Review: Jack Foley
NITIN Sawhney is most definitely an artist who seems to be going
from strength to strength.
Two years after the release of his highly-acclaimed Human
album, the multi-talented musician returns with Philtre, an inspiring
collection of songs that take the listener on a journey through
global culture, Indian classical music, Bengali folk, traditional
flamenco, blues, old soul and R&B.
Sawhney, himself, believes Philtre marks a significant progression
in his talents, thanks to the lessons he has learned over the
past couple of years.
"From working with an orchestra, I learned more about building
a song and playing with a sense of scale," he explains.
"From DJ-ing, I saw how changing the speed of a song, or
using different rhythms, can impact on an audience.
"From working with film directors, it was how a certain
sound can evoke a mood or emotion.
"All those experiences have improved me as both a musician
and a producer. There are things I've done on this album I couldn't
have attempted two years ago."
The result is an album that truly marks Sawhney out as one of
the most talented artists of his generation - one who isn't afraid
to diversify and bring all sorts of musical experiences to anyone
willing to listen.
On the excellent Mausam, for example, a hip beat and
some wonderful flutes from Ashwin Srinivasan mix delightfully
with orchestrations by Chandru and The Indian Full Harmonic Orchestra.
While the blues-laden Dead Man features some brilliant
slide guitar from Sawhney himself, coupled with the gruff vocals
of Ninja Tunes' Fink and Jayanta Bose.
Indeed, it is the diversity of music that keeps Philtre so lively
and constantly surprising.
Sawhney has collaborated with numerous artists from a wide spectrum
of musical genres (including his mother!) to put forward an album
that continually evolves and never outstays its welcome.
Regular collaborator, Tina Grace, contributes some suitably sultry
vocals to the blissfully chilled out Spark, while the
Philadelphia-based Vikter Duplaix lends his soulful vocals to
the jazzy Journey, which marks another musical direction
for the album.
The ambitious scope of the album is best exemplified in the two-parter,
Noches en Vela, the second part of which mixes a lively
drum 'n' bass beat with the strings of Stephen Hussey and The
Urban Soul Orchestra, as well as the rhythm guitars of Sawhney
and Ramon Gimenez and a solo guitar from Francisco Lomena.
It's a lively, intoxicating blend of hispanic rhythms and Eastern
flavour that just keeps getting better the longer you listen to
Likewise, a hip-hop beat and some delightful scratching lends
a very urban feel to the gritty Mirage (which is all
too short), while the groovy melodies of Flipside provide
a feel-good vibe that's not dissimilar to the hip cuts of Nightmares
on Wax (complete with a delicious vocal from Sharon Duncan).
Further highlights include the infectious, flamenco-flavoured
Footprints, which features a superb collaboration with
Spanish collective, Ojos de Brujo; the moody opening track, Everything,
which sets things off in fine style; the funky, blues-soaked Throw,
which features Taio on vocals and beatbox; and the atmospheric
Koyal (Songbird), which best demonstrates Sawhney's ability
to draw from working with film directors.
To quote Sawhney again: "Music is a universal way of getting
us through the daily crap and Philtre means 'healing'
or 'magic potion' and that's how I feel music."
It's an apt description for the album as a whole - for Sawhney
has conjured a magical experience that provides a near-perfect
remedy for the stresses and strains of the world today.
Join the therapy soon!