An Atmospheric Fusion of Genres and Instruments

Published: 21st October 2014 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2014 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: In an interview that I happened to read of his, flautist-composer Shammi Pithia explains the different interpretations of the title COSMIC.

While one is of course the astronomical implication, the other sort of derives from the same infiniteness of universe, exploring the philosophical angle of it. In fact COSMIC is supposedly an acronym of Creation Of Something Meaningful Inside Chaos. And as one listens to the songs from the album, one gets to feel both the angles—the grand, atmospheric aura on the one side, and a pensive quietude on the other— often coexisting, as expected.

While the composer has a fabulous band and guest artists to help him convey these successfully, it is Shammi leading the proceedings from the front for most part, with an amazing display of his flute-playing (and composing) skills.

But first the songs that do not have Shammi as the frontman. Pursuit of Happiness is one of only three vocal-based tracks in the 13-song album. One that is fabulously delivered by Sonna Rele (and written by her too, alongside Ben “Aggy Dukes” Alozie) with able support from the backing vocalists (special props to the whistles). Michael Goodey’s piano and Preetha Narayanan-led strings section rule Ankaha, forming an often overwhelming melange in the background even as Jatanil Bannerjee delivers wonderfully on the vocals, Ambika Jois’s dulcet voice giving the harmonic support at the right places. Under The Stars has a haunting tune, beautifully treated by the composer. But the song belongs to Sabiyhaon vocals and Suroj Sureshbabu’s acoustic guitar.

Snapshots is understandably made up of distinct segments, each featuring Goodey’s piano and the nine-member strings ensemble (names at the end of the review). And each of the pensive kind that could snugly fit into a Bollywood movie’s background score. Building on yet another intricate fabric of piano and violins (with some outlandish techno sounds thrown in for good measure), Road  To Paradise interestingly features a guest flautist, Sameer Rao. And making an entry almost halfway into the song he still manages to make his presence felt in style, courtesy a brilliant classical rendition (shades of abheri/bhimplas raga, I thought) with the Carnatic violinist (Preetha perhaps) for support.

Rest of the album has Shammi Pithia with his bansuri in the driver’s seat. Nothing Else has the rare presence of a discernible percussion section adding to the groove along with Suroj’s guitar, while a soothing classical-based tune is elaborated by the composer (there is some raga yaman in there perhaps). Contrary to what its title may suggest, Discovery is rather subdued. Of course that is only a minor quibble in the larger scheme of things, the song is incredibly soothing.

Inside is essentially Shammi Pithia and Michael Goodey battling it out in the centre-stage, pretty much overshadowing everything else in the background. And it is hard to tell who wins; both hold up their end fabulously. Given the general standard of the album, Nebula is one of the weaker tracks, in that it gets a little too tied to the central hook (played on flute by Shammi) and doesn’t deviate a lot from it, hence leading to a sense of monotony on multiple listens.

Go too faces that issue to an extent, but the composer throws other alluring elements in to the arrangement to mitigate the monotony factor —the violin solo and the well-timed bursts of electronica being the prominent ones.

The relative minimalism in the arrangement of remaining three songs (all three miss the strings ensemble)—Pause, Ignite and Poem Without Words—imparts an off-the-cuff jamming sort of vibe to them. Ignite in fact features both Shammi and Sameer Rao doing a flute duet.

And Poem Without Words is just Shammi and Suroj, the latter using the additional air time he gets to an impressive demonstration of his guitar prowess (wish he had done more of that flamenco bit).

Shammi Pithia is influenced in his style by Nitin Sawhney is something that shows itself off and on throughout COSMIC. Not a bad place to draw from at all, and the result is one of the finest fusion albums I have heard in recent times!

(Vipin Nair blogs at www.musicaloud.com)

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