Rohan :: Roots RMX
Every once in a while, an album comes along that challenges a stereotype, the status quo. It doesn't happen very often and perhaps for that reason alone, we are privy to something historic, noteworthy. Rohan Sukhdeo's 2003 debut was one such album. From first listen I knew it was something that would need to be pushed relentlessly by word of mouth, being a non major-label release. And championed it was. Like Realize before it, Roots managed to take every preconception we had about what Asian electronic music should sound like and proceeded to drop kick every one of them out of our collective minds. Approximately a year later, ET and Rohan collaborate to bring out this set of remixes to tide us over until a sophomore release.
On initial listen the disc seems like a relatively modest, nondescript affair. But like the originals, the beauty of these new versions lies in repeated listens. To be completely consumed, I dusted off and strapped on my Sony Pro-DJ headphones, and played each original tune and its remix back-to-back, something that needs to be done to appreciate most remixes, I've come to realize. Heard out of context, a remix can often sound lifeless and ineffective.
Analog Kid lays on the heavy ambient atmospherics on "Water People" while retaining some of Rohan's original lyrics. Nice effect on the headphones with the beeps, clicks and synths coming in through opposing sides. With two minutes remaining, a rhythmic drum loop kicks in, rounding off a remix that definitely tops the original. The 'one soul, one heart, one world' refrain and Carnatic vocals are all that seem to have been carried over on Karsh's version of "One World." Perhaps not one of his strongest works, its breakbeat-laden electronics seem to be have been inspired by rave records of yesteryear, or even the DnB lines of Anokha. But with a repertoire like Karsh's, this is still better than half the records/remixes that are put out these days and its shortcomings can easily be overlooked.
Our own Dimm Summer helps bring the BPM down a notch again on the Deep Horizon version of one of the best cuts on Roots, "Filter." Trippy, vibey drum patterns radically transform the breakbeat/acoustic original into a decidedly chilled affair while the breathy female vocals float in and out of the mix. Dimm and Rohan manage to take the original and twist it into some serious 21st century mood music.
Sandeep Chowta has turned into a much sought-after music producer in Bollywood and "Come To Me Slowly" became appositely cinematic-strings that build into a near crescendo, a slight pause and then a fierce drum n' bass lick. Sharaab once again demonstrates what he does best by flipping the mellow "Siren's Song" into a breaks-fuelled anthemic number with a fat bassline. This one is strictly for the junglists. And so is Dave Sharma's frenetic version of "Home" which continues the high BPM count. The Nasha and Dhamaal crews might wanna take note since this is squarely their territory.
Dub has always been a relatively inaccessible genre to the untrained ear (peep anything by Mad Professor or Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label). Frequently, dub versions of tracks can strip the original to its almost unrecognizable skeleton while dub-plates often formed the foundation of early reggae and electronica. Rohan's 12" dub remake of "Roots" is anything but bare, and is one of the many highs of this disc. Melody was rampant in the original but this one is all about the beats - the man's obviously found what he's been seeking all along.
Sounding nothing like any of Rohan's other known work, "Dub Vibration" gives us a nice break from all the lounginess and breakbeats. The focus here of course is MC Chori Sala who spits the customary Babylon-referencing lyrics. This track breathes so much energy that when he drops "I'll be speaking from the skies when the ship sinks!" you almost want to raise your hands and chant along, even if you may not have a damn clue what he's on about. And at 2:35 witness for a brief while the diwali riddim that was everywhere last year thanks to Sean Paul and all those crossover dancehall records. Like everything else in this track, to say it works here would be an understatement. If this is what a transatlantic hook-up sounds like, we need more of it.
There's so much here, genre-wise, for all types of tastes and that has always been one of the most appealing aspects of Roots. Even though I personally almost always veer towards the more dn'b vibe of the Massive (150+ BPM preferred), there was plenty of innovative downbeat and medium tempo grooves to keep me involved. We would have liked to see a reworking of "Goodbye My Soul" but clocking in just under 53 minutes, the disc is short enough so our attention does not wane and no track is remixed twice. With a release scheduled for Europe as well, hopefully some new ears will also be exposed to Rohan and perhaps he'll cease to remain one of the Massive's best kept secrets. We can only hope.