Dhamaal :: Dhamaal Sound System
Dhamaal is a collective of between 10 and 20 heads rocking the San Fran bay area with their signature double room grooves: classical Indian on floor one and hardcore urban dance down low.
It took me a while to digest this one, mostly in part to never witnessing a Dhamaal night, but notably because mainliners Maneesh, Janaka and Dhruva all said last year and this year for me to give them my honest opinion on the music. Now that the album is out, I was left wondering what exactly it was the Dhamaal crew were trying to say with their music. It is so different from all else stateside... bustling and brooding, at times dirty and unapologetic, like a kid home late from a night of debauchery. No doubt they embodied the meaning of dhamaal: restless.
Keeping this in mind, the opening spliff sets a nice mood, simple elements that combine in the first minute to create a catchy tune with thick bass, spartan tabla hits, and a well-placed sitar line. After meditation on these themes the track explodes to a full blown odyssey of sound. A woman's voice underneath speaks in that all-too-familiar-yet-repeatedly-efficacious newscast-ese voice about social reform through controlled and steadfast uprising. Out of the eight tracks on this cd to start with, "R/evolution" is the right one to introduce listeners to the Dhamaal Sound System.
Once the tone is set, it's easier to accept the rest of the offerings on Dhamaal's debut. A decidedly UK vibe throughout, partly due to Janaka's UK roots, many tracks sport the trademark and arguably overused dirty twisted bassline. Noted that Dhamaal doesn't push it as far as Visionary Underground nor the Nasha crew- but if nasty, gritty bass is what you're after, Dhamaal has something for you.
It's not a particularity pretty sounding cd, contrasting wildly to Dhamaal's base of operations San Fran which is known for sun, fun, and joyride earthquakes. Many of the presentations have a dark overtone, as if there is a revolution in the midst. "Chandraya" is a track that seems to miss the mark as far as blending classical vocals with electronica in this dark tone. It's something that is a fine balance to achieve, and not many in the field can prove what sounds work with traditional Indian vocals and what do not. But Dhamaal's effort is commendable, and keep in mind that they, as all others, go through their own growth and evolution of sound and the understanding of all its relationships within a composed track.
A joint that does make the grade is the relentless "Folklore," a fist-clenching, teeth-grinding stomper that found a home in all underground Asian broadcasts: Bobby & Nihal, Generasian, and Ethnotechno. "Twilight Creeper" is another deep and nasty journey into the center of a fiery twister. "Chalan" closes the cd nicely with a lighter IDM vibe of cosmic tabla and sarangi, smoothing out the grit left in the wake of the seven previous visitors, perhaps in passing saying, "everything will be okay..."