Like 1990's West of the East, 1993's Kashi isn't a proper band album, but a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Chris Rael. At the time, Rael was spending much of his time studying various musical forms in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and Kashi reflects those influences strongly. Much of the album consists of disorienting tape collages of Asian pop songs, found sounds, and solo improvisations on various exotic instruments, interspersed with somewhat more Westernized pop songs that recall both They Might Be Giants and XTC. The combination works best on songs like "Marshmallow Rocky," which melds the Asian instrumentation and quirky pop hooks into a well-balanced whole. The album is witty and personable enough that those segments where Rael seems to be overreaching himself seem more endearing than merely pretentious. Fans of Sheila Chandra's early-'80s work with the synth pop trio Monsoon will find much to appreciate here.
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