Adham Shaikh :: Fusion
Canadian producer/DJ Adham Shaikh's compositions are born of ritualistic intent. Long, electronic-driven beats mesh with Bansuri flutes, tablas and melodic guitar drifts; underscoring the score is an endless yearning for, as the title implies, fusion. He does not seek random collaborations of sound, but a very specific, focused montage. Fusion's opening cut, "Opal" - inspired while relaxing in Greece's Samothraki Island - kicks off with an occurrence continuing nearly 75 minutes: hypnotic loops underlying virtuoso instrumentation of Eastern descent.
Actually, "ascent" makes a better adjective - Shaikh's dancefloor is sacred space. Creating credible loops is a difficult chore for software-derived rhythms. He does an amazing job at making them worthwhile, even at such drawn-out lengths. Repetition, as he knows, is the key to trance; to engage fully in the ritual of music, a base foundation must be declared by drums. This element is derivative of most international folk forms: qawwali, gnawa, santeria, dub, rituals of varying shades dependent on extensive, extended forays into architectural cadence. "Opal," Fusion's most danceable, jumpstarts the program.
From there, Shaikh's gumbo is subdued, slowing the BPM to further quell the industrious mind. As rhythms slink, melodies abound: Catherine Potter's gorgeous Bansuri floats in "Flying Beyond" and "Rabbit Hole Raga;" "Dubfire," a song he dreamt while "imagining music for babies," throbs luminously textured; a tabla rhythm forges ahead on "Ohm (transfix mix)." Provided by UK percussionist Aref Durvesh (Susheela Raman, Robert Miles, Nitin Sawhney), tablas also accentuate Fusion's brilliant "Infusion (Bombay mix)." A nine-minute sojourn contrasted by guitarist Tim Floyd, the programming proves Shaikh's best, a nearly hip-hop rhythm with heavy kick drum surfacing beneath the storm.
"Gayatri Mantra Shuffle" draws from one of India's most popular chants. Unlike many pseudo-spiritual kirtanists layering devotional music with bland textures, Shaikh does two things very right: the vocals (by Tera Tara) are dark, adding a tasteful opposition to more flighty renditions, and percussive-led drums again create an aural mystique. Shaikh's obvious passion for South Asian instrumentation is scattered throughout Fusion, save for the interesting Highlife-esque guitar loops of "New Born Shuffle." While a solid track, it seems misplaced, a sudden parting of what he had been building. Maybe this was his intent, to shake things up, as it were. Given the incredible palette he's fused, explanations will only detract from this beautiful recording.