Words By Seetal Kaur Gahir
Sarod-star Soumik Datta and percussion-wizard Bernhard Schimpelsberger have teamed up to produce a stunning new album, ‘Circle of Sound’. The title aptly encompasses a range of themes and emotions that are often elusive but undeniably powerful at the same time. “Time was a big factor, a lot of the pieces we were coming up with said to us, ‘time’.” Soumik recounts in one interview. Without a doubt, many of the tracks are abstract and merging, just like time itself. Tracks such as ‘Footprints’, ‘Coastlines’ and ‘Quest’ explored the feeling of the shoreline, surrounded by the sea and it’s relentless waves. Steady rhythms were surrounded by ethereal sounds that built up in complexity through Bernhard’s solo sections towards the fast-paced ends of each of the tracks.
Soumik never failed to demonstrate the incredible versatility of the Sarod. Traditionally an instrument seen in Indian classical music contexts, in Soumik’s hands, the Sarod weaved haunting melodies and strummed-out furious rhythmic patterns with equal ease. It was clear that Soumik drew from his own ‘circle of sound’ as his Indian classical background is evident throughout the album with many tracks following the typical formant of a rāga rendition. “I was quite intrigued in the possibilities of playing Indian classical music, without the Tabla.” says Soumik. It was certainly intriguing to hear a drum solo where a Tabla solo would normally be heard and it was also surprising how well the drum kit worked as an accompaniment to a classical composition and its traditional ‘alaap, jhor, jhalla’ elaboration. The ‘jhalla’ or faster climactic sections towards the ends of some pieces such as ‘Vinyl Chapter’ were explosive and Soumik and Bernhard really showed-off their accuracy and technical prowess which would have blown any audience member away in a live concert.
Racing drum and bass grooves and celestial cross-rhythms characterised tracks such as ‘Orion’ where Pirashanna Thevarajah on Morsing and Talvin Singh on Tabla guested in a percussion jam. Bernhard captures this interaction in tracks like ‘Orion’ and especially ‘Eclipse’ as he says, “I think our music is about the dialogue and the conversation that we have. In its essence it’s melody and rhythm and one part cannot really sustain without the other but then on a human level it’s a conversation between the two of us.” This conversation is interesting in ‘Calcutta Triangle’, which feels like more of an atmospheric soundscape with the celestial ring of the hang drum and rolling rhythms of the cajon. It is unusual, true, but a perfectly fitting combination of melody and syncopation that flow and glow together as one.
‘Timelapse’ and ‘Sea Inside’ were stripped-down pieces that perhaps spoke more of Soumik’s own solo journey. Words spoken by tired voice narrated a troubled longing for peace and Soumik translated these into the notes of the Sarod in a beautiful and moving way. In many ways, Bernhard and Soumik’s collaboration has all the ingredients of a great experimental album. It is definitely one to always come back to and certainly one to add to your own circle of sound.
Quotes taken from an interview by Sandeep Virdee for Darbar Festival. – http://youtu.be/hBsPt_YXEyM