should. There are some thrilling moments and some great playing on this album, but overall it feels unfocused and excessively discursive.

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