• Sat, Jun 22, 2024

Amyt Datta - Ambiance de Danse


album Reviews Sep 07, 03:00pm

A review of Ambiance de Danse by Amyt Datta.

Barring a couple of incongruously cheesy keyboard stabs (eg 1:22), an album that switches gear frequently and seamlessly between accomplished, subtle, heartfelt and often just brutally rip-roaring, could have no better representative than the opening juggernaut of 'Ironic Bironic'. It pulls in a rush of what can only be described as swing-DnB beats, is for the longest time an exercise in how little guitar can be played on an instrumental guitar track and about midway opens up into something that might've been at home on John Scofield's 2002 cracker, Überjam (especially recalling the drum and sampling work).

But Ambiance de Danse is different from, and often much more than just an accomplished jazz outing. It must surely also mark one of a handful of occasions in India's patchy jazz history, on which the lazy everyday Oriental allusions of modal/scales-wise music have been exploded by pitting them at level with specific jazz guitar tropes and updating both with efficient, modern, sometimes quirky and often individualistic rhythm and production. It presents all three elements in a new light and shows unusual control and comfort on the part of its creators. This is on display well when we move next to the title track, as a pretty little melodic hook calling up something vaguely Hindustani and a tone long-favoured by jazz guitarists get a surprising context-rework thanks to a mere drum and samples track. The best fusion often doesn't sound like fusion is expected to, and AdD is a case in point.

Getting into the meat of the album, it does seem for a while that Datta might be settling in for an extended demo of fretboard runs, as he puts on a show of the kind of hyper-learned calisthenics one has all the right to demand of a guitar hero. The arrangements are outwardly pretty faithful to the fusion/avant tradition, with a hundred syncopations and precious licks tucked into every inch of breathing space. But a couple of repeat listens down the line and the terrain starts to give way beautifully to its emotional core. A large part of the credit for this and for making the album a significant event must go to young drummer, programmer and designer, Jivraj Singh. He does spit-shine the appeal of these tunes, as anyone backing an accomplished soloist must know to do well, but also keeps them grounded; keeps pushing them and challenging them to escape genre clichés at every step and stay true to themselves.

In the last third of the album AdD returns to engage more with Dutta's narrative and emotive aspirations as composer-player. 'The Chase' finds him laying back, channeling some Mahavishnu-phase McLaughlin and then, just like that, springing a flamboyant volley of infinitely climbing and retreating lines locked in intense cat and mouse play above drums that would make Trilok Gurtu blush. The track closes with a contrasting percussion and sub bass wash, serving as apt synecdoche for the dynamics of the whole album. Closing track 'Tyma's Twins' carries the feeling forward, starting out as an acoustic lament with a hint of something precarious, morphing briefly into the love child of fingerstyle and The Flaming Lips (!) and finally letting loose the wailing guitars, though in a most unexpectedly restrained manner. The deep, melodic masterpiece of AdD, it is moody stream-of-consciousness stuff, strewn with inventive phrasing around every turn; the warm heart of the cool beast.

Stream Ambiance de Danse by Amyt Datta here

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