Anoushka Shankar


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The daughter of Ravi Shankar moves far from the tradition on her fourth solo album, using her considerable sitar skills (understandably, she'll never be her father's equal, but who ever will?) as just part of her arsenal on an album that strives hard to blend the past and cutting edge. It succeeds in part, as on "Solea," where Indian and flamenco meet, the two opposite ends of the gypsy road, and discover they have much in common, or on "Red Sun 4," where the Indian tradition of vocal percussion called konnokol seems as modern as anything to emerge from drum programming. At other times, the album seems to float too weightlessly on a cloud of miasma. "Sinister Grains" is a case in point: it's pretty, and certainly well executed. But when it's over, it's hard to remember, as ephemeral as a pleasant summer breeze. "Voice of the Moon" fares somewhat better, more grounded in its Indian-ness, with an arching melody. But even that's countered by the album's opener, "Prayer in Passing," which seems too much like an alaap without a theme, a prelude that leads to nothing, form without substance. Shankar uses plenty of programming on this, adding voices (including her own), palmas, piano, guitar, and other unusual textures, which certainly bring variety to what she does. And with "Ancient Lore," the epic (11-minute) closer, she actually pulls it all together (thankfully without the didgeridoo that's there on one earlier cut), the judicious use of reverb giving a certain ambience, and a reminder that she's a sitar player whose roots lie on both East and West and she improvises. Rise isn't perfect, by any means, but it's the first step on a new path.

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