Spaceport Orkestra of Benares :: The Ganesh Beat Club Session
Some albums stand out for their groundbreaking exploration of new sonic domains; others for their sheer musical virtuosity or a tremendous pop appeal. This album is none of those, yet manages to shine because of another, lesser known virtue, which doesnt really have a name, or a description, but for the purposes of this review I shall term it the Well Crafted Beat.
The science of the Well Crafted Beat has long been a dark art of sorts, with an extensive history that can be traced to the tribal percussion traditions of the world (especially Africa). Recent developments in the history of the Well Crafted Beat include Jamaica's sound systems, hip hop's discovery of breakbeats, and the invention of the sampler. These days, your archetypical practitioner of this dark art is a producer who was brought up on hip hop, reggae, or house, who spends way too much time putting together the perfect combination of drums, bass, and sound design to ensure the music kicks on a loud sound system.
What does this have to do with the Ganesh Beat Club Sessions? Well, the moment I put on the CD, I knew that Tobias Ott, mastermind behind the Spaceport Orchestra of Benares, knew a thing or two about this dark art. What could have emerged as hopelessly formulaic took on a much better quality because of this one essential factor... the beats are fat! Further investigation yielded more proof: Mr. Ott, it turns out, has extensively studied the North and South Indian systems of classical percussion. His deeper-than-surface understanding of rhythm in general, of the Taal in particular, and of the Well Crafted Beat especially, set the stage for a rhythmic exploration of indian sounds and dope-ass breaks.
The album opens with a Ghatam Groove (karnatic clay pot) that unfolds when a classic hip hop drum break drops on top of it (Lafayette Afro Rock's 'darkest light' break). Some dark and moody trance-influenced synths round out the beat and set the tone for this album. This is night music... not the kind of stuff you water your plants to at 9 am, but the kind of stuff you pop in the car at 2 am when you're on the highway to Hyderabad! This first song features some excellent breaks with indian Taal vocalizations to the rhythm.
Next up comes a drum and bass groove with a moorchand ("jaw's harp"), tanpura, and karnatic vocal solos and karnatic violins wafting throughout. This is another refreshing element of the album: the strong influence of the karnatic tradition, which is often eclipsed in Asian Massive albums by the Hindustani and Bhangra influence.
The third track is the party joint. A sample crazy hip hop track that cuts up a sarod and tablas, and throws over a hindi voiceover that sounds like it was lifted from a hindi film sound track.
Subsequent tracks follow similar themes. Classical indian instruments, Well Crafted Drums, and common drum and bass & hip hop rhythms form the basis for all the tracks. Layered on top are some trancey synths and spoken word samples. As I mentioned, this is not an album that covers new territory. In fact, some of the tracks sound a little dated even. However, one place where this album hits the mark is in the fatness of the beats, designed for maximum pressure on the dancefloor.