Rambles - Amanda
Koan's album Prana and Drum is one of the most intriguing world fusion
CDs I've heard recently. It strikes a perfect balance between being
intriguing to listen to carefully and appreciating its nuances, and
acting as calming yet energizing background to other tasks. Kuljit Bhamra
and Martin Lee-Stephenson combine musical and rhythmic elements from
around the world and mix them in ways that combine worldbeat with a
nod to techno.
While there's a danger that blending such diverse elements will result
in confusion, Bhamra and Lee-Stephenson have a clear result in mind,
and all the pieces add to it. While playing much of the music themselves,
they bring in drummers and vocalists to round out the sound. The production
values are excellent too, making an album that is one of the most solidly
an elegantly put together that I've heard. The album's eight tracks
cover a lot of ground, and provide over an hour of music, and the long
songs are sufficient time to explore an idea in depth.
Polyrhythms drive all the tracks, and are the album's connecting thread.
While I'm used to and love complex polyrhythms as the force that drives
a piece, I was fascinated by Koan's addition of some techno elements.
The rhythmic base is slower than techno's , and not at all mechanized.
The wordless singing, the electric instruments like keyboard and bass,
and some of the chaotic interjections remind me of techno, and it's
exciting to hear these in such a differnet context.
"Pantacle" is an exercise in anticipation as it slowly builds,
and has a strong Middle-Eastern flavor with an Indian touch. "Chan"
has a strong bas theme, with rhythmic and musical embellishments explored
over its long, eleven-minute running time. "Goat Shepherd, the
Cypress Tree" plays our expectations about rhythm off against each
other, accompanied by a haunting recorder melody with a Greek feel.
"Sati" is my favourite track. I love the way the polyrhythms
and the bass - two of my favourite musical things - intertwine and respond
to each other. "Fetish in Dream Time" is a long piece - almost
ten minutes - that explores variations, beginning with an approach that's
reminiscent of Mickey Hart's "Planet Drum" and moving back
and forth into techno territory.
"Anagarika" particularly rewards careful listening, with all
the different embellishments it puts over a basic beat which itself
morphs. "Shirk" is especially danceable, with a more pronounced
bass and guitar presence and a strong techno feel, accented by the slightly
more rapid beat. "Theme for an Imaginary Romance" has a magical
and Mediterranean sound, reminiscent of Spanish music with a Moorish
I recommend "Prana and Drum" wholeheartedly to everyone who
is interested in world fusion, or who appreciates Mickey Hart's polyrhythms.
Koan is more electric than Hart, but they share a sensibility. Koan's
album is a worthy addition to this eclectic and exciting genre.