Land of a Thousand Churches

Suns of Arqa

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Land of a Thousand Churches Review

by Don Snowden

Dating back to the late-'70s punk era, Suns of Arqa is one starting point for the Anglo-Indian pop connection, this time via the underground dub route of using bedrock Jamaican rhythms with Indian instruments on top. Land of a Thousand Churches is a compilation drawn from several of the group's early LPs, and the credits list it as "Music from 'The Earthlings'," so you wonder if this was the soundtrack to some Suns of Arqa stage presentation, too. That might account for the several tracks with soul-style female vocals, the version of Darrell Banks' '60s soul ballad "Open the Door to Your Heart," or the "Ain't That a Lot of Love" refrain that pops up at the end of "Kalilotalove." Manic punk poet/preacher John Cooper-Clarke, a frequent Arqa collaborator, offers words on three tracks, including the opening "The Truth Lies" before "La Pucelle de Orleans" starts the dub groove off with a strong, simple bassline that gets hypnotic underneath the reedy shenhai of Kadir Durvesh. Much of the material revolves around two poles -- the three "Govinda" variations and ethereal "Patadisum in Dub" are more in an Indian-Hindu dub mode and prominently feature Indian instruments. "Kyrie" and "Ark of the Arkans" tip the scales more toward Jamaican dub, with producer/creative main man Wadada's heavy basslines leading the way. Land of a Thousand Churches is kind of a funny record that sometimes, somehow sounds less impressive when you listen to it closely. The different strands ultimately come together as variety, a nice mix of ethereal and earthy elements and the sensation of being taken on a journey through new musical lands with enough familiar guideposts to provide good value for its 77 minutes.

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