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Nataraj XT
Ocean Birds (Nutone/Nettwerk America)
BY JOHN FERRI
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From the Week of Thursday, May 1, 2003
 
Music
Art Fromage
Nothing's sacred to the merry pranksters of Les Savy Fav

4-D Days
Raising the reggae bar with Broward-based Fourth Dimension

Bandwidth
Simone Says
Remembering Nina's last South Florida stand

Short Cuts
Blackstreet
Level II (DreamWorks)

Various Artists
Saddle Creek 50 (Saddle Creek)

Big Midnight
Everything for the First Time (Alive/Total Energy)

Sheila Chandra
The Indipop Retrospective (Indipop/Narada World)

Critic's Pick
Camp, Firey Girls
Gore Gore Girls' boots are made for rockin'

Imagine Ravi Shankar jamming with Big Country. Add an electronic backbeat and you're pretty close to the title track of Ocean Birds from Nataraj XT. The title rings of New Age, and there are hints of such sounds here: the downtempo trippiness and weepy slide guitar of "Space In..."; the trickling-water intro and meandering flute line of "Magnetic Nights." However, California native Richard Bernet (sarod), France's Pierre Moitram (sitar), and Kapi (samples, programming) keep the pace far from sleepy on these 11 tracks.

Bernet studied sarod (a lute-like string instrument) under Master Ali Akbar Khan in California before traveling to India to further soak in that country's culture and music. Likewise, Moitram studied sitar in Paris and India, while self-taught multi-instrumentalist Kapi delved into digital music beginning in the mid-1990s. The resulting amalgam is a catchy blend of exotic Eastern melodies layered densely over Western dance rhythms, featuring strains of goa trance but reaching past that form's parameters. Jazzy horns inform the sitar workout "Freeze," for instance, backed by drum 'n' bass beats, which also underpin the narcotic-trance sarod and sitar overline of "Tadnapak." Elsewhere, the spoken-word vocal of "Funny Tune" exhorts the listener via popping, funk-inspired bass and organ amid the hypnotic sitar swirl.

Mining a vein similar to labelmates Bangmarsh and Shri, though with a heavier emphasis on traditional Indian instrumentation, Nataraj XT proves there's a place for mystical tabla-techno.

newtimesbpb.com | originally published: May 1, 2003

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