MIDIval PunditZ :: MIDIval PunditZ
[six degrees]   review from sharaab  

Sometime back in the late 90's, when the Asian Massive was just a twinkle in our collective eyes, I began to ponder the future of this genre. Not only was I a developing musician and producer, but also I was also an armchair philosopher and budding cultural theorist who wondered about the viability of a movement that had such a seemingly small, niche market. Was it sustainable?

Putting these questions to my friend Karsh Kale (who was touring with DJ Spooky at the time), I asked him: "Now that doors are opening for us as South Asian musicians in the United States, how much time do you think we have to capitalize on it"? He turned to me and said something I'll never forget: "It doesn't matter if the door gets slammed shut. We'll just kick it open again."

That statement left me with such hope, and I don't know when I have felt like that since. Well, I just found that feeling again after listening to the MIDIval Punditz debut album (out in September on Six Degrees Records). And I'm pleased to announce that the doors have been kicked open again. Or they have been kicked up a notch. Or the bar has been raised. Or whatever. I don't even know.

What I do know is that the MIDIval Punditz album is a masterful work - spectacular in its scope and breathtaking in its beauty. If you are a fan of anything that has ever come out of this genre, then there is no question, this is a MUST BUY. Every note, echo, and filter sweep has been meticulously placed for maximum impact. Every beat is head nodding; some of them will no doubt cause seizures when blasted on the right sound system. Every vocal will cause breath to be held in anticipation for each passing second. Every synth line will cause hips to sway on dance floors worldwide. There is absolutely nothing missing; and the brilliance of the production and the musicianship shine through on every track.

The amazing "Air" opens up the CD (and like tracks "Fabric" and "Bhangra Fever", has previously been made available elsewhere) but luckily this is just an appetizer to the sonic feast that waits. Unlike other offerings, this album gets more and more intriguing with every track, and the MIDIval Punditz hit a perfect balance between their Indian classical roots and their more ambitious electronic components. For example, the santur-laden "Extasis" would feel just as home with a collection of Shiv Kumar Sharma ragas as it would in a LTJ Bukem-style intelligent drum'n'bass comp. Similarly, the standout "Night" explores the space between a sarangi-and-synth-inflected trip-hop soundscape and a haunting female semi-classical vocal. That song, along with the album closer "Dark Age", are two of the most tasteful downtempo tunes I have heard recently, and they only get better every time I listen. The fun, bouncing "Insite" imagines a world where electronic composer BT gets random calls from South Indian strangers, while the staccato step beat of "God of Love" suggests a jugalbandi between L. Shankar and DJ Aphrodite. The rest of the tracks are just as exceptional, but to describe them would be in exercise in garrulousness. My advice: just listen. Preferably on a loud stereo, in candlelight, with your eyes closed and a spliff nearby.

Needless to say, in the hands of artists such as the MIDIval Punditz, my fears about the Asian Massive were well unfounded.
Great job, guys.
Keep kicking.

ethnotechno rating: 5 out of 5
buy now

  1. Air
  2. Extasis (pick)
  3. Fabric
  4. Insite (pick)
  5. Far From Home (pick)
  6. Bhangra Fever
  7. Mercury
  8. Night (pick)
  9. Forest Dreams (pick)
  10. Ajmer
  11. God of Love
  12. Dark Age