Amar :: Outside
When Talvin Singh's Anokha: Soundz of the Asian Underground was released, of the many outstanding tracks, a couple stood out above the rest. The two most recognizable ones were of course State of Bengal's "IC-408" with its parody sample of an Indian airline intercom announcement, and "Jaan," featuring the sultry voice of the teenage phenom Amar, which later went on to soundtrack a Philips television commercial.
Both Amar and State of Bengal, whose real name is Sam Zaman, members of the Asian Underground collective popularized by Singh and his Anokha nights at the Blue Note club in London, released solo albums in 2000. While Zaman's Visual Audio made some waves in the music world, Amar's solo effort, Outside, has remained relatively quiet.
The 12 track Outside, released by Warner in June of 2000 and available via amazon.com as an import, is at best an average debut album. The music and production are impeccable, with a musical base reminiscent of the tablatronic beats made famous by the British Asian Underground.
However as a platform for Amar and her singing, Outside is disappointing. Amar's lyrics, most often when in English, do not mesh well with the music on the album. Outside feels more like a Bollywood album full of misplaced ballads with English lyrics that are at times, out of place with the Asian influenced beats accompanying the vocals.
Amar's talent on Anokha's Jaan was noteworthy for the way her singing naturally blended with the melody of Singh's production. On Outside however, the vocals on the tracks seem forced and rushed. For example in the first song entitled "The World," the music builds up a climax in which the listener is thoroughly let down when the singing begins.
The album is not totally devoid of good tracks however. One of the saving graces of Outside is track number eight entitled "Red Sky." Produced by Nitin Sawhney, Red Sky offers a brilliant peak at the potential of this genre and of Amar's talent as an Asian Massive artist. Beginning slowly with some basic strings and Amar's mixing of Hindi and English lyrics, the track is transformed by the timely drop of an up-tempo drum and base line. Matched by Amar's fast paced Hindi vocals, "Red Sky," is by far the highlight of the album and will most definitely make you move in whatever space you find yourself when listening.
That is of course until the next song begins.
Outside, has some redeeming qualities, but unless you are a die-hard fan of Amar or the genre, I would not recommend spending the almost thirty dollars required for the import. While "Red Sky" is great, the album is not worth the money.