MIDIval PunditZ :: Hello Hello
[six degrees]   review from matt cibula  

Visitors to this site will not be surprised that we are reviewing the new record from MIDIval PunditZ. These two globe-hopping groove-moguls make music that is the very definition of what we review. Unfortunately, they are still relatively obscure outside of the dance music megabubble.

But this album aims to be their bid for big-ness. Large-scale success. Wide-screen love. A lot of it seems calculated to build a bridge between "world" dance music and the Big Scary Ignorant World™ outside — it doesn't need to be a huge bridge, just one big enough for a lot of foot traffic in both directions. We get a very prominent collaboration with the high-profile Karsh Kale, a splashy "ironic" Led Zeppelin cover, and some melodies that seem to be interested in worming their way into listeners' skulls.

Is it successful in its aim? At times.

The PunditZ' approach to music is adorably honorable and holistic. The music's ethnic aspects (which I'm sure don't seem so ethnic to them) are balanced perfectly with the electronic/Western/dance music parts — very organic stuff. Do we have flute solos? Big stomping beats? Bubbling synth tracks overlaid with ululating vocals? Indeed we do, and they sound great. Nothing forced, everything flows.

That idea extends to the guest collaborators here. There's something about the extensive use of Kale (songwriting, keyboarding, even singing) that helps bring the best of all involved forward. The great Vishal Vaid swinging it on Sun Mere Sanam; a broodingly deep-voiced Ajay Naidu dropping f-bombs & spitting "My ancestors were partial / To getting martial" on Tonic; and a heap of very on-point singers and musicians all represent on this album. The PunditZ prove they have big ears and fancy Rolodexes.

Hello Hello is big and brash and bold, and it's about damn time. I would love to see how this works on the dance floor but instead I have to settle for how it sounds in my car. Fighting morning traffic is a lot easier when sound tracked to Electric Universe and its gnomic wisdom, and Desolate is intimate and portentous while I'm wending my way home after a long day at work. Even the Led Zeppelin cover (Four Sticks, the kind of fake-Indian music in its original version) is suitably majestic (and kind of "ironic" in a good way).

But every once in a while, DJs just have to bust out with some deep rhythm tracks. Hello Hello fills the bill with Atomizer and The Lucky One here, big ol' glam-rock stomps that wade right through subtlety and plant their butts in the wet concrete. Drifting approaches this but in more of a Kraftwerk/U2 sort of way.

For all its loudness and shiny colors, however, this album has about as much edge as a bowling ball. The Punditz often take a song right up to the edge of a precipice and then back off at the last second. Har Ek Baat is a prime example of this — all the components are there for a massive song that would resonate in our minds forever, but it doesn't go that way. The breaks are more like lapping waves than crashing whitecaps. This gentleness and refusal to sell out to The Big Crunchy Moment™ might turn off new listeners or people who are not used to the patience and build of the Punditz' style, or the bit-by-bit construction of modern-day dance music. Or both.

Personally, I like it a lot. Hello Hello is a major step up for our two guys onto the Big Boy Stage™. Will this help them sell tons of albums and be household names and stuff? Nah, that's not really the jam here. But does it hit just about all the important pleasure centers anyway? Why yes, yes it does.

ethnotechno rating: 4.5 out of 5
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  1. Electric Universe (pick)
  2. Tonic [Explicit]
  3. Atomizer (pick)
  4. Four Sticks
  5. Naina Laagey
  6. Drifting
  7. Desolate (pick)
  8. Sun Mere Sanam (pick)
  9. Har Ek Baat
  10. The Lucky One
  11. Electric Universe (acoustic)