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CD Feature/ Indian Tea Company: "Mandala"

img  Tobias
Lukas: What kind of music would you expect if you heard about a band´s called „Indian Tea Company“? Maybe you would suppose it to be a kind of Indian flavoured chillout music to meditate to or to play while painting some Mandalas - but you’d be wrong. Rather, the music these three guys from Hamburg, Germany create, is Pop-Rock accompanied by an Indian Instrument named „Sarod“, which is always in focus when Stephan Preussner, Simon Roessler and Guido Goh are performing live.

The Band now presents the new album „Mandala“ and, speaking truly, you can neither find a reason for the band´s name, nor for the new album title. Both imply Indian influenced music, but that seems to be all hot air. The things is: None of the lyrics on the album deal with India; but with quite „ordinary“ things like hope, love, faith and music. The one and only thing which seems to be related to India, or better to the idea of India, is the stringed instrument, which the band supposedly bought on a short holiday.

Tobias: I agree, Lukas, the Indian connection is slightly misleading in this context – and has been ever since the band released predecessor “Aravinda”. The electric Sarod is an extremely flexible instrument and easily comes without the traditional associations attached to its more purist counterpart, the Sitar.

On the other hand, aesthetics and associations are an integral part of Pop- and Rock, just like a love for abstraction is inherent to Techno or to some segments of the Sound Art world. It’s a game of quoting and of being quoted, which has its charme if not taken too seriously. If you remember well, British band Kula Shaker rode the same wave in the mid-90s to often exstatic reactions – and their relation to India was as “truthful” as eating a Kebab is to Turkish kitchen.

On a more general note: Should we feel offended if Australian band “Architecture in Helsinki” has nothing to do with Finland or design at all? Or do we need to criticise Guns n Roses because “The Spaghetti Incident” is not about cooking? I don’t think so...

Lukas: Unfortunately you can find this fanciless style in every „ingredient“ of the Album. It starts with the Cover Design, includes the stereotype and meaningless lyrics and ends with predictable harmonies and rhythms. Altogether, this creates the impression as if the guys from Hamburg lacked inspiration or will for their art; resulting now in this „stepchild-album“.

One of the reason for that could have been that Mick Jagger gave permission to cover „Paint it black“. Perhaps they thougt everything would be fine having the complimentary ticket to sucess with the Rolling Stones deal. But obviously they made the mistake of overestimating themselves. Even this „hit“ of the album is a very poor copy of the original. The only mentionable difference is the replacement of the guitar by the Sarod, and Mick Jagger by Guido Goh.

Tobias: I think this is sinply a question of honesty. Are The Indian Tea Company an experimental band? No. Are they reinventing the wheel, fusing different cultures into a unique and idiosyncratic style? No again. Are they writing traditional songs with a Chorus and a Verse? Absolutely. Quite obviously, their production marks them as a band with their roots in regular Rock and with a knack for fluent melodies and recognisabe harmonic progressions.

As long as the group is not claiming to be anything else, there is nothing wrong with that. “Aravinda” came accompanied by a DVD containing a concert movie and the honest enthusiasm and positive energy of Indian Tea Company on stage were tangible throughout – for me at least. They were playing safe – but in a highly emotional way.

Lukas: Well, I’ll admit that despite all my comments, there are at least some parts where the true potential of the band is shining through; for example in the two songs „bring it all today and „and i believe.“ Lets hope for the next, hopefully better album to come.

Tobias: I am glad to hear you’re willing to grant them this much at least...

By Lukas Schenk & Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Indian Tea Company

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