Sheila Chandra

Roots and Wings

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Her newest album is the product of her five-year hiatus, during which time she continued to refine her vocal techniques. In many respects Roots and Wings represents the quintessence of Sheila Chandra's music, stripped down to its essential core. The instrumentation is greatly simplified. Gone are the piano, sitar, and the synthesizers, hitherto the main staples in most of the arrangements, and electronic drums only briefly appear on one older transplanted cut, "The Struggle/The Dream." This is the first album made without Martin Smith, and also represents the first time Chandra has written, co-written (with Steve Coe) or arranged all of the tracks. For most of Roots and Wings electric tamboura and sparsely used hand percussion are all that support her voice -- and all that she needs. Her vocals are multitracked, forming soft clouds of ethereal harmonies that communicate a radiant serenity. Only one tune has lyrics, the haunting traditional Scottish "Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee," sung in a true-to-life thick Scottish brogue over cascading tamboura, pointing to the strange parallel between the drone-based musics of two very different cultures. The mood here is distinctly contemplative, as epitomized by the sublime opening piece "One," with its multi-layered Akar-style vocals and tamboura glissandos. Three tracks appear in two different versions giving the album a cyclical timeless feel: "Shanti, Shanti, Shanti" and "Roots and Wings" are offered with and without percussion accompaniment, while the urgent tabla rhythms and lightning-fast bols of both versions of "The Struggle" only seem, in this context, to paradoxically highlight the stillness and peace that lies at the heart of this album. In many ways Roots and Wings is the spiritual heir to Quiet and represents the most mature and profound statement yet from this enigmatic artist. The roots dig deep while the wings truly soar.

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