Rajesh Mehta

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Orka Review

by Thom Jurek

Rajesh Mehta is an Indian-born, American citizen living and working in Amsterdam. He was a long-term student of Anthony Braxton's, which is why perhaps Hat is issuing a recording that features Mehta experimenting with different physical constructions for the instrument that opens up its timbral and textural palette. He concerns himself with extracting new tones and colors, microtonal possibilities, and shades. The guy even figured out how to play three trumpets at once, by placing them all in a large tube with a mouthpiece. There are 12 "compositions" here. The way to approach this music is as "new." This is, for most, unheard musical language. And, therefore, it is outside the context of most listeners' language to discuss it broadly or with knowledge enough to call it "good" or "bad." It is more a question of whether this radical experimentalism is interesting or not given each listener's linguistic musical lack. It's probable that Mehta entitled his record Orka because much of it sounds like the songs of humpback whales. On that level, it is appreciable. Its sounds are often enticing, and once in a while compelling. But often over the course of 50 minutes, the distinction between sounds are blurred to the degree that it becomes impossible for a listener unfamiliar with Mehta's musical knowledge and language to distinguish between them. At this point, these recordings become academic and of interest only to those who use that approach in listening. The jury is still out on this one, and may remain there for a long, long, time.

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