NatarajXT :: Ocean Birds
Nataraj XT, a French trio composed of two Indian classically trained musicians, and one DJ/programmer/multi-instrumentalist, take their name from the incarnation of Shiva as Lord of the Dance. Dimmsummer gave me his copy of their first album Tandava explaining that it really didn't do anything for him. On first brush I gravitated towards what these guys were trying to create in combining the straight classical playing of sitar, sarod, and esraj over DJ club beats. It certainly seemed like the two "Indian" players of the group were true students of their traditions and could be applauded for their skills on non-Western instruments, and in trying to fuse them with world techno. Compositionally though, in attempting to play different ragas, as track titles such as Ya Man, K Fi, Jan Poori, Teelak, & Kirwan suggested, the inherent limitations of the tuning of the plucked Indian instruments, or just a lack of knowledge of the part of the musicians made Tandava sound repetitive after a few listens. So brother Dimm was right.
On Ocean Birds, Nataraj XT doesn't seem to deviate too far from their original formula. The DJ's sonic pallette of synths, samples, & beats, however, has improved, and it seems he's no longer serving as background to the sitar, sarod, & esraj, which dominated as voices in the first release. A much better collaboration of give and take is prevalent throughout the tracks of "Ocean Birds."
I still question the heavy reliance on the three classical instruments, but that certainly sets these guys apart from the rest of the pack. Perhaps following your personal vision of how your music should sound and be performed isn't necessarily a bad thing. They won't compete with the Karsh Kales and Cheb I Sabbahs, but I guess that's not their point. There's always room for everyone if you're willing.