Sharaab :: Evolution
[undo recordings]   review from shree  

Sha-raab; n.: Alcohol. Roots: Sharaarat (mischief) and Aab (water); also a producer out of Atlanta, GA crafting his own brand of worldly electronics or ethnoclash, as he dubs it. His debut three years ago, Infusion, melded multiple facets of beat-heavy electronica with South Asian folk and classical music. While largely praised on online communities and within the small realm of obsessive World Music collectors, the record went relatively unnoticed by the general public. This, of course, was around the time that the mighty Six Degrees was championing the just-released MIDIval PunditZ, Krishna Lila and Liberation, so the competition was stiff. The DIY approach of Infusion (released on his own label, Undo), continues on Evolution as Sharaab gets ready to prove that he once again doesn't need suits telling him in which direction his music should head.

"Intro" lives up to its name by setting the stage for what is an album focused on increased live instrumentation as Ustad Liyakat Ali Khan's sarangi notes lead and continue into the ragga-fied electro of "The Awakening." This could very well be a crossover hit, if given the chance. Sharaab's love for retro electro sounds is obviously something that influences a lot of his music as "Shankara" has more of those so-retro-they're-cool, drum syncopations. "Sweeper" and "High Life" are downbeat atmospheric gems, crammed with vocal samples and effects. The industrial beats of "Incomplete" throb like they would on a Nine Inch Nails records; the darkly moody vocals wouldn't be too out of place either - this could very well be Trent Reznor accompanied by a sarangi. Sunnier topics briefly make an appearance in the electronic remakes of the Bollywood classic "Aap Jaisa Koi" ("Zindagi") and the Ubiquitous Punjabi Wedding Soundtrack, "Mera Laung Gawacha" ("Nosering").

"Poison" sounds like the Sharaab we know from Infusion - technology-heavy, sharp, mid-tempo breakbeat rhythms, sampling vocals of a bygone era. "Breathe Natyam" is clicking, pulsating Depeche Mode-esque (circa Violator) synth programming over lyrics of love gone sour (also a DM favourite). Evolution has a lot in common with its predecessor - brooding, throbbing basslines coupled with South Asian instrumentation and sampling still hold centre stage. But this time around, Sharaab has perfected his brand of electronica by throwing more live instrumentation and English lyrics into the mix. This is the World album that New Wave/Industrial heads would love. Far less progressive and evocative music has been championed by DJs, radio stations and labels - hit up sharaab if you want to be part of something worthwhile, this man deserves to be heard.

ethnotechno rating: 4 out of 5
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  1. Intro
  2. The Awakening
  3. Shankara (pick)
  4. Sweeper
  5. Incomplete
  6. Zindagi (pick)
  7. High Life (pick)
  8. The Pressure
  9. Nosering
  10. Breathe Natyam
  11. Poison
  12. Indian Rain (pick)