Badmarsh & Shri

Signs

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AllMusic Review by

While Badmarsh & Shri have obviously been inspired by Bristolians Massive Attack and Portishead, they're far from imitators, although you'd be forgiven for thinking so if you listened to the opening title track to Signs, where they remake the reggae track "Lots of Sign" in a darkly moody fashion that's directly out of the Massive Attack songbook. A few cuts later they go all Portishead, with folksinger Kathryn Williams guesting on a weary vocal for "Day by Day." But there's a lot more going on, although it takes a little while to get there -- you have to get past the awful poetry of "Swarm," which conjures up the image of '60s Moody Blues albums gone techno, and the goes-nowhere rhythmic workout of "Get Up." However, "Soaring Beyond," a piece for flute and acoustic guitar, both played by Shri, marks a new start, leading into the excellent "Sajanna," where the brooding Strings of Bombay (who appear on most of the rest of the album) play around a lush garden of earthly delights. Sanjogita Kumari's vocal has a lovely, unearthly quality. It's a signal that the album is looking east, filling with the kind of rich melodies that would do A.R. Rahman proud, a direction that separates Badmarsh & Shri from the rest of the British electronica crowd and one which seems perfectly suited to their vision. Badmarsh's crisp and inventive drum programming on "Tribal" has a depth most acts can't manage, while Shri's multi-instrumental skills (ten on this album, ranging from tabla to bass, keyboards, and flute) also serve to put them ahead of the pack without ever obviously being part of the Asian underground. "Bang" can rock the house without disturbing the pictures on the walls, "The Last Mile" offers Bombay trip-hop, and the sitar and strings on the closer, "Appa," evoke quiet, lost memories. It might not be completely successful -- too often the musical voice they use doesn't seem to be their own -- but Badmarsh & Shri are well on their way to doing something remarkable and unique.

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